Parenthood is serious business! We all thought we were organized and in control before kids came along. Like many, I totally underestimated the task of managing my child’s clothing. The laundry is never-ending, stains are a daily occurrence, and sizes and seasons seem to change by the week. What should I do with my 3-year-old’s favorite dress that has a hole from her fun scissor art? How about the shirt that’s already showing Grace’s toddler midriff? Handling children’s clothing can be a chore.
While you might be fine folding clothing (thanks, Marie Kondo) and labeling drawers, you may need help tackling the larger project of changing out your kiddo’s wardrobe. Here are some ways to keep your children well-dressed while avoiding the headache that comes with rotating clothing.
What is a Wardrobe?
Wardrobe refers to the overall package of items that changes by age, season, size, and fashion. I recently counted the number of items in my girls’ closets. Was it too much? You bet! Generally, two to three weeks worth of outfits is plenty per season. Pajamas are slightly different and six to eight pairs is sufficient. My family does laundry multiple times a week, so our drawers are never empty; however, if you do laundry less frequently, you may want a few additional outfits.
As for shoes, at my house, there are usually four to six pairs: sneakers, seasonal shoes, dress shoes, and one pair of their choosing. Who hasn’t had the toddler meltdown over the sparkly flats or light-up shoes? I find it’s best to give some autonomy and have my kids select some of their belongings.
Setting Up a Clothing Rotation System
First, decide why you are saving. If items are sentimental, keep them in labeled bins or a specific section of a closet. Most clothing is saved for the possibility of future children. Before you take the time to store, ask yourself the following questions.
• Is it clean?
• Is it too worn?
• Did my child wear it? (If not, your next child might not either.)
• Did my child look good in it?
• Was my child comfortable and happy in it?
Second, assess your storage situation and determine where you can keep containers. My family lives in a Cape Cod-style home with small closets, so our best option is to tuck long, shallow bins (Sterilite 41-quart) into the nooks of the roofline. If you have an attic or basement, opt for large, deep bins (Sterilite 90-quart). Clear bins with detailed labels are ideal. Purchase two to four bins to get started. Lack the storage space, but really want to keep those clothes? Consult a family member or nearby friend who might be willing to store them.
Third, set aside a zone for clothing that is too small, worn, or out of season. Keep two baskets in a nearby closet. Label one for storage and one for donation. On a daily basis, when you notice clothes that need to be retired, toss them into the appropriate basket. Each month, empty the storage basket into the larger plastic bin designated for the current size. No need to organize yet, you’ll do that when you switch over clothing.
Time for the Seasonal Switchover
For infants, you’ll switch about every three months. Keep a container for each size range. For older children, I recommend switching twice yearly in March and October. Keep one bin per season (fall/winter and spring/summer).
A switchover will take a few hours. Grab a clear bin for the past season’s clothing as well as the storage basket from the closet. Go through your child‘s dresser to pull out items that are out of season, too small, etc. Fold clothing and place it in the bin. To label, list the contents on a sheet of paper. Slide it inside the container so it can be read from the outside. Now unload the next size (if you have it) for the coming season. If you need to shop for new clothes, keep track of what you already have. Making this list will save you time and money.
Don’t forget about jackets, socks, and shoes. Store socks and multiple pairs of shoes in large Ziploc bags. Mark the size on the bag with a Sharpie. These can be placed together in an extra bin.
What to Do with Clothing Your Family Won’t Use
There are many options for your donations. Here are a few of my favorites:
Donate. Give to a local cause that helps children. Little Hands (littlehandsva.org) and The Caring Clothes Closet (caringclothescloset.org) are local nonprofits that help Richmonders in need. The Clothes Rack (jlrichmond.org) also has two drop-off locations.
Hand down. First, consider whether the recipient needs and wants the clothes. If not, donate. When handing down clothes, always give with no expectations. Even better, have the person peruse in person; then offer to donate what they don’t want.
Resell. Try consigning locally or selling higher quality items on Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t have the time and have a lot to consign, StitchBack is a local business that mails bags and picks up from your porch. A client of mine recently made more than $150 consigning this way.
Recycle. H&M accepts unwanted clothing in the recycling box at your local store (located at Short Pump Town Center, Stony Point Fashion Park, and Chesterfield Towne Center). All textiles are welcome – any brand, any condition – including odd socks, worn-out T-shirts, and old sheets. The textiles are sent to the nearest recycling plant where they’re sorted by hand for reuse or recycling. Some local schools also collect textiles unworthy of donation.
Each family and home is unique. Use these ideas to get on a regular clothing-rotation routine. Tailor your system and make sure it’s practical and sustainable for you. Doing so will save you time, energy, and money.