My best 12 tips to get organized perfectly! Seasonal clothes for my four kids used to be a nightmare, but now I’ve got it (mostly) under control! I’ve worked out a great system for nailing great deals, storing out of season clothing, and making the big swap pretty painless for my four kids. Even though our family is what I’d consider mid-sized, these basic principles can work for pretty much any size family, any size budget, and even small houses like mine.
Switching closets is pretty easy with this system, and can be done in a day. Here are my best tips for managing and saving big on kids clothes!
Only Keep the BEST of the Best
I learned this with my first child. I kept pretty much everything we were given or gifted, plus the stuff that I bought her. The amount of clothing she had was embarrassing. Plus, at the end of the season, I was sad to discover that she hadn’t even worn some of the really special outfits that I’d chosen for her because there was just SO much stuff and it got overlooked. After that, I started being MUCH more selective in what I kept, and enjoyed giving away excess to others who had children of similar ages.
Set a Limit & STICK to it!
I’m telling you, this one was *revolutionary* for our home. I had cut back to our very favorite outfits, but I still ended up with like 20 outfits per kid. Know what that translates to? I’ll tell you: too much laundry!!! My girls especially would wear multiple outfits every day, and the closet and drawers were in a constant state of vomiting their contents onto the already thickly covered floor. It was *miserable* to try to keep up with it all! And matched outfits? Forget-about-it.
My solution was to cull way back at the next clothing swap: I’d only keep 4 pj’s, 7 outfits, and 3 dressy outfits per child. The girls were able to choose their very favorites for each outfit, and the rest was donated. The girls had to go back to one outfit a day, or else they would run out of clothes by the end of the week. They were also able to easily maintain a cleaner room and help fold their own laundry.
This was the SINGLE most important shift that we’ve made in making clothing upkeep sane and manageable.
Buy Extra with Intention
This sounds totally contradictory to the first two, but I do keep a very small stack of extra stuff in storage for the season that we’re currently in for elementary ages and younger. I try to always have at least 1 extra outfit, a couple of extra white t-shirts, and for boys in elementary school, at least 2 extra pairs of jeans on hand for the inevitable wardrobe disasters.
One reason that I keep it pulled out of rotation is that I am *serious* about keeping the laundry to a minimum. If I add it in to the drawers, I *will* end up washing it. The other reason is practical: having stuff on hand keeps me from having to run out and buy stuff at full retail for my kids to look presentable at the end of the season. Because we choose to live close to the wire with the number of outfits, it gives me something to fall back on if we end up with blown out knees (we always do), and stained up t-shirts. Who knew that watermelon and cantaloupe could stain this badly!!! <exhibit A>
Having this little stock of back up items means that we can attend a late summer gathering without looking like raggedy hillbillies in worn out summer duds. *see also: emergency back up below. I factor both of these extra items into my total tally list for what I need to buy each year.
Don’t Keep All of the Baby Stuff
Oh, this was a tough one! I’m so sentimental. But after my second baby, and storing EVERY outfit and blanket and onesie, I discovered two important things. The first is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a baby in the exact same gender, season, and size range the next time around. The second is that clean baby clothing develops yellow stains on it when stored for a year or two. Which isn’t so bad if you’re just dealing with a small amount, but stain treating a metric ton of baby clothing is just NO fun. It’s just easier to give away the not-so-special stuff to someone who can use it and who is giving birth around the same season that you did.
Because there are some super special items for each one of my babies, I set aside a container for very special things that I wanted to pass along to them one day. Those go in the way back part under their bed. I did save a container of newborn gowns in gender neutral colors, as well as blankets and bedding when we were still in that time of life of wanting more. And yes…I raided the keepsake boxes too for our second round of little ones. It was SO fun to see them in my most favorite outfits again. But I also had room to make or buy special items just for that child to go in their keepsake box.
Use GIANT Ziplock Bags to Sort Clothing by Size & Season
This is something my sister told me about years ago, and I’m STILL giddy about it! Here’s a post from a couple years ago that shows you in more detail how I organize seasonal clothing. We have a large storage tub for each child, but they were a *big* messy mess of all different sizes. So it would take me hours to sort through, refold, and restack to even find what I had in stock for the next season in the right size. *Aaarrrgggh!!!*
With the giant ziplocks, I can easily store 4-6 seasons of clothing sizes for a child in one giant bin, and they are all neatly sorted. Think vertical files of kids clothing. This makes it super easy to assess what I need for that child for the next season. It’s also easy to tuck away deals in the right spot all through the year, and when it’s time to make the clothing swap, I just grab ONE bag and restock the drawers and closet.
I’ve found that one box of 4 XL Ziploc bags will cover one child’s clothing needs for 2 years. Now THIS is more like it!
Shop Off Season to Save BIG on The Next Season
Everyone has their own comfort zone with where they get their kids clothing. I love an awesome clearance score, and also to give and receive nice secondhand clothing from other families. But my top secret is that I shop some of the nice thrift stores between the end of the season and mid season *specifically* for the out of season clothing. So in the early fall, I’m buying shorts in the next size up in the discounted color tags of the week. This saves me something like 95% off of retail prices, and I pretty much have the pick of the racks, because *nobody* is buying shorts and swimsuits in October, or parkas and cords in June. Cha-ching!!!
To make sure I’m not going over my item limit, I do a quick assessment of the items that I already have for each child, and jot down what I need for each one: 5 pairs of jeans, 3 long sleeve T’s, a lightweight jacket, etc. I keep the list in my purse, and cross off the items as I find them. There is no stress, no rush, and I only buy the nicest things that I find. I also love that secondhand clothing has almost always been washed and slightly worn, so there is usually no chance of it shrinking and warping.
Buy According to Fit and Growth Patterns
One of the hard parts about pre-buying clothing is figuring out what size to get. I’ve found that most of the time, my kids have kept a consistent rate of growth until they hit about 12. Then all bets are off. My girls pretty much stayed right on par with the clothing size for their age or just below it. My boys were almost always at least 1-2 sizes ahead of their age.I almost always ignore the size on the tag, and shop to fit my child. There seems to be little to no concensus between clothing manufacturers when it comes to kids sizes. My 5 year old can wear some 3T shorts, and my 4 year old wears size 5-6, depending on cut. Some children have wider, boxier ribcages, and others are built more lean and narrow. So sometimes it makes sense to ignore the size on the tag, and just go by the cut and fit for your child.
Buy According to How Your Family Lives & Dresses
This may seem like a huge “duh” tip, but it’s worth mentioning. Shop for the way *your* unique family lives and dresses. Other people’s wardrobe ideas may be useful, but if your family rarely goes to dressy events, then ignore my idea of having 3 dressy outfits. Maybe just keep one nice outfit per season.
If you enjoy frequent camping trips, choose clothing that will best work for outdoorsy fun. I like to have durable, dark pants, rain style boots that are easy to slip on and off, and brightly colored shirts for easy visibility for camping duds. If you live in a very humid area, the quick drying, microfiber/moisture wicking fabrics may be a great pick for you. If you ski or have family hunting trips, plan to have the items you’ll need in the sizes you need.
Wash as You Go When Buying New Items
Nothing stinks like unpacking a massive stack of new laundry that needs to be done. So I’ve started tossing on the off season clothing items with my regular wash. Once they’re folded, I immediately stack them into the bin & bags all clean and ready to wear.
Buy Gender Neutral for Long Lasting Items
I’m all for letting my kids express their unique style, but there is no need to have to have everything gender specific. So I look for jean jackets, jeans, long underwear, and coats that are gender neutral.Red, black or navy winter coats are all easy to accessorize with either boy or girl scarves and hats. My favorite is washable down coats. I love to get the navy pea coats. The idea for gender neutral coats is from this photograph of my husband’s grandmother when she was a child.
Don’t Forget to Restock Your Emergency Stash
This is something I do just for babies through young elementary ages. I keep a mini-backpack in the back of my van with 1 outfit change for each kid, including socks and undies. I’ve been SO grateful to have this emergency back up through the years, and have been able to help other parents in crisis when their little sweetie has an accident or gets sick unexpectedly.
Consign or Donate Unused Items Right Away
I’m preaching to myself here. Even after streamlining all of our clothing, this is my one Achilles heel. When I swap over clothing, I sometimes have items that can be used the following year, but most of the items are overly worn, or are just tossed into the “get rid of” pile. I save the nicest stuff to consign with the *best* of intentions, and end up never getting around to it. So I’m essentially storing a *lot* of unusable clothing in our home. This is a very bad plan, since all of the planning and effort thus far has been to prevent stress and giant mountains of clothing processing. And yet…
So there you have it. I *really* don’t need this monkey on my back, and by consigning your clothing, you can fund next season’s wardrobe purchases. Have I talked myself into it yet? YES I have. This year, I’m setting aside a day on the week after we switch over clothing, and I’m going to do a *mega* purge.
Are you with me? I hope these tips for organizing seasonal clothing were a help to you. Do you already do some of these? Are there any that are new to you or are you already organized perfectly?
Now that I’ve shared my favorite tricks of the trade, tell me your favorite secrets to keeping on top of the seasonal clothing monster below…I love to hear your comments!