How many times have you heard a new mom say "I don't know how I'll get baby into all these clothes before they grow out of them!?" Baby showers are infamous for providing babies with the wardrobe their momma's only wished they had.
As for my babes, the first one was this same story played out with multiple costume changes to my new dolly each day and I have the Facebook thank you posts to prove it. The second was just as chaotic. A girl after a girl means lots of hand-me-downs… and gifts to boot, even without a shower! Number three threw us for a loop as this is when our boy made his appearance BUT by this time I had caught onto the whole too many baby clothes is not a good thing for momma #lifehack and I asked, for the love of Pete, no clothes, please!
Yeah, two girls and I don't want new clothes for my boy.
I had no clothes for my first girl and was absolutely bombarded. I had more than I knew what to do with. So for this one, I said no to clothing gifts. Sure, some broke my rule but not enough to harm the storage space of my already too-small closets.
My secret weapon to not having to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe for my boy: friendly hand-me-downs and thrift shops. Even with this strategy, I had more clothing than I needed but I have gotten smarter since my first and decidedly only used a fraction of what was generously given. I learned the art of saying No (+thankyou… because #mannersmatter) when I knew I wasn’t going to get good use out of the item.
Now, I am still swimming, up to my eyeballs, in kid's clothes - I mean, there are three of them now! - but as they grow their wardrobe is becoming more selective and I am becoming better at sorting and organizing the clothes.
I have found many strategies that help to promote their longevity and duration of use but the most important and impactful element came in the form of a mindset change. The steps following were simply practical solutions to the problems that arise from having too much. Here's how my de-cluttering kid's clothes journey unraveled:
Our culture has been very focused on the conveniences of life for a good long while now and it’s resulted in most of us owning a variety of items that perform pretty much the same task - because - we - can. In the case of clothing, children’s or otherwise, there are few who’s wardrobe requires less than a fair-sized closet - at least - per person; and for what? What do we do all week, between washes? Work and/or school, leisure time, and sleep.
They say variety is the spice of life but I have personally lost a stare-down with a stack of my daughter’s navy leggings - Note: ONE colour, not even the whole legging pile - that could not stay upright due to the sheer number of them piled atop one another. This is not a variety, it’s OVER- abundance, and it diminishes our appreciation and care for the items we truly love and need in our lives.
With this understanding, I made a shift in my mindset that focused on mindfulness and gratitude toward everything I own and care for.
Our first problem is that we have too much. That much has been proven, time and time again. It’s hard to be grateful for something we have seven of but the fact of the matter is that we have them now so the first step in lowering that number is to avoid adding, whenever possible.
If/when adding to the wardrobe becomes necessary, make sure the item will get the most use possible. Making sure it’s not just a flash-in-the-pan themed item that your kids will grow out of before it doesn't fit anymore is one way to do that. It will be difficult though, when they’re ugly crying all the way to the cashier because you didn't get the Peppa Pig pajamas she neeeeeeds (yeah, been there...), don't - give - in! We want them to get the most use out of it possible.
Now the items you already have will take on a whole new importance cause you’re not adding to it on a whim. Take a leaf from Marie Kondo and haul all of your kids’ clothing out and heap it into a mountain somewhere it’ll fit.
Time to sort.
Size, type (formal/play/usage), season…Will they actually wear it? Will you actually put it on them?
Keep in mind the fact that we are refraining from adding to this stash now so while you need to be real with your decisions, you also need to be practical and grateful. Grateful for the pants you don't love but are super warm in the wintry months when the kids stay outside in the snow too long; grateful for the paint-stained shirt that can now be the permanent smock worn during art sessions; and, finally, grateful for the items that have seen their day and must take their leave. Repurpose, re-use - hand-me-downs ftw! -, donate, and finally, toss if necessary.
Commit to doing this sort as often as you need: seasonally, bi-annually, or even yearly. Just commit to it and follow through. It gets considerably easier when there's, inevitably, less. I’m still working on limiting what we have but I’ve lessened the time it takes to sort through all 3 of my kids’ clothes from a few days to a hell-bent-for-leather morning. (*Wannabe Pro Tip: sort after a full and thorough laundry wash so that most, if not all, clothing is present and not stinking up a corner of the kids’ room after they’ve tossed their still slightly damp swimsuit - yep, lake water, awesome - behind a pile of toys - yet another place to implement minimalism and organization, but that’s news for another day*)
At last, I had my eldest daughter’s clothes down to only what was necessary but then she got into the habit of “knee sliding” on our floors and tore holes into nearly all of her leggings - even the stack of navy ones - so we had to do something about it. First, we put an end to the knee sliding and reminded her that she was ruining her pants and that we were not going to be buying more just because she wanted to mistreat the ones she already had. Teaching others, especially children, is a great way to solidify your own beliefs and ensure you take action by acting the part. Next, after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do, we decided to make a conscious effort to mend what we could and repurpose what we couldn’t; if a prince does it, shouldn’t we? Using this method, we managed to resist the urge to purchase more leggings and now she has a lot of shorts for the summer months.
By making these choices and taking action on them, we have been prolonging the use of the kids’ clothes. Sorting them gives us perspective as to what we each own; what is ours to care for and appreciate. So, after the big sort, we need to store our items in a way that reflects this newfound respect.
For our family, there are two main categories of storage: In Use and Between Use. During the big sort, clothes are cycled based on season, size, and preferences.
In Use: All of the clothing is put away strategically, using Marie Kondo style folding so that everything can be seen and accessed while minimizing the mess from kids who want to dress themselves. The clothing is sorted into categories:
Kid (shared bedroom): Big vs. Little clothes - Cause heaven forbid someone wears someone else’s shirt that’s too small for them anyway - They each have a section.
Tops: short-sleeved, long-sleeved, sweaters
Bottoms: shorts, pants, skirts
Others: Underthings, socks, swimwear, pajamas
They all have a place and are frequently labeled (*side note: what is with kids and peeling labels?*). Although my 2-year-old doesn’t quite get why momma gets frazzled when she pulls out every article of clothing she has to try on for the day, I have found that my almost 5year old is on board and helps to keep her shelves reasonably tidy. It certainly didn't happen overnight but with teaching, time, and patience - as always - she gets it.
Between Use: Again, don’t let all that sorting go to waste! I, personally, use totes, stored under the bed, to keep items between use in their rightful places. It keeps them neat, tidy, and - I would argue most importantly - out of the way! These totes are also labeled based on season, size, and gender. It allows me to keep quality clothing for hand-me-downs and readily pull out off-season attire for unseasonable weather.
This type of work is a big job. You will need time - I know I did - and you may need guidance - always a bonus. Asking family and friends for help is a great start but when the task just seems too big to handle, it might just be time to turn to the professionals. When you require one-on-one guidance to minimizing, organizing, and finding your best self through eliminating the negativity in your life, Emelio and Samantha from KW Professional Organizers do a fantastic job. They break down the task into manageable sections and use fun, realistic, and motivational techniques to get the ball rolling. Reaching out to them is always a great idea because they are so personable and down-to-earth. Their book is fabulous (*use coupon code: 3THINGS to receive a 15% discount!) and they even have an online course to help those who want to sort out their lives on their own time. You should check it out!
In the meantime, take hold of where you are and take command of the overwhelming avalanche of kids’ clothing that seems to come out of nowhere - cause the universe knows taking command of the littles who wear them can be next to impossible! Parenting is hard, but parenting with less makes it a lot easier. It reminds us of what truly matters in life and instills gratitude and care in a world of throw-aways. This is what we want for our children. We will lead by example and hold the standard high so that we can bring them a better tomorrow; mentally, emotionally, and earthly.
*Being a strong advocate for the growth and vivacity of our local community, you will find that I have become affiliated with a number of organizations mentioned in this and subsequent posts. This will give them more traffic and help them to grow. It also gives YOU more incentive, through discounts and deals - who doesn't love a deal!? - to experience, shop, and trust in local businesses and to be a part in their growth as well. Let's all work together to make our community thrive!