How to Handle Kids Clothes Pileups

by Jamie Simmerman · 4 comments

Baby with clothes and hanger

When it comes to kids clothes, I’ve recently changed my mind about dealing with the pileup that always seems to collect at the turn of the seasons. Every fall and spring, I dread the task of sorting through each child’s entire wardrobe to pack away what’s been outgrown, what’s too worn to keep, and what won’t be appropriate for the oncoming season’s weather.

This task is made even more cumbersome because we tend to keep two sets of clothes for each child: one to wear on the farm (work and play clothes) and one to wear on days we leave home (no stains or holes). Keeping up with the laundry, sorting, and inspection of that many clothes can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Here’s what we’re doing to tame the pileup.

5 Steps to Manage the Kids Clothes Pileup

1. Plan twice-yearly shopping trips to supplement current wardrobes.

All other clothes shopping trips should be avoided unless an emergency occurs. This eliminates accumulating an excess of clothing — and planned trips can be worked into the family budget in advance.

2. Create an outline of necessary clothes for each season, and only shop for items that are missing or outgrown.

A sample outline for one child during the summer might be:

  • 2 dress shirts
  • 2 dress pants
  • 1 dress shorts
  • 5 play shorts
  • 3 nicer shorts
  • 7 t-shirts
  • 3 polo shirts
  • 1 light jacket
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 hoodie or fleece
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of swimming trunks

3. Remove everything not on that season’s outline from the bedroom.

This eliminates the inevitable pile of discarded clothes on the floor while a child searches for the right item. I use a two-tote storage system. One tote gets all the clothes for the next season, and one tote is for clothes that child has outgrown but another smaller child may still wear. Ratty clothes get sent to the barn for rags, and everything else gets put into a bag for charity or resale.

4. Give each child a large and a small mesh bag with their name on it.

This will make sorting clothes easier. Dirty clothes go in the bag at the end of the day and straight into the washer. Socks and underwear go in the small bag, so there’s no figuring out whose underwear are whose, and no more lonely socks in the dryer. Anything that might bleed or fade gets puts in a special hamper for washing separately — though I’ve found that most kids clothes are colorfast and can be washed together. New jeans, red shirts, all-white shirts, and sweaters are often the exceptions.

5. Keep a basket in the laundry room for outgrown items.

When I notice a child’s ankles peeking out from beneath the hem of a pair of jeans, or a shirt that no longer fits over a head in the mornings, I put it in the basket. To save time, I don’t deal with anything in the basket until seasonal sorting time comes along. Putting it in the basket takes the item out of circulation, but you’ll have to keep an eye out if you have a child who doesn’t like to give up his favorite clothes. If I find I’ve put an article of clothing in the basket more than once (and a child retrieves it when mom’s not looking), I take the time to pack it or give it away.

Bonus tip: To help your clothes last longer, try using a natural laundry detergent like Soap Nuts, or make your own detergent. Natural soaps mean your clothes come clean but aren’t subject to harsh fiber-destroying chemicals and additives.

What are your tips for dealing with an onslaught of kids clothes? 

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Sami Williams says:

    These are some great tips. I always take a list when we go shopping for new kids clothing with my kids. We shopped at Burlington Coat Factory this year. I loved the deals we found there and the kids love their new clothes. They had such cute outfits. I can’t wait to get some pictures of my kids in them this summer.

  • We always keep a small bag filled with the clothing our kids have either outgrown and/or don’t like anymore and then take it to Goodwill once it gets full. We also usually end up buying more clothing for them while at the Goodwill which is kind of defeating the purpose of downsizing their piles of clothing.

  • marci357 says:

    #4 I really like….
    Especially with 3 young granddaughters … perfect for keeping things sorted !

  • Henry says:

    This is probably implied or common sense but not explicitly stated in the article. For Step 1 – a money-saving tip would be to align those twice-annual shopping trips with end of the season sales (i.e. you’re buying for next summer, at the end-of-summer/fall sales this year), rather than buy for this summer at the time of switching over to this summer’s clothes.

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