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Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!

That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.organize

Modify your system as children grow

Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.

Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.

Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.

Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.

For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.

Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.

SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.

Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.

RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.

A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!

Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl
Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl

Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.

We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.

RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.

Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them. Photo Credit: katypearce
Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them.
Photo Credit: katypearce

Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.

Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.

Toddlers

An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids' clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Photo Credit: peyri
An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids’ clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Sadia uses this technique, but needs to tidy her daughters’ drawers at least once a week because items have come unfolded.
Photo Credit: peyri

Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.

If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.

Preschool and school age

This is exactly what an elementary schooler's closet often looks like. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it's winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There's overflow on the floor, which is why Mommy needs to come in an enforce cleanup every so often. Photo Credit: master phillip
This is exactly how an elementary school kid’s closet often looks. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it’s winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There’s overflow on the floor, blissfully ignored by the kids in question, which is why Mommy needs to come in and enforce cleanup every so often.
Photo Credit: master phillip

Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet.  Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”

Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.

Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.

Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.

Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:

They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).

Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.

Teens

The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.

Children of different ages

Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.

When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.

For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!

Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.

All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.

By size, season and child

jackets
Winter jackets can be very bulky to store, so consider using space saver bags from which you can suck out the air with your vacuum cleaner hose. The bags will expand some during storage, but not if they’re packed together tightly enough in some out-of-the-way corner!
Photo Credit: dharder9475

Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.

All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.

Clothes to grow into

Photo Credit: if winter ends
You could store future sized clothes with the tag on for easy identification, but it’s wise to wash new clothes before dressing a baby in them, since sizing can irritate delicate skin.Photo Credit: if winter ends

To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.

SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.

Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.

Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!

SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.

When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.

Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.

RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”

Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.

Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.

Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.

Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig
Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

The short version of everything we’ve said is this:

  • Avoid clutter.
    • Sort clothes by size.
    • Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
    • Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
    • Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
  • Find a system that works for you.
    • Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
    • For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
    • Pick your battles.
  • Change the system when it stops working.

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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Beth

Beth was happily raising her now 4 year old daughter and planning for one more, when the doctor said that he saw 2 good sacs. Her boy girl twins we born at 35 weeks - he naturally, easily, after 4 pushes. His drama queen sister turned transverse and then her placenta separated, leading to her delivery by c-section (with Beth under general anesthesia). Thanks to post delivery eclampsia, Beth met her twins when they were 26 hours old. Now those days are just a memory and the twins are crazy and funny. Crawling all over the house chasing big sister, reading books, knocking over towers and cuddling are favorite activities. Beth's challenge is to balance a preschooler, 1 year old twins, her DIY obsession, and a full time job as a college professor, while finding time to occasionally vacuum to feed her OCD side. Beth blogs at Pickles in my Tea and in my Soup.

7 thoughts on “Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes”

  1. Thanks for an amazing write up … its really helpful … i started by putting all tops in one bin, pants in one, caps in one and so on …. lets see what works out in practice for me and what i evolve it into

  2. This is a great post Sadia and will help with my next reorg! Sidney just moved into 12 month clothes so it is time to reorganize again.

  3. These are some wonderful ideas to organize a closet! I need to organize both my closet and my son’s. Our closet is split in two because we have a strange storage area.I need to purge a lot and I think about getting things organized.

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