Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saving and Stashing Children's Clothing

One of the comments that was deleted during the Great Blogger Outage of 2011 asked how I store and organize our children's clothing.

So I thought I'd write a little post on what we do. I must admit: I'm not sure I'm doing this right.

More than a year ago, I wrote a post on how we store shoes. It's still spot on. In the same vein, I moved all of our diapers into one bin, along with a copy of our inventory. These sorts of items are best left where they can be quickly pulled out and switched when the weather changes or shoes are suddenly not fitting as you're about to run out the door for Mass.

I used to store our clothing in clear bins so I could see inside. I'd tuck a piece of paper facing outward with the main theme of the bin like "Boy Winter 12 month and smaller." That worked for a while, until we had two more babies and the amount of clothes was making the plastic bin expenses a bit outrageous.

Then we moved to our house. It was a good move. We had more space inside and a lot more space outside, but almost no storage space. All the stored clothes, diapers, shoes, coats, toys and other paraphernalia are living in the master bedroom closet. That would be the same closet that holds all of Kansas Dad's clothes and all of my clothes, along with (currently) our corn and bean planter, a backpack child carrier and all of my childhood papers (awesome stuff like my college scrapbook where you can find the letter Kansas Dad sent out when he was my RA and some less awesome stuff as well). It was getting too crowded in there.

So I spent a long time going through every single piece of children's clothes. I gathered a bunch of boxes from our move that were all the same size and shape. They're a medium size moving box, I think, smaller than most of the typical plastic bins. I labeled each one with a gender and a size and limited myself to only what would fit in that box for that category.

I first sorted all the clothes into the proper categories, which created a lot of piles that rose far above the box tops. I tackled each pile separately, sorting each of those into the long pants, shorts, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, pajamas, etc. Then I tried to select my favorites and the most useful of each of them so we would have enough for each season in each size.

They look rough, but they were cheap and they do the job.

I made a few notes on the outside for specific things like winter coats, summer jackets, and swimsuits which could possibly be used by a child slightly larger or smaller. I also noted if those items were gender-neutral.

Everything that didn't fit in the boxes I sold or gave away. I'd like to say I still do, but I happen to know the 4T girl clothes are filling two different boxes right now. There's a good chance Second Daughter will be able to wear them in the fall, so I decided to bend my rule a little.

After much consideration, Kansas Dad and I decided to save significantly fewer clothes when Second Son (and Second Daughter, for the purely girl things) outgrow them. Many of the clothes we have saved for Second Daughter and Second Son have been the wrong size for the season. Often, stains will appear in storage. We have always had generous friends and family pass down gently used clothing or purchase new clothes that we need.

We have not decided against having more children, but we are trying to be more protective of our space. I was running out of room for new boxes, not to mention my clothes. Also, we can now be as generous with our clothes as others have been. I am saving a few of my very favorite outfits and a few selected items like our Woombies. Everything else is either donated, given to friends or sold.

Also, and this is an important rule on the Range, if something is stained, do not keep it for the next child. I used to think, "Oh, I should keep this for wearing around the house or in the garden." I have realized, though, that there are always newly stained clothes to wear around the house or in the garden. There are also a few stains the mysteriously appear while clothes are stored. No need to save something just for play.

If it's something I truly loved, I will sometimes cut swatches or strips to keep for crafts projects. If it's the right kind of material, I'll cut it up for rags. If it's cotton, hemp, wool, or other natural fiber, I'll compost it. Did you know you could do that? Otherwise, I throw it out. Charities do not want your stained clothing. (I suppose you could freecycle it, if you think it might be good for sewing into something else or rag carpets or something. Hmm...maybe someday I'll learn to make rag carpets. Sounds interesting, but I digress.)

One last tip: If you hope to save socks for future children, or if you think you may someday be sorting socks for similarly sized children, invest in socks with the sizes printed right on the bottom. I'm sure there are others, but I know Old Navy and Baby Gap sell socks like that. I think Target might as well.


  1. AH, now I know.

    A few comments:
    1. I am amazed the stuff I get back out (for my sisters) that is stained. I thought I was more careful than that. Apparently not.

    2. I am still really loving the rubbermaid tubs, but we have a whole bunch of storage space so it works.

    3. I've always wondered if you could recycle material. I figured it would compost, too bad the recycling won't take it. I guess it just composts in the landfill though, right? I use lots of our old cotton t-shirts for diapers though, so I feel pretty thrifty, frugal and earth-friendly doing that.

    4. Way to go on the generosity. I am finding it is relatively easy enough to clothe your children fairly frugally by shopping end of season sales, consignment sales, or even just the $3-$5 house-brand items carried at most of the major retail places. I try to just get what we need to last us through a week each season and it doesn't seem to break the bank.

    5. On the socks, yes yes yes. That is absolutely the way to go. And you are correct, Target carries ones with the sizes on the bottoms as well.

    Enjoyed this post!

  2. Monica, I think some stains that are invisible to the naked eye get worse in storage. Something about sitting around in the dark maybe. I read some tips to get them out again, but none of those ever worked for me so now I just set them aside for play or get rid of them when I pull them out.

    I'm doing the same thing with big baby things like our baby swing, too. We passed that on to another family so we wouldn't have to store it. I figured if I had another baby, someone in the homeschool group would be willing to lend me a swing for a few months. I think I'd keep a crib, though, even if we weren't using it. They store pretty well and are used much longer.

  3. For stains, when I pulled out Simon's old baby clothes, many favorites had stains that I'm sure weren't there when we put them away (I think spit-up is a big culprit for re-appearing stains, as he spit up a lot). Anyway, I tried several things and what worked for all but the worst of them was a long soak in water with a high concentration of oxyclean. (I used the smallest load setting on my top-loader with a couple of full scoops of oxyclean). Then I rinsed them really well and hung them in the sun. Most of the stains were then either completely out, or light enough that I knew after a few regular washes they'd be too light to notice. And those that still looked bad got donated.

    For what it's worth, I had read somewhere that charities can take clothing that isn't able to be resold for wearing and sell it to companies that recycle it in other ways. But it probably depends on which charities you're donating to.

  4. Hilary, I didn't bother too much with the stained clothes. Most of the time we didn't really need them. The sunshine helped a lot with our diapers, though, after they'd been in storage. Those I did not throw out!

    I read a lot of things online where people said to go ahead and donate the stained clothes, but most of it seemed to come from people, not the charities. The Goodwill website specifically asks people not to donate stained clothing because they just throw it away. They spend a lot of time looking over everything and sorting it and then they have to pay big fees to the garbage companies to haul it away. It's probably a good idea to call ahead and ask before you donate. We have a lot of natural fiber clothing so I don't feel too badly about putting it in the compost.

  5. My aunt recently gave my girls one of these Woodkins dress-up dolls that belonged to my cousin -

    Your girls would probably like these. (And they are great for traveling - I was going to mention it on your other post.)
    It's also great to cut pieces from clothes they remember but are now stained, for them to use for the dolls! We got some quilting scraps from my grandmother on this last trip, and the girls are loving them all over again.

  6. Tiffany, the Woodkins dolls look great. I'll have to see if I can find a little vacation money to buy some for the girls before our next drive this summer. I have a bunch of clothes ready to cut up, too. I was just going to compost them, but maybe I'll cut some bigger scraps in anticipation.


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