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.