Home organization: sorting seasonal clothing

Someone asked me recently how I organize the rotation of seasonal clothing for my kids. With a crew as big as ours, it goes without saying that we pass clothing down from child to child. The trick is to store it in an organized way so that it can be found in time to be used again.

For years I copied my mother’s system, and used brown paper bags in the upper shelves of my kids closet. The bags had labels (Girl Summer Size 4-5, Boy Winter Size 10-12, etc) written on the outside of them, so that I could easily tell what I had when I needed it. This setup worked pretty well, but it did take a fair bit of space away from each bedroom closet.  As we got more kids in a broader range of sizes, things just didn’t all fit.

When the closets got too full, I installed shelving up high in the garage on which I placed Rubbermaids, also appropriately labeled. I like this setup because it uses space that was wasted before. It looks fairly organized (always a morale booster) and since we keep a ladder on the wall in the garage, it really isn’t that big a deal to pull out a bin and bring it down for sorting.

The other day when I sorted clothing for my little girls, I pulled the right-sized bins off the garage shelf and brought them into the girls’ room. When sorting through the clothing I’d saved, I set worn, stained, or out of style stuff.  Maybe it is vanity, but I do like the kids to look cute.  Between yard sales, hand me downs from others, and gifts, we always have plenty of clothes, so I can afford to be a little picky.

Once I surveyed what I had for the girls for summer (way more than I remembered!), I pulled the winter clothes out of their drawers and put them into the just-emptied bins, which would be relabeled and returned to the garage.   I kept a few cold-weather items for camping trips or unseasonably cool weather.   Then I folded what I’d kept, and set it into the girls’ drawers.

When putting things away into drawers I will often discover that a child has 27 t-shirts.  At this point I will usually try to whittle the heaps down to a more manageable number– 12-15 shirts is still excessive, but they fit a little better.  Extra clothing is given away and/or put into bins for younger children. I try to limit the clothing to one Rubbermaid per age/sex/season.  For example, if my little girls size 8 winter clothing doesn’t fit into one Rubbermaid, I probably have too much, and I know I need to weed it out.  The whole spring/fall sorting process takes a little while, but my storage system helps a lot.

Anyone else have dynamite tips for sorting kids’ clothing?

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  1. Because of the children wide age span, plus we have no hand-me-downs. My children have what they have in their closet right now. I wish to have some extra clothes to sort through and store but I don’t. However, it has taught me to rely on the Lord’s provision all the more. My 14 years old has what she needs and some “wants” from the second-hand store and from grandparents. My 11 year old son would not wear anything from hand-me-downs or from thrift shops, but, he doesn’t want lots of clothes either. He asks me to only buy him two sets of clothes every September for the “out-side” classes he would need to attend. He is definitely my “picky” dresser out of the three big kids. My oldest is married and his wife dresses him and their kids. 🙂 My one year old baby has two little drawers and a 64 gal. plastic bin to house all his belongings. The set-up is quite simple and I love it. I feel like I have a lot, in comparison to the nine months when I lived in a refuge camp in Indonesia. All of my possessions were in my rolled up pillow, under my head, on a wooden bed. So, even though I don’t have any clothes to sort or store, I am grateful to have a life, in a free country.
    BTW, I still need to get your book. I know I am slow, but I usually like to borrow a book to view before purchasing it. I haven’t been able to get to the library and because I am also in the middle of reading a very heart convicting book by Debi Pearl, I thought it would be wise to “study” one book at a time.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and gleaming for your knowledge of the homemaking skills.
    Have a blessed evening!

  2. We use pretty much the same system! I find that people with pre-teens often pass me their clothes, so I’ve got a few bins for the kids to grow into. I store them in our cold room, since it is NOT used for anything other domestic purposes, lol.

    P.S. I have decided to have a giveaway for Mother’s Day – a copy of your book! Post is on its way up now…

  3. thanks for the reminder/encouragement to be “picky” when sorting through clothes…I need to remember that just because something fits, doesn’t mean it makes it to the dressers! My kids could probably make do with a lot less clothing if I weeded out the not-so-cute stuff….

  4. To answer your question? Um, no.

    But I enjoy reading about yours.

  5. We do it exactly the same way you do. I have a rubbermaid box for each size and depending on the season I have the opposite seasons clothes stored in the box. When the seasons change so do their clothes.

  6. I use the very same system–only each sex/age only gets 1 box for both seasons. I like to keep the kids in just a few outfits–I do laundry pretty much every day and it’s just easier to manage just a few.

  7. Big plastic bins, hauled out twice a year (usually mid-late May and mid-late October). With our four big boys, born within five years, there is a lot of overlapping. I am lucky that way, but it also leads to some comical confusion.

    The boys have the theory if something was found in one of their drawers, it is theirs…regardless of fit.

    I used to keep holey pants with the idea I’d make them into shorts. No. I didn’t. I don’t. So they go into a giveaway bag.

    It’s a huge job, literally gobbling up a precious Saturday. I don’t look forward to it, frankly.

  8. Way to go. I struggle and I only have 2, and they are both even the same sex!

  9. I do pretty much the same thing, but this is the first year I really started weeding through and giving things away – when I realized my 2 year old had 27 pairs of shorts, I decided that was a little excessive! I never like to turn down hand-me-downs from anyone because you never know when you will get some good ones! But it is a chore about twice a year to go through them all. I enjoy reading your blog, and have only been a reader for a short while. Have you ever posted about your adoption process? Specifically, how old the kids were and any challenges you faced? We have 4 biological children, and I would like to adopt 1 or 2 more. We are also thinking about fostering to adopt an older child, but are a little intimidated by that. It may be a few years before we do anything since ours are 2,4,7 & 9 right now, but I really feel God laying it on my heart. Thanks for sharing your life!

  10. GREAT system! I’ve just whittled our clothes down — I have twins, so I needed to pare back. (My toddler doesn’t need 16 pairs of blue jeans in any size.)

    I love the idea of bins up high in the garage. I may steal that…

  11. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I do it mostly the same way but just keep wishing for fairy tale elves or something to come and do it for me. Good to know that I should just keep on keeping on. I too love the high up garrage idea, may give that one a shot. Thanks again.

  12. Oh, I WISH I could get my garage organized (too many people using it), but that is another story! I do something similar but I also keep an Avon box (the one your Avon lady gets plenty of to hold the orders – they are sturdy with great lids) in a hall closet outside of the bedrooms so I can toss the youngest child’s clothing into it right as I discover something has been outgrown. In another closet right across from that, I toss the stained clothes into my “rag bin”.

    When the box is full, it is emptied into a bin in the garage labeled “garage sale” (or into a giveaway box). Saves me some time later!

  13. We have a similar system, and I keep my tubs in our pump house, the shed where the pump for our well is. Several times I’ve overheard people ask my kids where they got their new dress–and the girls say, “I got it from The Pump House.” Then the adults look confused and ask me if that is a new store. I’m occasionally tempted to say that yes, it is a very exclusive establishment.