Kids hand-me-downs can be a life saver or time waster. It all depends on how you sort, organize and store them. Not having a huge storage room to neatly store everything lends opportunity for additional creativity. After many different attempts at storing clothing, here’s the kids clothing organization method that has worked best for us and our 6 kids. It may not have cute printed labels, or fancy storage containers, but it’s free, and SO simple!
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Why Store Hand-Me-Downs:
Buying clothes full price can really take it’s toll on your budget. If I can spend $4 on a perfect pair of jeans rather than nearly $20, you bet I will do that! I love to thrift shop. I’m always looking for clothes to replenish the supply of clothes for kids to grow into.
I try to keep my kids clothing stocked a whole size ahead of what they are currently wearing. It seems all the growth spurts happen during the night and they wake up with nothing fitting right anymore. Pants with holes in the knees and clothes that become too stained to fix are thrown right out and replaced from the stock I have waiting. Having extra sizes on hand is very helpful for both of these situations.
This picture is from the initial sort. We dumped all girl clothing and sorted them into bins depending on their size. We weeded out what could instantly be determined as a trash or donate. A more in-depth sorting was determined after everything was grouped by size.
When we only had one kid, I was keeping any clothing I could get my hands on. We didn’t do laundry that often with just 3 people in the house, and constantly buying kids clothes was expensive! Now that we do laundry for 7 people and have a great system worked out, we can be more picky about the clothes we save. We don’t have to own as many clothes since everything is washed within a few days.
I am now brutal when I store hand-me-downs. If it is something that is torn, stained, or stretched out it goes right in the trash. Please do not donate those items! Nobody wants to buy your garbage. It is so frustrating to go to the thrift store and just be sifting through garbage clothes, or come home with something that you didn’t notice was damaged in the store.
I donate any clothing that is still in great condition. the things I donate are items that were always hard for the kids to match, fit them weird, or weren’t worn very often.
Can you believe that in these 3 boxes are all the clothing that we used to clothe a baby boy up to size 12 month? Pretty great considering the top box contains all baby boy accessories like hats, bibs, burp cloths, and shoes!
Organizing the clothes should be another area that should be a no brainer, but has its hang ups. Some of my kids have long legs, some do not. I find that it is rare to have a kid wearing the same size on top and bottom. That makes storing the clothes a little interesting as they grow into and out of the clothes. Also, depending on the brand, different sizes fit differently. Gerber onesies for example run nearly a whole size smaller than the off-brands. Pajamas seem to shrink to 2 sizes smaller than the tag says after they are washed. I have found it easiest to simply write the size that is consistent with all the other clothing currently worn by that child on the tag and store it accordingly.
When I do have a kid that has longer than average legs, I just get pants out of one box size and shirts out of another. (When I put the clothing away into the boxes, I fold and stack shirts on one side and pants on the other with pajamas and other things in the middle to separate them.) I have a box in my laundry room that I am able to toss any clothes that no longer fit as soon as they are washed. I usually sort through this box once a month and organize the clothes by gender and size into the correct boxes.
Socks and Underwear
Yes, I do pass these down. Here’s why: again, depending on the brand, you may have bought the next size up on socks, but it is actually the same size as the ones that the kid just grew out of. If a kid has a sudden growth spurt right after getting new underwear, why not pass it down? Socks and underwear have to be in pretty perfect condition for me to hang on to them. No staining, no stretched elastic or worn out heels. Tights, undershirts, white onesies and other similar accessories must also be in great condition.
When I buy socks, I try to buy the big packs containing all identical socks. That keeps me from searching endlessly for a missing green sock or whatever. Because it seems hard to find durable girl socks that don’t have an array of colors in the pack, we generally buy all the kids ‘boy’ socks (meaning white socks with grey toes and heels). This makes it easier to pass down to the next kid regardless of gender. I have plenty of women’s socks with grey toes and heels, so it doesn’t seem that weird to do…I buy the crew socks for winter and no show socks for the summer.
Unfortunately there is no cut and dry method to storing hand-me-downs. We used to store them by size in Rubbermaid 18 Gallon totes. We are pretty limited on storage space and those take up quite a bit of room. I utilized under the bed storage for awhile with the Extra Large Ziploc Bags. This was extremely cost effective and used space that was otherwise wasted. After awhile though, the zippers broke and the bags got holes in them. I contemplated storing them in clear plastic containers, but I find that these can break and crack fairly easily, and it would be fairly expensive to buy all new and matching containers in the quantity I would need. A storage solution that will last and not to cost me extra money over the years is the sort of plan that I needed.
I determined 2 things that would help us with our storage:
- Not keeping everything. I only keep the best quality clothes that are easy to match. Dark colored clothing seems to last longer as well since it hides stains more easily.
- Using storage that we regularly get: diaper boxes.
Someone is always in diapers around here and the diaper box sizes don’t change much over time. They stack nicely, and fit perfectly in the closets. Girls clothes fit in their closet, boys clothes in the boys’ closet.
Whew! That’s a lot of information!
The biggest take away is to not store everything! My mentality changed over the years for 2 reasons:
- We do more laundry so we can afford to save some hand-me-downs and overall have less clothing.
- Having more kids. The more I see people’s heads bobbing counting kids as we go by, the more I realized I wanted us to look as top notch as possible. Keeping the boys’ hair cut, all pants the correct length, and all clothing fitting well became more of a priority than just keeping kids clothed. Discarding or donating any clothes that don’t fit this criteria are no longer stored in this household.
Whatever your reasoning for keeping and passing down clothing, I hope this has helped you brainstorm some ways on how to sort, store, and organize hand-me-downs!