I love organizing. Obviously. In my own house, in other people’s houses, in my car, in my mom’s pantry (something I tackle pretty much every time I visit my parents). When I’m feeling anxious, or when the hamster wheel that is life with four small children is getting the better of me, my best medicine is five minutes to rework a problematic drawer in my kitchen. I feel instant relief and an immediate sense of accomplishment and productivity. I realize this may sound odd… my husband certainly thinks so. But it’s who I am and it’s why I’ve chosen a career that allows me to do things like get a serious rush from turning a seemingly useless space into the perfect place for a client to keep her brown paper grocery bags (true story… we may have even hugged over it). There is no basement too dirty, no closet too packed, no kitchen too puzzling for me. I love it all.
Well, except one thing.
My children’s clothes. Oh, the clothes.
My kids are just-turned-six, just-turned-four, and the twins are 22-months. All boys. Yes, I said all. They are my loud, rambunctious, sweet, loving, nutty, dirty boys. And they’re growing so quickly that pants can fit one day and be high-waters the next. Shirts shrink and show off the twins round, toddler tummies. Lots of things get holes and stains. Meanwhile, here in New England we have to be prepared for it to be anywhere from negative 10 to 65 degrees in February, and then somewhere between 32 and 95 degrees in May. So here’s the categories of clothes we’ve got at our house:
- New hand-me-downs we aren’t yet ready for (thank you, dear sister and nephew who save us a bundle by passing things down to us)
- Matthew’s current clothes
- Clothes that are in-between Matthew’s and Stephen’s sizes
- Stephen’s current clothes
- Clothes that are in-between Stephen and the twins
- Twins current clothes
- Clothes the twins have outgrown which get sorted into sub-categories of donations, hand down to friends, and the occasional item worn by all my boys that I cannot part with (even us organizers get sentimental – these go into a memory bin)
This is all made more complicated by:
- Seasonal stuff
- Sizing variations (you all know that not all sizes are created equal among brands)
- The stuff Matthew has worn for so long it can go right to Stephen instead of being put away
- The fact that they’re all picky about different things (zippers, pockets, collars, different fabrics)
You can see why this is the one organizing task that can make my head spin.
But, it’s got to get done. So, here are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way to make it slightly less painful.
Take the too-small stuff out of rotation right away. Keep a bin, laundry basket or drawer in a convenient location to continually toss-in clothes that are too small. They can get sorted when it’s time to pack them away, but pulling stuff out of rotation regularly avoids having to search through crowded drawers every day to find what actually fits.
Deal with one kid’s clothes at a time. If possible, avoid the mental overload of taking out all bins of clothes belonging to all kids and trying to do it all at once. Work with one kid’s bins/drawers at a time. Believe me, I’ve tried doing a massive overhaul and I succeed at little except creating a strong desire to get rid of everything they own and have them live in undershirts and sweatpants. Doing one kid at a time will help keep the stress low and the efficiency high. That’s the winning combo!
Label label label! As you pack stuff into bins, you may think you’ll remember what’s in each one. You won’t! Label the size range, season, and any extra notes (like Christmas PJs 2020, or 4th of July shirts for Summer 2021). If you don’t have a label maker, stick a piece of paper on the inside of a clear bin, facing out. Bonus points for labeling 2 sides of a bin so you can store the long or short way!
Don’t overthink it. If a 3T shirt ends up in the 5T bin and therefore never gets into rotation… oh well. We’re not moving mountains here, just trying to dress kids in (roughly) the appropriate size and season threads. The goal is getting sizing and seasons together, but if things get missed here and there, don’t sweat it. Efficiency is more important than getting it perfect.
The stuff that’s too small for the last kid(s) leaves the house! Whether you’re donating, passing things along, or tossing the stuff that’s too stained and thread-bare for either… get it out! Most people have a tendency to spend weeks tripping over donation bins or driving around with them in their cars for an eternity. Drive it right on over to your friend’s house or the local family shelter or wherever it’s going and get it out! You’ll feel great about having the un-needed stuff gone, and those who need it will be thrilled to have it.
OK, so now that I’ve gotten myself into the mind-set (and since we are finally seeing some hints of spring)… off I go to the kids’ rooms to tackle Matthew’s transition out of size 5 winter and into size 6 spring. Wish me luck!