Ask Design Mom: Seasonal Clothes Storage

February 26, 2007

I’m sensing that many Design Mom readers are itching for a little change in their lives. Possibly some spring cleaning/organizing instincts are kicking in. And they’re making lists that will inevitably bring them to Ikea and Home Depot.

How do I know this? I received about one million (really good) Ask-Design-Mom questions over the weekend. So I’m going to attempt to answer one each day for the next little while and I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll contribute your best ideas as well. Thanks in advance.

Ask-Design-Mom Question:
I’m a first-time mom of a ten-month old, and my daughter, Scout, is the happy inheritor of loads of clothes from older cousins. What I’ve never been able to figure out is how to gracefully store what needs to be stored and keep out the right size for now in an accessible (organised even?) way. Seems like there should be some smart system that allows moms to have the right sized clothes for the right season available, and not have to rummage through a big silver Sterilite box. There is absolutely no wabi sabi to stacked Sterilite boxes. Ideas? Thanks for the great blog. I check it everyday. Johanna

Design Mom Answer:
Thanks for the question, Johanna. And I feel you on the clothes storage issues. It’s sort of an unexpected hassle in the first couple of years having a new baby. Although my dreams are filled with pretty closets like in the picture above, this is how I (very imperfectly) manage it:

First, I am hardcore about only keeping the best stuff. Sometimes, I’ve stored something of Maude’s thinking it was so cute, and when I pulled it out for Olive it was all ratty and faded. Basically, I was storing the memory of a cute outfit instead of an actual cute outfit. So I suggest being pretty brutal when you sort through all those inherited clothes. If you’re not going to love putting it on Scout, pass it along or donate it.

Also consider sizes and seasons. Once you have a handle on if your daughter is average size (does she wear 3-6 month clothes when she’s 3-6 months old?) or not, get rid of everything that doesn’t match up with size and season. What I mean is, if Scout is going to be in 6-12 month clothes during the winter months, and there is a really cute 0-3 month coat, well, too bad for Scout, the coat should not be stored.

Once you’ve pared the clothes down to just the really good stuff, my best success has come from using smaller containers instead of larger ones, making them less overwhelming to sort through. Because I put them in closets, I don’t mind that they’re in neat plastic boxes. I use smallish ones, and I use see-through ones. (Something similar to the 6 hanging ones in the picture above from the Container Store.) I designate the boxes like this: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months, and then 1 box per year. The first year clothes tend to stay in better shape so I split the year in two parts, but older clothes get pretty thrashed and there’s less to store. Once my box is full, well that’s that.

When the clothes are divided into smaller boxes, I know I can ignore all the boxes except the size she’s currently wearing. I still have to do some sorting, but a lot less. At some point, when she’s growing about a size per year, going through her wardrobe will be just like going through your own. You’ll do it seasonally and it won’t feel like so much management.

That’s one way. Another way: I know a friend with lots of boys who doesn’t store anything. Clothes just pass down from one brother to another until they’re too thrashed and get thrown out. Also, somewhere in my head there is a vague memory of someone mentioning something about using a dresser to sort. . .

What are some more ideas?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lizzy February 26, 2007 at 3:23 pm

I have the same blessing/dilemna for my children. And a small amount of storage space to use. I have found the best system for me is storing by size and season in Ziploc brand large storage bags. I keep the bags handy on the top shelf of my kids closets and every other month do a quick inventory to see my child has moved up to a size or need that is being stored.

I learned from Design Mom to buy/put together outfits and scrap the leftover pieces. And love what you have. I’d rather have less and love it than have a whole bunch of semi great things.

And since I also share my clothing with cousins (and vice versa) my sister and I agree to buy good brands and drip dry basically everything so it continues to look fantastic kid after kid. The time it takes is well worth the money we both save!

I have so much more I could say but will suffice with this!


2 Help Me February 26, 2007 at 3:46 pm

my daughter is on the small side and doesn’t fit exactly according to age/size. but i like to keep them stored by size. i keep two underbed storage bins under her bed. currently for 3T and 4T. when she outgrows something i put it in the 3T and pull stuff out of 4T as she grows. when all the 3T clothes are outgrown they go up in the attic. i also abide by the one-box-only rule.


3 Bek February 26, 2007 at 4:07 pm

I keep two boxes on top of the closet that I throw clothes into after I realize they are too small (this is for the growing out phase). I don’t even wash them first (they will get put away and worn again..but if it is really icky I will wash it). When the boxes are full I wash them and give it ALL away. Granted, I have girls 6 years apart and a boy in the middle, but storing baby clothes just doesn’t make sense to me unless you have lots of kids close together. THe most liberating thing I have done is get rid of them. I pass them on to a friend and usually great stuff gets passed back. I don’t buy LOTS of clothes, but I buy good ones and they last for the time they are needed.

I often buy a whole “season” when the kids are small. When stores like Gymboree have a series of clothes I get all of them from the same season. They all mix and match (and if something gets too icky to pass on, there are still cute things that go with it). It also eliminates impulse buying b/c nothing else matches.

I also store the clothes in the new large and extra large ziplock bags. They are small enough to work but big enough to hold most things… for example, one bag has 2t shirts, one has 2t dresses,etc. I then put THOSE bags into a large rubbermaid in the garage or under the beds…. I pull out the clothes one size at a time… and once most of the other size is “in the box” I put the rest away too. This way it is done in a day. I wash it all, bag it up and pass it on. THis works well when I buy all of one series of matching clothes b/c they don’t match the new stuff.

I started this b/c my good friend has given me almost every single boy outfit I own. They came to me bagged and ready to go. Genius. I have many sizes ahead from her and that is how I store them and get them out. With my girl clothes from this last baby, I just put them away a batch at a time…. I don’t have anyone to give them to yet….

I also know someone that gets size tags and puts them in the closet (like the kind in clothing stores, you can get them at Babies R Us) and hangs them ALL up, when one size is small, she puts them away and scoots the next one down. This solves the problem of buying/getting things too big and then forgetting about them till they grow out of it…

Managing kids clothes (esp the baby and the first year stuff) is a pain and it takes up TOO much of my time… I don’t know how to make it less work….


4 Mama Aketch February 26, 2007 at 9:57 pm

I also store by size and when I got out my newborn 0-3m batch for baby #2, I realized I did have a bunch of questionable hand-me-downs. I will donate those rather than store them again.

For new clothes, I buy on clearnance a year ahead and hang them in a closet by size. This makes it easy to take inventory to see what holes I may need to fill in the season and to grab the right stuff when I want to break out a new outfit.


5 Christy February 27, 2007 at 8:12 am

I use a dresser technique. I keep the clothes that fit my daughter in the top 3 drawers. She’s at the age where she now just needs a once a year or seasonal change. In the bottom two drawers are the next size of clothes. I keep two boxes in her closet for the things she outgrows (keep and give away). When they are full I either give it away or seal it up and mark it with the size and down in the basement it goes.

When she needs the next size, I move it up to the top drawers and start filling the bottom drawers with whatever comes next. This is also great when I want to buy a season ahead. I can just put it away in her dresser and know that it will be ready when she is!


6 love.boxes February 27, 2007 at 9:25 am

Love this post and all the good comments! … and the pretty pink picture!


7 Jennifer February 27, 2007 at 9:29 am

I am a foster parent so I have kids come and go in all ages and sizes. Sometimes these kids come with nothing so I have to have clothes ready on a moments notice. I us file boxes. They are cheap, stack well and on the outside I can write the size, gender and description of what is inside.


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