There are days when I feel like clothing management for Caroline could be a third part-time job. What you didn’t know I already had two; social worker and housekeeper?

I pride myself on being organized. We recently filed our taxes and Steve was hunting for a document that I was able to produce in less than 30 seconds. If there is a missing item anywhere in the house (except for the blasted measuring tape which I cannot for the life of me find!) I can locate it. It is a challenge and I revel in it. My father passed this skill to me. He was always the “finder” in our family. Steve’s father has that role in his house, but lest you think there might be two finders in our house, let me assure you that this specific gene did not make it into my husband’s DNA. Thankfully, one of us is of the finder variety or the chaos would be unmanageable. (For someone who prides themselves on being organized, this post is already feeling pretty cluttered.)

From the day Caroline began to outgrow her newborn clothes I have been faced with the challenge of boxing things up as she grows out of them and storing them. Initially, I tried to group things by size, but then I learned rule #1.

Rule #1

Sizes are merely a guideline. Between three and six months, Caroline was wearing things of various sizes because each individual retailer sizes their items differently. We’ve all come to learn how things fit our kids as they grow. I know to get a size up at the Children’s Place, that Carter’s will shrink a bit, and the Gap runs so big I can count on her wearing it for more than a season. This last bit about the Gap isn’t always a good thing. It runs so large that my first few tries at buying ahead were disastrous. New parents. Learn Rule #1 early and it will help you enormously.

So as things started piling up on the futon that used to be in her nursery back at the old condo, I knew I needed a system. I purchased some plastic storage tubs and started grouping things as best I could.

Rule #2

Save money and use the old BJs diaper boxes. Oh, you can’t see in them you say? It doesn’t matter. I cannot tell what size things are by looking at the outside of a semi see through box full of pepto pinkness – can you?

Once I started adapting the BJ’s diaper box method things appeared to be moving smoothly until I realized that by placing items together as she grew out of them I was essentially organizing them backwards and unless I have a child in the future with a case of the Benjamin Buttons, this won’t help me one bit.

Rule #3

Any organization is better than no organization at all.

We’ve been cruising along with Rule #3 for quite some time. Here is my current method:

Current Clothing: Only clothes for NOW are kept in dresser or hang in closet. If she cannot wear it tomorrow it does not belong in her room.

Grown out of Clothing: I keep a gigunda diaper box in the spare room on a side table that I place items in as she grows out of them. If that shirt she has on today has the look of “the last time she’ll wear it” it gets washed and put directly into the box as neatly as possible. I purge her current clothes about 3 times a season, once at the beginning to make way for the new, once in the middle to get rid of the items that barely made the cut last time, and once towards the end to evaluate what things I need to fill in when I pull out the new stuff. Once that gigunda box gets full (towers far over the edges) I take it all out, organize it by size and clothing type. It gets a markered on label and off it goes to the attic and we start a new box.

Future Clothing: I love the idea of buying Caroline a brand new wardrobe each season. Which collections look cutest? And lately – what would she like? I hate the idea of paying for it. So I shop the sales. I have shopping rules for her – I shop for the next season, for the next year, and for those transitional now items. I just spent under fifty dollars on what I'll call the “transitional wardrobe,” the long sleeve – not quite springy, not quite winter pieces. It hurts less when I do it this way. Before long my consignment shop with be having its end of the winter $1 sale and I will stock up on 3T items for next winter. Steve even helped pick up some stuff for next fall/winter at a recent Old Navy Super Sale. He has seen the full retail cost and it is enough to make him lose his mind, so he supports my seasonal sale shopping.

What do I do with all that stuff? Put it in another diaper box of course. I keep it in her closet, where I can easily get to it and remember it is there. I organize it backwards with the next season on top so that when I purge winter I can pull out spring at the same time and squeal in delight over all the cuteness which seems to help mask the sadness that “she’s never going to wear that adorable sweater again.” At first that seemed like a pain. Each time I buy ahead another season I have to unload the entire box to put it at the bottom, but it actually has been helpful in reminding me what is coming up next. These reminders help me to fill with the items I need to maximize the outfits and I need to maximize not just for the cute factor, but also for the can be worn to school aspect as well. Winter seems to be a bit more manageable – the occasional yogurt incident evidence on her shirt. SPRING and SUMMER are just terrible. With the outside play in the sand and puddles, she comes home looking like she spent all day playing in a quarry, dirt in her ears and all. I am all for this! She should be playing and getting dirty – but the daycare clothes take a severe beating and so I now shop for separate comfy options for summer at school. It keeps me sane.

My daughter might not always be sporting the “complete look” that so many retailers push (Gymboree, I am talking to you!!!), but I think that on the budget I work within, she is looking great. I have learned that all tops can get paired with khakis, jeans, or a neutral comfy pant. She doesn't NEED the matching rainbow grosgrain ribbon seamed jeans to complete her outfit, and especially not for the $30 price tag. I don't have complete outfits like this - so I don't think she needs them either.

So that is how we do it. There are boxes and boxes in the attic of tiny little footie pjs and dresses with bloomers. If I ever need to access them again, I know that it will take some work (and a LOT of time) to find the right stuff for the right time, but I cannot imagine any other way to organize.

Maybe you can! Talk to me about your clothing management strategy!


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