Clothing Organization for Families

Clothing Organization for Families

Pack Rats vs. Purgers

I’m not a pack rat. I throw out stuff whenever I get the urge. I’m never happier than when I’m pitching things into the garbage can or a bag marked “Good Will.” My idea of clothing organization would be to get rid of all clothing that does not currently fit anyone and, at the change of the seasons, buy *new* clothing at thrift stores, if needed.

Many years ago, a pack rat friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that she could NOT bring herself to get rid of her junk. I happily volunteered to go through her house and purge it of all worthlessness. Her eyes narrowed as she said with a slight chill in her voice, “No, thank you Natalie.” She knew.

When my in-laws moved out of their home a few years ago, they had to sort through and sell or throw a half century’s worth of STUFF. It filled their home and two large sheds in the back. Floor to ceiling. They lived during the depression. My husband was their child—and the poor man married me.

I didn’t KNOW that you might need a thingymabob 25 years after it had lost its original use. But after our wedding day I found out in short time that this is indeed the case. Even after 21 years, if I throw something out that looks like it came from the 15th century and has been gathering dust since our 19 year old was born, it is SURE to be precisely the thing someone in our family desperately needs exactly one week later.

So I don’t know what I am now. A paranoid purger? This means we have to store clothing—for all the seasons in Minnesota—for 11 growing people of all ages and sizes. (It’s a good thing half of our home is basically storage space.) As we kept adding people to our family, I had to figure out a way to make all the stuff that comes with all the people—fit. Not to mention that I had to be able to FIND it again if I did put it somewhere.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Some of you are at the beginning of your family adventures, and you maybe only have one to three kids. The ones with large families have no doubt figured all this stuff out already—out of sheer necessity; therefore, this post will likely benefit younger moms the most.

We lived in a tiny home with one small storage space the first 10 years of our family life. At first I just kept all the summer/winter clothes in the closets and drawers. We had two boys, two years apart, so the second one slipped into the same clothes that the first one had left off wearing the year before. That worked fine until the Girl came along—four years later. I didn’t want her to wear the boy clothes, so I stuffed all those things into blue bins labeled “BOY.”

That came in handy, because less than two years after Girl—came Boy Three. I pulled those bins out, and he wore those clothes. I had to get some more bins labeled “GIRL” now. So far, so good. I only had clothing up to age 8, and most of it was boy clothing.

Then we moved into our current home with storage from here to Texas. I’m convinced that was the selling point for my husband. At any rate, it was a good thing, because we had Girls Two, Three, and Four right in a row, followed by Boys Four and Five. By now I had graduated from 10 gallon bins to 350 gallon bins, and they were stuffed with not only the clothes that we had purchased for our children, but clothing that other families had started donating to us.

As a related side note, I never thought about this before, but a recent comment on the Visionary Womanhood Facebook page woke me up the possibility that a lot of Wemmicks seriously think if you have more than two kids, you are automatically needy and perhaps even hick. Maybe that’s why we started getting donations?

At any rate, I had to keep all the donated clothing “just in case.” You know. An emergency. A computer crash. Armageddon. That kind of thing. We could have opened up our own thrift shop with what we had, made a fortune, and then used THAT against the future collapse of Western civilization. It would have taken up a lot less space in my house AND in my brain.

I started politely declining clothes, and furthermore, I convinced my husband that we ought to do our part and donate to others in need. Help THEM get ready for slow and painful starvation and the eking out of a living off of roots in the backyard. He likes to serve others, so he was good with that, as long as we were covered on our end. I assured him—we were.

At this point we had bins and bins—very large bins—stuffed to overflowing with clothing. Every spring and fall I’d wade through piles of clothing up to my neck trying to find seasonal clothing that would fit all the various bodies in our home. I’d flip through bins of tennis shoes, sandals, boots, church shoes, and camping shoes (old ratty shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy and moldy when you camp.) And then there were the bathing suits, light jackets, sweaters and coats for spring and fall—as well as the heavy coats and snow pants, gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, and face masks for winter.

Feeling nauseated, anyone? I was.

The Final Solution

Two years ago my mom gave me a sum of money and told me to use it on something that would alleviate any area of stress in my life. Of course, this clothing thing came to mind immediately, and I used it to buy clear, stackable drawers that I could store seasonal clothing in and label accordingly. Each drawer is limited in what it holds, making it easier to look through it quickly “on the fly” to see if what I need is in there.

I determined to limit our clothing to those drawers. If we had more clothing that the drawers could hold—it had to go. So I got ruthless with throwing stuff away.

This meant I could not hang on to ratty tennis shoes and t-shirts “just for camping.” No room. If a certain item sat in a closet year after year and the kids wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole—it had to go. If we had 24 plaid dress shirts in size 16, 20 of them would be donated to anyone desiring them. If a shirt had weird stains on it that wouldn’t come out, even after soaking in bleach, vinegar, nail polish remover, or peanut butter—into the garbage it went.

I do this with my own clothes all the time. I only keep what I actually wear regularly. I hate a closet full of stuff I never wear. I just had to get good about doing this with everyone else’s stuff. (My husband has drawn the line with his clothing. I can wash his clothing, but I can’t throw it. And I must say, he has gotten better at purging—all by himself—over the years.)

Now I have it down to just a few outfits per child, per season. They are labeled “Girl-Summer” or “Boy-Winter.” At the end of each season, I go through their closets and discard anything that is stained, worn out, or has tears or holes. If something sat in their closet for 6 months and they never wore it, it either gets thrown or put in a bag to give away. I don’t want it.

Then I pull out the next season’s clothes and we have a big “try-on” day where everyone tries on clothes in their size to see what fits. The girls LOVE this. The boys? Not so much. I have a list of necessities for each child that goes like this:

Summer Girl

2 church dresses

pair of tights

dress shoes

flip flops

tennis shoes

6 pair underwear

6 pair socks

bathing suit

swim shorts

2 pairs of jeans

2 sweatshirts

6 long shorts

6 short sleeved shirts

We would have fewer outfits, but we go to a cabin for 7 days every summer and need enough clothing to last for a week with no laundry. Plus, if they ruin something, they will still have plenty of options to get them through the summer. Our 9-year-old daughter is such a free spirit that we are lucky if she has anything left at the end of any season.

If there are any gaps in the list above, we purchase the items on sale at a department store or at a local child’s thrift store.

We still store all our shoes in bins labeled Summer Shoes, Dress Shoes, Tennis Shoes, and Boots. All our winter hats, mittens, etc. are in a separate bin, and all our coats are stored in a cloth, zip up wardrobe thingy on wheels in our basement. It does bulge a bit.

So that’s what we do!

What do you do to keep track of clothing in your family?

Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, You Can Do it Too! 25 Families Share Their Stories, and The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking.

You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program.

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6 thoughts on “Clothing Organization for Families

  1. Loved this post! Sounds so familiar. :) I too, had a bulging, zippered coat rack in my basement. I went through all of the coats and snow pants that I saved for the “rainy day” (or more precisely, for guests who may come to visit and forgot something), but I decided that I needed to purge and I brought them to our church where we have a weekly community dinner for the poor and homeless. I told the team that I would take away anything that was left and they assured me that there wouldn’t be anything…and they were right! Just another, idea for passing along clothing and even some children’s clothes and toys to those who are in real need. Thanks so much for sharing, Natalie!

  2. I have to tell a funny story about this. I am by nature a pack rat. I have kept various sizes of clothing for years (including that elusive pair of purple jeans that fit in college) with the full intention of losing weight – but it never happened – so I did finally get rid of most of them. Thanks to God’s grace, I have recently lost about 38 lbs. I still have 20 to go. I cannot wait until I am able to get rid of those clothes that no longer fit, however it just isn’t in the budget to replace clothes when I am in size limbo. So my wonderful mother keeps taking in my clothes. At this point, she has taken in every pair of pants I own at least once – many of them twice. The last time she took in my khakis she told me that was the last time because now the back pockets were less than an 1/8 of an inch apart and it made me look like I had a clenching problem! She promised that when I was at my goal weight she would take me on a thrift store shopping spree.

    • Jennifer—that is terrific! (What a sweet mom too!) I hope you reach your goal soon and have a blast reworking your wardrobe. I read a good eBook on the topic of wardrobe called The No-Brainer Wardrobe. But don’t buy it this week. There’s something really incredible coming next week that will enable you to get that book for only 30 cents. Stay tuned!

  3. I got 4 kids, 3 y.o. to 10 y.o. One boy stuck in the middle, and 3 girls. I have one big storage bin. I put everything in there, summer and winter clothes (out of season) together. If it begins bulging, then I purge. Everyone’s clothing fit inside my master closet. Everybody’s! I have pants, shirts, nice shorts, dresses, new swimsuits, everything hanging. Including mine and my husband’s, plus bedding and towels. Outside the closet each kid has a drawer with play clothing. That’s stuff that can get stained, dirty and if it’s too bad, I just throw it away instead of washing it.

    I used to save my 2nd child’s (the boy) clothing, but after I had a 2nd girl, I figured I could give away his stuff. If I have a boy again, he will get brand new clothing (second hand or stuff on sale, of course).

    I am not a pack rat and I find excuses to get rid of things. I hate knick knacks… I barely decorate my house. I mostly have pictures on the walls, but almost nothing on surfaces. I hate to dust the stuff. The kids got too many toys, of course. So I store them in bins, and rotate them. Bringing 2 or 3 out at a time. Of course, we got books. And while I love books, I hate to see my bookshelves overloaded with them. So I get rid of them too: I donate to our library, sell and give them away. And of course, buy more! :) For me, the hardest to get rid of are the books… but when I do, I breath a sigh of relief. Go figure!

    In March, I did some major purging and even sold things on Ebay… we made over $400 just with electronics, books and homeschooling resources I had that were sitting on shelves, or inside closets. I am determined to make some more money. I could be a minimalist, if I didn’t have kids. I used to live out of a backpack for 10 months out of the year, with 2 pair of shoes only and it was heaven! :)