SUPPLIES: Plastic storage containers work best. They’re sturdy, come in different sizes, and can be stacked or hidden under a bed. Clear ones show exactly what’s inside. My friend Judy swears by colored ones. She assigns each of her children a color and conveniently coordinates everything to it. I’ve recycled sturdy paper ream boxes from work that would be thrown away. They keep for years and years. Heavily coated department store bags or large gift bags with handles are inexpensive and easy to use as well. Some people use their suitcases. Don’t forget a black permanent marker and pen and paper.
LABEL: with permanent markers because tape can fall off with humidity. Or tuck a paper inside and against the wall of clear containers. Classifying depends on how many kids you have and their ages. Containers for a baby are best if marked by size such as 3-6 months or 2-4T. Save smaller clothes only if they’re in good condition. Small spit-up and formula stains tend to become darker with time. Label containers by name for older children.
WHERE TO START: Older kids are able to do this on their own. My coworker Traci has her kids go through their dressers with her and try on clothes. This way both know what should be saved and what can be shed. Younger kids have trouble focusing that long so it might be best to do this while they’re at school. Go through each drawer starting with underwear and socks, tossing into a trash pile what can’t be worn, even for play clothes. Write down what to replace or purchase for the next fall season. Keep off to the side the larger sized clothes for storage for the following year, and a section for donation.
DONATE! When on the receiving end of donated goods sift through them as soon as possible. Pass along multiples (onesies, t-shirts) or items that won’t be used. My oldest son hates wearing jeans so they go straight to the donation bag. Who needs more than five or six of any one item anyway? Hand me downs should be in good condition without obvious stains, rips or holes. Incidentally, I love getting hand me downs and so do the kids, so continue the kindness with gently used clothes.
FLIP AND SWITCH: When the drawers are empty of winter garb, gather last year’s summer clothes and restock the drawers, setting aside those outgrown or designated for a different pile. Remember to keep out a few warm items to keep on top of Syracuse weather. Write on the list what clothes will need to be purchased for this season. Pants that are not long enough but still fit in the waist can be made into cut-off shorts with a quick hem. Instant play clothes! Load the tote or container with the save pile for next winter.
KICK IT OUT: This is where most good intentions go bad. Clothes that are trashed can be used for cleaning or see if the hubby can use them in the garage for oil rags or washing the car. What can’t be salvaged, toss. Take any donations out of the house, even if it’s half a grocery bag and it sits in your trunk for a little while. Chances are if it’s in the house it’ll take up space, you will forget why it’s there, or it will lead the kids to dig through it to wear their favorite red reindeer sweater in July.
FILL IT IN: I take the list I’ve made for winter clothes and stick it in my calendar under August when I start school shopping or closer to Christmas when the sales start. (Or put it in your phone if you’re one of those techno-savvy people). Either way I won’t forget what to purchase. And now all the clothes will be in one place and ready to thin out and transfer. If you’re ambitious and have a good idea what size your child will be when the weather cools, go shopping. Yeah, permission to shop! All winter stuff is on clearance and marked down to move. Stock up guilt free, or plan an afternoon with the older kids so you can reconnect while they update their wardrobe.
Originally printed as the Feature Story in Family Times May, 2014 edition