A Simple Approach to Living With Less

How to Minimize Your Child’s Wardrobe

It’s about that time here in Georgia. The humidity is finally giving us a break and fall is in the air. Along with the change in seasons comes the time to switch out the summer clothes to make way for some warmer ones. It’s always challenging for me to declutter kids clothes so I tend to put it off. This time I’m armed with my new minimalist mindset and I’m attacking the kids’ closets with renewed enthusiasm.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about tips on how to cut down the number of pieces in my wardrobe. There is a really neat project going on right now called Project 333 where a bunch of people have decided to cut down their wardrobe to 33 items for three months.  But what are some things we can do for trimming down our children’s wardrobes?

At this point, my wardrobe is smaller than my kids’ wardrobes. That’s due more to the fact that most of my clothes don’t currently fit me, but that’s another story and not the recommended way to cut down your clothing choices. It’s easy to let your kids’ clothes get out of control. They have school clothes, play clothes, and maybe some dress clothes too. So how do you deal with so many clothing choices when they keep growing from one size to the next season after season?

How to Minimize Your Child’s Wardrobe:

1) Start with the dirty clothes. I like to weed through clothes the day before laundry day. Start by looking at the clean clothes that didn’t get touched. Are they at the back of the drawer because they aren’t among the favorite choices or simply because they’re overlooked from having too many choices? Either way, the dirty clothes are the ones that were chosen so the chances are they are the preferred choices. There are always exceptions to this of course. I’m convinced my 8 year old gets dressed in the dark everyday and doesn’t care what he wears or where he’s going. Just remember we want to “Prioritize, then Organize” the clothes.

2) Realize they don’t need as many choices as we think they do. I never went to a school that required uniforms, but I always thought not wondering what to wear would make getting ready in the morning so much easier. In most cases, we give children too many choices when it comes to their clothing. What typically happens is that they end up wearing the same thing over and over anyway, so why not skip a step and limit the choices from the beginning? It’s always a good idea to have a few pairs of play clothes on hand that can get messed up, but don’t hold onto too many clothes for “what if” situations.

3) Make the clothes easily accessible and organized. One of the ways I like to organize clothes and see what additional items need to be purchased is to put outfits together. This is also how I pack for vacations and it helps cut down the amount of clothes we take on a trip by seeing what can mix and match. I loved the reader comment by “MostlySunny” on managing her children’s clothing. She uses those hanging organizers for closets that have six compartments and puts and outfit in each one. That’s a great idea for keeping down the clothing clutter but it still gives a child the opportunity to choose what they’d like to wear. Awesome!

4) Remember to shop with purpose. If there are holes in your child’s wardrobe decide what they are at home and make a list. If they just need an extra pair of jeans and a light jacket, then make sure you note that and then go shopping with a purpose. Otherwise, when you go shopping you’ll be lured by cute items or things on sale that will unnecessarily increase the size of their wardrobe.

These basic principles can work for kids, teenagers, and even be applied to our own wardrobes. It’s never too late (or too early) to start applying the minimalist mindset to our clothing. What tips have you found that work for you when you’re decluttering children’s clothes?

Article originally published on 10/13/2010

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  1. I am actually in the process of doing this right now. It’s amazing the mental lengths I’ve gone to, to keep the stuff! Thanks for the nudge!

  2. I’ve been putting off attacking the out of hand kids clothes situation. So, so many clothes that it’s hard to know where to start. This gives me the courage to get started.

  3. We pared down long ago to 4 church outfits, 4 public viewing (town) outfits, and 7-10 play outfits. Sometimes I keep a few extras in the top of the closet. When the kids are little I take a picture of each outfit and post it on their closet door. This saves on laundry, having to send the child back repeatedly to find an acceptable outfit (no, you cannot wear your velvet dress out to make mud pies), and reduces the protective layer covering the floor of their rooms.
    We also do seasonal clothes change overs. I have multiple children who would glady wear snowsuits in 90 degree weather. It helps minimize unnecessary conflict.

    K, mom to 14

    • Faith Janes says

      K, Mom to 14, you’re my hero! The snowsuit in 90 degree weather made me smile. My 8 year old is like that. He’ll wear something crazy and then look at me and say “What?!?” like he doesn’t realize how crazy he looks. 🙂

    • Mom to 14 this is a great guideline for the number of outfits to keep on hand for each child. I’ve been looking for something like this as a guideline to get me started. I have 4 children and an abundance of clothes. I can only imagine what laundry day is like for a family of 16!! I like the photo idea as well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I just did this again this morning. I am constantly taking note of what gets worn and what doesn’t. I have one daughter who doesn’t really care what she wears (as long as it’s not “hard” pants – jeans) and another who is so picky she has to choose her outfit. They are total opposites.

    Today I included them on the process and was able to get rid of 1/3 of their wardrobe. We still have a way to go, but now that we have done this a couple times it feels like we are getting somewhere!

  5. Faith Janes says

    I’m so impressed you guys!! I love hearing you’re tips and all the progress!

  6. Can minimalist dads post too?

    Don’t forget to pass the clothes to another family. Not minimal for them, but certainly frugal.

    There is a family with triplets a grade below my child. They always look forward to hand-me-downs.

    • Faith Janes says

      Absolutely, dads are welcome! 🙂 Minimalism clearly isn’t just for moms, the principles remain the same and anyone can find them useful. Thanks for the great reminder to hand down the clothes. There are lots of great organizations around if you aren’t lucky enough to personally know a family who can use your hand-me-downs.

  7. I have been decluttering my kids’ wardrobe this week and changing over to winter/fall clothes. My problem in a nutshell is grandparents, specifically, my mother. She loves to buy clothes for the kids, which is helpful for me in the fact that I save money, but not helpful in the clutter aspect. My daughter wears uniforms to school, so she doesn’t need that many other clothes, but Nana has purchased (on sale, because it was “such a good deal”) more outfits than she could ever wear outside of school. Nana also loves to buy “church” clothes for my four-year old son, who won’t wear them without a fight. The fact of the matter is that he finds a dress-up outfit that he likes, he will wear it every Sunday–ok by me, but what about the other 6 church outfits in the closet. How do I nicely tell my mom to stop buying?! Agh!

  8. ohhh—**BLUSH** Thanks for mentioning my “cubbie” idea! It really works–and nobody has noticed (that they have mentioned) that my kiddos switch between 5 or 6 different outfits each week!! (I have more outfits for them than that-and as something gets stained, holey, or is out of season–I switch pieces out from the storage bin!)

    now….can you tell me how to keep them from trying to CLIMB the cubbies?? LOL

  9. mostly sunny,
    Our cubbies are those kind that velcro to the closet rod. When the kids climb in them they fall down. And the clothes go everywhere . Sometimes even the closet rod falls and all the hanging clothes fall too. Then I (or a big kid) sit with my cup of tea in their room while they put it all back, one at a time. Fun, fun, fun! Then they get to do some work for me to pay me or big kid back for our time. Mean, mean mama. This only works for children 3 and older. Unless the kids have lots of developmental problems, it only takes a couple of times. K

  10. We always end up with piles and piles of funky, unmatching hand-me-downs. I love to save money, but I hate having too many clothes. I don’t like the embarrassing combos the kids want to wear to church, lol. I’ve finally stopped hanging on to the clothes that kids don’t wear. The almost-8yo hates jeans. Why keep 5 pair of jeans? Sometimes I keep 1 pair, but the rest go out to donate. Our most productive shopping trip this year was on 1/2 off day at Salvation Army. I let the kids pick out 7-8 pair pants and made sure they fit and were comfy. Then I laid each pair out on the floor of the store and ran around finding matching shirts. It wasn’t an easy task (there were some really odd colored pants in our selection), but we ended up color matching everything we took home! Daddy had to watch the baby and we were gone for 3 hours, but we have only the clothes that match and look nice together. Kids are happy, Mama’s happy.

  11. Yesterday (in fact) I went through my 8 month old babies clothes. I pulled out her next bin of clothes (12-18 months). Most of the clothes are hand-me-downs. Some of the outfits and pieces are not season appropriate, but some are just not my style! So I put them in a bag to take to Goodwill. Now I feel like I have a better representation of what’s in her closet because I didn’t hold onto everything for the purpose of a what-if situation.

    BTW, I just found your blog by way of the Nester. It’s awesome!

  12. Good idea from Jill Foley to include the kids in the choosing process. To be honest, I haven’t done this before, because I am scared my almost-3-year-old Laura will throw out half of the clothes that I’ve so carefully purchased :P. And those are the ones that never come out of her closet.
    I just have to be brave!

  13. I love your blog, I have been looking for a mom that is a minimalist. I guess there are not that many of us out there. I would love to hear more on how many of each item of clothing you have for each of the kids. I have two kids 11 and 9 years old. I have found that am at a lost for what they really need in their wardrobe. I have great ideas for all these “picture perfect outfits”, but need everyday clothes. I also have to buy all the clothes for my kids, ( they are the oldest kids of all our friends kids) so be happy all you out there that get hand me downs and grandparents buying the kids clothes. 🙂

  14. At this point, it’s pretty easy for me to minimalize what my 18-mo-old daughter has in the way of clothing simply because she grows so quickly that I have to replace her entire wardrobe every couple months. So…in an effort to be frugal I pick up 5-7 outfits plus a dress or two when I shop for her.

    My son (6) on the other hand, has several more shirts than he actually needs, so I’m in the process of weeding them out. Like most boys, his pants wear out quickly, so we usually buy 2-3 pair…which is about what he actually needs.

    I can see how having more than one child of the same gender (or overly generous grandparents) could lead to an excess of clothing, but it’s not really a problem that we have at this point. (I say that knowing that my little diva will probably need more than 7 outfits when she’s in her teens…but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.) Also, I’ve found that laying out an outfit the night before eliminates a lot of the morning struggle about what is appropriate or not (be sure to check the weather, too.)

  15. abracadabra says

    My daughter is a k-grader that wears a uniform — I L-O-V-E it. Other than the required ironing, it is a time and space saver. The main gripe I have is that I 1/2 listened to another parent on quantity — she only did laundry on Saturday and if she couldn’t do it Saturday it waited until the next Saturday, and she apparently did not think anything could be worn more than once.

    I do laundry when there is enough to do a load and if it doesn’t smell or have a something on it that I can’t spot clean, you can wear it again. I thought her quantities were extreme but I scaled my purchases up all the same — that and I didn’t realize how differently uniform clothing wears and how much less you “need” when no one can tell if you’ve worn the same skirt 3 days in row or if you have 3 of the same skirt.

    With a family of 4, one still working on reliably using the potty, we do laundry often enough that a skirt, pants, and a jumper (to accommodate the variety of weather we have), a polo shirt, two or three oxford shirts, her blazer, and a tie (she has 3 because that is her “choice” when it comes to getting dressed) comfortably get us through the week. Throw in a week’s worth of socks, underwear, and a pair of tights and we are set. I am going to go through her uniform clothing this weekend and pass on all of the stuff that isn’t cycling through the laundry with regularity.

    The weekend wear though… that is more difficult.

  16. I am just relieved to have found this blog and know that I am not alone. I have known for a while that I need to get rid of some of my kids’ clothing. My problem has always been the what-if. I keep thinking that I need to keep them so that if some of them get worn out, I still have some to hand down to the younger siblings. After reading all the comments, I am wondering why I don’t store some instead of having all of them out for each child. Thanks for everyone’s help. I will be a minimalist eventually.

  17. MomOfTornados says

    Wow…I’m so relieved to have found your blog. It occurred to me tonight after playing chauffeur for an hour on both sides of an eight-hour + workday, that I think the Enemy is purposely trying to keep me in the laundry room so I cannot enjoy my girls. They’re 9 & 3, and have so many clothes, I don’t have room for all of them and I can’t even tip-toe thru my laundry room (12×12). It’s impossible to keep up on the laundry with the schedule this single momma keeps. Its helpful to hear the number of outfits that’s acceptible for the kids. Motivating…motivating…MOTIVATED!

    • Earth first says

      Mom of tornadoes- get your 9 year old to help with the laundry! My 12 year old son used to fly through clothes until we had him start his own laundry at 10. My daughter felt left out at that point (she was 8) and started to help. What a difference!!

  18. My suggestion for dealing with a grandparent that loves to shop. I personally keep clothes 2 sizes ahead. I survey what I have and what I need. I make a list. Then break that list up and give one to each grandparent that loves to shop. Some are specific… like purple leggings some are more open… 2 church dresses that go with black shoes(winter) or 2 spring church dresses to go with colorful sandals or white shoes. This allows them to help you out and control the massive overload. The problem is if they do not know what you need they will buy everything they love. Try to limit their scope. If they have an issue than oh well let them blow their money.

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  20. I have 3 boys so I converted the walk in closet in my youngest son’s closet into my ”retail store” as I jokingly refer to it. It holds every off season or inbetween size & oddly enough, I rarely have to shop, except for shoes. I was lucky enough to get tons of hand me downs for my oldest. The way to keep their wardrobe simple is to keep basic shorts/pants on hand so any top can match back.

  21. Sharon James says

    Hi I am that grandmother from hell (technically I am Mamgu – Welsh for grandmother) and I know it is my expression of love that I want to see them in the more expensive clothes that I can afford to buy now (couldn’t when I was bringing up children) and I also know that my daughter and granddaughters accept them kindly and that they are perhaps the ‘clean’ clothes at the end of the week! I discovered this page as I am mending my ways and I think that I have found a solution – I am buying a ‘weekend suitcase’ for my two granddaughters (2 and 4 years) that will live at my house- everything x two in case of accidents! – nighties, nicks, sox, toothbrush etc, T shirts, jeans/trousers/jumper and one ‘I am going to eat in a restaurant with Mamgu and Tadcu’ outfit which will be a simple jersey dress/ tights and sparkly shoes (Dorothy is currently their favourite! ) This way when I fetch them for the weekend there is no hassle of packing a suitcase in a rush for Mum and no extra washing for her when I return them on Sunday- working mums have a hard enough time anyway! I will buy less ridiculous outfits as they will have to be practical to play in the garden and generally mess about. Plus as I am shopping for a reason my budget is not a one-off random outfit so I am more realistic about price to pay.. Sounds like a plan?

  22. I like to sew so one way i keep miss g’s clothes lasting longer is to make versitile clothes and clothes i can adjust as she grows.
    My favourite pattern is a pesant dress, it started as a dress when she was 2, at 3.5 it was a long shirt/short dress i could team with tights or denim shorts and since her last growth spurt it is a cute top to wear with a denim skirt. I find funky bright fabrics and people still comment even though it has now been used for 3 consecutive summers.

    I also make my own skirts that can be teamed with a plain top. I can add extra elastic as she grows, they started as rather long skirts and are now just above the knee, i am thinking i will add a band to the bottom to get an extra season.


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