New parents get giddy at the sight of cute little onesies and outfits, but once the novelty wears off those tiny togs can proliferate and colonize at a staggering rate. This is how I deal:
It helps to have strategies in place for dealing with garments in current rotation, bigger sizes and outgrown clothing.
Current Rotation: Whether you're using a changing table, open shelving or closets, designate spots for the basics - onesies/shirts, pants, socks and pajamas. Keep dressier outfits separate from play clothes. Baby socks will take over if you let them; confine them to a drawer, storage bin or tote. A canvas over-door shoe storage bag is great for its intended purpose and infant footwear can easily fit one pair to a compartment, but unless your child's name is Imelda you won't need all of those pockets for footwear. Stash hats, hair bows, mittens and any other random accessories in yours.
Bigger Sizes: Many parents want to take advantage of end-of-season sales to buy clothing for the coming year. I understand the impulse but can't get behind it. There are always deals to be found, it's hard to anticipate a child's growth rate, and your space is valuable. Hand-me-downs are another story entirely. When someone shows up with a ton of cast-offs, say thank you! Then sort through it immediately. Well-meaning friends may have forgotten that their January baby's summer gear won't help your June baby, and in their enthusiasm to purge their kid's outgrown clothing they may have overlooked stains and other signs of wear. Don't hang on to things that won't work for you. If the original owner doesn't want it back then get it out of your house ASAP. Devise a system for storing larger sizes and be consistent, like these bins or space bags. If you use luggage, cardboard boxes or anything else that conceals its contents, be sure to label the outside clearly.
Outgrown Clothing: All manufacturers have different sizing, so rather than going by the numbers, pay attention to fit. Keep a bag in the closet. The second something gets too tight stick it in the bag, and when it's full store it or give it away. If it's in rough shape and you wouldn't want to receive it as a hand-me-down then send it on to its next life as a rag.
Hoping to have another baby? Use the same approach that you use for bigger sizes, all clearly labeled. Use the deepest storage you have in your home because you won't need to access it for a while. Think attics, crawl spaces, top shelves. If your family is complete, get it out of the house. Hang onto a meaningful item or two, but get rid of the rest. Enterprising parents may want to find a local consignment shop, try their luck at ebay or hit message boards. Just want it out? Give it to your pregnant friend, or your friend's pregnant friend, or your uncle's hairdresser's sister's pregnant friend. Someone will be very appreciative. Spread the love. I can't count how many girls are wearing hand-me-downs from my twin daughters. (If you meet me in a coffee shop and tell me that you have a baby girl then I will give you a bag of clothes.) Oftentimes an obvious solution will fortuitously present itself; see that family at the park whose toddler son is the exact same age as your daughter, and whose newborn girl is the same age as your new little man? After 10-15 minutes of small talk it is perfectly reasonable to propose a swap of boy clothes for girl clothes. No patience to coordinate a hand-off? Post it on freecycle or donate it.
After the first 24 months growth slows down considerably, so once you make it through those first two years of endless little outfits it does get easier to manage. Promise!
(Image: Flickr member iskir licensed for use under Creative Commons)