Organize & Clean

A 3-Step Strategy to Trim Down an Overstuffed Kids Wardrobe

published Mar 4, 2014
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(Image credit: Jessica McClenahan)

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a picture-perfect kid’s room closet like the one above? Instead, we have our actual kids’ closets, which are almost always a mound of unattractive hand-me-downs that spew out everywhere, preventing us from ever getting the door shut without superhuman force. Picture perfect might not be a realistic goal. But what about having something a whole lot better than what you have right now? Here’s a simple plan to make that a reality.

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Step 1. Make room by clearing house.

Today is the day to take out everything that is:

  • too small
  • too soiled
  • too unloved

Be brutal. Kids clothes often get clogged in closets for sentimental reasons. “Remember when she wore that? She was so cute!” – I hear myself saying this very thing, thinking of that teensy dress stuffed at the back of my daughter’s closet. But a memory chest is a better place to keep things like this. Everything hanging in that closet should be 100% functional.

For clothes that are too small, or may be too small: fill a bin or bag with these items. When you have your child’s attention, try a few of them on. You’ll be surprised how quickly you work through them all. Items that are too small can be sent to the donation pile, items that fit go back in the closet.

Step 2. If you still don’t have enough storage space, go vertical.

Can you add into your closet an extra hanging bar (using a tension rod)? Another shelf with storage bins? Or, do you have enough room down below to fit an entire dresser? We did that for our kids’ room – in fact, we managed to find a free dresser on the side of the road! Sure, I could have waited for a pretty one but what does it matter how it looks, really, when it’s in the closet? Also, don’t forget that closet doors can hold over-the-door shoe holders, which are perfect for kids’ items like hats, socks, tights, rolled up onesies etc. For a great collection of visual inspiration, check out this post: Looking Inside Kids’ Organized Closets.

Step 3. Take stock of everything you have, and start buying only what you need.

The best way to wrangle an unruly wardrobe, is to stop feeding it. Go through their whole closet and make a list of how many tops your child has, how many bottoms, how many dresses, how many pairs of socks etc. Make note of anything that is noticeably missing. The last time I did this I realized my daughter had no pairs of jeans. My husband was always having difficulty dressing her: now she owns a pair of jeans it’s pretty simple to find a t-shirt to match. One other thing to make note of here: bottoms that need a top to match, or dresses that need a particular shirt to go underneath. With the right purchase, a rarely-worn item might turn into a well-worn one. Take this list with you every time you shop. Let yourself buy cute things, but make sure they are cute things you really, truly need.

Good luck, parents, wrangling those closets! And don’t forget to share your closet photos with us: we love a good before and after story!