Decluttering & Organizing Kids’ Clothes

Last week, I promised that I would tell you how we managed to get our kids’ clothing under control (hopefully for a good long while).

As I said before, we are flush in clothing. And most of the pieces are thanks to the generosity of friends. I love the revolving door of hand-me-downs, but there is a down-side – the potential for too.much.stuff.

Adding to the excess is that my boys have very different body shapes and so I can’t always hand down from #1 to #2 – since one’s slim and one’s “husky” (I hate that word!). In fact, although they are six inches apart in height, they can often wear the same size top.

So, imagine huge amounts of clothing without a real clear sense of what belong to whom, getting washed and folded every week, but then entering the labyrinth of their room… only to get all mixed up and eventually dumped on the floor.


To get things under control, I started by making them try on every single article of clothing.

They loved this. Not.

As they tried on, I made three piles – Kid #1, Kid #2 and Give Away.

Anything that was horribly stained (mild stains are no biggie, but horribly stained we try to avoid – at least out in public ;-)), anything that had holes, and of course, anything that didn’t fit either kid (there were a suprising number of things in this category – what were they still doing in their room?!), got put into pile #3.

What didn’t end up in pile #3 got sorted by kid. Once I saw their piles – one on one side of the room, the other on the other, I assessed quantities.

For example, one kid had 14 t-shirts but no summer casual shorts. So I asked him to cull his pile down to seven t-shirts, adding the other seven to the donate pile, and I made a note to buy him three pairs of athletic shorts.

The other child had seven t-shirts and four pairs of athletic shorts, so I declared his summer wardrobe complete!

We examined everything – socks, undies and tzitzit, as well as Shabbat clothes, uniform wear and “casual” wear (i.e. what they’ll be wearing all summer long). I even pulled the items out of the dirty clothes, so I could be certain that we had an accurate picture of ALL their clothes.

Once that was complete, I labeled every single item with an A or an M – their initials. In last week’s decluttering post, Loni had a great suggestion in the comments section: Label them with dots.

One dot for the first kid, two dots for the second and so on. That way, when you are ready to hand down from #1 to #2, you just add a dot. No crossing out the A and writing an M!

Finally we hung up the hanging clothes – our system is to hang Shabbat clothes, short- and long-sleeve uniform shirts and all pants, including jeans.

In the closet, each boy has three cloth baskets, labeled for hats & kippot, swim stuff, and sweat pants/sweat shirts.

They also have a five-drawer dresser, which we made labels for. Tzitzit, undies and socks on the top, PJs (winter and summer) in drawer #2, tshirts (short and long) in drawer #3 and shorts in drawer #4.

The labels aren’t beautiful, but they do the trick – and their clothes DO get put away in the right place now.

Their shoes are pretty easy – each boy has three pairs. In the summer, they have sneakers, Crocs and sandals (which they wear for Shabbat); in the winter, they have Shabbat shoes instead of sandals. Those are either in the closet, thrown about the floor in their room, hiding under my bed (why? why?) or in our family shoe basket in the front hall closet (which is where I toss errant shoes when I find them).

The only thing I haven’t quite figured out yet is their sweaters and sweater vests. They have two or three each – worn pretty much only on Shabbat. I think I’m just going to stick them in a bag in the back of their closet until winter, when I’ll turn the shorts drawer into a sweater drawer.

And there you have it – a not-perfect, but efficient system for keeping my children’s clothing from completely overrunning their room – and everywhere else!

How do you wrangle your kids’ wardrobe? Do you use a labeling system? Is too-much-stuff at the root of your problems, as well? Tell me all!


  1. I like the set up in the closet. Zachary needs furniture, but his drawers are a mess right now and if I was able to separate out the pj’s and bathing suits from his socks and underwear that would make a big difference! I’ll keep this in mind when I’m figuring it all out!

  2. My kids definitely have too much clothing. The problem is that I live in an apartment without a washing machine. We do laundry once a week, but need enough for a 1 1/2 weeks for when we can’t do laundry right away or if someone spills, etc.

    • We usually only wash once a week for the kids stuff (one load of boys’ colors, one load of all three kids’ whites). But yes, spills/sweat etc do require more than just 7 shirts, at least in my experience.

  3. Ok, you tackled the boys stuff, but I consider that easy compared to GIRLS! The hand me downs are excessive, even after I pare them down, and the categories are far more numerous. Girls never have just three pairs of shoes- they have ten (9 pairs of hand me down pretty shoes and 1 pair of good solid shoes that I buy new and never get worn.) They have skirts, dresses, shabbat dresses, shabbat outfits, shirts, dress shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, socks, tights that match just one dress, nice coats and play coats, snow boots and dress boots. Please, when you come to my house, help me organize my girls clothes!!! (I’m sure thats what you’ll really want to be doing on your time off.)

    • OMG, I’m totally laughing – especially about the shoes. My daughter has way too many shoes and never wears any of them! And yes, I too by the “good solid shoes”. I will help you organize as long as your idea of decluttering isn’t “give it to Mara so I don’t have to worry about it”! (Can’t wait to see you!)

  4. I’m famous! Thanks for the mention. : )

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