Monday, March 2, 2015

Rotating Seasonal Clothes - Large Family Style

I've been asked many times about managing clothing for a large family.  *smile*  Moms ask whether or not I rotate the children's seasonal clothing or keep it all out year-round, and if I do rotate the clothes how in the world I go about doing that in an organized and time-efficient way?  So - here's my plan of attack.  *chuckle*

Frequently asked questions:
  • First of all, why bother rotating kids clothes?
  • How frequently do I rotate seasonal clothes?
  • What does our current, in-use clothing storage look like? 
  • Preparing to begin
  • What is my plan of attack?  (step-by-step)
  • When do I clean out kids' clothes for give-away?
  • What about clothes that are in the laundry and aren't available to be put away?
  • Do I ever rotate clothes outside of my designated 2 times per year to do so?
  • Where do I store clothes that we're not currently using?
  • Do I rotate clothes for me and my husband, too?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why bother rotating kids clothes?

For me there are several great benefits to rotating the children's seasonal clothes twice-a-year.
  1. We have a small house and only have room for two season's worth of clothes to be available at a time without getting totally overrun with clutter.
  2. If we can't see all the clothes/shoes/coats that we have then we'll waste time and energy looking for items we desire, or waste money purchasing things we don't need and in fact already have but can't find.
  3. The kids can not choose clothes to wear that are seasonally inappropriate (i.e. tank tops in the winter or sweaters in the summer) which either puts us at a destination unprepared or wastes time needing to have kids change clothes.  If they have only appropriate items available to them then we're always prepared for the weather and not wasting time, and I don't have to give extra instructions to kids about what to choose and what not to choose.  And we avoid having our laundry efforts increased unnecessarily because kids strip off clothes that I told them they can't wear and drop them in to a dirty clothes hamper instead of putting them back where they found them.
  4. Our garage storage stays cleaned out so we're not keeping things we don't need.
  5. Having designated times of year to rotate clothes frees me up to not have to do it all year long.
  6. We don't waste time preparing to leave the house because someone can't find the clothes that kids should or desire to wear, or can't find matches to shoes, or can't find a warm enough coat (or any coat at all).  We simply grab what we need and move on!  *smile*  Makes me happy.
  7. Kids over the age of 5 can choose their own clothes in the morning without my assistance and still be adequately prepared for the season and the weather and for the size of clothes that they need.  They have success and autonomy; mom has freedom.

How frequently do I rotate seasonal clothes?

I only rotate clothes twice-a-year, so I have available for the children only the fall/winter clothes or the spring/summer clothes at once.  For our family of 11 it takes me about 4-6 hours each time.  Ideally this is done all in one day (on a weekend because Bob is home to "do kids"), but sometimes, like this last September, it took me 3 days of working off and on (much less time efficient, but that's life sometimes *smile*).

What does our current, in-use clothing storage look like?

Here is how our children's current-season clothing is organized, in a single "kids clothes closet". (Read here if you'd like to see how we created this closet in our garage!)  All of our children's clothing is in this single location, except for the baby twins who's clothing is in the changing table/dresser in our bedroom still (I'll get baskets for them for these shelf units when they're older).

Our children's shoes are all on this plastic shelf unit from Costco, and their coats all hang on this garment rack.  The shoes are organized like this (top to bottom):  14-year-old daughter's shoes, 13-year-old daughter's shoes, 7 youngest children's church shoes, 7 youngest children's tennis shoes (which are nearly all being worn at the moment *smile*), and everyone's rubber boots.

Preparing to begin
  • I put on something like a vest to keep me warm if it's the fall time and the garage is chilly.
  • I slip on some comfortable shoes because some of the garage is carpeted but some of it is not and it's cold and dirty and I don't like being stocking-footed or barefoot on it.
  • I get a water bottle to have on hand, and maybe some crackers or apple slices.  *smile* 
  • I get a black permanent pen because sometimes I need to start a new clothing box and I'll need to write on it to label it.
  • I get out a 5x7-inch tablet and a ballpoint pen so that I can make notes of clothing/shoes/coats items that we need and which I'll need to start shopping used clothing stores for.  This is usually only the case for the oldest girl and the oldest boy because I don't have very many clothes for them to wear yet outside of a few hand-me-downs that were given to us and which I kept for future use (the other kids get the oldest kids' hand-me-downs if the clothes are still in good shape).  For our family I also need extra items for our twin baby girls because I have one set of clothes/coats/shoes in size 2T, but not for two baby girls.  *smile*  So I'm writing down on my tablet things such as:  Anna Marie needs church shoes; Brandon needs 4 more church shirts; Karen needs some skirts and a winter coat. 

What is my plan of attack?

I approach switching out the kids clothes in chronological gender order.  By this I mean that I do our littlest girls first, then the next oldest, on up to the oldest girl.  Girls clothes always take much longer than the boys do, so I just like to get the girls done first.  *chuckle*  Then I do the littlest boys on up through the oldest.  This way my mind can totally focus on all the needs for that one age and gender, and then move on to the next ones.  And if I am interrupted (frequently), I can easily com back to where I left off.  

When I'm rotating kids clothes I complete each person one at a time so that I can leave the garage without stuff being everywhere (which in our home is just asking boys to mess it up - stress I do not need).  For example, I do the littlest girls (twins) and complete them before moving to the next person.  This approach is especially necessary for me if I'm working in blocks of time over the course of days rather than all in one day.

~ Here's the approach per person ~
Step 1

I like to pull from the shoe shelves all of the children's too small or past-season's shoes and I put them all in to a pile.  This is the one part of the whole process in which I do for all the children simultaneously.  This is because it then gives me space on the shoe shelves to put their next-season's shoes as I get them out.  I choose to put away the out-of-season shoes in to their appropriate boxes at the same time that I'm getting out the next season's shoes for each person.  Then I'm not getting the boxes down more than once.  In to the box with the "old", out of the box with the "new".


Step 2

Then on to everyone's clothes.  *smile*  I pull out one child's at a time past-season clothes.  In starting with our baby twin girls I take their clothes out of the changing table/dresser and put them into a laundry basket to bring their clothes down stairs to the garage where all clothes are stored.

When I pull the older girls' out-of-season dresses off of the hangers from the garment rack I fold them as I go.  This keeps the clothes orderly so I can work efficiently and accurately and keeps my small floor space clear for walking and boxes.  This also helps me to not make mistakes by putting things from the floor in to the wrong boxes or forgetting items and having to get boxes down again later to put them where they belong).  And, clothes don't pile up on the floor which brings me confusion and frustration.

When I pull dresses from the hanging rack I put all the hangers on the end bar so that I can easily grab a hanger when re-hanging up the next-season's dresses.  This also helps me have on the hanging racks only the number of hangers we need and no extras which take up space and create clutter, and end up in hangers being on the floor sometimes or broken by people playing with them.  If every hanger has a clothing item on it then there's not a hanger problem.  I use all the hangers I'll need for this new season's clothes, and store the rest in a closet until they're needed.

Step 3

I sort the clothes by sizes to be put away in to boxes by size and gender (i.e. "Girls 2T" or "Girls 3T").  Since our girls wear dresses exclusively I often seem to end up with two clothing sizes of dresses out at once, also determined by what I have available for them seasonally.  They may have some dresses that are shorter and longer, short sleeved and long out for temperature variations in the weather.  They also may have socks or leggings which they've been able to wear for a few clothing sizes but are now too small, and each needs to be put into the right box.  Boys sometimes have a couple of sizes of shirts out because, for example, they've worn the same short sleeved shirts for 2 summers because short sleeves aren't grown out of like long sleeved shirts are.

Step 4

Then I get out the next size up clothing box and hold each item up to the person I'm working on to see what fits and what doesn't yet, and which clothes from that size are seasonally appropriate.  For the baby girls, since they're nearly always napping when I'm doing this project, I get out a dress that I know is the maximum length that they could wear and then I hold up each "new" dress I get out for them to that model dress (just like I would if I had their little selves as models to hold clothes up to) to make sure it'll fit them.  For the rest of the kids I have  each one come to the garage one at a time when it's their turn and hold clothes up to them to see which items fit - dresses, shirts, pants, tights, coats, and shoes.  And I keep that child with me until I'm done with their clothes/coats/shoes, then they go and get the next child in line.  *smile*  They delight in their turn to get out new-to-them clothes, and in being the one to go get the next person.

As I hold up clothes to the child I put each item then into one of two or three piles, ones that fit, ones that don't, and ones I'm giving away.  Then I re-fold and put away the ones that don't fit and put them back in to the box.  I also put into that same box the out-of-season clothes that still fit the person (same size).

Step 5

I then put the "new" and "old" clothes where they belong, either hang up their "new" clothes on the hanging rack or put them into their appropriate basket.

Step 6

If a clothing item is especially wrinkly from being packed away for months or years then I instead put it into a pile in the hallway inside the house for clothes that just need to be run through a hot dryer to be refreshed and re-folded.  I'll rotate those through the dryer as a last step once I've finished rotating seasonal clothes for all 9 children, and then hang them up.

Mom Tip:  for hanging up skirts we've found that these metal, tiered skirt hangers are the best as they take up a lot less space than individual hangers; and the plastic ones down below are junk because the clips break constantly and they don't hold up heavier skirts in the older girls sizes (the skirts just fall off all the time).  *smile*

When do I clean out kids' clothes for give away?

During this time of rotating seasonal clothes I also clean out clothes to be given away.  When I get out a next-size-up box for a child I can then see how many of each clothing type I have for each person.  How many shirts, how many pairs of pants, how many skirts, etc.  Sometimes we receive hand-me-downs and I've kept the ones I think we can use and have put them into the appropriate clothing size box when we received them.  So I don't always know exactly what will come out of a box when I open them up.  If we have too much of any one type of clothing then I select out our favorites to be kept, and I give the rest away.  

Sometimes I discover in a box clothes that I've had for many years that are now pretty out dated or worn, and so I'll give those away, too.  So all of the items in a box are either hung up because they're appropriate for the next season, or they're kept in the box because they're appropriate for another season, but I don't put any clothes back in to the box just because I don't feel like putting it on a child.  If I really don't like an item, I've learned that I'll simply never put it on them *chuckle*, so I now just give it away and let it go.  I don't keep things I don't like and will never use. 

I keep one kitchen garbage bag open on the floor and I add clothing items to it as I'm working through all the kids clothing until it's full, then I tie that one closed and get out another bag to fill as I work.  When I'm done rotating clothes these bags are all delivered to the nearby Value Village (because they give 20% off coupons for shopping there when people donate!) the very next time I leave the house.  I don't have room to keep them for a some-day garage sale, they just have to walk away.  *sigh*  *smile*  *nice* *laugh*

What about clothes that are in the laundry and aren't available to be put away?

The next laundry day we have I tell the usual laundry-folders to just leave those laundry baskets for me and I'll do it myself.  This way I can sort as I go, taking out items that need to be put away, and not risk having a whole lot of clothes put in to my nicely-organized baskets or hanging racks that shouldn't be out still.  I've never had a child complain about this plan.  *wink*

Do I ever rotate clothes outside of my designated 2 times per year to do so?

Nope.  Not really.  *laugh*  Over the course of the next week or two after rotating clothes the kids will periodically come across an item that we thought would fit but is actually too big, and I'll have them set that item aside for me to put back into it's box for later.  But over the course of the next 6 months when I have clothing items that kids have grown out of I just put those at the bottom of their clothing basket and tell them it's too small and they should just leave it down there.  I really try to stick to only rotating clothes 2 times per year.  Otherwise I'd be doing it all the time with 9 kids and that's frustrating, not a good use of my time or energy, and it's unnecessary.

Where do I store clothes that we're not currently using?

I use cardboard bankers boxes to store children's clothes because they are fairly inexpensive (at least less expensive than plastic tubs).  They stack nicely on each other, fit on to average-size garage shelves, and they can easily be labeled as to what's in them.  Ours are all stored in our garage on shelves my husband made for us.  (All the blue and white boxes on the right side wall dividing our two garage bays, and around the top shelves near the ceiling.)

Do I rotate clothes for me and my husband, too?

Yes, I do the whole family's at the same time.  Well...actually... Bob doesn't require his clothes to be rotated as he doesn't have so much that it's necessary  *chuckle*  *bashful smile*  But I do some of my own.  Here's our closet (plus large dressers in our bedroom).

I used to have about 6 sizes worth of clothes - in all seasons of the year - due to so many pregnancies and growing and shrinking in sizes for myself, until I finally did a massive give-away (10 black garbage bags full!!!) of all of those clothes except for one size smaller for myself to shrink back down to.  I determined that with the back-to-back pregnancies, by the time I got back in to those sizes they would be totally out dated anyway.  *laugh*  And it was stressing me out to have 90% of my closet be things I couldn't fit in to.  So I let it all go!  *huge sigh!*  And now when I look in my closet I see only clothes that I can fit in to, and that which are my favorites (after all, we only wear our favorites anyway, right?).  So - my out-of-season clothes I used to keep in boxes underneath the bed and in the garage, but when we built our children's closet we had to get rid of a lot of things in the garage to make room for it and all of those un-needed clothes were given away.  Now I only have a small amount of items that are not seasonally appropriate.  Some go onto shelves in the closet (not pictured), and seasonally-inappropriate dresses I hang together in groups of about 4-5 and put a clear plastic bag (free from a dry cleaners) over them for the next 6 months to keep dust off.  I do have a box for shoes, however, which is underneath our bed.  I keep out-of-season shoes in that box.

Here's our garage "mud room" coats and shoes.  These are mine and Bob's frequently-worn shoes (church shoes are in our closet) and coats (mine are hidden in there amidst his big ones *chuckle*).  So when I rotate shoes for us (and coats only for me *wink*) then this is where they mostly go.

So!  *smile*  I hope that was a thorough answer that will encourage you and help you find a great plan for your family the next time you face the children's clothing dilemma in your lovely little spot of the world.  *hugs*  Happy sorting!

Blessings on your seasonal efforts!

You might also enjoy my posts:
Large Family Preparations to Leave the House - This, Too, Has a Plan


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