We’re passionate about family travel! One of the ways we afford travel with our large family is by saving money through well-organized systems, both at home and on the road. Today I’m sharing easy, practical, money-saving kids’ clothing organization ideas that we use to keep things running smoothly!
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Note: none of these ideas are original to me. I did a lot of reading and research when I was a new mom to learn how to stretch the dollars. We’ve often had to “make do” or cut costs due to job changes or loss of income. I’m thankful for many blogs, mom friends, and tips I found along the way!
Basic principles for saving money on kids’ clothes
Get connected to other parents
Parenting groups abound online and in communities. If you are a new parent, the best recommendation I have for you is to join a parent group. You’ll learn so much from other parents!
Pro tip: parents with older children will often pass stuff on that they can’t use for their own kids anymore. All of our hand-me-downs have come from other families with kids older/bigger than ours. Frequently it has been clothing that is more expensive than we could afford new (because their kid outgrew it before it was well-used).
A new baby needs a lot of stuff besides clothes: strollers, car seats, portable cribs, floor gyms and so on. We received so many gently used items, as well as bins of baby clothes, from other parents in the parenting groups we’ve participated in!
-Hand-me-downs: from other parents, or save them from your older kids for your younger kids.
-Consignment sales: I don’t use this myself because it takes a significant time commitment, but lots of other parents swear by it
-Thrift stores: same as consignment sales. If you have more time than money, a thrift store can be a great way to save!
Only buy what is needed
The best way to save money, time and energy on kid clothes organization is to own less clothes in the first place! Kids grow quickly into the next size. The first step in an organized closet is to have a small selection of clothes to choose from.
Only have as many clothes as your child needs for a week. Any less than that and you’ll probably run out when illness is running through the family. Any more than that means kids can’t keep their clothes neat and accessible.
Seasonal/ Next size up savings
Many older homes lack storage space. If you have lots of space, I suggest using it for clothing kids will grow into. If you live in a place with major seasonal weather changes, use your storage for off-season clothes.
Here’s an easy way to save money on needed clothing items: stock up during the off-season sales for next-size up clothing. I’ve gotten winter coats at more than 60% off when I buy them in January! Buying your storage bins, drawer dividers, and other storage solutions on sale or at garage sales can save lots of money as well.
@dinkumtribe Reply to @mtk_affiliates kids clothing budget saver. #adhdfamilies #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #theresalotofkidsinhere #kidsclothescheap #handmedownsareawesome #adhdfamilytravel #handmedownsitis #momlifehack #momlifeisthebestever #howtoorganizehome #keepitsimple💕 #clotheshack ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
Give fun clothing as gifts
Now that our girls are older, they often want specific clothing items that aren’t “needs” but are fun or fashionable. Cowboy boots, denim jackets, hoodies that are more like a costume – those aren’t usually “necessary” but they’re fun to wear!
Since some items are more expensive, we often give these as birthday or Christmas gifts. An added benefit was that it encouraged our kids to take extra care with these clothing items as they get older.
Give specific clothing as part of an experience (eg. swimsuits for a summer trip, or snow gear for a Christmas snow trip). When we first moved to Oregon from Southern California, we didn’t have much snow gear, so we decided to buy sleds, snow gloves, and snowsuits as a gift to our family for Christmas.
A word about clothing needs vs. wants
In our area of Oregon, snow is uncommon, so we don’t actually NEED snow gear, but it makes those occasional snow days more enjoyable. We consider proper rain boots and raincoats a “need” here in Oregon, but in Southern California we never needed rain gear! Whether a certain type of clothing is a “need” versus a “want” is greatly dependent on the weather in your location.
It’s also dependent on your lifestyle. When we were at our last church, skirts were expected for girls and women at church, so our girls had several skirts and dresses each. Our new church has no such requirement, so our girls only have skirts if they want to wear them.
Making kids clothes last longer
Making cut-offs is a good way to extend the life of your children’s clothes. Often the knees on pants wear out long before the rest of the garment!
We almost always make cutoffs on our kids’ fall and winter pants. Sometimes shirts with long-sleeves wear out on the cuff, so you can make them short sleeves.
@dinkumtribe Kids’ clothing hack: easy transition from winter to summer. #spendlessmoney #parenthack101 #savemoneyonclothes #kidsclothescheap #kidsclothesorganization #howdoyousavemoney #moneysavingmom #adhdfamilies #thatwaseasypeasy #adhdfamilylife #adhdlifestyle ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
Often kids shoot up in height overnight! When kids outgrow footie pajamas, cut off the pajama feet and wear them with socks instead.
We only have our kids wear these when engaged in messy play at home (painting, gardening, crafting, mud puddles, etc.) That helps keep their nicer clothes in good condition even longer. Kids are hard on clothes, so having junk clothes for messy activities really cuts down the amount of new clothes we have to buy.
Some people have strong feelings about hand-me-downs, and I get it. When I was a missionary kid in Jamaica, we would have boxes of clothes sent to us to give away or for us to wear. Most of the items that came were completely outdated, not my style, or just plain ugly! Sometimes we had no other options, but I hated wearing those.
Clothing is an expression of a person’s personality, and is often regarded as a status symbol. I never want my kids to feel ashamed of clothing they didn’t get to choose.
For some kids, what they wear is super important to them, or they are sensitive to current trends and want to fit in. I respect that as a parent, and I give our fashion-conscious kids more freedom to choose what they want to wear. Thankfully, as homeschoolers, we haven’t had to deal with much peer pressure around clothing!
Some key points
@dinkumtribe Reply to @jameshorne1 principles we follow for hand-me-down clothes. #handmedownsitis #kidsclothescheap #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #theresalotofkidsinhere #clotheshack #momlifeisthebestever #adhdfamilies #adhdlifestyle #dinkumtribe_daily #budgetfashion #savingmoneyonclothes #notaperfectmom ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
When we have hand-me-downs for our kids, I start with a couple of basic principles. First, I only keep hand-me-downs that are still in good shape (not stained or ripped) and that are appropriate for our family’s lifestyle. For example, I’m not a fan of death metal logos on my kids, but some parents have no problem with that. You do you!
Second, the child who is receiving the hand-me-downs gets to decide what he or she wants to keep and wear. If he or she doesn’t like an item for any reason, we donate it.
The rare exception to this is when there’s an item the child needs which we can’t immediately afford to buy, such as a winter coat. In that case, we will keep the item until we can budget to buy a new one for the child.
Clothes that don’t get passed along
Some items don’t get passed down. Shoes conform to the feet of the person wearing them, so unless they were hardly worn, we don’t pass on shoes.
Underwear doesn’t get passed down. I know it’s properly clean and laundered with bleach, but the idea of wearing pre-owned underwear is just weird to me (call me crazy). Socks almost always wear out before they can be handed down.
How to organize hand-me-downs
Keeping 6 kids’ clothes organized is a logistical challenge! If we have one full outfit for each day of the week per person, that’s a minimum of 252 items to organize, wash, and fold each week. Here’s how we keep it straight.
I mark each child’s shirts, pants, shorts, pajamas, dresses, skirts, and coats with one bar for each child of that gender. So my oldest daughter’s clothes have one bar, my second daughter’s clothes have 2, my third daughter’s clothes have 3 bars, my first son’s clothes have 1 bar, and so on.
@dinkumtribe Clothing organization hack for multiple kids hand-me-downs. #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #theresalotofkidsinhere #kidsclothescheap #handmedownsitis #howtoorganizehome #momlifeisthebestever #adhdfamilies #adhdfamilylife #familytravelinfluencer #clotheshacks #keepitsimple💕 ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
The bars are on the tags, or the collars/waistband for tagless clothes.
Some families use a similar dot system for marking clothes that are being passed on to a younger sibling. I found that dots faded too fast, and my brain counts tally marks easily. But if you prefer dots, go for it!
Why we needed a system
Not every family needs a system like this. Our kids are all close in age (2 years apart) and sometimes the older child outgrows something and passes it directly down to the next kid. That’s not too hard to remember if it’s a distinct item.
@dinkumtribe Reply to @cassbark08 Joe marking clothes with bars for each kid makes it simpler. #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #theresalotofkidsinhere #kidsclothescheap #handmedownsitis #adhdfamilies #adhdfamilylife #dinkumtribe_daily #howtoorganizehome #celebratebodypositivity #everysizeistherightsize #everysizematters ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
When I had only 2 kids, I could easily remember which of my girls was currently wearing the Minnie Mouse shirt. However, once I had a third girl, the printed sizes often varied between manufacturers, or I simply couldn’t remember if my bigger girl had outgrown a particular item and passed it down.
Marking clothes with bars helps me (or the family member doing laundry) to sort different sizes quickly on a daily basis. It automates the process, eliminating the need to remember who is currently wearing an item.
Storage- Kids Clothing Organization Ideas
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I keep any off-season clothing in clear plastic tubs. I sort items by size and season. Sometimes an older child will be 2 or 3 sizes ahead of the next child, so I will have to store the unused sizes for a few months or even a year.
Labelers are awesome, and this one is my favorite!
I stack the bins in my kids closet on the top shelf with labels facing outward for easy access.
If my child’s room has a small closet, I store the bins in the attic, garage, or under the bed using bed risers.
By using this system, I hardly had to buy any baby clothing for my second and third girls, as well as my second and third boys. We found that babies outgrow most items before they can get stained or worn. Some sizes were only worn for a week or two!
Kids Closet/ Dresser organization tips
The best advice I have for keeping a closet storage system or dresser organized is to make it easy for the child! Children as young as 18 months can bring you socks or a shirt to help with the dressing process as long as you have made their clothing accessible.
Generally, we sort our kids’ clothing into sections of similar items: socks together, shirts together, underwear together, and so on. I use drawer organizers to corral tiny items together so that they are easy to grab (a shoebox works great too!). Bigger items get their drawer or basket or get hung up on hangers (older kids can do this).
We spend a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at the end of the day checking for dirty clothes and putting away clean clothes. My younger kids especially need this dedicated time to make sure that their closets and dressers don’t become an unmanageable disaster zone!
General kids’ clothing tips
1. Keep up on laundry every day when possible. That keeps clothes from getting moldy or permanently stained. I’ve trained my younger kids to drop their dirty clothes directly in the laundry room in a big basket. Once they are doing their own laundry, they keep their dirty clothes in a smaller basket in their room.
2. Aprons/bibs are helpful for crafts/cooking, especially if you don’t have any old clothes for a child.
3. Buy multiples of commonly lost/mixed up items: gloves, hats, socks, etc. I buy the super cheap gloves at the beginning of the winter season because I know my kids will lose them, get several pairs wet in one day, and so on, so it makes sense to buy several cheap pairs per kid.
4. Use one color of socks for boys, one for girls — or one color for bigger kids, one for little kids. This simplifies laundry sorting.
@dinkumtribe Reply to @_fairy.kerry_ another awesome clothing tip got organizing family clothing! #kidsclothescheap #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #theresalotofkidshere #adhdfamilies #adhdfamilylife #dinkumtribe_daily #colorcodedkids #keepitsimple💕 #momlifeisthebestever #momhacksforkids #clotheshacks😇 #savemoneytiktok ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
5. Another possibility is color-coded socks and underwear, or buying a unique print for each child (characters are great when they’re little).
How to use clothing that can no longer be worn
Kids go through a lot of clothing! Since many of us want to be careful about protecting the environment, by buying less clothing and getting lots of use out of it, you are already making choices that help with it. Here are some other ideas for clothes that are too worn out to be donated/handed down.
1. Cut into rags (use cut-offs for this too).
2. Use old clothes to stuff pet cushions or punching bags.
@dinkumtribe Reply to @alicebergen621 #thatwaseasypeasy #adhdfamilylife #reducereuseandrecycle #nomorelandfills #clothinghacks🌼❤️ #kidsclothescheap #savingmoneyonclothes #householdorganizing #momofmanykids #momofmanytoddlers #theresalotofkidsinhere #momlifeisthebestever #familytravelblog #dinkumtribe_daily ♬ Music For a Sushi Restaurant – Harry Styles
3. Bedding for some kinds of pets (rabbits come to mind).
4. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, make ice packs or heat packs for first aid and muscle pain.
Those are all the tips I could think of for this post! I hope you found some new-to-you kids clothing organization ideas. Please feel free to share any of your ideas in the comments so we can all learn from each other.
© Copyright Jennifer D. Warren 2022.