How Many Clothes Do Kids Really Need?
By many people’s standards, I suppose my children don’t have that many clothes. I certainly don’t spend a lot of money buying clothes, and we sometimes have lean seasons where we run a bit low on boy’s shorts or wish we had just a couple more girl’s short sleeved shirts.
The closet you see above is the hanging portion that contains three of our children’s shirts, sweaters, dresses and skirts (plus a few fancy dresses that hang above).
What you see is basically what we have, minus the clothes that are currently dirty or in use. There is also one small dresser (three drawers) that houses their pants and shorts, plus another dresser that holds all of their summer and winter pajamas, underwear, socks/tights and cloth diapers, and some jackets in the hall closet.
In other words, we aren’t overflowing with massive amounts of clothing, and yet we aren’t lacking by any means, either.
What brought about the issue is that despite their average/moderate wardrobes, I still find that keeping up with all of their clothes and the never-ending laundry piles is just overwhelming me (despite the improvement of having a family closet, and trying to make sure that clothes get re-worn when they aren’t really dirty).
The laundry still piles up, and piles up. (And since I first wrote this post, we’ve now added another baby–with more cloth diapers!)
This raises the question: How many clothes do kids really need? How much is too much?
Is there a point at which owning too many clothes actually becomes a liability in terms of managing the laundry and maintaining it all? If we owned less clothes per child, would my closet and I be on better terms?
I’ve been searching around trying to figure out just what is a reasonable amount of clothing for a child, and what a more minimalistic closet might look like.
Here is what I pared down to (per child):
- 7 casual outfits
- 3 dressy outfits (probably 2 casual dressy, 1 fancier)
- 3 pajamas (maybe 4-5 for the toddler)
- Plus their current assortment of underwear and socks and seasonal jackets and shoes
It isn’t shockingly less than we have right now, but certainly it IS much less overall.
A one or two-month experiment
I’m not prepared to get rid of things for good quite yet. My husband easily goes along with my so-called “brilliant” (and sometimes short-lived) ideas. He only asked that I store the extra clothing away someplace that we can add it back in if we discover that my solution wasn’t really so brilliant after all (hmm, I think he knows me).
My goal is one to two months, to give this a real shot and examine the benefits (if any).
And it makes me excited–in this weird, de-cluttering, when-did-I-begin-to-have-minimalist-tendencies kind of way.
I think that I’m still definitely still processing the dire level of need and want that we saw in the Philippines. Continuing to work out what it means to practice good stewardship and frugal generosity as a Christian, and at what point we cross the line over to materialism, waste and greed. And always learning more of the benefits of simpler living, freeing up more time and resources for the things that are most important.
So, the questions remain: Will my laundry routine be reborn? Will the effort required to maintain the closet cease to make me sigh? Will I be happier with less children’s clothing, finding that we save money and that even choosing what to wear becomes simplified?
And just for fun, some links of interest that I came upon the other night while ruminating over this whole idea:
My Minimalist Wardrobe (Vlog) @ Money Saving Mom
How Many Clothes Do I Need? @ Living On a Dime
How Many Clothes Do My Kids Actually Need? @ Actual Mom
When It Comes to Clothes, How Much is TOO Much? @ Lots of Kids (one mom’s positive experience with limiting the amount of clothes her children had)
And lastly, a Yahoo! Answers discussion about how many clothes a child needs that will make you feel better about how much you own, no matter how large their wardrobe is. Read it and gasp.
How much clothing do you kids own? Just how much do you think is really “too much”? (And, Will less really be more?)
This post was originally published on August 25, 2011.
Personally, I found that I need more outfits than that. If you have more, they wear them less which means the clothes don’t wear out as quickly. Especially if you have a toddler that is rough and tough on the clothes (which is what I have). When I had 7 outfits, my son was wearing basically the same outfits to school every week. Those clothes wore out very quickly, faster than him growing out of them. I prefer my kids’ clothes to wear out by the time they are growing out of them (but that is because I have a boy and a girl and we are done, no passing down clothes).
@ashley, Hmmmm…I wonder if I should double the amount if I plan to use the outfits on two kids (so minimizing the wear and tear)? I plan on using all of my first daughter’s clothes with my second daughter (and maybe for more daughters if God gives us more…I would love 4 “little women.”)
@Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker, LOL Little women, cute. Yeah, I would probably have more clothes if I was planning on handing them down. The more you have the less they are worn and the longer they will last through other children. When you have less, they wear them more and get washed a lot more. I’m not sure cutting down the amount of clothes would cut down on laundry at all. You would have to wash the small amount of clothes frequently, which equals a lot of laundry work and not necessarily a lot of actual clothes. Does that make sense? The only way it would save you laundry is if you have no schedule whatsoever and would let large piles of clothes accumulate.
True wash more but you fold and hang less. Depends on how many kids have I have a girl and boy so hand me down less likely to happen. Less is aways better sure wash more. Kids go to school if start them assuming have wear different clothing every day then that how consume too many
Unless your buying really good quality clothes and lots of them you will be lucky to pass them down to more than two toddlers. They are tough on clothes and need washing after 1 wear so over time they become worn and shabby. I prefer to have 14 outfits 14 pairs of pants, socks and 10 vests. I don’t buy expensive clothes not worth it but doubling up on outfits the clothes last apart from tops stained but as there cheap I just replace. This works for me. I hope this gives you another aspect.
@ashley, @thehumbledhomemaker I certainly understand the idea of having more for the older ones so they can pass them on; that was my thought as well. However now that I’m on our third “little woman:)” I am beginning to see things differently.
I don’t know if having more clothes for the first one really is better, and these are JUST my opinions, so feel free to take or leave them:
1. When it’s your first and you have soooooooooo much, you can get overwhelmed with laundry.
2. If you have children born in different seasons (like July October and February) you still end up with boxes of things that get skipped over but still had/ have to be washed, sorted and stored. (maybe the answer to that one is better planning!:) )
3. As for doing laundry, This may just be me, but I have discovered a small hill of laundry 1-2 times a week so much more manageable than several mountains of laundry every two weeks. Especially with multiple children.
4. Is there really that big of a difference of we buy the first one 14 outfits so we have seven left over to hand down to the next one and only have to purchase maybe 7 more to fill in the gaps, or for the NEXT one that might come along.OR just have 7 for the first one and purchase 7 for the next one and have exactly what you need? At least with limited items you have less laundry-washing, sorting, putting away, sorting, storing,- and it simplifies life, which I appreciate more and more as the little ones multiply:)
Just my thoughts:)
Stephanie I am so loving your blog!!!
@Joanna, Oh, thanks Joanna! And glad to have you chiming in on the comments! 🙂
Same.. Having a toddler I don’t catch up with laundry as well I want to and feel like I need 14+ casual outfits and about 3-5 dressy. My son has about 20 outfits. Sometimes he’s changed 2-3 times a day because he gets so dirty outside this time of year and somehow (sometimes indoors). I feel like that’s the number of clothes he needs and If the clothes break down I’m not worried about getting to the store for more. He has about 3 casual shoes, one boots and one dressy. There are times he’s had about 4-5 casual pairs. Shoes get lost so easily and I usually find the missing pair but when you are in a bind or time crunch it’s important to at least have 2-3 casual pairs of shoes. I honestly don’t have many shoes personally for myself. I have 1 pair of tan riding boots, short boots, black flats dress shoes and 1 pair of tennishoes. I would love a few more pairs of shoes and boots. Lol. Not in my budget atm but at least my son is taken care of. ?
Great, timely post! I am SO with you on this! I have a post in my line-up for a couple of weeks from now on taking a “stuff” inventory, and I will be linking back to here!
My husband and I get most of our girls’ clothes either on the clearance racks or at a huge local consignment sale that comes to our town twice per year. We get a lot of great deals, but I have realized since Baby Girl #2 came along last fall that my kids have WAY too many clothes (especially #2 who has all the hand-me-downs).
So, the other day I unpacked some storage bins with the clothes I already have for them for this fall/winter, and my plan is to go with a specific list to the consignment sale instead of it just being a “free for all” and buying whatever is the best price. If it’s a great price but I don’t really need it–then it’s not saving money!
I have also been overwhelmed with the amount of laundry since baby #2. I get it washed, but I struggled with getting it all folded and put away. Being really transparent here: My husband told me last night if I can’t get a handle on it, he is making me take a break from cloth diapers! (He said: Why do the diapers always get done, but our clothes sit in baskets?) Ouch! (And I did 31 Days to Clean in June….yes, I will be doing it again SOON!)
I really appreciate your list of outfits for your experiment. I was struggling with figuring out just how many outfits to go with, and I think I will start from your list….and maybe try the experiment in the next few weeks before the consignment sale.
I was shocked at the Yahoo group list! I thought my girls had a lot of clothes–but just reading that list overwhelmed me!! I cannot imagine her laundry load!
@Erin–The Humbled Homemaker, If it makes you feel better, it’s the folding/putting away that I struggle with the most. We have clean things to wear, but sometimes we have to dig for them. I’m embarrassed to say that there are frequently baskets full of clean clothes in our master bedroom. How’s that for a relaxing haven to share with my husband? Ouch.
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, Or the piles of stuff in the far end of my bedroom that get stashed there when we have company…and sit for months? Ouch again…
@Nola, I’m with you, Nola! Me too! But I also have piles of papers, etc. I do that with!
@Nola, Oh my! So glad I’m not alone on that one! I am ok with washing hanging and even folding, but yeah… Putting away? My fall goal is a family closet. Yay! Limited space means pare down, which I am actually looking forward to, hope I don’t burn out.
Good luck with your experiment:)
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, It does make me feel better. Thanks for being transparent! I know–I really, really need to work on making our bedroom a haven! Our laundry room is downstairs though, so I often have a pile of clean in the living room as well! (unless company is coming!)
@Erin–The Humbled Homemaker, Oh I just looked at the yahoo link too and WOW I wouldn’t have anywhere to even STORE all that! My girls share a room and its not that big…yikes…I don’t care HOW good a deal it is!
@Nola, Same here–my girls share a room. All I could think was: the laundry, the laundry, the laundry!
I totally agree that paring down on clothes and creating a family closet really does help, especially when you have a lot of little ones. We have 8 children ages 9 and under and it seems like Mt. Washmore (AKA our HEAPING dirty clothes pile) never truly goes away. Thank you for this post! I need to once again go through the clothes and reduce the amount that is currently being used! I plan to pare my children’s and my clothes down to 7 casual/play/everyday outfits, 3 church outfits, 2 pajamas, 7 undies and socks, 2 sweaters, 1 coat, 1 pair play shoes, 1 pair church shoes and MAYBE 1 pair of sandals.
@Rachel, I love how the sandals are a MAYBE. 🙂 I’m not getting rid of too many pairs of shoes… yet. We’ll see how the clothes goes, and then who knows? Maybe I’ll get into another decluttering spree!
I have 5 kiddos ages 10 to 2 mo I think I’m giving everyone 14 outfits and the rest has to go…. they each have closets full and half of them never get wore I’m so over the stress of the mess. I’m trying to decide if this is still too much or if I should take it down some more.
I completely understand your perspective after going to the Phillipines. After I returned from Haiti in 2007 I was ready to give everything away, so all we had was a place to sit, a place to eat and a place to sleep and a couple changes of clothes. I felt like a hoarder for having anything more than the bare essentials after seeing people who didn’t even have that. My husband had to reign me in, and set some boundaries since he knows I would actually go through with it.
Now we also have a 17 month old son. He has 3 pj’s, 5 casual outfits, one nicer outfit and one dressy outfit. We do not purchase the nice or dressy outfits, since we don’t go to many formal occassions. We work with gifts and hand-me-downs when the occassion arises. This year my focus was to get my husband and my own wardrobe down to similar essentials. Twice a year we clean out the closets, but I still feel like they still have too much!
Thank you for sharing!
@Sara, I had the strong temptation to give away half of what we own and move into a little apartment when I got back. I still struggle many days with the size of our home and all that fills it. I’m coming more to terms with it, and yet I don’t want to get comfortable, either. It’s not necessarily about how much we have or how large our home is, but the state of our hearts. Are we content? Do we trust in the Lord or in our things? Do we give generously? Do we selfishly pursue more “stuff” just to please ourselves? So many things to consider, and I am so very grateful that the Lord allowed me to go and see and be challenged by it all!
I agree on some level, but to me on another level if they have a bit of extra, it means doing laundry less often. And if I don’t get the clothes back in the drawers right away, its no big deal because they still have some more. I like your idea, but we have space for more right now (and its almost all hand-me-downs, gifts from family or clearance finds) and I don’t want the pressure to get laundry washed, dried, folded and put away on a certain day. Just another perspective 🙂
@Allie, And I like other perspectives. This is totally an open discussion! 🙂
I recently posted on Clothing a Bunch http://a-heart4home.blogspot.com/2011/08/tri-moms-clothing-bunch.html. For our family we’ve decided to limit our children’s clothing based on the amount of space the clothing takes up as opposed to an actual number of outfits.
If the clothing overflows from the drawers we purge. If it doesn’t fit in one box at the end of the season we re-evaluate each item we will save to pass down to the next sibling.
I’ve found that the best way to cut back on the laundry is to not wash items unless they are actually dirty. I’ve also invested time to make a few large toddler/preschooler sized bibs so that clothing gets less dirty at mealtime. The bibs get used at least one entire day even if they get dirty at breakfast.
I also like to have a few sets of rough and tumble play clothes that the kids wear when I know they’ll be playing outside and getting messy. If the clothes already have a few stains I know I won’t feel the need to spend time getting new stains out 🙂
@Allyson @ A Heart for Home, That’s another good way to do it, based on space. Because we rely more on a closet than on dressers, doing it that way is a little more intangible for me. You can always fit “just one more dress” onto the rack, right? 🙂
But I know that Laura (Organizing Junkie) linked to a post she had written (earlier in the comments you’ll find the link) and that’s how she does it too. When the dresser drawers are getting to full, then there are too many clothes, period. I think it could definitely be a good method of measuring how much is too much.
This is a very interesting topic. I’m about to have my first kiddo in November so, while we’re only in the onesies and swaddling stage, I’m trying to figure out how much we need (any suggestions are appreciated). I figure when the kids get older they won’t have nearly the amount of clothes I had as a kid. My husband and I don’t have huge wardrobes and at least half of my clothing is suitable only for dirty chores (and that’s ok since I spend time every day in the garden and the chicken coop). I was totally inspired by one of my professors in college who, it appears, literally only had three shirts, one sweater and two pairs of pants. I never saw her wear anything else and it really impressed me. While I enjoy having more clothes than that, I’m lucky that I live a jeans and t-shirt life so I can pretty much wear the same thing every day.
I can see where having less clothes will help many things, like less cluttered closets, and less money spent on clothes (assuming that the clothes were not given to you or not hand-me-downs from an older child). And, of course, just the over-all issue of materialism and excess.
But I’m not sure I see the benefit in doing less laundry. In fact, it seems like the OPPOSITE would occur–having to do laundry MORE often. I mean, less clothes means I have to wash them more often or they won’t have clothes to get through the week, right?
It seems like if you want to pare down your laundry pile, you would need to make sure you have enough clothes to get through an entire laundry cycle without having to re-wash (For me, that’s about a week), plus a few extra outfits to account for the messy-kid factor.
Am I missing something? I admit, I got up pretty early this morning and tend to be rather slow when I’m tired. 🙂
@Sandy Cooper, I might be wrong, but my thoughts are that the less clothes you have, the less likely laundry will pile up. Right now we have so many clothes that we can go a long time between washing. The result, though, is that either the laundry baskets will overflow with clean clothes that need to be put away, or the dirty clothes will pile up & overflow in the hampers. I am hoping less other will mean less to deal with, and it will force me to wash, fold, put away, etc. immediately, so we have something to wear! For example, I have enough cloth diapers to last two days, so I am forced to get diaper laundry done because otherwise my girls won’t have diapers to wear. I usually keep much more on top of diaper laundry than clothes laundry for that reason.
My problems exactly and therefore my thoughts exactly on why this works great so far!
@Sandy Cooper, I think part of the problem with having too many clothes is that I allow the laundry pile to get too big before I do it, rather than just doing small, manageable loads. I am not entirely sure that this will cut down on the actual amount of laundry, and you might be right that I do laundry more often, but I’m thinking that it might encourage me to really stay on top of it, because the smaller loads will be easier to handle. Again, this is all experiment, I really have no idea how this will work in reality yet! But it’s a valid question.
The other thing is that the closet clutter is definitely a part of what is driving me nuts. I tend to put off putting away the laundry because it gets so chaotic in there at times. If there was less clutter, I would find maintaining the closet a simpler chore, be more willing to keep up with putting the clean stuff away, and thus the laundry would feel less overwhelming.
It may come down to how this helps me to create better habits, not truly reduce the actual amount of laundry that I wash. And if that’s what it does, but I’m more peaceful about it and the clothes stay tidier, then I’m ok with that, too. And as you mentioned, less money spent, less excess, would just be wonderful benefits as well.
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, I totally agree with eliminating the cluttered closets. It’s maddening when you have a week’s worth of laundry to put away, and the drawers are already stuffed. I’ve been tempted to take the clean baskets of clothes straight to Goodwill when that happens.
For me, it was finding a good laundry system that worked for our family of five and sticking with it.
I finally realized if I do not do two full loads a day, I get buried, just as you described.
I have pre-sorted hampers, so all I do is grab what’s in one of the compartments and run it first thing when I wake up.
Then I fold/hang from the dryer. Kids in one basket, our stuff in one basket, towels/sheets in a third.
The key, though, is only putting the folded/hanging laundry away once a week. Something about this system really clicked with me. For the first time in 18 years of marriage, i do not feel tethered to the laundry room or buried in a pile.
I cannot believe how much finding a workable laundry system has aided in my level of daily peace.
So, in that way, I completely understand you wanting to purge and simplify in this area. Go for it! I hope it works. 🙂
I did this several years ago, I think I pared things down even more than you are planning, I think I decided on 5 play outfits per child, granted I have twins (at that time, that’s all I had), so they could mix & match. At the same time I also started hanging all my children’s clothes (instead of putting them in drawers). The combination of those 2 things were a WONDERFUL breakthrough for me. I am horrible at most housekeeping things, but doing a load of laundry per day is now an absolute FIXED part of my routine (unless I’m caught up, there’s usually about 2 days per week that I don’t have enough for a full load) and putting that load away is part of our bedtime routine for the girls (we hang clothes dry, so they’re not ready to put away until evening). Once in a great while we have a late night or something and miss a night, but just do 2 baskets the next night, it’s still nowhere near overwhelming and we love it!!
We HAVE allowed the amount of clothes to increase some, we now travel with my husband for his work part of the time and that can mean being gone for a week or more, so I prefer to have enough clothes per child to minimize or eliminate having to do laundry at hotels, but once we got firmly into the load per day mode for laundry, it really doesn’t matter that we have more clothes. Limiting the clothes forced me to get, and stay caught up on laundry, which was what I needed.
Oh I think I am taking this idea and making it my own! My 4 year old has about 20 to 25 tshirts and 4 pants if she’s lucky. This would not only help me de-clutter her wardrobe, but it would help as some kind of a goal to look forward to in sizes she does not fit yet – I’m that kind of Mum that shops ahead a few sizes while I’m thrifting, so I don’t have that moment of panic realizing I’m about to have to buy a whole new wardrobe because she just outgrew a size! Thanks for a fantastic post!
I have a friend who has a great system (when I was a teenager a family I used to babysit had a similar system) that I am actually about to implement as well. You might find it helpful in keeping up with your laundry 🙂 There is a basket or box of clothing by the rear door that holds 1 or 2 pair of shorts/shirts for each child. Stuff that’s worn or ugly and you just don’t care too much about it. When they want to go outside they put on these clothes. When they come in they put them back in the basket. This way it doesn’t really matter too much how often they get washed. Just go through every once in a while and pull out the really super dirty stuff to wash. Their other clothes get a lot more life out of them too and can be worn maybe 3X before washing if you neeed. I think I may put a clothes tree beside the basket to hold the clean (inside) clothes while they’re not in use. If it works I might even blog about it 😀
@Rose, Interesting idea. Outdoor play in the summer certainly does contribute to more laundry!
Now THAT sounds like an interesting idea. At least while they’re small. Finding the right place to change into them would be my challenge, our door is in it’s own entryway downstairs so everyone would pass them on the way out, but I don’t know if I would want then to take the clothes back into their room to change? Hmmm
I had a friend that had 3 boys. Each boy only had 3 pair of blue jeans, one pair of khaki and 10 shirts. She did laundry twice a week. Each family member had their own colored towel. She was not a stay at home mom. She did her major laundering on the weekends. The mid week laundry she only washed pants and towels. She also only bought white or dark colored shirts to cut down on the number of loads.
Thankfully I have a husband that will help do the laundry.
These all sound like great ideas…here are a few tips I’ve learned over my 28 years as a mom. Have some extra pj’s on hand or large t-shirts. Some time during the night ~ a child will get sick in his bed, ruining his pajama’s, sheets, etc. If his only other pair of pj’s is in the dirty clothes, your stuck. I do laundry 2 days a week…Mondays and Thursdays, they are stay at home days. Most all the laundry gets done on those 2 days. Wash, dried, hung up or put away ~ get out of the stacking habit. I sort clothes on my bed, that way they have to be put away before you go to bed. My youngest 3 children are 15, 17, 18 ~ they change all the beds and wash all the sheets on Friday mornings. The kids all know how to do laundry ~ but we don’t split up the loads and everyone do their own, that took too much time and wasted water/energy if they didn’t have a full load.
Make it a game…have the little ones help you. A 2-3 year old can help fold washcloths or diapers. Make a goal to have it all put up before snacktime or Daddy comes home from work, etc. Dad will be surprised when its not sitting everywhere or he doesn’t have to dig through a basket to find socks.
I did find that scheduling laundry days took some of the stress out of our weeks. I am not always doing laundry, it gets done on 2 days. (All of the above goes out the window during an outbreak of the flu! Just keeping it real!)
That is almost exactly what we do in our home as far as “number of outfits per child”. It works great! I think your “experiment” will prove to be completely realistic and “doable”.
Having 5 young children, I find that 7 shirts are not enough due to sloppy eating, shirt-chewing, and dirt/mud from playing in the back yard. I know some people keep their children in 1 outfit per day no matter how dirty it becomes, but I have never been able to do that. It is much easier to pare down pajamas at my house, each child has only 2 pairs of PJ’s: One to wear and one to spare 🙂
@Cathy, That’s funny, because pajamas is one of the things that we have a lot of. But I’m realizing that it’s really unnecessary and they could do with so many less.
We have pared down our children’s clothing. The own 5-7 t-shirts, 1 which is a “good” one, 5-7 pairs of shorts, tennis shoes and sandals. That’s their summer wardrobe. Winter, we add 1-2 pair jeans, 1-2 pair sweats (2-3 pair total), and 2 sweatshirts. While at home (we homeschool), they wear shorts and t-shirts. The pants are worn only if temps are below 60. Add in 1 collared shirt per kid, and we are done. The fact that I have all boys really helps! I do laundry 2x per week (Mon/Thur) and we never run out of clothes. We currently live in Texas, but this is what we did while living in the midwest as well. Boys (or girls) wearing shorts in the winter means no holes in the knees!
I’ve always struggled with paring down my own clothes. Mostly because I still keep yucky clothes for exercising or messy jobs, even though I don’t do these things often. Plus I have my post-baby/breastfeeding clothes which I don’t always wear the rest of the time. (I couldn’t wear any button down shirts when I was breastfeeding. I couldn’t get them closed, even if I went up two or three sizes). I don’t buy my daughter more than the bare minimum but we are sometimes gifted with hand-me downs. I’ll admit it nice to have clothes she can mess up and I don’t have to feel like I wasted my money. (Nothing worse than an awful stain on a brand new shirt and I paid hard earned money for, even if it was on sale). I do find that I need more pajamas because the bottoms often smell a little in the morning from her diapers (she still pees ALOT at night and nothing can totally hold in that urine smell). I find that if I have too few clothes I find myself keeping her away from normal kid activities like making messes because I want to keep the clothes nice since she won’t have any more for a while. My future plan is to have a couple of casual “keep nice” outfits for going out or church and then buy the rest on consignment or thrift store and not worry about what happens to them.
@Laundry Lady, You sound almost EXACTLY like me! I’m irritated that my closet has lots of clothes I can’t currently wear (breastfeeding, so formerly “fitted” shirts are too small, I can’t wear any dresses… and I still have a little tummy, so half my pants/skirts/shorts don’t fit.)
My daughter is 3, and has recently started messing up her clothes more often (dirt, sand, grass, popsicles, finger paint…). I just remind myself that’s what kids DO (and stain treat them as soon as possible). We probably keep about 10-15 outfits at a time, although there are probably only 5 that are in heavy rotation. I do need more PJs, though, because we always get that pee smell in the morning. Yuck!
My kids have minimal clothing as well. I figure they need at least enough to get through a weeks worth of clothes, plus a day for spare, since this mama only likes to do laundry once a week. They have at least 4 outfits for church and a couple pairs of pjs. at least that’s my goal, we have a grandparent who buys tons of clothing for our kids as her preferred way of showing affection for them.
i find my kids naturally wear the same clothes every week even if they have a lot more to choose from. so i feel having a monstrous amount of clothing is wasteful and my children won’t wear them anyways.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently too. All my son’s clothes for each size fit into 2 dresser drawers, but honestly it STILL seems like too much! I love the idea of boxing up what you think is excess and then trying it out. In fact, I bet I could apply that principal to many areas of our home (tupperware, for instance?)
Thanks for sharing!
Great idea! I would say that what you’re attempted to pare down to is about the same amount of clothes that I have for myself. Of course, kids play harder and get dirtier though. Think of it this way, they get to wear their favourite clothes everyday!
@Grace, Part of what began to inspire me is that my maternity wardrobe is smaller than my regular wardrobe, and yet I do just fine with it, because realistically I tend to wear my favorite pieces over and over again, no matter how large my wardrobe is. And because I have less maternity clothes, I find I’m more careful with them. It just began to get me thinking… why not my kids clothes as well?
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, I’m curious, what does your maternity wardrobe look like? As in how many of each thing. I am currently re-building mine as almost nothing fits from baby #1 and 2…yikes! I never lost the baby weight with #2 and gained a bit more too.
@Nola, @Nola and @Stephanie@keeperofthehome
I had the same experience wigh this last pregnancy and it has spurred me on! I can basically go till about 5 months before Ineed true maternity tops/skirts.
My full- blown maternity wardrobe was basically from October-February in fall/winter and I wear skirts exclusively so you would need to adjust for weather and preferences.
1 long jean skirt
2 knee length jean skirts
1 tan knee length skirt
1 long black skirt(for the holiday season)
2 button up checked long sleeved tops that cold be dressed up or down
2 multicolored button up/ half button up long sleeved tops that the sleeves could roll up and button for warmer days.
2 coordinating short sleeved t shirts (the shirts were either too low or I generally have a problem with gaps between buttons. No problem to layer a little extra in the winter anyway. And I needed something for the days when I was hot.
1 coordinating tank top as undershirt
1 long-sleeved white t-shirt
1 zip up plain colored sweatshirt or sweater
1-2 shirts for painting/ working(nesting was in full force with this one)
And about 3tunik-style shirts that fit till about the 7 th month but not 8&9th. I usually have 2-3 tops for those in between months (4-6). Take advantage of the tunik or babydoll look since they fit even after pregnancy: great with a belt, cardigan, or dnim vest etc.
And that was it and worked great!
Hope it helps.
Great post! I’ve been wondering the same thing. Both of my girls (ages 2 and 4) share one dresser with dresses hanging in the closet and pajamas in bins on a shelf. Otherwise the dresser holds everything. They obviously don’t have tons of clothes but I am feeling that it could certainly be pared down a bit. What I haven’t figured out (and will wait to see in your follow up post) is how this makes for less laundry? They still are going to wear the same amount of clothes. I guess it forces us to not let the laundry pile up so it feels like less? I’m excited to hear what you decide in a month or two!
@Maria, I’m still not exactly sure how the laundry will be cut down, except that I won’t be as tempted to let the laundry bags get soooo full as I do now, making it feel like an overwhelming task when I get to it. I think it will feel easier to just do one or two smaller loads. What I think will be particularly less work is not the washing aspect as much, but rather keeping their closets and drawers tidy and organized, and having less clothing strewn around. When you have less clothes, you have to be more purposeful about how you take care of them, right (I’m assuming). I will definitely follow up later this fall!
Oh wow! That Yahoo discussion did actually make me gasp! 🙂 I think that just one of her children owns more clothes than our small family of three combined!
When we moved a few months ago, we got rid of a LOT of our clothing. The issue for us was that we had so many clothes that we NEVER wore. We basically each had maybe six or seven favorite outfits that we wore, and the rest of our clothes just sat in our closet taking up space.
Getting rid of so many clothes has not really affected my laundry routine since it’s still the six or seven outfits per person that are in the rotation. It has however, helped immensely with the clutter issue. Our closets and dressers are much more streamlined now, and maintaining their order is much simpler with less overall clothing.
I’ve also implemented this idea into my kitchen with great results. With a small family of only three, why do we need 8 glasses, 8 large plates, 8 small plates, 8 bowls, 8 silverware settings, etc? The less dishes we have the less we have to wash and maintain. We still have all of our 8 place-settings put up for when company is over, but for everyday use we only have what we need – 3 of everything! For me, this has helped a great deal with maintaining my kitchen and not letting dirty dishes pile up. (Not that my kitchen always looks perfect now! 😉 haha!)
I hope that your closet de-cluttering has some real benefits for you that you’ll be able to see! I know that it did for me!
@Mindy @ The Purposed Heart, What you’re saying makes sense. It doesn’t necessarily cut down on how much laundry you wash (although I bet it still does make you a bit more particular about exactly what and when you wash), but it’s more the clutter and the closet maintenance that I think would be much simpler and require less time. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I have 4 kids. There are days I’m not sure whether to feel blessed for having as much laundry or cursed. On busy days it’s a blessing to not HAVE to get it all done right then and there and the other days, well I certainly don’t feel so blessed. I have a large capacity washer/dryer (and clothesline) and I need to do about 2-3 loads a day just to keep up. I can get stuff washed and dried fairly easily, it’s the folding and putting away that gets me.
@trisha, Same for me. It’s not the washing/drying, it’s the folding and putting away. So we do often pull from clean baskets, and that just irks me!
Okay, this question is awesome! With 8 kiddos, I’ve been wondering about this forever! I KNOW we have too much, but,….(can you hear the clutterbug in me?) I try to save things to pass down. Now, with that being said,….I also have kiddos who are VERY hard on clothes, even my girls!
An experiment,…I love that! Thank you for inspiring me!!!
@Elena, Well, I’m still not necessarily opposed to saving for passing down. Although I think that I would tend to keep a bit less, only the favorite/best condition clothes, while my husband would like me to keep everything that isn’t ruined (which I do- I can’t see any real reason to go against him on that unless we move at some point to a place that can’t store the extras). I’m happy to have it in storage, because there’s so much less need to shop for new stuff for my younger kids, plus I have it available to lend out to friends and other families we know who are in need.
It’s just the stuff in use that is driving me crazy… that’s the clutter I can’t stand!
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, My husband also wants me to keep everything that isn’t ruined, and for now we do have the space. But I cannot imagine having a boy next and where do I put all the clothes!?! Yikes. I can’t lend stuff out because of my extreme allergies to detergents and dryer sheets. I have to store it for later and it makes sense for me. But it is a lot, even with small amounts of outfits.
It’s easy to keep my toddler’s clothes to a minimum and to have him re-wear them when they’re not dirty. For fall, he has 5 pairs of pants, 7 long=sleeve shirts, and 5 T-shirts. That, along with underwear, socks, etc. My oldest, however, is a different story. He gets hand-me-downs form a ton of different friends. Plus, family keep buying him new clothes, too. He has drawers FULL of clothes – most of which are “cool” but he’ll never get to wear. We’re working on slowly weeding out the stuff that he isn’t going to wear. It’s hard to keep up with what’s really, truly dirty and what isn’t because he is old enough (13) to dress himself.
As for my husband and myself, we find ourselves getting rid of more and more clothing each time we switch summer/winter clothes in the attic.
I have to agree with Sandy. With twin boys (at two totally different sizes!) I find that it’s not so much how many clothes they have but how often they change them. Since they’re doing well at not peeing in the bed at night (nearly done with potty training!) I find that the same pjs can be worn all week before needing to be washed. And while shirts are generally always changed daily, the shorts can usually go an extra day. Especially if we plan ahead and strip down for messy meals at home. It wouldn’t matter if they only had x# of outfits if they were still changing them each day or more often.
That said, we do keep a basket in the hallway for dirty clothes and at the end of the night whatever’s there goes in the wash. Doing a little every day means I’m not spending all weekend folding clothes. And I’m already planning this fall to add folding towels to the boys’ repertoire.
I received several boxes of hand-me-downs from ladies in my church when my son was born. He’s now 20 months and I don’t think he wore half of the clothes he has! I sorted through them once and held on to many of them just in case the next boy is born in a different season. Even so, the piles of clothes that end up on the floor despite my efforts at organizing them into ‘too small’ and ‘too large’ boxes is overwhelming! For my 1 month old daughter I’ve found (so far, anyway) that a handful of onesies, a cute dress and a couple of pants works just fine for the summer. I don’t want to collect clothes for her that she doesn’t need just because I got a good deal on them. My winter project is to create a kid’s closet in our closet-less old house using a TV armoire that I converted into a wardrobe. There’s no reason why my daughter can’t wear my son’s gender-neutral jeans and shorts. This way I’ll be able to see all the clothes at once and make an informed decision on which items to keep and which ones to donate. Thank you for your very timely post!
I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and have been so encouraged and inspired by it. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!
@Hannah, Glad you’ve enjoyed reading for so long, Hannah! Hopefully you don’t mind that there is a whole lot of my own learning and asking questions, mixed in with the “knowledge”. 🙂
My daughter has a ton, I mean a ton, of clothes. And it is ridiculous. Almost all of her clothing is hand me downs from a friend with two daughters. And those clothes are a couple generations old. We did buy my daughter a few dresses this summer because she is insistent on wearing dresses every day. And she has some nicer outfits that are usually birthday gifts. But I am amazed at how many clothes she has. I have started not accepting all hand me downs but rather picking through for the nicer, cuter things. And even then by the time I get home I have changed my mind about some and pass them on. One thing I have discovered is that of all the clothing my daughter has, she could literally live out of one laundry basket. I know this as I am very lazy about folding and putting away her laundry so after I do her load (weekly) I just pick folded (or unfolded) clean clothes out of the laundry basket and when the basket runs low, I know it is time to do laundry. We are about to have our second daughter, so I am happy to be able to reuse most of my older daughter’s clothing, but still….kids don’t need that much!
I have a friend with 8 children ages 11 and under who did a similar thing. Her 7 boys share a room and a closet, and the amount of laundry can become overwhelming. So she had the boys each pick out 3 “play” outfits that they liked. I’m not sure how many “hang-up” outfits (the ones she irons and saves for Sunday worship or trips into town) they have. She did save the rest of the clothes in totes, so if they wear their clothes out they can get the others out. She seems to really love it! She hasn’t done the same with her little girl, but the amount of laundry and organization for one little girl isn’t as difficult.
I’m there with you as well. Your family closet looks about the same as ours. My kids have a few more outfits that fall between “dressy” and “daily” – partly because they’re the only grandkids/niece&nephew on my side of the family, but for laundry’s sake we try to keep it limited. I do believe there are “extenuating circumstances” – i.e., my daughter was a horrendous spitter for her first 10 months of life which meant no less than 3 clothing changes a day and as many burp clothes saturated as diapers. :p My son meanwhile had a really rough potty-training experience, as well. So my policy is “every day of the week plus 1” per weather type in terms of clothes. You never know when the washer’s going to break down or you take an impromptu roadtrip in the middle of laundry. (Again, bleck). But that’s as much an issue of convenience and sanity as keeping it minimal. “Needs” and “convenience” are such a huge contrast! My mom remembers having five basic school uniforms, two Sunday dresses, and three casual outfits (given seasonal layers, anyways) growing up. Perspective … 😉
An old mom here: Less clothes, yes. You will do laundry more often but it will be less overwhelming…..in my opinion.
@sue, I like advice from experienced moms. Thank you! 🙂
Great topic! As a professional organizer I get this question a lot. I blogged about it here:
@Laura, Can’t wait to go read it… thanks, Laura! (And always nice to see you! 🙂
We pared down pretty hard again this year – took 10 boxes of stuff to the Goodwill + gave away about 6 boxes worth. I’d finally found the motivation to go thru about 8 boxes of clothes that were given to us, so I was able to basically give away ALL the clothes my boys currently wore + replace with brand new clothes in bigger sizes. Perfect!
We don’t currently have laundry facilities in our home, so once a week we make a trip to my sister’s house and use her washer/dryer. Being able to only do laundry once a week has really helped me pare down on the “dirtiness” of clothes, as well as helping me realize we really had just the right amount of clothes. 🙂 I love that tip the gal said above “If it doesn’t fit, it goes!” That’s just about right, esp. in our tiny home.
I have been composing a post in a similar vein. I have recently realized that we have way too much stuff, and am encouraged to purge the excess. Knowing how much clothing to save/use can be challenging, since I have four children in a smaller home. I think getting rid of the excess will be so freeing.
I’ve found that my kids wear the same items over and over, so we have about 10-12 outfits per child at any one time. Mostly they are mix and match– for my son–jeans and khakis (long or short depending on the season) with t-shirts or polos, and my daughter wears little play dresses or short sets in the summer or dresses/long pants/long sleeved t-shirts in the winter. 2-3 pair pjs per child is plenty for us. I use Ikea bibs with sleeves for my 2 year old and that helps tremendously. We are given so many used clothes and its tempting to keep them all, but its better for them not to have so many choices, and so much easier to have just enough to get thru a week.
I think the key is to having a laundry system, and although we only have 2 kids, I think it would work if we had more as well. We have dirty clothes hampers in each bedroom and the downstairs bath. Towels get used several times before laundering, and I have a separate hamper for wet ones in my laundry room.
Every other day or so, the kids help gather the laundry from each room, and sort it into a laundry sorter. When there is enough for a load, it gets washed and then dried. We fold from the dryer into a bin system–one for each family member plus a bin for the kitchen and one for cleaning rags, and all hanging items get hung up at that time. We usually wash a load or two every other day, and since I work full-time, I catch up on the weekend with the sheets, any towels and a load or two of regular laundry. We empty the bins into drawers as needed.
With this system, it never gets overwhelming to me, and everyone helps with it– even my husband throws a load in if he sees that we have enough for a load. My 6 yrs old can do everything but put soap in the washer–he sorts, loads the washer and dryer, helps fold and put away, and we are teaching the 2 year old to help as well. I got this system idea from some sort of large family blogger years ago and its evolved for our needs. I confess that I love doing laundry now–if only everything else would run so smoothly….
Great post! I know my daughter has too many clothes. I think most people do but lots of little girls especially! There are only 3 of us in our house but I do tons of laundry-can’t imagine how those with more kids handle that!
One thing I have noticed is that the older my daughter gets (she is 9) the less clothing we buy since she’s not growing out of it as quickly. So you may notice a difference when your kids are older and can wear clothing for more than one season. I still try to purge every few months. She actually put on some PJ’s last night and the bottoms are finally too small. So it looks like it’s time to purge again!
I’ve been battling the clothing issue since my son was born (he’s 16 months)! We’ve been abundantly blessed with clothing for him and I’ve been conscious of making sure to pare down. I remember after receiving hand-me-downs and after baby showers he had around 30 onesies in size 3-6 months…that was appalling to me! I try to keep a reasonable amount of clothing, right now he still has too much in my opinion and I’m trying to pare down even more for the next season and our next baby, due in December. I don’t have a number but I like your suggestion of 7 casual/play outfits and 3 nicer/church outfits…that seems completely reasonable to me! Plus, it will help a ton on closet space…our house was built in the 70s and the closet in the boys room is tiny!
Between my two kids, my daughter has the most clothes. Actually, she has more clothes than her dad and I too! But 95% of it is hand-me-downs from friends at church. She’s also on the small side, so clothes last her a really long time. My son has 3 pairs of jeans two pairs of shorts and a handful of shirts. As long as his clothes are clean, he doesn’t care what’s in his closet.
I need to thin down my daughter’s clothes, it’s on my to do list. Some of her pants are getting short on her and she really doesn’t need tons of clothes. (She has larger sizes up to 8 stored in our garage. She’s size 5-6 currently.)
I wish we had a family closet, unfortunately this house doesn’t have the space for it… plus it’s a rental so we can’t make our own big changes to the house to accommodate one.
To combat laundry, we’ve tried different things. The kids had their own baskets in their rooms. But I ended up not liking that after a few months, so now I just tell everyone to toss everything into the baskets in our bathroom. I’d rather sort just one or two baskets at the washer. We also had a basket just for towels/washcloths, but now it contains a bunch of stuff I need to sort and find new homes for. oops. hehe.
Great post!! My son is 10 and this summer he has had 5 pairs of shorts, and whatever t-shirts he has in his drawer from school last year (maybe 10 total) – he wears the same 5 or 6 shirts over and over, and the others he uses as pjs. He has a few fleece pj pants I made a few years ago (highwater, but otherwise still wearable). We don’t buy pjs. Summer is underwear and a t-shirt, and winter he wears the fleece bottoms I make – he has 2 and I won’t make any more until he can’t wear the ones he has.
For school this year, he will have 2 pairs of chino-type pants, one pair of cargo pants, and 3 pairs of jeans. Which I think is too much, actually, but the cargos were special and he asks for so little, I couldn’t resist. One pair of ridiculously expensive, grown-man sized sneakers, and two new shirts and a hoodie. He’ll wear a few of the nicer t-shirts he already owns until he grows out of them. I so don’t believe in buying new just because the school year is starting again. If it fits and is in good condition and looks nice, then he’ll wear it until one of those variables changes!! 🙂
That’s it until winter, when he will need new winter gear. He wore his boots, snow pants, and jacket for the last 2 years, so I’m pleased with that, although not looking forward to investing in another full round of winter gear.
I know I’m not a kid, but my wardrobe is even more minimalistic than my son’s! I’ve lost 52 lbs, with more I want to lose. So I’m buying everything at goodwill for right now. When I hit my goal size, I plan on having good quality clothes, but not a lot of them. Like maybe 3 work pants, 2 casual pants/ jeans, and at the most 5 work shirts, and 3 casual ones. I’ll probably have 2 sets of workout clothes for each season, which feels like a splurge since investing in winter running clothes will be $$. My husband is also very minimalistic when it comes to clothes. I think he has 3 work pants, and maybe 5 work shirts. Casual clothes are so old they need to be replaced. One pair of casual pants and a non-paint-splattered t-shirt or two is honestly all he needs. With such small wardrobes, we do laundry almost daily so we have clothing to wear, but we WEAR the clothing we own.
It has to go beyond less cloths and into the art of keeping clean. This is really tough for kids (and some adults like myself) to learn. If you just reduce your cloths, but not help to change some habits then you will still do the same amount of laundry because there needs will not change. And if you have less you will be washing them more, which will wear them out faster. In the old days (when laundry wasn’t done as often) kids had school cloths, church cloths, and play cloths. They also used aprons. I know for me an apron helps me to stay clean. It’s just not very practical for kids to wear aprons outside while playing, they would get in the way. And the idea of having them change cloths every time they want to go outside to play seems difficult. I can’t wait to see what solutions you come up with. I tried and it didn’t work to well. I think when they get older it will be easier for them to stay clean and wear something several times before washing.
@waggie, @waggie, My Dad told me a long time ago that they had clothes to put on to go to school (2 sets) and those should last all season. Then when they got home, they changed into one of 3 play outfits, which really just meant clothes that they wore at home, indoors or out. They had one good outfit for going somewhere (seldom) and one for church each week. My grandma did laundry 1 time a week in a ringer washer and hung to dry, and she had 4 children, 2 of which were twin boys. They had a change of socks and underwear for each day and one shoes, one boots. Thats basically it. Interesting. THis was in the 40s and 50s. The girls wore aprons when in the kitchen, the boys didn’t work in there. Thats just the way it was. But certainly they had much less, and they weren’t poor, just average. That was normal then!
Great post! For us it’s a bit different, since we’re a small family of just 3, and our son is grown (university age but still at home), but still, you’d be surprised at the amount of laundry we have! For one thing, I insist on LOTS of towels, rags, and kitchen towels/dishcloths (means we use less paper products, and I hate running out of fresh towels!). This means I have a load of whites nearly every day. I find that keeping up with doing the laundry isn’t hard….it’s getting it all folded and put away that is the challenge for me! Sometimes I will let several loads (however many I do in one day, could be up to 4-5) just sit in the basket (and on a chair or on the sofa, sadly) for DAYS. I always feel properly guilty about it! I tell myself I’m busy, so it’s ok (I don’t work outside the home but I am a full-time university student myself and I also do freelance writing), but I wish I could come up with a better system! My mom says, just fold everything as soon as it comes out of the dryer, but this doesn’t seem to work for me. I sometimes get my husband and son to help fold (they definitely help put away), but they don’t enjoy it and in the time it takes them to fold a few items, I could have the entire pile done (I also admit to an OCD tendency with how things are folded….)!
My one saving grace is my fantastic laundry sorter that you inspired me to get, Stephanie (the gorgeous one from Amazon). This REALLY helps me stay much more organized in the laundry room. Now, if I could just order something else from Amazon that would help me fold everything….! 🙂
You’ll like the change. I was *way* overwhelmed with all my kids’ clothes not long ago, so I did the same thing – pared down to about 7-8 outfits give or take. Every piece of clothing (mostly) fits into a single 3-4 drawer dresser for each child. The 18mo’s clothes fit into a single drawer still. The exceptions are the winter gear (coats, snowpants) and sweatshirts and 4-5 of the girl’s dresses are hung up in closets (next to the dressers that I’ve hidden in them).
My own problem is storing the clothes between the kids – they’re spaced just far enough apart that I can’t take clothes from my size -10-wearing 7yo and shove them in my petite 5yo’s dresser. Things have to hang out in Rubbermaid totes on and off, and *that* is my current downfall (I have a 7yo, 5yo, 3yo and 18mo).
And even if you get rid of the extra clothes and decide you need some more? Odds are you can get your hands on some more at a consignment shop or consignment sale if you’re really that desperate. Well, unless the child outgrows them, but still.
I also hope my 2.5 year old will potty train by Feb/March (when the baby is due). Yikes I can’t imagine 2 in diapers, although I know lots of moms who do it, I didn’t have to as my first trained at 2.5 before my 2nd was born. My 2.5 year old is NOT interested and I try and try and she just screams so I am thinking now is not the time! So I know what you mean.
I have about what you suggest for clothes. I try to aim for only clothes that really work for us, and I look for that when I am buying second hand, or when given hand me downs, which is seldom, I only keep what I know we can really use and pass on the rest. Those items that we find are too scratchy, too tight, uncomfortable in some way we don’t keep around, which doesn’t bug me when I pay so little for it. I don’t have as much of a problem now that I know what my kids feel comfy in and so I only buy that. Since I look way ahead to get the deals it works for me as I don’t get stuck with getting just anything last minute.
So that helps with paring down things. I also pass it all down from one girl to the other…at least for now unless I have a boy next! I aim for 7 casual outfits for each for spring/fall winter and less for summer wear (3-4 only for bottoms, 5-6 for tops) 2 sweaters, 1 fall/spring jacket, one winter one, two snowpants, 7 socks and 3 really warm merino wool ones, 2 sunhats, 2 winter hats, and 3 pairs warm mitts per kid. I also have 1-2 dressy clothes per kid, 2 swimsuits (on holidays this helps), and 2 warm PJs and 2 summer Pjs. More PJs (5 for each cold and warm) for the toddler as they get stinky fast with still being in diapers. This list reflects our cold climate, where we often need a change in hats/mitts/snowpants in just one day due to them getting wet, and we don’t need summer clothes much (like a few weeks per year to 6 weeks at most). I also found that we don’t do dressy stuff much, even for church, so I just get 1-2 simple jumper style dresses as they can be paired with long sleeved and short sleeved shirts depending on the season and then they work until they are outgrown. I don’t usually have around any other style of dressses unless they were a gift, especially summery fancy ones that I don’t find get used.
For me, the basic rule is to have the 7 outfits, less for summer, extras of bottoms for the toddler, and extra winter items that get wet and then need to be worn before they can be dried. I find that anything below this, for me, at this stage, means I am more stressed over laundry (because if I am extra tired, sick, or just behind then someone is upset they don’t have something) and anything more is too much. As my children age, perhaps we will need less (I only have 3-4 pairs of casual pants and 2 dressier ones, for example) but I find with kids it can’t be reworn as much. The younger they are the more this is true, and I am finding with my 5 year old that she could probably do with 5 pants now.
I think fewer clothes help if you are spending a lot of time sorting through clothes trying to find specific items. The only way to decrease the number of loads of laundry you’re doing is to wear things 2 times before washing (which it sounds like you are already doing.)
As far a laundry goes, my kids each have a little hamper in their rooms where their dirty clothes go each night. Then once a week (or as needed) each child does their laundry (with help as needed.) I find it is faster to sort and put away because it all belongs to one kid. As we fold, we go ahead and put like items together and then it is a snap to put away.
Another thought Stephanie- do you get your kids to put away laundry? My 5.5 year old puts away all hers and her sisters, all towels, washclothes, kitchen tea towels, dishcloths, etc. and sometimes the 2.5 year old puts away some things (diapers, washcloths, small things like that) and they also fold for me. The youngest does washcloths and diapers and such and the older one does most things except big items and big towels and sheets. I do end up doing a lot of it still but it helps with laundry sitting there in baskets. I did have to change my idea a bit about what the drawers look like but overall I would say they are pretty good for a 5 year old and just slightly messier. But thats just me. I can’t remember the last time I put clothes away in my kid’s drawers, I think its been at least a year.
First off I enjoy your blog very much and look forward to how you evolve in your way of thinking and the dynamics of how your family adapt to new things.
I am very interested to know how your older children are coping with this and how much input will they have.
I did something similar to this years’s ago and I still live by those rules. I am disabled and physically things became worse, and being a single mother I was very overwhelmed. I realized priorities had to change and I started with the laundry issue. I didn’t have the money for a washer and dryer and was washing by hand. That was incredibly painful for me but had to be done. I spent a lot of time thinking while scrubbing over the bathtub and I realized many things. First off I
My only problem with fewer clothes is that it means you have to do laundry more often! Since we’re living at my in-laws, each kid only has 3 drawers for their whole wardrobe (dresser, not chest of drawers, so small) and a foot or so of hanging space. I pared down BIG TIME from what we had, most of which was hand-me-downs and borrows anyway. Turns out the drawers never even get to half empty, and we only talk to the closet on Sundays.
Personally, I think the trick to doing less laundry is to re-wear clothes that aren’t dirty. My kids love to wear the same outfit two days in a row – they beg for it- and unless there’s a big old yogurt splotch on the front of the shirt, who am I to argue? I’m pretty sure I do WAY less laundry than most moms of similar family size. 3-5 loads a week, max.
Can’t wait to read “the results”!
Oops sorry…I didn’t even get to fix typos before I accidentally pressed submit..
Part 2 ‘Con’t:
I realized many things that I eventually implemented. Get rid of the iron, get rid of lots of cloths, kids need to learn to get less dirty or be happy wearing dirt. Teach my son to wash his own clothes (he became cleaner as a result) .
I started with myself. I laid out all my clothes in two piles, winter and summer. First I removed everything I hadn’t worn in a year (even if I hoped to fit into it again) . Then I took out everything I didn’t really like. Then with what was left I made one dress outfit for each season. With one extra top for each. One dress for each season, shoes to match all outfits, then all other dressy stuff was to be given away. I now had a pile of wonderful clothes that others can make use of and I reduced my wardrobe drastically. I did take out a few items for the quilt bag. For my son I gave him some garbage bags and told him to go threw the closet and bureau and first get rid of everything he didn’t like, then everything that doesn’t fit. Then everything he hasnt worn in a year. The rest of his wardrobe shrinking was done with me getting rid of things ‘quietly’. I also put to one side a wintery and a summer dress outfit with extra shirts. All other dress stuff went in the garbage bags to be given away.
The biggest change was that I stopped shopping for clothes except for underwear and socks. We only bought second hand clothes anyway but still we had too many. I let my son grow out of much of what he had left and then shopped with a lot more planning. That was all about 6 years ago and my son still has a small wardrobe but always dresses appropriately and clean.
Sometimes just a damp cloth and a quick spot scrub is all that is needed then hang it back up. But mostly hanging back up habit and not scrunched up on the floor reduces laundry a lot.
What is wrong with society and clothing is a big subject. Most of the water in third world countries that manufacter clothing is poluted by chemicals from the industry. I don’t watch TV or buy ‘women’s’ mags but I think the ideas that we always need more or have to be in fashion is from those two medias. Fashion is completely invented each season by a billion dollar industry that is mostly responsible for child labour on our planet. Do we really want to be a slave to that? We wouldn’t have big laundry piles if we learned to be comfortable in less than squeaky clean and wearing styles from two years ago or better still finding things that are void of style. Plain shirts etc. The laundry products industry owes much of their riches to the fashion industry. Lastly we have to stop caring what others think about what we wear. Wearing the same outfit 3 times in one month to church is not a crime in any law or Bible I’ve read. But it is on TV!! You are not there to pose or show your monetary worth and if you are then you need help. Neither should we be anywhere to pose. Dressing should not be a competition but a basic need. There are so many problems on this planet that wearing a new outfit should not exist. The money for a new outfit could feed a family for a year in some places.
Sorry for harping on but I want you to know you have a great idea and do not give up. Less is more in so many ways in this case.
P.s. I don’t mean to offend but I think there are way to many clothes in that closet. 🙂 good luck
Oh boy, can I relate! I have 6 children and laundry is a constant concern. And the living on a dime website inspired me to do just what you are doing! I am so glad other moms are seeing this.
I really feel that America has become such a wasteful nation. I tried to GIVE my extra clothes away at our garage sale and no one needs them, my friends all had too many themselves. And then look thru the back doors of the thrift stores and Goodwill…they are overflowing as well! And how did I end up with all these clothes in the first place? I have a circle of friends who have children around the age of mine. My friends pass them along to me. Some families are more well off than others so there are degrees of “wornoutness”. But for the most part they are always in excellent shape! So we stuff them into our second hand store dressers, and stuff, until I have a fit because we have, yet again, too much, too much.
This is so timely for me! We are moving soon and I’m trying to pair down my closet. I think I’m going to go back through the “keep” pile with this in mind. If I purge too much it all came from goodwill anyway. I know where to buy more!
My number is three.
Three long sleeve shirts
Three short sleeve shirts
Three pairs of jeans/cargo pants (different children like different pants)
Three pairs of shorts.
Underwear is maybe six. Six in a package? I can’t remember. Then a light waterproof jacket, a hoodie and a winter coat.
I do one load of laundry every day. This has worked very well for our boys but #4 surprised us, she arrived in a dress and we get loads of hand me downs for her from friends. Her closet is overflowing. I am in the process of similarly pairing down her wardrobe too but I imagine she will always have more clothes than the boys.
Three seems like a good number to me too.
But yes, my girls get waaay more handmedowns – dresses and skirts just don’t wear out the way pants do I guess, but I also think people like buying them more. We need to pair down too.
I was just commenting to husband about this very issue this past weekend! Great minds think alike!
To answer the question though, I think my kids have way too many clothes! There are 4 boys (6, 4, 2, <1) and 1 girl (3), and I have all their current sized clothes in one place. I look at it, and I think, "How many times has he/she actually worn this? Does he/she really need it? Will the next kid wear it?". I have sorted through all the different sizes (I keep them for hand-me downs), and it's still too much! I guess it looks like a lot because there's clothes for opposite seasons. Maybe I should implement your idea into our clothing dilemma!
BTW, I wonder if there’s a way to get our clothes to children who really need them, say in Russia, Africa, or somewhere else. Do you know of any way to donate clothes to international children?
@Sarah, A lot of Mennonite churches, including the one we attended until 6 months ago, send huge amounts of good used clothing to Russia every winter. If you want to know more, I have a list of all the churches across US and Canada. You can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
@Sarah, why donate to international countries when there are many children’s homes/shelters for families in the united states that NEED clothes. I’m so tired of people always looking to help others in other countries when many people aren’t looking to help the very nation that they live in. Just my rant.
@Amanda Pickens, My personal feeling is that we need to be willing to do both. There are people in need right beside us, all around us. We can’t ignore those needs. And yet, in other nations there are so many less resources available to those in need, that I don’t believe we can close our eyes to those needs, either. I think that we each just have to seek where the Lord would have us give, and He is big enough to meet all of the needs. Just my opinion. 🙂 (But thanks for being honest with yours, too! I do get why you feel that way, for sure!)
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, I dooo understand what you’re saying Amanda…………but I also agree we need to be generous to anyone in need. In our area, we are able to donate to Mennonite thrift store which sell the clothes/household items very reasonably here. (We buy many things there!)and use proceeds to support global missions..winwin.-
I am so astonished at how many clothes people seem to think children need. I knew we had too many when my first son was little but I was pretty bad at laundry, I think he probably had about 14 outfits plus some random extra items. Now we are down to about 8 outfits each season with occasionally a few more tees. I think it’s probably more than I would like ideally, but we often visit my parents for a week and it is useful not to be reliant on doing laundry there. He starts school in a few weeks and will be in uniform for that so this winter we will be experimenting with how low we can go on at – home outfits. I think we will aim at 3- 4 regular outfits plus one scruffy set for outdoorsy days and one special shirt. I am trying to keep a ‘one-week’ rule in mind while going through the saved clothes for baby who is 1 now, but he is a messy eater so we seem to need more tops at the moment for him. There definitely needs to be a bit of leeway In any rule for stage and disposition of individuals.
This is sort of what I do. We have been blessed with a lot of hand-me-downs and so I let my oldest daughter pick ten outfits plus some church outfits, then I pack the rest up for the next daughters so they have something that is new-to-them. However, I haven’t found that it makes much difference in my laundry duty- if they wear an outfit a day, whether it’s on of ten or one of twenty – it still adds up to seven dirty outfits a week. The only thing that has made a difference is teaching them to put their pajamas on the bed right away instead of on the floor (which eventually goes to the hamper because I can’t remember if they need to be washed) and teaching them to “reuse” clothes if they’re clean and haven’t been worn long. What limiting the outfits does help with is being able to put things away more quickly because I don’t have to jam things into a drawer. It also helps with the kids being able to quickly pick out a matching outfit.
As for international donations, I’ve heard that it’s cost prohibitive to ship clothes overseas and so it’s not usually done. But I haven’t researched it much. I usually donate to the crisis pregnancy center (though clothes rarely make through all of our kids without stains or rips).
This may have already been said, but are any of your kids old enough to do laundry themselves? My parents had us doing our own by about 8. My daughter’s only 3 so that doesn’t work for me yet but I am a huge fan of the clean clothes bin. I have a clean basket and a dirty basket so if I don’t get around to actually putting the clothes away, they’re at least dealt with and not cluttering up the house. You could do this for each person or each room (if they share). The clean basket is also useful for storing clothes that can be worn more than once before washing. And Amen to getting rid of more stuff!
@Whopper, My 4-yo does much of our laundry. She still needs some supervision with the soap (plus she can’t reach the dispenser), but she loads & unloads the washer & dryer. She’s been doing that since she was 2 1/2. 🙂
I think we probably have too many at this point. Mostly that is because we are combining sizes. For some reason, my daughter (2) is still fitting into many of her 12-18 mth clothing along with 18-24 and some 2 year old stuff. So we have a lot of clothes right now, but it is a blend of sizes (many of which was either bought or given to us ahead of time). My son (4) is doing the same thing, he is wearing size 3 and 4 clothing right now, so it seems like a lot, but both sizes fit him.
Once we get rid of some sizes, I am certain that they will not have much left over. I think too many clothes adds clutter in your closet and mind. Who wants to decide what to wear when you have 20 shirts? The decision takes more time than you want it to.
We made vow this past summer, that my daughter would only wear clothes that were made by me (aside from sleepers) and that my son would wear 50% of clothing made by me (I can’t do tshirts yet, havent mastered the art of sewing knits yet). So we made dresses, pants and shorts for the kids from new and repurposed materials. It was fun and made each piece of clothing meaningful.
@Natalie, I finally decided to tackle the “scary sewing with knits projects” this past year, and it’s gone surprisingly well! 🙂 I made pajamas for my little boy, and a dress for myself so far. The biggest tip I have is to use a ballpoint sewing needle for your machine; the rest was pretty simple. The blog MADE http://www.dana-made-it.com/ has some good tutorials, too. I’m so impressed with your sewing goals; I’m nowhere close to that yet, but my kids love it when I make them new clothes!
I have 10 children ages 4-14 and even the minimal amt. of clothing can become overwhelming! Here is an idea that worked great this summer for the younger ones (the 10 and over crowd are pretty good at managing their minimal closet which is similar in size to your suggested plan). . . .
So, for the younger crowd, you can actually have 7-10 “everyday outfits” – match them up into actual “outfits” and then put 2 or 3 on their shelf and put the rest into a file box and store it directly above their shelf/dresser/hangers (but out of their reach). Have them wear those 2-3 outfits on a rotating basis. Hint: they can usually wear them for 2-3 days before washing is truly needed. Just have them rehang (pegs are good for this) the skirt or pants and shirt each night and toss their undies and socks into the hamper. They’ll end up with a small load of laundry about once a week. Same for jammies – rehang on the peg if it is still clean and only put in the hamper every 2-3 days. Usually little ones are getting baths at night, so their jammies stay clean anyways (barring potty accidents!).
THEN, when an outfit has “had it” (stained, ripped, etc. . . ), just toss it, grab your box, pick out a new outfit for the rotation, and away you go. You have to sort of do this seasonally so that you’ve got your “fall” clothes in the box and not a bunch of shorts and tee shirts, but it GREATLY reduces the amount of clothing just hanging around the house. . . it also helps bc the kids don’t have as much to manage and are more able to really care for the small amount that is out at any given time.
(I must say, this obviously only really works if you are homeschooling and it doesn’t matter if your children re-wear clothing for more than one day!)
You have inspired me to post a series about how we do clothes and laundry. . . coming soon!
We currently have a 20 hanger rule at our house. Our children have small (very small) dressers that house their socks, under garments, pjs, belts, cloth diapers, etc. The remaining shirts, skirts, dresses, pants & shorts are hung up and have been since the beginning of time…well OK since they were born. I have even given up my own personal dresser that is now the entertainment center for our living room. The children are allowed to choose 20 items (I encourage them to pick 10 tops and 10 bottoms but they get to pick). Once they have their 20 items I pick one tote full of in-season clothes to tuck away for rotation. If they stain a shirt or damage pants, I simply pull out the tote and they pick a new one. This has worked well for us. We have been blessed with hand-me downs from family and friends and rarely ever have to buy clothes. Sure I pick up things at garage sales, thrift stores and clearance racks…but hardly ever. I will put back a $1 pair of adorable shoes because I cannot justify the “need” over the “want”. That is not to say that we do not have 20-30 totes in the basement of rotation clothes. With 5 children I have come to realize that you graciously accept donated clothes when given. Then I sort through them as time or need arrises and donate the extras to womens shelters, thrift stores, needy families, friends and family. We try to “pay it forward” as much as possible. I am always amazed at the amount of clothes people give to us. 10-15 garbage bags at a time. I cannot imagine going out and buying all of those clothes, let alone washing them. It just isn’t economical any way you look at it. Do we have a spotless laundry room? Not always. I do have a minimum of 5 loads per day rule and the children do help. We still have our days when a child decides they are going to throw every piece of clothing they can find on the floor and then climb and stomp all over them. This can be fixed with a lock on the closet door, but those independant toddlers will always find a way to open sesame and pandoras box at the same time.
@Danielle, Oops! Forgot to mention that our stained and ripped clothing that we do not upcycle ourselves is donated to the local Humane Society. They use old clothing and towels/blankets for bedding. Waste not want not. That is our motto. We try to make sure we spread the goodness to the last possible inch.
I do laundry every 2 weeks so our kids have enough clothes for at least 2 weeks. My kids play outside every day, and usually are wet and dirty by the end of the day so they have a lot of shirts and shorts and probably 10 pairs of pajamas. Most of my son’s clothes are hand me downs and most of my daughter’s clothes are gifts from grandma so we spend very little money on clothing. I have considered having less clothing for them but frankly, I love only doing laundry every 2 weeks. It makes life peaceful and right now, I need peace over minimalism.
I love the idea of having 3 of everything – 1 to wear, 1 for spare, and 1 for in the wash!
We have been given large amounts of hand me downs, so my children have far too many clothes.
I wonder if any of us have the courage to do this to our own wardrobes! 🙂 I agree with the kids stuff. After a bunch of hand-me-downs, I found my younger son had 6 church outfits and only 3 pairs of shorts!
You know–I read your family closet post and thought: I wish we had a big enough closet to do this (I have streamlined the dirty clothes hampers and put them all in our closet). Maybe if we all got rid of a bunch of clothes, we COULD make a family closet!
I forgot to mention that I have decided to basically not buy anything for my second daughter (at least not until she is older and knows the difference). We were blessed with two girls that can share clothes. My sis and I always shared our clothes growing up!
@Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker, I love that about having had two girls so far! The younger one wears so many of the clothes that I saved from my oldest, and I don’t buy her hardly anything between the saved clothes and gifts we receive. It’s great!
When my kids are younger I aimed for maybe 7 outfits total – that would include one nicer outfit for a boy. Girls tend to want a few dresses/skirts mixed in. Three pairs pj’s. pretty simple. My kids tend to gravitate towards their favorites anyways so there is not point having things that they might wear once in a blue moon. My 15 year old son is still like that. He has about four pairs pants and about four shorts (which he also needs for soccer/basketball) and about 10 t.shirts/underarmour, two hoodies and a couple pairs of pj bottoms. For shoes he only wants to wear runners and then has soccer kleats and basketball shoes and other sports equipment. He always looks nice but just doesn’t have a desire to keep buying stuff that’ll sit in his closet untouched.
I had really been wanting to clean out the kids’ closet…so, inspired by your post, today I did! I got rid of two big bags of clothes, reorganized the “extra bins” that hold either the next season or next size of clothes, and cut way down on how much was in their drawers. I also hung up most of their t-shirts.
My two older kids (5 and 7) fold and put away their own clothes. My daughter is always complaining that her drawers are too full…well they won’t be now!
Something that I have struggled with sometimes is my own emotional attachment to the “cute clothes” (particularly for my older daughter, who has tends to not like the same things as I do), does anyone else have a hard time with this? But I find the more I declutter and cut down, the better it feels. Freeing, really. Thanks for the inspiration!
@bloggymommy, My *plan* is to make a quilt one day with the baby/kid clothes that do have sentimental value to me. I may make one for each kid. Only problem? I am not a seamstress–but I took a quilting class last year. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I hope to make it work one day with those few pieces of fabric from my kids’ baby clothes. I checked out your blog & it looks like you already sew, so I bet it wouldn’t be too hard for you to pick up quilting!!
Thanks so much Stephanie! I’ve been thinking of doing the exact same thing – weed out our wardrobes to the basics, and store the rest, to see how many clothes we truly need. Thanks to your inspiration, I think it will actually get done. Hope you update us with the result in your family!
We are certainly not lacking in the clothing department either…how MUCH we have in our Western society!! One idea that I had long, long ago, was to have a special set of *outside clothes* per child. Those clothes get worn and worn over and over without being washed. Even our 16 year old does not wear *inside clothes* for things like outdoor jobs, playing street hockey or delivering papers. Over the years it has saved me TONS of laundry. Our children look presentable for going out…and their outdoor clothes become rags when they are done with them. 🙂
Blessings to you!
So interesting that you blogged about this Stephanie, because I have been doing the same thing. Setting aside extra clothes. It just seems like a massive amount of work to keep up on it all.
As a side note: My mother grew up with them getting only three outfits. However, it was really hard for her. She went to a public school where there were a lot of kids from richer families. They had nice clothes. Hers got worn out pretty fast. She couldn’t wait to get a job as a teenager so that she could buy some of her own clothes.
@Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet, I can see that three would feel a bit too minimal. I was talking to my Nana today and she said that she had around 3-5 growing up, and I gathered that although it was acceptable, it wouldn’t have been her preference. I think that 7 plus dressy clothes feels a bit more reasonable. I’m still having a slightly hard time going down to only 7. It really doesn’t feel like very much at all!
But, I am so inspired by a good friend of mine, who was a missionary in Sudan for 5 years and recently moved to Canada for a couple of years. They had to start from scratch coming back, and they’ve built their children’s wardrobes up very minimally. She says that she loves it- it’s very freeing for her to not have to manage more clothing than that, and she keeps her 3 children’s clothes (and has room to add her new baby’s clothes as well) in one small closet!
I try to keep my kid’s wardrobes at about 2 weeks worth of shirts, one week’s worth of shorts/pants. Usually we end up with less shorts/pants because of holes. Boys can be rough on clothes! This allows me to be more flexible on when I do laundry. I usually keep up with it fairly well, but I have wiggle room with a few more clothes in the closet.
Last spring, I realized that my middle son had a ton of shirts! I counted almost 30 t-shirts! And that was just t-shirts, not dress shirts or school shirts (they wear polos for school). I still have no idea where they all came from, because I kept all that my oldest wore, and he didn’t have that many at that age. As soon as I realized the ridiculousness of it, I took half out and gave them away. My son didn’t even notice. Which made me even more glad that I did clean out the closet!
@Rachel, I have boys too, I just went through my older boys clothes as I was making room for his new school uniform. he had a wide drawer full of trousers, managed to put away a few pairs of joggers that were preschool wear and he no longer needs, but I had to throw away about 6 pairs of jeans/joggers that had holes or mystery stains on them. unpacking clothes for my second born I’ve realised that we saved a lot more pants than tops until about age 3 (food stains presumably responsible), then there seem to be more tops than bottoms!
I can definitely manage with less in summer when I can line dry clothes. in winter we have to use indoor airers and it takes ages to dry clothes, as we don’t have a dryer, so laundry piles up more then and so we need larger wardrobes at those times.
I come from a family of eight children and we always had limited clothing, about as much as you’re trying! I never felt deprived or lacking growing up, in fact quite the opposite! Now that I am an adult, it has helped me to know how much I REALLY need. To this day I still only have a small amount of clothing and am quite happy!
Keep up the good work and Bod bless you.
I do not get hand me downs and no one buys clothes for my kids, we buy everything. I am working really hard not to over buy this season (this is my new goal). I really do well with 4 -5 of tops/bottoms. Any more and everything does not get worn and any less I can not keep up with the laundry.
Stephanie, my wife is trying to do the same thing. I’m curious about the result of your experiment.
Can we get an update to how this system is working for you? I have been following your blog for a while now and am very interested on how this is going 🙂
Thank you for this post! Our son is almost 11 months old and I KNOW he has too many clothes! And I always seem to dress him in my favorites anyway 🙂 I also want to plan ahead for the next season, as well, but can barely get past the current season. The links you shared were helpful as was reading everyone’s comments on how many outfits seem to work for their kids. There will be some dresser cleaning at our house very soon!
My kids have way to much clothes, gonna de-clutter tomorrow. Love your blog btw 🙂
Our boys now have a minimalist wardrobe as well and I love it. One thing that I noticed was never mentioned in so many cmoments though was that children doing their own laundry. My boys (I have 4) are all responsible for their own laundry. They each have a hamper for dirty clothes and they all know that we expect them to be responsibile enough to keep up with it. On occasion I have to tell them to do it if I notice them looking dirtier than usual, but a reminder is usually all it takes. My husband and I do our own and our infants. Kids really like having “ownership” of responsibility…even at as young an age as five! Our laundry room has a step stool and star stickers on the washer and dryer marking the right cycle. Give it a try, it’s one of the best patenting decisions I ever made!
This is awesome! I love the idea about storing clothes away to see if you really miss them. While I’m not a hoarder by any stretch it is so easy for me to end up with more stuff than we need or even want. A lot of it has to do with relatives sending us stuff I don’t have the heart to part with in a timely fashion. Every year at Christmas and birthdays I try to send food (scratch made fudge, homemade preserves, Lobstergrams, restaurant gift certificates, etc) hoping that trend might catch on. Hasn’t happened yet!
I feel the same as you
Wow! So many great ideas for keeping children’s clothes in control! I only have one little girl right now but I can totally see how it is already getting a little out of control! I have been very lucky to have family and friends who have passed down a lot of nice clothing. I will probably start small and just get rid of similar pieces, but I’m not sure I can get rid of any of her smocks, they are addicting!
I know this post is quite old, but I have questions about it! I am currently planning ahead as I shop good sales of transitional clothes (things which match but have both pants and shorts, long and short sleeves). I plan on about 12-14 outfits for my 1 child – 8-9 play, 1-2 nicer casual, and 2-4 church outfits plus swim gear for summer, coats for winter, and shoes. I’m trying to figure out if your slightly more pared down wardrobe worked for you almost 2 years out from this post. I have a young toddler who gets clothes dirty with food and who loves to get messy outdoors and I tend to do her laundry weekly, so just one outfit per day doesn’t quite cut it.
Thanks for this. I have a toddler and for summer he has 8 shorts, 10 shirts, and 5 sets of PJs. Sometimes I feel bad, like I’m being over minimalist, but it’s nice to just do his one load of laundry a week. And, especially at this age, he really doesn’t care what he’s wearing. Now, if I had a daughter, it’d probably be a different story–there are too many cute dresses out there, I’d probably have to add another category just for dresses. 🙂
I am a bit shocked at reading so many comments about struggling to buy less clothes for the kids – how many boxes of almost unworn clothes do you have to pack away every year? I understand for small babies and toddlers it’s tempting to buy (and be given) too many clothes (I did back then) but 15 outfits per child? do you even remember what is at the bottom of the piles in the closet – lol 🙂 Kids grow so fast and the quality of clothes has declined so much in the last few years that you can barely pass them on to another child anymore. Are clothes very cheap in the US? (I live in Europe where they aren’t that cheap, so you think twice before spending). I think a good idea is just to have a budget. Like 100-150 per season per child (if you can’t re-use any older ones), maybe more in winter, and that’s it. To be honest it’s the same for me as we are now tight with money. I know in Germany everybody recycles their kids clothes at flea markets, selling good quality items for 2/3 euros, and people (of various incomes, not just low!) are quite happy to buy. All my German friends do that.
I also read about a study that compared parent’s overall budgets/spending for their children in all Western countries, and it showed that only parents in France (where I live now) were spending more on food than clothes/toys…!! Anyway I hope I don’t sound snobby, but frugality = logic when it comes to kids clothes in my opinion. 🙂
This is a valid list of what kids need to have. My kids dressers are over flowing with clothes, and ironically they wear the same clothes all the time!! I am guilty of the same thing. Kids grab what is on top to wear in their dressers. (When they become a teenager it’s a different story, but that’s when they can “earn” the right to make their own money to buy clothes beyond what they need.)
HI! I don’t think I’ve ever commented here but I read you in my feeder. 🙂
I never really ‘thought’ about how many clothes is too much – I’ve just done what seemed practical. My son has just about enough shorts to get through the school week, maybe an extra – so he has 5 or 6 shorts. He has 2 – 3 pairs of jeans and a pair of khakis. Two or three ‘polo’ shirts, probably one button down, and then an array of tshirts that seem to come from various places. He sleeps in his undies. He has socks and underwear and 2 bathing suits. That’s probably it. Mine is about the same. Just the way it is. 🙂 Now I feel like maybe we’re VERY extreme compared to others.
What about shoes? Is that a whole other issue? Sneakers, dress shoes, sandals….etc.?
I am a bit confused about how having less clothes in your closet correlates to doing less laundry? You still wear the same amount of clothing, right?
On another note, we are moving out of the country in about 6 weeks and I have already paired down my closet 75%. It feels awesome. Getting rid of all my winter clothing is very liberating, plus tons of other clothes I will not need in my tropical paradise.
I plan on getting rid of about half more once I move. Very exciting. Every article of clothing I own should fit in a large suitcase. Woohoo!
One reason is that the more clothes my kids have, the more often they change. Also, the more they have, the more likely it is that clean clothes will end up back into the laundry cycle. Plus, the more you have, the easier it is to procrastinate until you end up with a huge amount of laundry, but when you have things stream-line, you never have too much at a time, because you HAVE to keep up.
I have been minimalist in the past, and then during a long season of illness, I was given a ton of stuff and the clothing overflowed. It is a HUGE difference in the workload. Really, it is! It is sooo much easier to care for a smaller amount. Plus it saves lots of time digging through clothes to find stuff that matches etc. When you have a few set outfits, it is easiy to keep each outfit together and you can just grab and go.
I know what you mean Rebecca! But from my experience, when you have tons of clothes, you tend to wear more of them over time, and go farther in between laundry days, till you have a mountain of dirty clothes to launder/clothes to fold.
(Oh wait, is that just me?! lol)
Rebecca, I just asked my husband the same question! LOL! Maybe I missed something in the article. 🙂
I think this is a great idea! We’ve inherited a lot of clothes from my sister, and her older children, so we need to buy very little. And we inherit a decent amount at each size. But, my daughter tends to wear the same outfits every couple of weeks, rather than alternating between all the shirts. So, does she really need them all in her dresser, when she’s not wearing them?
I have the same problem — my kids’ dresser and closet are overflowing because we are blessed by so many hand-me-downs from my cousins’ kids! Plus, I struggle to keep up with their changing sizes and too often have clothes that are WAY too small for them still in their dresser, because the clothes that fit are all on top! Having everything so full drives me crazy, and makes it harder to find outfits. I’ve been de-cluttering in lots of other areas, but clothes just overwhelm me!
I read the title and literally said, “good question” out loud :). This is such great food for thought as fall approaches and my littles need warmer stuff in new sizes.
My husband and I travel for work a lot. Most of our travel is for months at a time. We almost always go with what we can fit in two large suitcase and 5 carryons…for our family of 5. That means, we only take about 5 outfits each and 2 pair of shoes (3 for the girls), 2 sets of PJs plus socks/underware. It doesn’t sound like much, but we pack interchangeable pieces so the same top does not always have to be combined with the same bottom. We wash when soiled.
I LOVE IT! I never feel overwhelmed by laundry. I am not overpaying for baggage on the plane. I don’t have to worry about dresser space in a hotel or sparsely furnished housing.
Each time we would come home from an extended trip, I immediately feel like I am a hoarder needing intervention when I look at our closets and laundry. I have since cleaned out my kids clothes and donated to friends and family. I also put a few outfits back to replace worn out items during this summer season or just to trade out if I am ready for a change. I have done this also with my closet…my dh has to be responsible for his. I made the mistake once and only once of “cleaning out his old stuff” hanging in the closet. won’t do that again for sure! 🙂 I think applying my travel clothing at home has helped me maintain some sanity. I just can’t do 15-18 loads of laundry per week and remain human.
I can’t think of a draw back at all~except maybe washing the same outfits over and over can wear them out faster. But, that could be due to the quality of clothing now days too.
This blog is very timely for me. My husband has been juicing and has lost weight. He is down to three pairs of “work” pants, one pair of jeans, one pair of dress and two pairs of shorts. I thought this is great, cut out some of my mound of laundry! The only thing it has done so far is induced panic stricken “I have not pants to wear tomorrow” moments! lol I guess my daughers and myself still have too much. We still have piles of laundry that I can never catch up on and his few items get lost in our excess. In theory this clothes should be clean (except what he is wearing) almost daily. I do two to three loads a day, for me this seems a lot, we are a family of four. I think I might try your strategy for a month or so and see how it works for us also. I really need to weed out some of these towels too!
While I don’t mind doing laundry, long ago I decided that it would not rule my life. I wash my kids’ (3 yrs. old and 7 mos. old) clothes about once every 3 weeks. So my three year old daughter has 3 weeks worth of panties and enough clothes for three weeks. Even I have 3 weeks worth of panties, but only one bra that fits. At this point, her clothes are small enough that I can do 3 weeks worth of clothes in one load, and I don’t have a fancy new HE washer either. (Wish I did.) We have a lot of hand-me-downs, and I shop semiannual consignment sales to fill in the gaps. Think gorgeous Gymboree clothes for $1-2.
Yes, I always find that my kids have too many clothes than are really necessary. Most all the clothes get worn because I pick out outfits. However, my outlook is that my only daughter will look pretty all the time including hair done with bows. I grew up wearing mostly out of style hand-me-downs through elementary and high school and wishing that I looked as pretty as the other girls. I don’t spend much money and buy used, but I make sure my daughter, and son as well, look cute.
My laundry load comes mostly from my husband and cloth diapers. I only wash towels once a week. But even my husband has to wait as I’m not going to wash his clothes more than once a week. I simplify my life by only doing laundry every now and then. I couldn’t imagine doing laundry every day. And I don’t plan on having my kids do their own laundry because I work very hard to eliminate any stains. Items often soak in OxiClean. I plan on consigning most of their clothes in order to earn money. I know moms who earn a few hundred dollars each season consigning their children’s clothes and toys, but you can’t sell stained clothes.
I guess there are different routes that different moms take to simplify their lives. You have to find what works best for you and not feel guilty about “too many” clothes.
This has been our method for say 3-4 years. It has worked for two kids, when we had six, and again with two and now with four. When we had six it was only five outfits because then I HAD to do laundry every 3 days and it had to be put away right away. Now its around 7 days of clothes. Girl has 4 dresses she rotates through for church and the boys have a single suit. It does make life tons easier though I’ll tell you it doesn’t make laundry much different. We do have buckets of clothes for each size though so that when a shirt wears out I can replace it.
We go pretty minimalist; undies and socks for 10-14 days of use, but clothing for 7, and minimal outerwear (one light jacket, one warm coat, etc) and shoes (one “best”, one casual, one warm). I do have “minions”, and they do the laundry for the whole family starting about age 8 (start to finish laundry; they help with sorting and folding from age 2). We have a family of six, and tend to do about 7 loads a week, including towels and sheets.
It’s a lot less stress on kids to be able to reach and put away their own things without a hassle. We dropped dressers years ago, and use bins/baskets on shelves, and hanging “sweater cubbies”. A full wardrobe for an elementary-aged child fits in ONE hanging cubby stack, really easily!
There truly isn’t a right or wrong answer for this question. It all depends on what works best for you. Our 3 boys used to have at least 2 weeks worth of clothes, but I got tired of constantly picking up (and laundering clean clothes), and we never went two weeks between laundry days. I also noticed they always wore the same clothes…and certain clothes were never worn. To help us minimize clothing, I eliminated everything stained or torn. Then we pulled out everything that didn’t fit. From the remaining pile, I had them pack for a pretend trip of 7 days, seasonally appropriate. All the remaining clothes were packed away in a storage tub. If something got ruined, we “shopped” in the tub before going to the store. Clothing outgrown by the youngest gets passed along to someone else.
For summer, this translates to 7 t-shirts, 2-3 polos, 5 shorts, 1 khakis, 1 jeans, 2 pjs, socks, undies, swimsuit.
I have been wanting to pare down my kids wardrobes for awhile now, we get tons of hand me downs, I get so overwhelmed trying to decide what to keep, even after I’ve picked out all the stuff I know we won’t use. I have asked my husband to help and he is even worse than me. Everything is my children’s favorite if you ask them. How do you decide what to keep?
That is a struggle we have had for awhile. I have 3 kids- from 16 months to 5 years and the amount of laundry they can create is insane!
I have gone the 14 “outfits” route, but I like how you break down the outfits into casual and dressy.
For the baby and my 3 year old, I need a few more “fall back” shirts because they are messy (like their mama)
I just did the same thing at our house! I wrote about this about a year ago on my blog and shared what I found works for our family. As a mom of two small children, I find that I spend much less time sorting clothes and our wardrobe stays more organized when we have fewer outfits. As an added bonus, our wardrobes actually seem bigger because we don’t misplace items and we can easily remember what we have when we go to get dressed. I do have a hard time cleaning out my clothes when I’m pregnant, though. It’s so hard to know what I’ll be fitting in this time next year! Here’s a link to my post about minimizing our closets:
I found this post interesting in that your slimed down wardrobe for your children is double what my children ever have at any one time, it helps me to understand why so many women complain about mountains of laundry which is one thing I don’t struggle with since we own so few clothes. I have 8 children and we could never afford to provide them with that amount of clothing. I don’t own as many changes of clothes for myself as you suggested here, I guess it’s different cultures we grow up in and live with.
My boys have 7 outfits each and 3 pairs of pajamas each. It works out perfectly because they all can wear the same shirts (they are 5,4, and 3… though some are big on the 3 yr old) and the oldest 2 wear the same size. We don’t have dress clothes for them because my special needs son can’t wear button stuff as he can’t do pant or shirt buttons).
My baby girl though…. everyone keeps GIVING me all these beautiful outfits and I LOVE to sew for her… So she has about triple the amount of clothes as her 3 older brothers… and she’s only 1. I’ve probably bought 4 things for her since birth… Why are girls clothes so dern cute??? It’s hard to say no to them!
I will say that laundry is pretty easy the less clothes you have. Not as much folding and putting away!
I think the answer to this: “Is there a point at which owning too many clothes actually becomes a liability in terms of managing the laundry and maintaining it all?” Is clearly yes. But as you say, the answer is how many is enough?
I think it also is just one more thing that is easier if you are well organised (I’m only guessing here, not speaking from experience, LOL).
You’ve inspired me though. I keep thinking I’ll do that six items challenge (http://thesixitemschallenge.wordpress.com/) – I don’t think my kids could get by on six items (not unless I wash every single day), but I like the idea of putting a bunch of clothes away, and keeping out a very specific set – X casual outfits etc.
What I know about my kids clothes is
1. Over all there are too many.
2. They still run out of some things.
3. We don’t go out to fancy places often enough to need 2-3 dressy outfits, so we decided a few years ago that kid #1, who is now 11 and my only son, would not have special dressy pants – instead we’d buy him a pair of “good” cords or slacks when he needed them for a particular outing (usually no more than once a year), and then he could just add them to his regular ‘stock’. That way he wouldn’t outgrow them while they were barely worn.
4. Girls get Far.More.Handmedowns than boys. We pretty much never have to buy them fancy clothes, because no-one ever wears them out, so they get handed down.
5. Once kids hit the age of six they don’t seem to be able to keep a pair of hole-free jeans more than a week. Maybe two.
6. I should probably buy them more than one pair of PJs per season.
I have a bad habit of accepting too many handmedowns, because I have something of a lack mentality and don’t want to have to buy something I could have got for free. Then every now and then I go through a “not accepting handmedowns” phase, which is also hopeless. I suspect being more organised and knowing what we already have (waiting to grow into), would be my friend here. Then I could either say no, or accept the bag, keep the one or two things we’ll need, and give the rest to charity.
On one hand, it sounds freeing not to have lots of clothes for your kids… but having too few might cause a lot of work too! I don’t know about you, but my 2 1/2 year old son is actually quite messy 🙂 He drops food on his clothes, he plays in the dirt or in the barn (we live in the country), he gets wet ‘accidentally’ in the hose, he has a pee accident in his pants and needs to be changed…. and on and on…. I’d have to wash his clothes every single day if I didn’t have at least 7 – 8 outfits for him! Dress outfits on the other hand, are not particularly necessary, other than 3 or so to go to church in.
And my 3 month old baby is a champion spitter-upper. He will spit up large volumes of milk multiple times a day. And who wants to leave a baby in a spit-up soaked t-shirt? Even if I put on a bib, it doesn’t cut it. And I dont’ want to constantly feel the burden of washing the baby’s clothes every single day, and possibly running low on clothes if I’m waiting for a sunny dry day to dry them (we live in the northeast and I dry my clothes on the line). I already wash cloth diapers every 3 days.
So we solve these problems by rotating clothes by seasons. And I buy all my kid’s clothes at Goodwill or other consignment/thrift shops, which saves a lot of money and gives them clothes I don’t mind them getting down and dirty in 🙂
Does having less clothes *really* cut down on the amount of laundry? Although my kids have closets full of clothes, they typically only wear a few things over and over. Even if they had less clothes it seems like they would still go through the same amount, therefore I would be doing the same amount of laundry…right?
In an ideal, logical world you would most definately have the same amount of laundry. However, in my house, you don’t. My husband and son would change clothes when they came home from work/school, before bed, for yard work, etc, When I cut their wardrobes down to half, they didn’t have as many to choose from. Which means, they stopped changing as often or started reusing clothes for the same purpose a couple days in a row. If you’re going to get dirty playing outside why not get dirty in the clothes you played outside in yesterday?
Clothing is just about my biggest battle here. I often think it’s worse than toys! My three boys are slobs when it comes to putting clothing away. They really do only wear a couple of outfits each. Makes it seem like it isn’t even worth messing with trying to guess whether the pile on their floor is clean or dirty. On the other hand, I have periods where I don’t get to the laundry for a few days (for one reason or another) and pretty soon they “have nothing to wear!” So I go back and forth on how many clothes we really need. But I still suspect it is much less than what we have.
We have a small amount of. Clothing here, and I love it. My daughter only owns a few t shirts, two shorts, three skirts and about four dresses… She also her uniforms for school. Our son has a few pairs of pants, about five or six pairs of shorts and the same amount of shirts. Most of his clothes came from friends. I still have trouble keeping up with laundry and dream of cutting back even more.
Our daughter has more clothes than she technically “needs” but since we live in an apartment and I have to drag laundry down to the laundromat we try to do laundry once per week. My daughter is 11 months old so we have some “just in case” extras. She has 10 pj’s, 10 shirts/onesies, 4 pairs of shorts, 5 pants, 1 reusable swim diaper (which doubles as her bathing suit) and then a handful of “cute” outfits (5 I think… two of which were gifts). She re-wears clothes a lot but it’s SO NICE not to feel I have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on things she wears for a few months before outgrowing.
At the request of my 8 yr old daughter, she and I recently went through all of her clothes and purged a ton of items. We have very generous friends and family that pass a lot of clothes to us. I have been grumbling more and more about having to do way too much laundry and that she has too many clothes. She said something that I didn’t really realize but that is probably something a lot of younger children go through until they begin making their own clothing choices. She said that there were clothes in her drawers that she didn’t really like but she would wear them because the clothes she really preferred were dirty. Basically, there is so much laundry to do I am always behind on washing the clothes she prefers to wear and so in the meantime she creates more laundry by wearing things she really doesn’t like. duh! As an adult who chooses her own wardrobe and therefor generally likes everything in my drawers I wasn’t seeing the problem. 2 trashbags for Goodwill later and we are both much happier.
My son has 5 school shirts and 3 school pants – trousers, sport shorts and trackpants plus his blazer for the school week and only has 4 tshirts, 2 pairs of trackpants, a set of thermals, pyjama pants and one pair of shorts and his bathrobe for everything else. Not counting underwear and socks, but only a few days worth of those too. It has simplified my washing enormously.
He’s 13 though and loathes shopping, is content to wear the same things over and over – he picks a few shirts he likes and they rotate through the washing till worn out, since he’s finally stopped growing so much (for now)
I think it makes sense that in the past people of all ages and occupations wore aprons. This simple article of clothing had the wonderful task of keeping clothes clean longer. And I’m almost positive that they had different aprons for different tasks like cooking, gardening, doing crafts etc. Maybe if we all started using aprons more we would find that our clothes stayed cleaner longer and also didn’t wear out as quickly too. Just a thought.
We went through a period of time where we needed to live in two different cities. Wednesday through Saturday we lived in our normal home. Saturday through Wednesday we lived in a home we needed to prepare for sale. We brought only one change of work clothing with us and washed once during our half-week there. (Obviously we wore clothes there, too, which gave us two pair of work clothes and one Sunday outfit.) My only regrets was that we absolutely wore holes in our clothing (we had brought old clothes with us in the first place) and we brought the exact number of socks that we needed (there was always a couple missing). We also would have done better with a change of pajamas and if we had realized that the girls would grow to the next clothing size. http://oldthymekitchen.blogspot.com/2012/03/washing-laura-ingalls-clothes-update.html
I haven’t counted whether my kids have too many clothes or not, but they always have enough. We are lucky to live on the tropical “always summer” weather, so that we have only one type of clothes. The washing will be depending on the sunshine of the day (raining is recently unpredictable-thank’s to global warming), and ironing is depending on my “free time” after work or on the weekend while the kids are sleeping, at least they have fresh one stocked up in the cupboard. We only have one huge cupboard- floor to ceiling- (not walk-in closet) and kids clothes have one side for theirs to be kept. I examine the clothes inside it quarterly, in case any of them that can be discarded, or swap with other moms, or just send to the orphanage.
One of my relatives recently spent almost $400 on her 1 preschool daughter’s clothes and I almost balked!! We got a little nuts buying my son’s summer & fall wardrobe at a consignment sale in the spring and I have since learned that 1) babies grow strangely and my son is never in the size for his age and 2) he can’t possibly wear all of these clothes more than once – crazy! So I just got done with the next consignment sale for fall/winter and I shopped smarter – and sold back all of those other outfits (a lot of which he NEVER wore because he outgrew the sizes) and now he has what he needs and not more. Hope your experiment works out for you guys!
You think your laundry and clothing problems are big? I had 7 kids and 2 adults to clothe! 🙂 And, let it be officially known that I HATE socks!! LOL
so I came across this while searching ‘how many clothes should a child have’ and it’s been awhile since your original post. How has laundry been?
I believe less clothes are better but it is always so hard because you want a range of clothes to wear. I also like to save water and washing laudry everyday is horrible for how much water is used to make and wash clothes. I hate socks, always get lost
Personally I do one load of laundry in the morning every morning. And I don’t ever have full laundry baskets in my house. We live in an area with drastically different seasons so here is what we shoot for:
10 long sleeve tops
10 short sleeve /tank tops
4-5 pairs of pajamas.
Of the dresses I try to make 2-4 of them dressier. The rest are casual or dressy casual. Churchable but also playable.
I’ve found the clothes are in great condition after. I save my absolute favorites for the next kid and what I feel meh about or what I think is too dated I consign. I use the store credit from the consigning to buy whatever is missing.