6 Steps to Changing with the Seasons


With the fabulously wonderful sunny and warm weather these last few days in TN and the approaching spring season in just another month or two it is time to begin thinking about the lovely and heartwarming (insert sarcastic voice) job of changing out your kids clothes. I love my children dearly but this is the one job that I will not miss when they are older. There is something about trying on clothes, for what seems to them to be hours on end (and hand-me downs no less) that brings out the worst in kids. And of course as a frugal parent I am all about not spending money on clothes when there is perfectly adequate clothing…that fit… sitting right in front of us. Oh, the conflicts that arose! While I do have a few suggestions on how to handle discontentment in kids and inflexibility in moms, that is not really the focus of today’s post.

Let’s get into the practical process of organizing kids clothing for the long haul. This post will really concentrate on changing out seasonal clothing with the goal of have an organized system of continuing to store away clothing for the next season and for the next child. I will use Ben as my example since he is the middle son.

First, before I even begin the task of sorting through clothing, I make sure that I am caught up on all of the laundry for the child(ren) I will be working with that day. (See my post The Laundry Process) It doesn’t really make any sense to begin taking inventory of how many pairs of pants Ben has, if half of them are in the laundry. So begin by washing all of the laundry.

Second, I pull out all of his clothing, whether from his closet or dresser. I will sort the items into piles, usually on his bed: long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, shorts, pants, dress clothes, underwear, socks, pj’s and then usually a misc. pile which includes: a bathing suit or two, ties, belts etc.

Third, I pull out the bins of clothes that I may have in the storage room from his older brother Will, in the sizes that I think will fit Ben. If he is wearing size 12 boys then I may pull out the 10’s, 12’s and 14’s out of the storage room. Within their sizes, I will sort them according to those same categories: long pants, shorts, long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts etc.

Fourth, I will choose a category to start with and dig in. I actually need Ben with me at this point to try on clothing. I will begin by working my way through all of the pants from his dresser/closet, the pants from the size 10 tote, the size 12 tote and the size 14 tote, remembering to keep everything separate.

Below are the basic questions I ask over and over and over again for every single item.

  1. Do these pants (shorts, shirts etc) fit you?

  2. Are they too tight or too loose?

  3. Are they too long or too short?

  4. When was the last time you wore them?

  5. Do you like them?

  6. If in doubt about what fits then try it on…

I tend to start with the smaller sizes and work my way up placing the items that do fit aside for the next step. Sometime things are just too small and that makes the decision easy...it goes into the bin with the correct size label for Jonathan to wear in a year or so. Some items are way too big, so again…it goes into the bin with the correct size label for Ben to try on again in a year or so. It is the things that fit right now that I am looking for.

Fifth, after I have the items that fit now or for the next 3 months in front of me, then I have to decide how many items and which to keep out and available. (More on the decision making process at the end of this post.) Put that pile of pants aside and decide if the remaining pants will be given away, in which case move it out of the room, or stored away, in which case put it back into the correct size container.

At this point you are finished with pants and can move on to the next category. I know, right now you are thinking ‘this will take forever.’ It really doesn’t and it can move fairly quickly, especially if you already kind of know what fits and what doesn’t. However, if in doubt, try it on! The worst feeling is when you have a too full closet and find out that half of the items don’t even fit. You will continue through the five-step process for each category until you have worked through all of the available clothing.

Sixth you will put away, haul away (donate), or store away, everything. All of the items you will keep for the next child or the next season will go back into a tote. Make sure the tote is clearly labeled according to size, gender, and season and return to your storage area.

Some things to think about when it comes to deciding how much to keep out:

~How much space do they really have and what do they really need? If the child has 15 pairs of jeans that fit, do they really need 15 pairs even if they do have the space. Perhaps they can choose their favorite five to seven pairs.

~How often do you (or your kids if you have read my post The Laundry Process) do laundry? If their laundry is done every other day then they really only need 3-4 every-day outfits. If their laundry is done one time per week then they need 10 every-day outfits. If they wear uniforms to school then perhaps 6 every-day outfits plus 4 uniforms is sufficient. Another way to view this is: how much room they have to store clothing is inversely proportional to how often the laundry needs to be done. The more often the laundry is done the less clothing is needed.

~How often do they wear very dressy clothing? For church on Sundays? Once a month for some rare special event? Several times a week? That will dictate how many dresses or suits or dressy clothes they need. Even if the average is 4 times per month, then 2-4 dressy outfits is plenty. They are growing so fast that you don’t want to sink a lot of money into multiple options of clothing.

~Do your kids play outside often and get very dirty most days? If you live on a farm then they may need more changes of clothing than if your children tend to not play outside so often.

~Are your kids boys or girls? I know not everyone will agree with me on this but in my limited experience… boys are different than girls. I will agree that there is some leeway here in that not all boys are messy, nor are all girls clean, but in general my experience would point to my boys getting dirtier than my girls. While my girls got into their fair share of messiness, my boys out dirtied them 3 to 1. If my kids have been playing outside and then we are going somewhere, I have asked my boys far more times to change their clothes because of being dirty than I have asked my girls to change their clothes for the same reason.

~ Let the kids have buy-in. If they have a plethora of workable options, then let them have some decision-making opportunity over what they wear. In my house it goes like this, “You must keep three dress shirts, so which three of these (that I have already determined fit and are acceptable) do you prefer? And do they match something else that you can wear them with?” In my experience it makes it a lot easier later on when they complain about the dress shirts to say, “I am really sorry that you don’t like them and I am happy to get back out into the storage room this weekend to see if we have something else you might like better, but you picked it so go put it on…we are leaving in 10 minutes.” And then smile and walk away! J

Here is your bullet point checklist:

1) Wash all existing laundry

2) Pull out all clothing from dresser/closet and sort by category

3) Pull out all other potential options of seasonal clothing from the storage room and sort by category

4) Try everything on and determine if it fits or not

5) Of the items that fit, determine how much and which items to keep out

6) Put everything away

While I can’t say that I remember fondly the regular seasonal change-outs, I can say that I was tremendously blessed. People gave me clothes for my kids often. I had the space and was thrilled to not spend so much money on clothing every year. Despite the frustrating occasional days, our regular “changing with the seasons” routine was so incredibly worth it.

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