Storing Kid’s Clothes

I consider myself to be a pretty organized, minimal-ish person, but there is one big area that has always presented a challenge: kid’s clothes!

The first year of life is especially full of clothes since there are so many sizes (newborn, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 months) and you need a new wardrobe for each size. It slows down a little after that but you’re still changing sizes and seasons and needing clothing in each stage. I don’t try to achieve capsule wardrobes or limit a closet to a certain number of items, but even for someone trying to keep wardrobes small – it’s a lot of clothing!

To give you an idea of how much clothing we use at each stage, here was Vi’s wardrobe for 3-6 months:

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And here is LJ’s 2T wardrobe:

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Obviously, LJ has a lot more clothing because 2T lasts a year, so he needs a variety of options for seasons, whereas Vi’s only covers a couple months. They each have a few items also hanging in their closets like coats, dresses and nice button downs, but for the most part, this is all they have! I only keep their current sizes out; every other size is in storage.

With a son and a daughter and an unknown future (possibly having more kids and obviously not knowing their genders), we are currently keeping a lot of unused children’s clothing in our house. I quickly learned that I needed to be intentional not only with what I kept, but also how I store their clothing or things could quickly spiral into unorganized chaos. Vi turns 6 months in less than one week and she’s all but busting out of her 3-6 month clothes. Over the weekend, I was sorting through her clothes to put into storage, and I was struck by how far I’ve come in this area – storing her clothing was super manageable and didn’t take long at all.

Today I thought I’d share some of the strategies I use for what I save and how I store it in case anyone else is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their child’s wardrobe and wanting some tips. This isn’t a perfect system by any means, but it has helped me keep their wardrobes manageable and kept me from feeling overwhelmed by holding on to clothing.

Before Storing, SORT!

The biggest tip I have is to keep LESS. I save the outfits I really love, and I pass on the ones that have served their purpose for me. Sometimes I take clothes back to the consignment store and recoup some of the money I spent the first time. Other times I’ll donate it to a friend with a younger baby. I’ve also donated clothes to a local rescue mission that helps women and children working to overcome homelessness.

I don’t hang onto everything for two reasons. One, it’s a lot of clothes! I focus on keeping the type of clothing we use the most. We received a lot of baby outfits as gifts, only to find I mostly keep my kids in sleepers when they’re that little (it’s just easier!) My kids both sleep in pajamas every night (and sometimes we stay in them all day) so we need several pairs of pjs. I also need lots of play clothes – I make sure to have options like soft shirts and joggers that make it easy to move in. But we don’t need a lot of dressy clothes like button downs and dresses, so I only keep a few in each size.

The second reason I don’t hang on to lots of clothes is, trends change! Once I use clothing, I like to pass it on so that it can continue to be used while it’s still trendy. I have received both boy and girl hand-me-down clothing from others, and honestly, some of it seems outdated even though it was only 3-4 years old. A big place I noticed this was in pants, particularly jeans. The trend for kid jeans has shifted in the last few years and baggy, flared baby jeans from 2012 kind of look silly on Vi right now.

I also only keep quality clothing. If something has a stain that won’t come out or is torn or otherwise damaged, I donate it to a textile recycling program (I love H&M’s because they make it very easy to donate!)

Store in a user-friendly, inexpensive way

Once I set aside the clothing I love, that we use a lot, and that is good quality, I make sure it is washed and put it in storage.

My storage system for clothing is super easy, inexpensive, and not at all fancy. I have big plastic tubs that I keep in my kids’ closets. I fold up the clothes, divide sizes with cardboard pieces from broken-down diaper boxes, and use index cards to label each section. Then I just stack the tubs in each closet so they’re out of the way and nicely organized for the future.

I wasn’t kidding about it not being fancy ha! Since we don’t find out the gender of our babies ahead of time, most of our newborn clothing is gender-neutral so we only have one box in that size; otherwise, all the not-in-use boy clothes are stored in LJ’s closet and the girl clothes are in Vi’s.

Whenever Vi bumps up a size, I do go through LJ’s clothes in that size too. LJ has a lot more than Vi, only because I end up using a lot of his clothes for her (like plain colored onesies and joggers). Also, I keep future sizes stored in the shelves so they’re easy to add to as people give us gifts or hand-me-downs and are ready when we need them. In Violet’s case, I also keep sizes over 12 months in the bottom stacked tub since it’ll be so long until we use those.

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I tried to be mindful of not keeping a lot with LJ, but I’m finding that I’m keeping even less with Vi. (The middle tub above is her 0-3 and 3-6 month stash and it’s about half of the amount LJ has in those sizes!) I’m buying less, using less, and keeping even less. I just realize that babies don’t need a whole lot of outfits and we tend to wear the same things over and over. I’m favoring the functional things over the cute-but-impractical and it’s amazing how much that lessens the burden of storing tons of clothing.

Bonus Tip: Don’t overspend on clothing to begin with

As a first time mama, I was so excited to buy cute baby clothes. My mom and I went shopping the week after LJ was born and in our excitement we bought so many cute boy outfits. I didn’t realize I’d mostly keep him in sleepers. I didn’t realize he’d be a little peanut and wouldn’t even get to wear some of the sweaters because by the time they fit him, it wouldn’t be sweater weather. I have lots of cute, barely used items that are harder to part with because I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them. I learned my lesson and these days, I mostly shop consignment. It’s better for the environment to get more use out of clothing and it’s WAY more economical. Plus, once we’ve used a $2 shirt several times, it’s very easy for me to pass it along to someone else because I feel like I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth. Just some extra food for thought!

What tips do you have for storing clothes that aren’t currently being used?

Reducing Waste: Snack Time

One thing I am passionate about is reducing waste. Whether it’s finding plastic alternatives, avoiding single-use items, using products made of recycled materials, choosing bulk items with reduced packaging, or just consuming/buying/using LESS, I like to try to make choices that are a little better for our environment. I thought I would start sharing some ways that I do this here on the blog in case anyone else is looking for some ideas about how to reduce waste in their life too. Today I’m focusing on a specific area of reducing waste that’s big in my life right now and that is: toddler snack time.

Before getting into this, I need to share a disclaimer. Part of me hesitated to write a post about reducing waste because I know there are other things I could be doing in this area. While I would love to use the best, most environmentally-friendly option for everything, it’s just not always realistic. There are barriers like expense and time that are prohibitive and I’ve had to make some decisions with what to prioritize. In some cases, I know I’m not making the most environmentally-friendly choice. But have you heard the parable of the starfish? I think it applies here – just because a change is small, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a difference. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what works for our family, and I know that is all anybody can do. If these small changes I’ve made inspire anyone else to make a swap and reduce their waste in even one small way, I’m happy!

Now I love snacks and so does my toddler, but there can be a ton of waste when it comes to food. Obviously, some of it is unavoidable and I’m certainly not perfect here, but there are a few little changes I’ve implemented that make a difference.

Reusable Snack Containers

20200206_151316When it comes to dry snacks, I buy the bulk package instead of individual serving size packages. Then at home I’ll just pour some into a reusable container like this or baggie like this and LJ has an appropriate portion to carry around and eat. This is a quick (literally takes a few seconds) super easy option both for home and travel, as both the container and baggie can easily be thrown in my diaper bag.

20200206_152939I also like to use these stainless steel containers when I have something like fruit to take along as a snack – it keeps the food fresh and protected from getting squashed.

Reusable Food Pouches

20200206_152116When it comes to applesauce, LJ is borderline obsessed. When it’s served over lunchtime, he’ll eat it from a bowl with a spoon but when it’s served as a snack, he loves the pouches. Honestly, food pouches are a parents dream – so convenient, so easy to use, and a mess-free way of delivering different nutrients. The problem is, with the plastic top and individual packaging (compounded by the fact that we go through so. many.) pouches feel really wasteful to me. I found these reusable pouches online and they are a great alternative! I can buy applesauce in bulk or use my mom’s canned version and pour it into the pouches; it’s great because I can choose the type of applesauce (I choose unsweetened, but you could get different flavors or use homemade purees) and the amount that goes into the pouch. Plus they’re dishwasher safe!

In the interest of full transparency: I do not solely use the reusable options. I do still buy the individually packaged ones (included in the picture above) because the reusable ones need to be refrigerated since I opened the bulk container. Refrigerated options are not always feasible for taking along outside the house. When it comes to reducing waste, I think the important thing to focus on is reducing. I’m not perfect, but I think any effort still makes a difference. Hypothetical situation: even if LJ eats 500 pouches in his life and 400 of them are single-use packages, that still means I saved a landfill from 100 extra pouches by using the reusable option and I focus on the positive of that 20% waste reduction.

Misc. Items for Restaurants

20200206_152525When it comes to eating outside the house, I have these items stored in my diaper bag: a food-grade silicone mat, reusable utensil, and silicone straw. We don’t eat out very often, but when we do it’s nice to have these options instead of using disposable plastic items from the restaurant.

20200206_152638When Vi is a little older and eating food as well, I’ll throw a silicone bib and reusable spoon + case (I love the ones pictured from the brand RePlay because they are made from recycled milk jugs, helping with the waste problem again!)

20200207_080329While we’re on the subject of meals, at home we use RePlay’s plates and utensils. These are also made out of recycled milk jugs, which means my purchase kept a few more milk jugs out of a landfill. I believe there is power in the purchasing dollar and I will gladly support companies trying to find ways to create quality products out of recycled materials and reduce our society’s overall waste.

Paper Towel Alternatives

20200206_152742I was gifted these Swedish dishcloths (similar ones here) from my mother-in-law and they are awesome paper towel alternatives! Perfect for cleaning up toddler spills or wiping LJ’s hands or mouth. He doesn’t like when his food gets really sticky on his hands, so I usually wet one of these dishcloths and put it next to his plate for him to wipe his hands as needed. These are easy to clean and reuse, which is great! When we do use napkins at home, I have actual cloth napkins that can be washed and reused or I buy these napkins made out of recycled paper.

Also, when it comes to reducing waste around food, I try to reduce the waste of the actual FOOD. Making sure not to buy more than we’ll go through, trying to use produce before it goes bad, keeping track of expiration dates – all these things are important too. Again, I’m not perfect but I do think the effort matters.

What ways have you found to reduce waste around snack and mealtimes? I’d love to hear other simple changes to implement!

 

Final Destination: Decluttering Edition

Something about the new year always makes me want to de-clutter. After all the Christmas decorations come down, I’m ready for clean spaces and fresh rooms!

Last year, I did the “Declutter like a Mother” challenge (see my posts here, here, here, and here) and did a huge overhaul of the house. The thing I’ve found is, you’re never really done decluttering. Clutter has a way of continuing to creep into our homes, but I’ve found that staying consistent and going through rooms periodically keeps things at a good, manageable level for me. This year, I’m just doing a sweep of each room and getting rid of items we don’t need, don’t use, or that are just taking up space unnecessarily.

If you’re like me, sometimes it can be hard to get rid of perfectly good items. My #1 tip for decluttering is: know the ‘final destinations’ for your items. In other words, where are you taking them once they leave your home? Sounds simple, but just deciding this helps tremendously! It’s so much easier for me to get rid of something if I know exactly where I’m going to take it. It’s like once I have a purpose for the item beyond the walls of my house, it becomes a much simpler task to accept that it doesn’t belong here anymore and I can move on.

It takes some initial research, but I think it’s really beneficial to find local places to take specific things. Rather than just throw everything in one big bag and drop it off at the Salvation Army or Goodwill (which, I’ll admit, I have done in the past too), these large stores are often overwhelmed with donations this time of year. According to many articles I’ve read, like this one from HuffPost and  this one from ABC News: “In most cases, a small amount of the items, the best quality castoffs — less than 10 percent of donations — are kept by the charitable institutions and sold in their thrift shops to other Americans looking for a bargain.” (source) I used to volunteer in a thrift store in high school and can personally attest that it’s overwhelming to just receive heaps of stuff, particularly when it’s obvious that the person donating just threw whatever they didn’t want in a box. Sometimes it’s quality items, but sometimes it’s just junk. So the first order of business is: recognize when something truly does need to be trashed (like something broken beyond repair). The second item is: figure out where your items will be best used or most needed and then take them there!

For things that still have value, I have five tried and true destinations to take things.  When I do a major de-cluttering sweep, I’ll designate boxes for each destination and add things to the boxes as I go through my rooms. Keeps things simple and organized and when I’m done, I just have to load them in my car and drop them off at the right place!

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My five favorite places to take things to are:

1 – ReStores

ReStore (a Habitat for Humanity store) is a great place to take donations to be used for home improvement. They will accept everything from used furniture to home decor items to the kitchen cabinets, countertops, sinks, baseboards, etc that are taken out of houses during a renovation. I just keep a box in my garage so every time we have a home improvement item we don’t want or need anymore, I put it in the box and when it gets full, I drop it off at the local ReStore. I would show you a picture of the box, but I just dropped off our donations (of curtain rods, door handles, and light fixtures from our guest suite renovation) last week.

2- Local thrift stores with a mission

We have one thrift store in my area that is part of a broader ministry of raising funds, creating training opportunities, and providing clothing and goods to help local people overcome homelessness. I take clothing, toys, books, etc. there, (and it’s also a thrift store that I’ll frequently shop and support!) My mom’s church also runs a program where gently used formal wear is collected for teens to come and purchase items for prom. Everything is sold by pay-what-you-can donations (and can be taken for free as well) and the proceeds go to local ministries. I love taking cocktail dresses, heels, and Justin’s suit coats or ties to donate there knowing my items will not only get new life, but it contributes to the greater good. Every area is going to offer different options, but I encourage you to find local organizations with missions you support to donate your quality items to!

3 + 4 – Consignment Stores

Every time I declutter, some items stand out as ones that I could sell and make a decent profit off of. When we lived in a subdivision, it was easy to corral items and sell them during our association garage sales. We don’t live in a subdivision anymore so a garage sale feels like a lot of work for very little profit, which leaves two options: sell the items online or take them to a consignment shop. I typically only sell something online if its value is over $50. It’s just not worth it to post pictures, write a description, field questions, designate a meeting spot with the buyer, and then travel to that spot to exchange the item, only to make $5. I’m trying to simplify here, not make a ton of extra work for a couple bucks.

Consignment stores are the best option for me right now and I have two that I take items to: one for my clothing/purses/shoes/home decor and then another one for kids’ items. I keep a box of my stuff and a box of kids stuff (making sure all the clothes are washed and in good wearable condition) and once I’m done de-cluttering, I drop them off and make a little money. What doesn’t get sold will get donated to my local thrift store.

5 – Recycling

I love donating to textile recycling programs rather than just throwing away old socks, a shirt with holes, or a frayed and worn towel. I use the H&M program because they will accept any textile in any condition and for every bag you donate, they’ll give you a coupon to use in their store. What can’t be re-worn or re-used in its original condition gets broken down into textile fibers, or is used to manufacture products such as damping and insulating materials for the auto industry.  I keep a bag in my laundry room to collect things and once it gets full, I take it in to my local H&M store.

Like I said earlier, it takes a little work on the front end to research local options and decide where to take everything, but once you do that one time, you don’t have to do it again. Now that I know where to take things, it’s super easy to just designate a box, fill it up, and drop it off!

Do you declutter this time of year too? Where do you like to take your items to?

Non-Toy Gift Ideas

The first snow is on the ground here in Indiana and something about looking outside and seeing a fresh coat of white puts me in a festive mood. I love this time of year – cozy nights snuggled under blankets, candles burning, gathering with friends and family for a meal. I love the holiday seasons!

With every holiday season comes the inevitable gift-giving. My children are lucky to have grandparents, great-grandparerents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love them and want to give them gifts. Every year around this time, I start getting asked what is on their Christmas list and every year, I struggle to come up with enough things to go around. On the one hand, I love that others want to show love to my children in this way. On the other, I don’t want our family to just accumulate stuff for the sake of getting gifts. I want our gifts to be meaningful, special, and not just clutter-creating.

LJ’s Christmas list does have some toys on it. I get it, I totally like gifting fun items! Who just wants to gift things like socks all the time? But that doesn’t mean that ALL his presents need to be toys. Currently, his list has practical things, experience gifts and consumable products. And yes, we did include a few books and specific toys he’ll love.  That’s completely okay! I’m not trying to be a grinch here. Just trying to keep what comes into our house a little more well-rounded.

Today I thought I’d share some ideas of what I’ve put on LJ and Vi’s Christmas lists. I want to be clear that if you’re all about giving toys for Christmas and want to go that route with all their presents – go for it! I’m not judging anyone for requesting or gifting toys. I just prefer to have a wider variety of gifts and avoid adding lots of clutter to my house. I’m sharing what we’re asking for this year in case anyone else out there is looking for ideas for gifts to ask for that aren’t toys.

Practical Gifts

I know my kiddos are still really little and don’t care so much about getting “fun” gifts, so I loaded up their lists with things that they need for the coming year. This includes things like snow pants, snow boots, and socks. I also put practical things on LJ’s list that are a little more fun like this Paw Patrol potty (he needs one for potty training and he LOVES Paw Patrol so this will be fun for him haha) and a backpack. Since she will only be 4 months old and we already have plenty of age-appropriate toys for her, Vi’s list is almost exclusively practical with things like clothing, a swimsuit for summer, a mirror for the car, bathtub spout cover, diapers and wipes.

Meaningful experiences

LJ adores his grandparents and loves to spend time with them. And on the flip side, they love spending time with him! This makes experience gifts an easy thing to ask for. I love the idea of experience gifts because they keep on giving – they are exciting to get, fun to look forward to, enjoyable in the moment, and afterwards they become fond memories to cherish. I let our loved ones know if they want to give an experience gift, such as a zoo pass, they are welcome to join our family when we use it or they can even take our children on a special date without us and experience it together. Justin and I did this several years ago for our niece and nephew; we bought them passes to a local children’s museum and then took them ourselves. We don’t get to see them as often as we would like so it was a special day just us four and we made some great memories and had so much fun!

Here are some ideas of experience gifts I have requested for my kids (or may ask for one day):

Zoo Pass

Whether it’s a day pass or a full membership, this is an experience gift that appeals to children of many ages. LJ absolutely loves going to the zoo, and we are lucky to live close to a great children’s zoo where he can not only see many different animals, but he can feed giraffes, ride a train, and brush goats (or kiss like he’s doing in the picture – haha! So sweet and so gross). The zoo is always a hit!

Day at a Children’s Museum

We have a science museum nearby. My parents live near a living history museum and my in-laws live near a children’s discovery museum. We all live in vastly different sized towns and cities so just because you live in a small town doesn’t mean there isn’t an option for you within driving distance. Maybe there is something 5 minutes away and this experience gift takes an afternoon. Maybe you have to drive an hour and it becomes more of an all-day trip. Maybe the museum is geared towards something specific, like art or science, or maybe it is more of a play museum. Or maybe it’s not a museum at all – for my nephew’s 7th birthday instead of getting him a physical gift, we bought tickets for our families to go to a trampoline park (highly recommend!) Whether it’s a hands-on museum or an indoor waterpark, there are memories to be made. 🙂

Inexpensive local experiences

Experience gifts don’t have to be expensive. Just think about what your child loves doing and try to create a special experience around it. Maybe the gift is a movie night at grandma’s with a new DVD or Redbox/Netflix/Amazon Prime/etc. movie, popped popcorn, and your child’s favorite splurge candy. Maybe there’s a local farm you can visit and explore together. If you live near a town with minor league teams, you can often find inexpensive tickets to a game. If your child loves to help in the kitchen, perhaps a gift of baking (gifting ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then spending the afternoon baking together) is something he or she would enjoy. My nephew loves Legos, and if we buy him a set, Justin helps him put it together and this has become a special ‘thing’ they now do. There are a lot of options out there for things to do that don’t cost a ton but will provide lots of fun!

Consumable Gifts

A consumable gift is something that can be used up. It’s no secret that I am pretty minimal-ish and don’t like clutter. A gift that can get used up is perfect for creating fun memories without a ton of long-lasting clutter! LJ is starting to really enjoy doing little art projects at home so we put things like stickers and crayons (I love these!) on his list this year and I know he will be so excited to receive them.

Examples of consumable gifts:

-bubbles

-stickers/sticker books

-crayons, markers, colored pencils

-coloring books/activity books

-sidewalk chalk

-fingerpaint

-bath bombs in fun colors

I also love consumable gifts because they often inspire creativity and play in ways that conventional toys don’t. Win win!

And in addition to all those ideas, we did put a few toys and books on LJ’s Christmas list, although I try to be intentional about the toys I do ask for (I’ll share more about that next week). I’m not about restricting toys, just about finding balance. 🙂

Do you have any other ideas for non-toy gift ideas? Or toys that are definitely worth asking for? I’d love to hear them!