Storing Kids Clothes for Future Use

One of the most dreaded jobs of moms is switching out seasonal clothes and clothes that are too small. Ever since I began to intentionally limit my kids’ clothes, though, it has been a lot easier.

Decide The Space First

When it comes time to store away clothes for another child’s use, I limit myself to one container per year. In the first year you might find that you want to divide it up a little more (3-6, 6-9, etc). Or you may decide as they get older you want size 4 winter and another size 4summer.

If you let yourself decided by the cute clothes, you will always keep more. I like to think about it in terms of renting space in my house. I first decide how much of my storage space I want to give to clothes, and then later I will decide which clothes go in.

We live in a small apartment. We don’t have a garage, attic, basement, or storage unit. So it is imperative that I decide how much space I can give to clothes. One bin per year. That’s it.

Decide Which Clothes to Keep

After you have decided how much space to give to out of season or too small clothes, you have to decide what to keep.

First I go through everything very quickly pulling out anything that is ripped, stained or I didn’t love. If I don’t love it now, I won’t in a couple of years when Silas is ready to wear it. If it looks worn now, it isn’t going to look any better after sitting in a rubbermaid for 2 years.

Keep moving quickly and make quick decisions. If you start to labor over it, put it in the keep pile.

Once that first purge is done, I determine if I still have too much in the keep pile. If it is too much for the one the container, it has to be trimmed.

Currently, my kids have so few clothes that most things are really worn out and faded by the time I store so I don’t have to worry about this as much. In the baby sizes, though, I did, because they don’t wear their clothes out as fast.

I have put everything in the container, realized it was too much, and then pulled it all out and started the process again. Eventually I get it down to my one bin.

Only Keep the Best

When you get down to the tough decisions, here are a few things I try to think about:

  • Nothing will look better after being stored for a couple of years.
  • Clothes that are currently in style will sell better at a consignment store now than they will in a few years. (If your kids have nice clothes, this is important to remember)
  • Does someone else I know need these clothes now? I would rather bless someone that is in true need than store something for “maybe later.”
  • Memories of my child are not linked to these clothes. I have pictures and memories in my mind. The item doesn’t hold the value.
  • You will be happy to not have to go through so many clothes in a couple of years. (Trust me on this. Do the work now, you will be grateful.)

Here’s what the closet in the kids’ room looks like. I know you love seeing my closets. :) (That cardboard box is actually not clothes, I think that must be marked from some move. It is actually all the kids shoes that they have either grown out of or are waiting to grow into).

I keep the container with the clothes Silas is in now at the top so it is easily accessible. I pack away items and pull out items as I need.

When it comes time to pull out new clothes for the season or size, it is pretty easy. I just had to pull out 18mo. clothes for Silas last week, so I’m not dreaming here.

Think about it, I have already done the work to limit the storage so it is only one bin I am going through. How long can that take? In fact, this time it was only a half a bin since I was putting away 12 month in the same bin. (That is actually a little tight, but you know, apartment…)

Once I have the new size all out, I jot down some notes about what I need to get to round out the wardrobe. Keep in mind that you might get clothes for birthdays or Christmas so only buy the truly needed items.

It isn’t my favorite job in the world, but it is pretty painless. I don’t have boxes and boxes to go through. I know exactly where all the clothes are, and they are clearly labeled by size.

Remember that anything you keep is renting space in your closet. Make sure nothing is renting for free.

How do you store your kids’ clothes?

Congratulations to Christi, Terri S, and Chelo on winning the giveaway of Nurturing Creativity. Check your emails!


  1. Very good idea! I know you are an inspiration to Becky. :o) Love getting your posts!

  2. Needed the inspiration today. This is on my to-do list for the week, but I am dreading it. Though currently I’m pretty sure I could fit all Caleb’s 0-12 mo items in one bin I need them divided up a little more. Yes, I’m already packing away some 9mo stuff! C.r.a.z.y!

    • The good thing about the little clothes is that they are smaller so don’t take as much space. When they get bigger they take more space but they also get worn out more so there is less to store. Evens out in the end, I think.

      • I think the U.S. will be in the bottom 2 beuacse we’re still so driven by the right-wing religious that the politicians keep pandering to them. I have hopes that some day my son will be able to marry the man he loves and be able to be open about it. Unfortunately, in Wisconsin there is a law on the books that if you get married out of state and movecome back to Wisconsin you could be put in jail for it. I don’t think it would stand a court challenge but it’s bad enough to just have it on the books.

  3. I do something similar to what you do. Since my kiddo is a girl, I’ve gotten creative with her clothing: dresses later become shirts, pants become capris. She’s quite thin so it’s surprising how well it works. But, it makes it hard because if she finally grows out of a shirt that used to be a dress, I don’t really want to drag out the 12 month old box to put the dress back in for the possible next girl. Oh well, I guess I should just be grateful for how much use we’re getting out of her clothes…

    • Wow! Way to be resourceful! I do like that with leggings skirts and dresses can be used in the fall making them more useful for longer!

  4. Enjoyed seeing your closets. :) No really, I laughed when you said that this was painless although not one of your favorite jobs, because I think it is one of my favorites, strange as that sounds. 😉 I store my clothes almost exactly like you, just with smaller sterilite boxes for the sake of limiting our clothing like you mentioned. Even have a cardboard box for shoes. :) Like you said, it’s very helpful to know right where things are. In addition to swapping out wardrobes for our own quickly-growing 9 month old, just yesterday I needed to access the newborn box for a friend who’s due with a baby any day. And I continue to love and benefit from that concept of renting for free!

    • I totally should have started with the smaller boxes, but back then I didn’t worry so much about how much I was keeping. One thing I noticed is that I have more in the younger years, but as they get older I hardly have anything to keep. With so few clothes my almost 5 yr old boy definitely wears things out.
      And yes, doesn’t make it easier to find things? Love that!

  5. Thank you for this post. I store ours about the same way you do, but I also get hand-me-downs years in advance from family members. I’m grateful for the clothes, but I seem to always get tubs mixed up in the process. Don’t ask me how this happens. haha.

    My next project is to bag up all of our outgrown items and pass them along. Since we accept so many hand me downs, I usually don’t have much leftover that would sell at a consignment shop, but they would still be great for play clothes.

    • Yes, hand-me-downs are wonderful but can be hard to manage if you get a lot! And I don’t usually have much left to sell either. My kids wear things out so much!

  6. My current method is to store them in the attic in brown paper grocery bags, all jumbled up and sizes mixed together so that there’s no hope of finding what I need ever again. But I see that this might not be the preferred method…
    I have issues with clothes storage. I have such trouble saying goodbye to things. It makes me cry. Maybe your system will help. Soon I will be forced to deal with the clothes overtaking the attic and then I’ll come back here and read this for fortitude.

    • Ha! The image of paper bags stuffed with clothes in the attic is a great one, though! Oh the stories your kids will have in the years to come when they go through the bags. Priceless 😉

  7. Fortunately/unfortunately we do have a basement with lots of storage space, so it’s a little too easy to just keep things. I’ve started culling through clothes as I put them away now–into sell/give away and keep piles, and it feels so great to have less stuff in our world! I wish I had been more discerning with clothes the last couple of years! We’re also lucky to have a friend just a little bigger than my guy who shares clothes with us. We return them when we’re done for her younger son to use, which ensures that we don’t have too many of our own clothes…and we’re really using the ones we have!

    • Extra space definitely has both advantages and disadvantages, doesn’t it! That is awesome that you have someone to share clothes with. Saves lots of $$ I’m sure!

  8. “Decide the space first.” That has been helpful, but challenging since we’ve lived in a different house each time a new baby has been born. 😉

    Right now, our house (which is quite large for what we really need) has a master bedroom on the main floor, but we only use the bedrooms upstairs. Since we use the master bedroom as our guest room, and it has a walk-in closet, I store our future clothes (I have up to 2 to 4 sizes ahead for each child ) hanging up in that closet. The clothes we’ve already grown out of are in a Sterlite container. I pick up a lot of clothes at yard sales, so having them hanging up gives me a better visual idea of what I have and what I still need for each size, though I realize this isn’t an option for everyone. I’ve also done Sterlite storage for all clothes, and made checklists and labels.

    Almost 5 years into this, I’m finally realizing that it’s better for me to go ahead and get rid of (sell, donate, or share) most of the clothes we’ve grown out of, with the exception of heirlooms, smocked, or really nice clothes.

    I agree–nothing looks better after being stored for years. If it’s not in really good condition (or dark colored :)), go ahead and get rid of it sooner than later. (I learned this the hard way with a few items. :))

    I found your post timely, because I just stumbled on a Gymboree sale (dollars or less per piece!) that brought in clothes for my little boy for the next several years and next year’s summer wardrobe for my girls, so I went through and reorganized our kids clothes just this past week. I’ve been wondering what systems work best for different people.

    With our 5-month old boy, we waited until he was born to find out the gender. I had only a ziploc bag of boy outfits that I’d picked up at various times, and I actually found it wonderful not to be inundated with a monstrous amount of clothes. :) (And borrowed from a friend for the first few months.)

    Though we hope to have more children, and even if our next baby is a girl, it could still realistically be 5 to 6 years since the last baby girl newborn clothes were worn (youngest girl is 3 next month). If our next baby was a boy, then I’d be storing the baby girl clothes indefinitely. Since I’ve found yard sales and end-of-season sales to be sufficient in providing clothes at the same price I can resell them for (if not worn down too much, which they often are), I’m realizing it’s okay to let go of those clothes. :)

    I now have all our “old kids clothes” that I intend to keep stored in one Sterlite container. I’ll probably add a couple here and there as I sort through my sell and donate boxes and as we outgrow the coming season’s clothes. We do have a local consignment store that pays cash immediately, though, and that is quite nice. They only buy by the season, so now I’m perplexed by whether I should just donate it all and be done with it, or try to sell the nicer pieces (eBay or consignment), and continue to take up both time and space as I do so.

    I store our shoes in flat Sterlites that can go under the beds, but are also now in our guest closet. But like with the clothes, I’m about to go through and get rid of most of the shoes in sizes my girls have already grown out of.

    I realize this will look different for a lot of people. Various climates might mean fewer or more clothes, and even thinner or thicker clothes. Some people will have their children spaced differently, and the gender order also will predict how long and what is stored. I’ve also considered just waiting and buying the next season’s clothes as it arrives, but I still can’t bring myself to do that. 😉 I guess as long as I have space to store ahead, I will buy as I find.

    If someone is really sentimental about clothes, I’ve seen ideas of making a blanket or quilt out of the baby clothes scraps. (I think there are even companies you can send this into to have them made for you.) I might actually consider doing this if I still have clothes hanging around once our children are all older.

    • This gave me lots of food for thought. I have kept very little of Olivia’s stuff for the same reason…well and that she is really hard on her clothes.
      It was really nice having all of Stefan’s clothes for Silas — I have had to buy very little, but now I am in the dilemma about what to keep of his.
      I’ve decided to keep it all this year. By next summer we should know where we will be for the next few years (as in where Brian will end up for his PhD), and then I will make the decision.
      I’m kind of with you, though. I really don’t like having to keep it all. I’d rather shop clearance and consignment shops and not have to keep so much stuff “just in case.” Hard call to make sometimes.

  9. Hello, I like the way you have organised your information on your website, Do you find the fashion industry changing much. Thanks for the great information and informative posts.

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