A “Not So Small” Success!

by | Sep 23, 2011 | Organization, Small Successes | 28 comments

Subtitled: Storing and Organizing Hand-Me-Down Clothing

As I mentioned last week, my husband has been gone on a two week training session… His last day is today, and (since this particular training is only a few hours drive away) he will be home tonight!

When he left I decided that, in addition to just maintaining (keeping up with the regular housework and homeschooling), I was going to try and get a couple projects completed that I’ve been wanting to get done for a long time.

I started with having my boys bring all the tubs and bags of clothing that were in the little storage area above their closet/bathroom to my bedroom.   It was a mess!  Big boys clothes was mixed in with little boy clothes.  Shoes were stored with the same size clothing that the last child happened to wear them with.   I even found some girl clothes mixed in with boy clothes.    I had to take everything out and re-sort through it all…  At least, with the training (unlike the unpredictable fire assignments), I didn’t have to worry about my husband coming home early to his side of the room taken over by clothing and looking like this (and much worse at times):

He arrives home tonight though, and I was able to finish in time!  I reduced the quantity of clothing down to one storage tote per size (one for boys and one for girls) and put the shoes all in smaller separate  totes.  We ended up taking a carload full of stuff to donate as well.

I did end up keeping two totes of size 4 boy and size 18/24/2T girls since those are the sizes that Snuggles and Rose are currently wearing, and I will reduce the quantity over the next few months, and only store what fits in the tote after they outgrown those sizes… An almost 2 year old girl doesn’t really need 45+ complete skirt and dress outfits now, does she?!

The closet organizers in the nursery are working out great so far!  I still need to cut the bars for the baby’s side, and get drawers and doors for the left side, but I was so excited to find the fabric drawers for Buy 1 Get 1 One Free at a local store this week!

I printed labels for each tote in word, printing two to a page (all 8 on one page for the shoes), and then attached them to the totes with some packing tape.   I am really happy with how it all turned out.  Now if I could just figure out a way to get them all in to that great new storage area above our dining room… Perhaps I should get Hubby an extension later (and a pulley!) for our anniversary next weekend on the 2nd! 😉

I am really hoping this will make finding and storing the clothes a little simpler.   I’d love to hear how you store your children’s old clothing, and how you decide what to keep!
Now that I finally have this all done, I can finally get back to a few other projects I’m working on, including the plans for Little Flowers.  But first I am going to relax and enjoy the weekend with my family!     


  1. Sarah Harkins

    oh my word. that's a gorgeous storage system you have going on. I thought I was on the ball with having things put in plastic boxes in a general area, but this very admirable! Switching out the clothes every season is such a task isn't it?! This will be so helpful for you to have it organized so well.

  2. melody

    Wait…let me pick my jaw up off the floor! lol. We have been doing this very thing all week except… mine just doesn't look like that! 🙂 Good work, mama!

  3. Karen

    Bravo on getting each size reduced to one tote! I only have girls so I only have to store clothes for one gender so far. Our hand me downs are out of control because I had several years where I never met an outfit I didn't love. Then add in a few years where my oldest daughter has worn the same size for 2-3 years and you get more clothes than one child ought to have. I have a closet that is packed from floor to ceiling with size 4-8 clothes, and we have overflow of hand me down baby clothes that have been given to us recently in two other closets. I'm trying to go size by size and weed out what we don't need so we can give it to another family who can use it. I also adopted the policy of not saving shoes that show excessive wear.

  4. Nicole

    That is a great project! Mine definitely needs more organization. It wasn't too bad with the two boys, but now we have a girl and the fourth on the way. Ahhh! 🙂

    As far as keeping clothes, I donate whatever we did not use (much of what we receive for the little ones anyway are hand-me-downs). I also donate anything starting to fray, stained, etc. I keep mostly what I really like. I don't keep shoes much except dress shoes and some slippers (depends on wear). I want to set up a list of needed clothes that I can have on hand in case I see deals and not end up overspending on clothes I don't need.

    Thanks for the inspiration! Perhaps I'll snag some of your energy. 🙂

  5. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you everyone! I'm really so excited to finally have this done… It was such a daunting task!

    Sarah ~ We've always used plastic totes in one area, but as the kids got older, and we had more and more, it got to be such a mess. With our first four it wasn't such a big deal – we had two boys and then two girls, so the clothes went from one to the next and then was boxed up – but now with our three, going boy (following his two sisters), girl, boy, it has gotten SO much harder.

    Melody ~ I couldn't have gotten this all done in a week like I originally hoped… It has taken a solid two weeks, with my husband out of town so I could take over the room with all the clothing! Good luck with your project. It feels so great once it is done! 🙂

    Karen ~ I had/have that with size 18-24/2 clothing.. My oldest daughter was in that size FOREVER, and then my second daughter looked so much cuter in different colors (due to their very different coloring) plus she was born at a different time of year, fitting the seasons at different times… I had just purchased a couple outfits for Rose last week, but after unpacking this size, and realizing that she has close to 50 outfits (plus extra tops, pants, sweats, and pjs), I think I am going to take them back to the store! lol!

    Nicole ~ I pretty much used the guidelines you mentioned for deciding what to keep. I love your idea of creating a list of what is needed! Gosh! Wouldn't that be so helpfu?! If only I was could be that organized!!

    I did end up getting rid of all shoes that had excessive wear, mainly just keeping dress shoes (my boys always have a pair of brown and a pair of black, which they don't wear outside of Mass, etc, so they are still in excellent condition) and all the girls shoes that match specific outfits and such. I never keep flip flops, tennis shoes, rain boots (my kids rainboots are usually falling apart before they even outgrown them!) and those sorts of shoes.

    As for the energy… I haven't had ANY this whole pregnancy, but a couple weeks ago I started drinking protein shakes for breakfast that my sister got me on, and not only has my ridiculous weight gain stopped, I have had more energy than I have had all year. Thankfully too, since I had no idea how I was going to keep up with school and everything else that needed to be done a few weeks ago. 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    OH my goodness! That is incredible! I have to admit though that I have only one tote for multiple sizes, lol. Except for big girl clothes, I hve a few of those, since I have such a gap between Daisy and Buttercup (7 years!). I did go through all the girl stuff last week and it was so funny to see things that were from my big girls that I saved that I would never put the kids in now they were so outdated, lol.
    I was looking through my boys things, briefly the other day and had only one tote for baby boy 0-12 months. I better go through it and see what is in there. Boys are so hard on clothes! Much worse than girls!

  7. elm

    Looks BEAUTIFUL! SO, with one big boy, two girls and one little boy… You'd think that I would have a system that would look somewhat similar to yours! BUT – I do not. I have something else entirely!

    I have a new policy. NO MORE THAN 10 outfits per child (plus only 2/3 dressy type outfits – it is nice if they are separates to mix/match!) SO, with so few outfits, they get worn out!!! SO worn out that I don't hand me down. Bud has about 5 pairs of shorts for summer and 3 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of soft/work-out type pants. In the summer, he has ~10 t-shirts. For winter I might add one or two sweatshirts and do 8 or 9 long sleeved shirts. Easiest to explain his!! Then, those things are fairly ragged by the end of the time he can wear them! So, there really isn't much to keep for handing down when there is so little!

    For the longest time, We had boxes and boxes and boxes of clothes. Both grandmas bought clothes, other family bought clothes and I bought lots of clothes because they were on sale (and I thought with lots of clothes, I wouldn't have to launder so often… but, it just created a huge mountain to deal with instead.) and we had so many things that never were worn… 20% of the stuff was worn 80% of the time. SO, now we have it to where 90% of the stuff is worn 90% of the time! The only things that 'might' be worthy of handing down are dressy items – and I feel ok just donating them if they weren't loved and wanting to be kept for "prosperity's sake." SInce I have bought only one dress per girl per season, I am not losing any money if we just donate it. I used to have 10 or 12 dresses per girl by the time everyone helped with the buying!

    The hardest part was convincing the Grandmas to find out what if anything they needed before going on a buying spree! And now, my laundry is so manageable! But, this "comment" is so long it may as well have been its own blog post! 🙂 Happy Nesting!! 😉

  8. Jessica Gordon

    Wow, good for you Amy! Thankfully, since I don't have as big of a gap (just 4 years for girls between Chiquita and Rose, and 5 years for the boys between Rascal and Snuggles) the clothes I saved is still usable and not that outdated. 🙂 In the bigger boy sizes, pretty much all I have are church shirts and pants, vests, sweaters and jackets. Their jeans and t-shirts never last! I am so careful with all the girls clothes (hang drying to preserve the colors) that it seems to last and still look really nice, even after lots of wear. (Which makes it even harder to get rid of! lol!!)

  9. Jessica Gordon

    Elm ~ I loved your idea, and really thought about trying it out (I do plan to purchase very little in the future! I already do that with the boys and rarely purchase them anything, since most of their clothes -other than jeans and church pants – comes from my youngest brothers), but the thought of having no hand-me-downs, and needing to buy around 70 new outfits (10 outfits x 7 kids) each year/season, sounded just as overwhelming! lol!

  10. Allison

    You might be the most energetic, organized and blessed lady out there!

    Like Melody, my jaw is on the floor.

  11. Unknown

    Holy Moly! Good job! That looks *fabulous* and I bet it feel so good to have it all pretty and organized.

  12. Anonymous

    God bless you! I actually hired a couple of girls from our parish to do this task!

    I organize the same way you do. I have totes for the boys and totes for the girls.

    I don't have any real guidelines on how much to keep.
    But….I have been keeping to the rule that if a new outfit comes our way that an old one goes out.

    I seriously, have a problem just chucking clothing. I am fine donating it or giving it away.
    but when a perfectly good pair of jeans gets a hole at the knee…I can't bear to throw it out. I have stacks of clothing that might be "useful" for something. Geez, I need some help!

    I store shoes in the same box they came in. The kids usually have sandals, play shoes, dress shoes and sorta in between good enough for weekday mass yet …still not dressy enough for a tie shoes!

  13. Karla in MN

    I am so in AWE of you! Is there any way that you can mail me your organization gene?..i just want to borrow it for a month or so! haha!
    Everything looks wonderful…it looks like you will be ready for your newest little Blessing…little peanut! ( no idea what your nickname for this one is, so I had to come up with my own) God bless.

  14. Mom2Seven

    Wow! I just did a seasonal wardrobe change this past weekend. I label everything, too. BUT, nothing quite as FANTASTIC as what you have done! Please rest and don't burn yourself out. Continued prayers for you and the precious little baby boy in your tummy!


  15. Kelly

    WOW!!! Great job! You really MUST do a post on that protein shake you mention. I've been seriously lacking in the energy department with this pregnancy.

    We also use the plastic totes, but I fill each one as much as possible rather than separate by size (great idea BTW). With just boys, I don't have to sort by gender. We usually ditch the old shoes and keep dress shoes and sandals in the smaller sizes. We also have too many clothes for the kids. I've been doing most of the buying lately (grandmas lean toward toys now instead of clothes), so I've greatly reduced the amount I purchase. Most stuff lasts well for 2, sometimes 3 boys. I don't mind tossing the worn out stuff after the second boy, now that there are two more following in their footsteps. 🙂

  16. Collette

    This was a beautiful sight to see!! I've been dragging my feet at changing over my children's clothes , but I am feeling inspired after reading this 🙂

    We have an age gap between our older two children and younger two, so we try to store as little as possible, and I usually end up donating quite a bit each season. But I have to say, it is hard parting with some of my daughter's dresses (I get a little sentimental – esp with the younger outfits!), so kudos for passing on so many of your little girl things!!

    I have also had great success with protein shakes! Same thing – I have so much more energy when I drink them (even when I am not pregnant). Lately I've been mixing the powder into greek yogurt for even more protein-boost 🙂 (23 grams per serving…) and blending it with frozen fruit & a banana to make it all taste a little better, LOL.

    Have a restful weekend!

  17. Mary

    Great job w/ the organization, Jessica! Love it! Just wondering….what size totes do you use to store your kiddos' clothing?

  18. Jessica Gordon

    Mary ~ The majority of the totes are the 58 qt clear storage totes from Sterilite and the shoes are in 28 quart clear storage totes, though I did use some larger totes we already had for some of the larger girl sizes. We had quite a few of them already, but I did pick up a few more (to replace some of the larger totes I was using) at WalMart… The 56 quarts totes were only about $5 each.

  19. Unknown

    Your system looks great! I have my boys stuff separated by seasons and my "big boys" clothes in one tote (these are things I have gotten from other people or I find dirt cheap and put up for later) and my "little boys" stuff in another. My two youngest boys are almost 3 years apart but wear the same size most of the time. My 5 year old is shorter and chubbier and my 7 year old is a tiny bit taller and thinner so I pack thier stuff together. By time they both wear items, I don't even save thier hand-me-downs unless it is something really nice.

  20. Mary

    Thanks, Jessica! We've been using the 40 qt. Sterilite tubs, but I'm wondering if I should start using larger sizes since my eldest's clothes are taking up a bit more space (he'll be 9 in December, but is very tall for his age)….
    Also, do you store winter outer-wear in the tubs, too?

  21. Katie V.

    Amazing! I love reading your blog. Inspirational. How do you get this kind of thing done during the day? God bless.

  22. Katie V.

    I've got three boys: 5,3 and 1. I would have to do this at night when they are sleeping. 🙂

  23. Jessica Gordon

    Mary ~ I do have one extra large tote for all of the winter/snow clothing, and one tote that holds all of the snow boots. We only use them about once or twice a year though…

    Katie ~ This project took 2 weeks, and most of what I did took place at night! (That's why it was a perfect project to do while my husband was away on training, and I could take over our bedroom!) I was able to get a little done in the afternoon after school work was completed, but not much. 🙂

  24. Jacqui

    That looks so familiar! We only have 5 but I organize the clothes in a very similar way. Once again, you're such an inspiration! God bless you and your lovely family

  25. Anonymous

    This is too funny – I use the EXACT same system with our clothes! I even have the same exact bins and make signs on the computer too!

    Just curious…What do you do with your own clothes for when the seasons change? I have a giant tote in the bottom of my closet and I switch the clothes out twice a year…Unless I'm pregnant… That's a different tote. Sterilite must love people like us!


  26. Jessica Gordon

    Katie ~ Other than storing my maternity clothing, I pretty much just leave all my clothes in my closet year round. I do have a good size walk in closet, and my husband has his own closet, but after we moved all the kids around a few years ago, my closet has become more of a storage room for all the craft/school supplies and books that don't have homes, so it is in desperate need of another organization. I have three spots for hanging clothing, one where I keep all my skirts, dresses, and jackets, and then on the other two bars one has long sleeve tops and sweaters and the other has short sleeve tops and a few other misc items. I did pack up a tote this last fall with clothes that no longer fit that I really hope to get back into some day, and that seems to be my biggest problem… my size changing so drastically every few years.

  27. Kelly

    Wow. Such a great idea. I have a lot of long sleeve tops, and pants I just took out of storage for winter (and by that I mean bags). I'm going to go out tonight and buy some containers for my summer clothes and then reuse them for the winter clothes. Maybe next season it will be alot easier to find the clothes I am looking for!

  28. Anonymous

    That is the cutest little room! Love the seating! The closet totally fits right it


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