Reader Miriam submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
How do I get a handle on children’s clothing (shorts, school clothes, skirts, pants, capris, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters…etc. etc)? I am awash in laundry with little closet space! And I’ve tried to think of it in terms of how many days of clothing (2 weeks) might be ideal yet am still overwhelmed (I’ve two girls who wear the same size!) … HELP!
I recommend starting this process by sorting your daughters’ clothing into warm and cool weather piles. Put all the summer-appropriate things in one pile, and the winter-appropriate things in another. You may also have a third pile for multiple-weather items, like jeans, socks, and underwear.
Assuming that your daughters are under 14, you can now get rid of all of the summer items and, if they’re in good shape, give them to charity. There is no way that your daughters will be wearing the same size next summer, so clear out these items permanently. If your daughters are high school age and have finished their growth spurt, sort the summer clothes into keep and purge piles. Put the keep items into pest-proof storage for the winter and, if they’re in good shape, pass the purge items onto charity.
Once you have the summer clothes out of the way, you will hopefully begin to feel a sense of relief and won’t be too overwhelmed with the rest of this process.
Next, immediately purge any items that are ill-fitting, damaged, or out-of-style. (Your daughters will be able to tell you what’s “not cool” in their closets, even if they’re as young as kindergarten.)
After this, look at what is left and decide if you need to continue. If you need to keep cutting clutter out of their closets, I recommend sorting by purpose — your kids might have school clothes, dress-up clothes, play in the mud clothes, and uniforms for clubs or teams. Once these purpose piles are created, bring each down to a manageable size. As you suggested in your question, two weeks worth of school clothes sounds like a good idea to me. Each girl probably doesn’t need more than three or four dress-up outfits, one or two play-in-the-mud pieces, and, if applicable, just one or two uniforms per club or team. Look at your family’s schedule, though, to get these numbers right for your needs.
Finally, it may be time to have your daughters start to do their own laundry. By fifth or sixth grade, children can be responsible for taking care of their wardrobe. If you can teach them how to take care of their things, you won’t be swimming in laundry any longer. Good luck!
Thank you, Miriam, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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