The Seasonal Switch: Make organizing your kids’ warm-weather clothes painless

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Summer days will soon be here! Don’t forget to include your child’s drawers in your spring cleaning. I used to be intimidated by this chore. How do I organize everything so I’ll find it when I need it? What should be saved, donated or tossed? When do I give clothes away? Raising two girls and two boys in different age groups has made me aware of my limited space. I’ve become resourceful.

Taking the time to organize early restocks their drawers with summer clothes and weeds out small, outgrown or totally destroyed cold-weather clothes, making it easier to plan for the future. I make these few hours fun by wearing something comfy and cranking my play list. Here are my ideas—and my friends’—for making wardrobe crossovers easy.


Plastic storage containers work best. They’re sturdy, come in different sizes, and can be stacked or hidden under a bed. Clear ones show exactly what’s inside. My friend Judy swears by colored ones. She assigns each of her children a color and conveniently coordinates everything to it. I’ve also used sturdy paper ream boxes from work that would otherwise be thrown away. They keep for years. Heavily coated department store bags or large gift bags with handles are inexpensive and easy to use as well. Some people use their suitcases. Don’t forget a black permanent marker and pen and paper.


Use permanent markers because tape can fall off with humidity. Or tuck a paper inside and against the side of clear containers, so you can read it. Classifying depends on how many kids you have and their ages. Containers for a baby are best if marked by size such as 3-6 months or 2-4T. Save smaller clothes only if they’re in good condition. Small spit-up and formula stains tend to become darker with time. Label containers by name for older children.


Older kids are able to do this on their own. My co-worker Traci has her kids go through their dressers with her and try on clothes. This way both know what should be saved and what can be shed. Younger kids have trouble focusing that long, so it might be best to do this while they’re at school. Go through each drawer, starting with underwear and socks, tossing into a trash pile what can’t be worn, even for play clothes. Write down what to replace or purchase for the next fall season. Keep off to the side the larger-sized clothes for storage for the following year, and a section for donation.


When you’re on the receiving end of donated goods, sift through them as soon as possible. Pass along multiples (onesies, T-shirts) or items that won’t be used. My oldest son hates wearing jeans, so they go straight to the donation bag. Who needs more than five or six of any one item anyway? Hand-me-downs should be in good condition without obvious stains, rips or holes. Incidentally, I love getting hand-me-downs and so do the kids, so continue the kindness with gently used clothes.


When the drawers are empty of winter garb, gather last year’s summer clothes and restock the drawers, setting aside those outgrown or designated for a different pile. Remember to retain a few warm items so the kids will be ready for Syracuse weather. Write on the list what clothes will need to be purchased for this season. Pants that are not long enough but still fit in the waist can be made into cut-off shorts with a quick hem. Instant play clothes! Load the tote or container with the save pile for next winter.


This is where most good intentions go bad. Clothes that are trashed can be used for cleaning, or use them in the garage for oil rags or washing the car. What can’t be salvaged, toss. Take any donations out of the house, even if it’s half a grocery bag and it sits in your trunk for a little while. Chances are if it’s in the house, it’ll take up space, you will forget why it’s there, or it will lead the kids to dig through it to wear their favorite red reindeer sweater in July.


I take the list I’ve made for winter clothes and stick it in my calendar under August, when I start school shopping, or closer to Christmas, when the sales start. (Or put it in your phone if you’re one of those tech-savvy people). Either way, I won’t forget what to purchase. And now all the clothes will be in one place and ready to thin out and transfer.

If you’re ambitious and have a good idea what size your child will be when the weather cools, go shopping. Yay, permission to shop! Stock up guilt free, or plan an afternoon with the older kids so you can reconnect while they update their wardrobe.

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