Maternity for Engineers: Organizing baby and kid clothes

August 8, 2021

A few months ago, I re-did our baby and kid clothing organization system and it's much easier to use now! This is most likely to be applicable to folks who get a lot of hand-me-downs, or are trying to save clothes from older kids for younger kids.

My first tip is to group together clothes first by type, then age. Originally I tried to keep all the clothes with the same age/size range on the label together, but that got unwieldy to keep organized when either the top half or the bottom half of a particular child grew at different rates. When I went searching for something, I'd always be thinking "I need a hat" or "I need a coat" and only then trying to figure out the right size. Plus, a lot of the sizes on the labels are just total lies anyway so it's helpful to have items of the same type grouped together so you can compare directly and go a little bigger or a little smaller if needed.

These are the categories I have:
  • Top: further subdivided into short-sleeves and long-sleeves as separated from each other but still grouped together by size. Also includes onesies and t-shirts, though note that I pretty much got rid of all t-shirts at sizes below 2T because I prefer not worrying about tops riding up.
  • Bottoms: similarly subdivided by shorts and pants but still grouped together by size overall, as this is really about waist/butt size
  • Footed onesies: we love these and never distinguish between daytime clothes or pajamas for our kids, all clothes are comfortable enough to sleep in and it reduces hassle. If you love cute kid clothes you should indulge it! But it's not necessary imo--I mean why not take advantage of a time when it's socially acceptable to wear pajamas all day, every day, and have everyone think it's really cute?!
  • Outerwear
  • Shoes and accessories, both winter and summer (hats, mittens, swimwear, socks)
  • Sleepsacks
  • Special occasion: for example we have a white leggings/cardigan set as part of a baptism outfit
  • Newborn: ok this violates clothing by type but all the newborn stuff is so tiny and no longer used in the blink of an eye, so it seemed easier to have one storage bag for all those and then start diving by type for the 0-3m size range and up
  • Cloth diapers/burp cloths
  • Feeding apparatus: suction plates, baby spoons, mesh feeders, etc.
  • Breastfeeding supplies: pump, bottles, nursing covers, sterilizing bags, pump parts
  • Baby blankets and transportation textiles: carriers/wraps, stroller blanket bags
Speaking of sizes, one quick tip is any of the clothes that you discover are really egregiously the wrong size, just write the actual size on the tag with a Sharpie. Or just know that, for example, the white Gerber onesies we would sometimes use as undershirts were always at least a full size range too small, so they should just always be put with the next size down.

As always directed by our patron saint Marie Kondo, if there are any types of clothing that you never reached for with your older kid because they didn't spark joy (you just didn't like them), set them free and donate! Baby gift givers seem to tend to remember specific clothing items in less detail than "oh it was cute and cheap" and if somehow the question does ever come up of "what happened to ____," there's a very easy out that it got too stained by a blowout or puke to be usable again.

Wherever you store the kid clothes that are currently in use, I recommend having at least an outbox for clothing and possibly also the box that has the next size up (inbox). This can just be shoeboxes or baskets in a closet or up on a higher shelf since you're not necessarily reaching for these each day. It's helpful to have a designated spot for the "oh these are too small now" clothes near where you dress your kids and go through that realization. Similarly, it's convenient to have the next batch of clothing to be used right there, even if you store the next few sizes up elsewhere. It's easier to dress a baby in slightly oversized clothing than undersized clothing. An outbox/inbox system makes it less overwhelming to try to keep up with the organization when you have to "graduate" a size of clothing every few months or so.

Speaking of storage, these are the products I use for the clothes:
  • Ziploc Space Bag Flat Medium (Amazon affiliate link): I haven't actually used a vacuum with these, I mostly just make sure to put a notecard with a label for the bag contents and then kneel on the bags to squeeze out air as I zip it shut. This size is mainly useful because it fits well in with the storage totes, like files in a filing cabinet.
  • Sterilite 66qt ClearView Latch Box Clear: these are not always the sturdiest but they stack well overall and you can see into them. I'll use painter's tape on a consistent side of these bins to label the contents as well.
  • 5 Tier Wide Wire Shelf - Made By Design: these are the most cost-effective shelving of this type that I found between Target/The Container Store/Home Depot/Ikea etc. These will fit two of the 66qt Sterilite bins side-by-side, with a slight overhang in front of and behind the shelf, but manageably so. I did a lot of calculations to try to get a good bin and shelf size combo and this is what I landed on. There are fancier systems if you really want to get into it for your garage or basement, but this seemed good enough for now.