Managing Clothes for a Large Family: 4 Moms

moms of many manageThis week the 4 Moms of Many  are talking about organizing, shopping for and managing all those clothes.

Managing clothing is one of my least favorite tasks. It seems that no sooner do all the children have a sufficient number of nice outfits that 7 of them will put holes in the knees of their ‘going-out’ jeans and 3 of them will stain one of their nice shirts. However, since I haven’t been able to convince anyone in my family to simply forego clothing altogether we just keep on doing the best that we can.


Limit the amount of clothing

Here are our basics for each child:

  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 2 Sunday outfits for boys and 3 for girls
  • 3 pairs of nice, going out clothes
  • 5 pairs of everyday clothes (I’ve learned to designate one of these outfits as a ‘backyard only’ outfit, otherwise all of these get way too worn out.)
Our older children are given the option of opting out of this system and managing their own laundry and clothing storage.
We store out-of-season or wrong size clothes in our garage in boxes sorted according to gender, size and season. (i.e. GIRLS, SIZE 3, WINTER)

Manage hand-me-downs

Most large families deal with a lot of hand-me-down clothing.  Here is my strategy:

  • Pull each item out of the hand-me-down bag/box and evaluate it’s condition and style. If it’s not in nice condition or not something your children would wear, place it back into the bag/box to giveaway.
  • If it passes the condition/style test, sort it by season, gender and size.
  • Now it’s time to find out which of these items of clothing your family needs. Pull out your clothes storage boxes that correspond to the gender, size and season of your ‘new’ hand-me-down clothing. If the box is full, I take a quick look to see if there is anything in the box that I’d like to swap out for something that’s nicer in the handed down clothing. If the box isn’t full, I just put the ‘new’ clothes into it.

Don’t store too much

Since we’ve been blessed with both boys and girls spanning a wide range of sizes, we simply aren’t able or willing to store clothing from the time Amber (15) wears it until Bella (1) is able to wear it. Besides something that is 14 or so years old often won’t be in wearable condition. God has always provided our family with clothing, so rather than store an item for several years before it’s used again, we pass it on to someone who will be able to use it and trust that God would provide more clothing for our family when they are needed.

My rule of thumb is that I keep what a child will be growing into within 1-3 years. If no one will be wearing an outfit in the next three years, we pass it on.

Shop second hand

’cause if you spent lots of money on their clothes, you might not survive stunts like this.

If you follow my system for sorting, storing and limiting clothing, you should have a list of items that your children need. Depending on where you live, yard sales can be the best source for children’s clothing. Here are some guidelines that I use for shopping (and buying) at yard sales.

If yard sales aren’t an option then consignment stores often provide nice clothing at discounted prices.

You may be interested in how I clothed our entire family for years on $25 per month.

Have a plan for laundry

Here are several different laundry systems for large families (click link for a description of each system):

  • Three basket laundry system
  • Laundry day
  • Personal responsibility laundry system
  • Room by room laundry system
  • Family closet
More info on managing clothes. (I’ve written a lot on this topic because, well, I deal with lots of clothes.)

Now it’s your turn to share your tips for managing clothes.  Please play by these rules:

  1. You must link to a specific relevant post on your blog.
  2. Your post must include a link to at least one of the 4 Moms blogs.
  3. The post you link to must be completely family friendly.

If your link is deleted, you probably didn’t follow one of the rules above. Please feel free to add your link again once you have fixed the problem. If you don’t know why your link was deleted, please ask.

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Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms  of Many to see how they manage all those clothes:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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19 Responses to Managing Clothes for a Large Family: 4 Moms
  1. abba12
    January 19, 2012 | 8:27 am

    One of the biggest issues for me is sizes. How do you deal with the vast differences in sizes? I mean I personally have S,M,L and XL all in my wardrobe, all which fit, just different brands make different measurments. I know growing up we would find a child who was technicly a size 5 would find some size 5 items didn’t fit, some size 4 did and some size 6 did.

    Do you go through all the possibly fitting sizes? Do you just put them in the bucket and hope they all fit at the same time? Do you label them by your own sizes?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I touch on this a little bit in the post where I explain the process of the seasonal clothing switch. We have several children who wear “next door” sizes. (i.e. A girl who wears 6 and a girl who wears 7/8.) I generally just go through those two boxes with the two of them.

    Generally speaking I haven’t found a huge range in clothing sizes for children and I can find plenty of clothes that fit for each child in the box that is their size. If there aren’t enough clothes that fit in their size box, we will look in the box larger (or smaller) whichever seems will work.

    There are a few items that are noticeably larger or smaller than the size labeled and those items I simply put in the box that is closer to the actual fit of the garment.

    Hope that convoluted answer helps some. 🙂


  2. AnneJisca
    January 19, 2012 | 8:56 am

    I have a similar storing system, although I only have 2 children so far! 🙂 I get a lot of hand me downs from my youngest brother (I have boys), and friends. I sort through clothes, put them in bins labeled by size. Whatever fits in the bin I keep and nothing more! My bins include winter/summer clothes, but not coats/hats/mitts since those take so much room and we live way up North (in northern Canada), so those have their own organization system. 😉 When my 2nd son was born, I was blessed with loads of new outfits that fit in the first year. They were cute, and way exceeded what fits in the bins of those sizes! So I went through and got rid of some other outfits that were cute, but not as cute. I stick to my rule that of one bin for size!! I still feel like it’s too much clothes sometimes, yet my sons fit their clothes a bit differently, so it’s working out good with some outfits working better with son #2 then they did with son #1.


  3. Carrie@OurFullHouse
    January 19, 2012 | 10:23 am

    I have the same problem with going out clothes…mostly with the boys and their pants. I have come to point that I keep one pair of jeans for each of the ten and under boys in my closet on the shelf. They are not worn to play in the yard, do animal chores or wrestle in…they are just for going out. This seems to help, but they are still boys. Eventually the pants have to rotated with a new pair and the older ones go into the play clothes pile.

    Thanks for the great tips!


  4. Rachel
    January 19, 2012 | 12:09 pm

    I have 3 children: boy 4, girl 3 and boy 7 months and we are overrun with clothes!!! Our clothes are out of control. My daughter received 6 new dresses for Christmas! We don’t tell anyone what to buy our children for gifts; however, I did mention to my mother that the children didn’t need clothes when she asked. She said she understood, but she said she could not resist buying matching outfits for the boys and a dress for their sister. They are her only grandchildren.

    I give clothes all the time to my neice and have a bag of boy’s clothes ready to go to a friend.

    I feel bad to complain because we are so blessed. I think it is very wise to have limits on clothes.


  5. Hannah @ Treasuring It Up
    January 19, 2012 | 1:04 pm

    Thank you for this! I have a daughter and a son with great hopes for more in the future. I’m inspired by your recommendation to pass on clothes to others if they do not have the potential for passing down in a few years. I know I’ve been blessed by hand-me-downs and with no sibling recipient on the horizon (yet), I think I’ll just pass some on to those that can use them!


    Blessed Roots Reply:

    I agree – I feel a new freedom, along with an urge to run to the nearest bin and get rid of clothes that will not be worn in the next 3 years!!! I only have one son (and four girls) so far, and he is almost 7 – I do not need to hang on to all of the boy clothes!!!!


  6. Molly
    January 19, 2012 | 6:34 pm


    I love your system. I buy LOTS from out local Children’s resale shop but clearly need to get serious because I have never done it for $25 a month and I have fewer kiddos.

    I do have a question about your “quantity” limits. I like the idea of having 5 “everyday” outfits. But my kids are under the age of 4. Do you find that with little kids who are potty training or have blow outs that 5 outfits is enough without daily laundry?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Molly,

    With our family of 12, I do laundry everyday regardless. It’s been a seriously long time since I’ve been able to do laundry less than that.

    Obviously, you would want to adapt any suggestion to whatever will work best for your family.


  7. Blessed Roots
    January 21, 2012 | 9:39 pm

    I had a blast cleaning out closets today thanks to this post. Now I have to deal with the piles in my bedroom – but at least I have a plan :)!! Now I need to know, what do you do about shoes? Do you just save nice looking church shoes and get rid of the rest? Get rid of them all? I’d love to hear your wisdom on this!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Oh the shoes, the shoes. I hate dealing with shoes. 🙂

    I only have one medium size bin for shoes, so I don’t keep very many.

    I try to only keep like-new, high quality shoes that will be worn in the next year or two.

    I also keep little tiny shoes because they rarely get worn out.

    Sorry, not much help on the shoe angle.


  8. Susie Homemaker
    January 23, 2012 | 11:40 pm

    Love these ideas, I’m starting to think that way as well, I must agree. We keep certain things like coats & winter gear, maybe some shoes & dresses, but the Lord will provide the need as it comes; we bless others & we are blessed! When I get hand me downs I look thru immediately & put some in a labeled bin & give 1/2 away.


  9. Jarnette
    January 24, 2012 | 3:36 pm

    It’s always great to participate in your linky…and I love reading what your followers do to stay organized and manage the homes the Lord has given them. Thanks for hosting!

    Blessings in Him ~

    P.S. We do laundry everyday too…all it takes is a day of not doing a load and whoa how quickly it backs up! 😉


  10. Carla
    January 24, 2012 | 8:28 pm

    I do not have a blog, but I do have a tip for remembering whose clothes belong to whom when sorting them. I put 1 dot in permenant marker on the oldest son’s clothing tags. Then when it is passed on to the second oldest I add a dot so he has 2 dots. Etc, through the kids. So, if you pull a pair of jeans out that have 3 dots you know it is the 3rd child’s. If not I am standing there looking at a shirt trying to remember which kid wears it because I know it was the oldests at one time, but I think it now fits the next to the oldest now. Hope I explained that and it helps.


    Heather Reply:

    I just wanted to thank the person who suggested coding the clothes by dots (1 dot per child). I have often done the same thing- staring at the clothing trying to remember who is wearing it now! This system will also be of great help to my husband when he helps with the laundry because he really has no idea who the clothes belong to!


  11. Cheryl
    April 26, 2012 | 7:14 am

    Question about your “backyard only” clothes designation — my children play in the backyard every day. Would you have your children change their clothing to play outside and then change back into their other outfit? And how about Summertime when so much time is spent out of doors? lol


  12. julie
    December 14, 2012 | 9:23 pm

    Got here via Pinterest. Very interesting to read how different families manage the laundry issue. It seems to me that which particular plan a family uses is not as important as having a plan to keep the laundry moving and organized.

    I have 10 children, 10 months -17 yrs. We use a variation of the basket system. Each bathroom and the youngest children’s bedroom have dirty clothes baskets. Four children are responsible for bringing the dirty laundry to the laundry room and sorting it every day (except Sunday).

    My 3 oldest are responsible for washing, drying, and folding at least one load a day (usually this involves folding whatever is in the dryer, moving a load from washer to dryer, and starting a new load). I monitor the progress to make sure everything is getting washed and do a load myself if things back up.

    Each family member has a dishpan for clean clothes and daily each person puts up their clean clothes, and the middle kids help the youngest ones. Hanging clothes go on a rack and get put up once a week.


  13. Jenn
    January 5, 2014 | 6:50 pm

    I know this is an old post, but are you available for questions?


  14. Britni
    July 18, 2017 | 1:29 am

    I love this!! Im a mom to 8 ages 7mo-12yrs. Thank you for your ideas. Laundry is my biggest chore/battle. I feel like Im constantly getting rid of clothes yet theres always more to give away lol God bless <3


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