Tough Love Guide to Outgrown Kids Clothes

So you have 28 storage totes of outgrown kid clothes in your garage, organized by gender, size, and possibly also by season. (Or maybe you just chucked it into the totes to organize “later.”) It’s time to make some decisions.

If you work full time, or you’re at home with a high needs newborn or something, maybe you’ll only be able to get through one or two totes today. If you’re a stay at home mom of school-age kiddos, maybe you can finish everything.

No pressure though. This isn’t all or nothing. Something is better than nothing. And ohbytheway, it’s Friday, and you have the whole weekend ahead of you. Time to do this.

(And if you don’t have kids? No problem. I’m sure you have some clothes of your own to sort through!)

Grab four boxes or crates to sort into:

  • Keep – Future Child: This is stuff you still think is really cute, will probably be in style still by the time you have another child, and is in GOOD SHAPE.
  • Keep – Sentimental: These are things you might save for your future grandkids, or maybe just to hold in your hands and smile at the memories they hold for you. They could be a special handmade item, or something worn to a certain memorable occasion.
  • Donate: Perfectly good items only.
  • Trash: Maybe you didn’t realize how worn out or stained it was when you originally stored it!

Some things to consider as you sort:

    1. Remember how much laundry you did when your kids were babies? Remember how many outfits they had in their closets or dressers that still hadn’t been worn, when the washing machine was FULL of things that HAD been worn? The next kid doesn’t necessarily need 52 spring dresses. Just because something is nice AND in good shape AND timeless doesn’t mean you HAVE to save it for a future child. You can just save your few favorites. Really, kids don’t need the gigantic wardrobes they often end up with. And you’ll be thankful when you have less laundry to wash, fold, organize, and store, and more time to snuggle your baby.
    2. Don’t go overboard with the “sentimental” stuff.  You might have a photo of your child wearing it, and that might be enough. And something isn’t necessarily special enough to store and save forever just because so-and-so (including yourself) made it. Sometimes those things are better off passed on to continue being worn by other children until they’re all “used up.” That is a VALID way for handmade items to spend their time on this earth. Remember that you also have the memories IN YOUR HEAD and that you don’t need the clothes to hold those memories for you. You really, truly don’t.
    3. When you’re saving things you think your grandkids might wear someday, remember that THEY TOO will have 52 spring dresses as babies, and if you save too many items without clear reasons, they will probably each be dutifully worn once “because grandma needs a picture of this” and then ironed and stored for the next family baby. On the other hand, if you save one really special outfit that was a favorite of your child, or that has a special story, it will probably be cherished and worn frequently by grandkids.
    4. No one wants your garbage. Please keep that in mind when making donations. You should only donate perfectly good clothes that are not stained or pilled, faded, or worn out. They should also not be completely out of style. If you’re thinking, “Those people will just be so grateful to have a shirt at all” that’s the wrong way to think about it.”Those people” want their kids to look cute just as much as you do. “Those people” don’t want their kids to LOOK like they were dressed from someone else’s trash. “Those people” are just like you. Oh, and “those people” will probably also see lots of way NICER donations right next to your garbage on the rack at Goodwill (if yours even makes it through the original sorting by the facility) for the same price. Check yourself if you’re thinking like that, and actually throw away your trash. Donate things that people will want.
    5. Let it go. If you’re not going to have any more kids (or won’t for a decade or so), you really need to let go. Also, it is not your job to store the cutest items for future kids your non-pregnant siblings or friends might have someday. If you think it’s special enough for someone to want for a future child, offer it to them NOW. If they agree about how perfect it is, THEY will store it until a baby arrives in their life. If they disagree, you just need to set that item free.
    6. Trash. Throw it away. Don’t save it to make SOMEthing later, because then you’re just a crazy person saving a box full of trash.

Now, actually take the donations somewhere. Thrift stores are good options, but women’s shelters often accept children’s clothes too. I’ve also seen foster parents posting on Facebook a lot of times, asking for certain sizes/genders for children they’re taking care of.

Throw away the trash. Really.

Store your sentimental items in a special place, and go ahead and sort your future kid clothes by size before storing again. You should have a LOT smaller volume of this stuff now!

Congratulations! You’ve just helped a lot of people (with quality donations) and freed up a bunch of storage space for your own family. 

Chime in

What’s the strangest piece of clothing (your own or your kids’) that you’ve held on to for forever?
How about the piece of clothing with the most important story?

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19 Comments on The Tough Love Guide to Outgrown Kids' Clothes

  1. Emily says:

    My parents limited my childhood clothing and artifacts to one (and only one) box. As an adult, it’s really nice to have everything in one place and to see my baby blanket or the dress my grandma stitched for me. Those are things to pass on to my kids! It’s definitely necessary to declutter kids’ stuff, but also important to keep some things for later 🙂

    • I love the one-box limit. I do have a few very special things saved… and also have one box for each kiddo. Now and then I go through and get rid of things that I realize aren’t as important as they seemed at the time, so by the time they’re adults, I’ll only have the very most special items for them.

  2. Tina says:

    Hey! I’m a college student, and when I moved out of my parent’s house to live on campus I did some MAJOR organization and purging of everything I owned. I realized, as I’m sure many of your kids soon will, that I had a TON of t-shirts! Middle and high school band tees, clubs and organizations, concerts, you name it. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them, but they were crowding my drawers and I knew there was no way I needed them all to actually wear, so my grandmother helped me come up with a solution: we made a t-shirt quilt! It was a summer project, and took a lot of hard work, but it definitely paid off!

    Here’s how we did it:
    1. cut out whatever part of the shirt (front/back) into the smallest possible square/rectangle
    2. iron on interfacing to the back to make the panels sturdier
    3. use scrap fabric (we had a roll of plain black knit in gramma’s sewing room) and line the panels to make them all the same size, using the largest one as a base
    4. attach the panels to each other in columns of equal length, then attach the columns to each other
    5. (optional) I had enough to make it double-sided (yeah, LOTS of tees), so I did it all twice
    6. with wrong sides together, attach both sides of quilt all around, leaving one corner open
    7. flip inside out, sew remaining corner, and top stitch

    VOILA! My quilt came out the perfect size for a full-sized bed, and is now in my room at my apartment.

    Hope this helps some of you guys, it was a perfect way to declutter my closet AND spend a fun summer with my grandmother!
    Lots of love,

    -Tina 🙂

    • That’s so awesome that you made something so usable (and cuddly) out of what could have been just tons of clutter/overflow in your drawers. Way to go! I’m working on a quilt right now of my son’s baby clothes. I hope it ends up big enough for him to use for an actual blanket.

  3. Katie says:

    I do that as I switch sizes and seasons in the closet. I would never give a stained something to someone because I throw away stained things people give me. It’s TRASH people!!

  4. Laura says:

    I’m pretty goood about getting rid of things as soon as they are no longer useful even if it means I may have yo buy something similar down the line. Mostly because my mom is NOT. She has my brothers first diaper as a keep sake. And he is 35!!!!!! She saved a bunch of our baby stuff, but is afraid to give them to me because she thinks I’ll give or throw them away.

  5. Rebekah says:

    I’ve become something of an anti-hoarder in recent years. In fact, yesterday I went to grab a coat and couldn’t find it. My first guess was not that it was elsewhere but that it had been a victim of one of our many stuff-purges.

    So, far I think I’ve only set aside a few of my daughter’s things for sentimental reasons, like an adorable little outfit we bought her on our babymoon. The next kiddo is a boy…so pretty much all of the clothes I was saving are going away.

    It’s much more likely that *my* mom has saved something of mine for her! I know there’s a threadbare nightgown (?!) but there’s also the Cabbage Patch Kids suitcase I used to take to my grandparents all the time. The latter is very cool.

  6. Sheri says:

    One task I actually do on a regular basis. Twice a year at the changing of the seasons. When the youngest is done with them, I keep a favorite outfit of each of my girls (10 & 5) and give the rest of the clothes to others as hand-me-downs.

  7. Jenn G says:

    Please, please, please don’t TRASH them — take them to a place that recycles them!!! My kids’ school has a bin out front that will cart them off (and donate money to the school, bonus!) and break things down to base fibers to be used again.

    It’s a great way to get rid of old and holey socks, undies, ratty old dishtowels, and clothes that just can’t or won’t be used again.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Yes! This is bang on time for reminding me about this task. I recently donated some bits – thankfully without a “head up my ass” attitude 😉
    I still have more to do as I held onto his newborn outfits. Sentimental, no other reason!
    I’ve kept 20 favourite items to have made into a quilt – by a professional. Clearly if it was by me I’d be waiting a long time.

  9. Apple says:

    This is actually the next thing on my “to-do” list. We finally got a dresser for A12m and it’s just sitting in my room right now just waiting for all the clothes to get sorted into it. I have been putting it off b/c I KNOW it will be hard for me to get rid of her baby clothes. It’s also hard b/c I am in the in-between stage of not knowing if we are going to have another baby or not. I am going to get it done TODAY though b/c my hubby is coming home early and he can watch the kids while I sort through all her piles of clothes.

    • Not knowing does complicate things, but I still think you should only save your very favorites. Even if you DO have another child, it might be opposite sex / different season (so different sizes for each season of the year than previous child), etc.

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