Decluttering Clothes, Closets, and Wardrobes for your Children

The Keep Pile

One of the biggest challenges in Minimalism and Decluttering is getting your family on board.  While my wife and daughter have been supportive in my efforts, they haven’t always been as enthusiastic about decluttering their personal items, or at least not as much as I’d like them too.

That’s one of the things about decluttering and downsizing, we each have our own personal level of tolerance for how minimal we want to go.  In our family, I’m the most minimal, followed by my wife, and then our daughter.  The interesting thing is, our daughter loves to declutter and is totally on board with downsizing — right up until the next time she’s at a store and sees something she just has to have.  It’s an ongoing challenge to encourage her to downsize and then to stay downsized.

Today we are talking about clothes.  My daughter loves clothes, and my wife finds it hard to resist cute clothes for our daughter. She doesn’t go completely overboard, but a few times a year she’ll pick up something cute that she sees at the store.  Over time, those few items along with gifts on birthdays, Christmas, and various other times throughout the year, it really adds up.

My daughter and I go through her clothes and declutter them from time to time.  But, I’m not sure we’ve ever done it enough to overcome the influx of new items.  My daughter and I do most of her decluttering together.  My wife has to sit out of those decluttering sessions, because the sentimental side of her finds it hard to part with all the cute little things our daughter has.  That is totally ok, and it’s good that my wife recognizes this and lets us declutter without her.  We do a final veto session with my wife at the end of any of decluttering, just in case there is something that we should be keeping.  She usually catches the items that were special gifts or are needed for one reason or another.

When we moved from our apartment to our new house, we dedicated one room as a play room.  That meant that the only stuff in her room should be clothes.    We somewhat naively assumed that since all she had was clothes in her bedroom that it would be easier to keep clean.

Look at the picture below and you can see how that worked out.


If you are thinking total disaster, you are correct.

Ever since I downsized my wardrobe I’ve been encouraging my wife and daughter to do the same, but they have been reluctant to downsize too much.  After all, our daughter does wear almost everything she owns, and most of her clothes are totally cute.  That had always been the justification to keep all the clothes, but it doesn’t work.  There is a constant mess in her room, her dresser and closet are overflowing and it takes more time to wash, dry, and fold everything.

I’m not sure if all kids have trouble putting away clothes, but I know I did and I know my daughter does.  With all the clothes not put away, and clean clothes mixed with dirty clothes it often takes her a long time to find something to wear.

As I was saying, this past weekend we reached the breaking point with our daughters clothes.  I put forth the suggestion that we go more extreme in downsizing than we had in the past.

My thought was to keep 7 days worth of clothes.

Downsizing to that level would allow her to keep her very favorite pieces of clothing while making it easier to keep her room, dresser, and closet in order.

We gathered all her items up and took them downstairs to the family room where we had more space to work.

Pile of clothes to declutter (cat included for scale)

Pile of clothes to declutter (cat included for scale)

We sorted the items into piles according to the type of clothing.  T-shirts in one pile, shorts in another, long pants in another, and so on.

After sorting the piles, I held up each item for her to say “keep” or “toss”.  (Toss meaning donate in this case.)  If she was on the fence about any one item we put it in the keep pile.  After sorting, we counted the items again.  In some cases we had too many and went through another round until we were down to 7 items or less.

We ended up keeping 7 T-shirts, 7 tank tops, 3 crop tops, 7 shorts, 7 long pants, 3 skirts, 4 bloomers/bike shorts, 3 pajamas, and a 2 dresses, for a total of 43 items.

The Keep Pile

The Keep Pile

There is some duplication here that could be downsized further, but we are going to see how this goes at this level.  In the summer and on weekends she typically wears tank tops, but she can’t wear those at school, so we had to keep a number of t-shirts for school and occasions where a tank top isn’t appropriate.  She sometimes combines a crop top with a tank top so we kept a few crop tops for that purpose.  We also needed certain items for cheer and gymnastics, like the bloomers/bike shorts to wear under her looser fitting shorts.

She now has what is essentially a capsule wardrobe where she can mix and match items.  She is down to her very favorite items of clothing, so she always feels good about the way she is dressed.

We donated over 60 items of clothing.

The Donate Pile

The Donate Pile

Her drawers are no longer overflowing and her closet is no longer jam packed.  We moved all her shirts to hangers in the closet, which freed up room in her three drawer dresser to dedicate to her other clothes.  One drawer for shorts and pants, one for socks and underwear, and one for pajamas and accessories.

We’re a few days into the new smaller wardrobe and she told me how much she likes her downsized wardrobe.  The challenge now is to keep it this small with the influx of gifts that occur.  Before Easter my mother asked what size clothes our daughter wears.  This was before we downsized, but we told her that she had enough clothes and recommended a toy that she’d been eyeing instead.  My mother came for a visit a few days after we downsized her wardrobe, and she gifted our daughter with an outfit anyway.

After she left, we asked our daughter if she wanted to keep it instead of one of her other outfits.  She said no, so now we’ll likely take it back to the store and see if we can get store credit.  I feel bad that my mother gifted stuff that we won’t be keeping, but I would feel worse if our daughters wardrobe returned to the prior state of chaos.

Downsizing my wardrobe has been the area with the most impact for me, and I hope it will be for my daughter as well.  Getting dressed is so much easier now, as everything I own is a favorite and I always feel good in the clothes I own.  I have less choices, which makes the early morning decision making easier.  I feel good when I walk in my closet and see everything neat and orderly.  I wanted all those things for my daughter, and I feel like we are finally there.  It took a number of years for everyone in the family to agree.  Now that we have agreed, I think everyone will have less stress as applied to the closet and dresser, the act of getting dressed in the morning, and the amount of laundry that needs to be done at any given time.

It can take a long time for minimalist ideals to spread to your family, but the wait is worth it.  (Tweet this)

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