Kids Laundry: Setting Limits & Creating Neat Drawers…

Do you have any ‘friends’ who have trouble controlling themselves when it comes to shopping for their kids’ wardrobes? This topic has been on my mind lately. I was watching Hoarders: Buried Alive, which I consider professional training. One of the recovering hoarders had a problem buying her daughter too much clothes – so much that the child didn’t even end up wearing everything or wore many things only once. What she said was so poignant to me.

Of course that was obvious to the viewers (so much easier to analyze someone else’s problems), but it reminded me how on smaller scales we all struggle with this basic human issue in very different ways. How much is enough?

Today I want to share with you limits and boundaries we can set on our kids clothes so that anyone reading this can know how much is enough.

First: How often do you do your children’s laundry? I encourage you to use this system for doing your kids’ laundry, and to take it a step further. Pick a day of the week that is laundry day for either that specific child, or all the children (your choice!), and then stick with it.

Why once a week? Less laundry means less time prepping, folding, and less clothes necessary. With babies and young toddlers, I recommend doing laundry more often than weekly, because you don’t want to let food and spit-up set into the clothes and possibly mold, because mold + fabric = ruined forever.

So now you know how often you’re doing laundry, do the math on how many outfits get worn in between washing. 1 week = 7 sets of clothes. Now add in a buffer of about 3 sets of clothes (you choose your buffer) and you get 10 sets of clothes. That is 10 outfits per season, which means about 10 pants and shirts. Find your own number using my guide and STICK TO IT. Follow this same numbers path when figuring out undergarments, socks, and accessories. Use your discretion when it comes to Sunday and nice clothing that doesn’t fit in the daily wear category. My girls usually have 3 good dresses to choose from each Sunday for church – they get a new one on their birthday, Easter, and Christmas-time. Use your best discretion with your families traditions, but buying more clothes when your children already have good options is extra.

If you make the choice to have extra, don’t live in denial with excuses that the clothes are anything but extra. If you have the means, and you enjoy shopping for clothes for your children, make the ONE IN, ONE OUT RULE. This means when your children get a new outfit, they choose something to pass on to someone else or sell.

*my soapbox* – There is an entitlement epidemic in our society. When we surround our children with excess, they live with a sense of entitlement. Trying to limit the excess in our children’s lives does not mean that they can’t own nice clothes or things, it is simply saying “enough is enough”. Children, like adults, and like the recovering hoarder: we all need to learn the ability to determine enough.

Setting limits will save you:
– Money
– Time
– Energy
– Space in the drawers/ closet

And, it will even be easier to clean your children’s rooms and closets, because it will be so much easier to keep drawers clean and manage-able. This is a win-scenario in every way!

…. And now let’s talk about creating organized drawers …

There are 2 ways to organize kids clothes into drawers.

The first way is to have separate drawers (or drawer dividers) for each type of clothing. This means pants go in one, shirts in another, etc. This is where I’m headed with my older girls for the fall. They are getting old enough where all of their clothes aren’t sold as sets and we are buying more jeans and shirts that could be mixed and matched.

The second way lends itself to younger children, just because this is how clothing for younger kids seems to be sold. This way is to keep clothing in little piles of outfits. I take this a step further and actually tuck the outfit into each other. For instance, I fold the pants, and then I fold the shirt and open up the shirt to insert the pants. This way looks really good inside of the drawers and helps little ones who are gaining independence getting dressed. My girls have always gotten to open their drawer and grab out an outfit – it takes all the guesswork out of what goes together!

The following is what I call “outfit sandwiches”, which keeps outfits together.

Either one of these ways of organizing kids clothes works so much better with LESS CLOTHES. When our children get to decide what they wear, it is actually easier for them to choose from fewer options. Hmmm … have I mentioned yet that limiting kids clothes is a good idea? Haha.

Teaching my organizing clients these kinds of limits is one of the most rewarding things I do, because people who give themselves boundaries like this feel an unexpected outcome: FREEDOM!

Do you remember my trick for slimming down your own adult closet? It is the easiest and most effective closet trick ever!

Your favorite organizer,


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30 thoughts on “Kids Laundry: Setting Limits & Creating Neat Drawers…

  1. As you know, Mary, I have problems with “extra” clothes for the kiddies….sigh….I strive to do better this fall!!

    Wanted to add that since MOST of my kids’ pajamas are sets, I have been doing “set sandwiches” with them and it is so much easier for them to grab their pj’s and actually saves room in the drawer. Will start doing this with their clothes, as well!! Thanks for another great tip!

  2. Love this! And since I’m not always sure when enough is enough with my own kiddo, I feel better prepared to keep myself in check. Also, I’ve decided to start watching “Hoarders” so I can be motivated (by fear) to clear clutter frequently. ;)

  3. Great post Mary! I totally needed this since I am getting ready to move my youngest daughter into my eldest daughters room to make room for the new baby. This means they will have to share a closet and dresser…eek! I will be working together with them this week to cut back on the amount of clothes that they have!

  4. Thankfully, we’ve been given most of my son’s clothes. But this fall, I’m going to have to buy some because he has outgrown his cousin who was handing down his clothes! We do laundry every two weeks, so your “formula” will help me figure out exactly what we “need”. Thanks! I’m subscribing. I could always use help in organizing!

    Mary Beth @newlifesteward

  5. You’ve just inspired me to drastically reduce my son’s wardrobe. He really does have way to many clothes and a habit of changing every time he gets a drop of anything on them, or the temperature changes slightly or pretty much any other reason he can think of. All that changing creates quite a mess but I think fewer options would help considerably.

  6. I love your formula. I began limiting our kids’ clothing after my daughter was 2 and we had piles upon piles of clothes… most of which she didn’t wear because they didn’t match with anything. Now I keep their drawers and closets much ‘slimmer.’ Mine are 8 and 10yrs old but I still put their clothes into outfits. It makes getting dressed so much easier. And when I make outfits up at the beginning of each season, I can see right away if I need any clothes to fill in wardrobe gaps.

  7. great ideas. I am liking the “outfit sandwiches”–especially for my 2 1/2 yr old. She wants to do everything herself. This may help.

  8. OMGosh, I cannot watch Hoarders, but I always get sucked in. You really have some great tips on your blog! Love it! Thank you for sharing this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see you again. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  9. Oh my goodness, I absolutely LOVE this post and all of your awesome advice! It’s so true about the excess epidemic… I’m getting ready to go on a major purge of all the excess… simplicity is a beautiful and freeing thing!

    Thanks SO much for linking up again at mercyINK— I’m featuring you again tomorrow! :)


  10. I just love your posts! They are so full of practical advice. I watch Hoarders because it inspires me to reduce what I have. Love your tips! Keep ’em coming!

  11. Love these tips! I always start with good intentions and then the hand-me-downs keep coming by the bag full and its so hard to get rid of everything! I’m getting ready to do a major purge and this makes me feel much better. :)

  12. Yes!!!! Especially an important self control and financial management lesson for adolescents. The key is to keep it fresh so they don’t feel deprived , and they’ll get the rest. I felt so ashamed and wasteful after pulling a mountain out of my daughters very large closet. 1 I wish we had that money and time back and 2 I didn’t do her any favors.

  13. Thanks for this!! We defenetly have an issue of excess that crating an impossible task when it come to laundry. We get so many clothes given to us that it’s hard to just keep what we need. Less clothes….less work….more fun!!

  14. You should create a “start here” panel/page. I love reading your posts you have brilliant advice but I get lost in a sea of links to other ideas that will make the one I am reading on work smoothly. And each of those to more. Something like a beginner’s basics or something. Lol thank you for your advice I will read through it all eventually!

    1. Haha! Yes, there is a lot of info over a few years! Honestly, the best place to always start is getting rid of stuff, which is why I bring that up so much. But yes, I actually have it on my to do list to write a “start here” post. :)

  15. I’m having a difficult time limiting my 13 month old daughter’s wardrobe and I’m drowning in clothes. Would you use the same guideline of 10 outfits for a toddler? I really need to set a limit but don’t know what would be a reasonable one.

    1. Toddler’s do need more for sure. I’d move the limit up to around 14. And then a handful of Sunday clothes I’d count separately from every day clothes.

  16. I do like this method and need to do it. However, I do feel I need more for my kids. Such as; packing for vacation, I prepack like a week ahead. If I only had 7-10 outfits I wouldn’t have enough left for them to wear the rest of the week. And my kids are really good at getting stuff on their clothes, I stain treat it but not everything gets out, stained items automatically go into the “play clothes” drawer. During the summer, my kids tend to make a lot more play clothes. I would feel more comfortable, buying the extra ahead of time (I only shop for my kids clothes at consignment and yard sales, they grow to fast to buy all that new stuff) and putting the extra in a storage tote so I have it. Then if I’m getting low I could go ahead and and pull out X amount of whatever I am low on. Instead of finding out I’m low and going somewhere to spend $30-50 knowing those brand new clothes are the first thing that will get a horrible stain on it that won’t come out. But of course we all think differently about our preparation and money saving strategys. My husband would love your 7-10 outfit rule. LOL!

    1. Well … it really is a personal decision, but I do think limits need to be made. Choose the level you are comfortable with, but boundaries are good.

  17. Wow, what a great post. THANK YOU. We are blessed to have plenty of clothes but frankly their drawers are overflowing and I just didn’t know how much they really needed hence the hoarding. I just have to adjust this a hair for our seasons but I see more space, time, and freedom in my future.

  18. Mary I have been following these steps for the kids clothes, but have a question…do you have a separate area for” play clothes” or are they stored with everyday clothes?

    1. Sometimes my kids keep tshirts in their pajama drawer because they wear them on messy days and to bed. And then their nice Sunday clothes are hung up in their closet. Other than that, all their clothes are “play clothes”. I just wash things really well if it get messy. Does that help? I don’t keep a separate play wardrobe for the kids because I figure they are kids and “play” in everything they wear. :)

  19. The link to “my trick for slimming down your own adult closet?” at the end of the article doesn’t work anymore. Is there a similar article that I could go to?

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