Big Family Clothes Swapping & Storage Solutions

Colorful t-shirts

8 kids is a lot. It’s not “19 and counting” or anything, but it’s still a lot. The bigger our family has gotten, the more I’ve had to up my game when it comes to swapping out sizes and finding good organizing solutions for clothes.

Here’s what standing in line looks like when I take my youngest 7, plus 2 buddies, to Costco:

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Two carts’ worth, folks. :)

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And the birthdays are virtually non-stop around here as well. Sometimes we do fancy store-bought cakes (Costco’s chocolate is just about the best around), but often we’ll do homemade ones.

Silas (our 8 year old) made the cake and icing for this one last month.
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Luke & Theo’s birthdays are 9 days apart, so we celebrate them together.

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With this many kids, we change out clothing bins often. Sizes change, seasons change, and I’m basically always in a mode of thrift-store-shopping for good deals so I can replenish our boys’ clothes with long-lasting, good-quality pieces at prices we can afford.

Here’s a 7-minute video about what that process looks like, a little bit of how I decide what to keep, and which style bins are my favorite:

As I mentioned in the video, because:

  • the lids are attached,
  • they’re easy to open/close,
  • I never have to look for lids,
  • they’re sturdy as all get out,
  • and did I mention I don’t have to worry about lids?

THESE are my favorite tubs! (The link is a set of 6.)

 

 

IN THE COMMENTS: Please share– what are your best tips for making this clothing-swap process easier?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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14 Responses

  1. Jo says:

    Hi, I’m kind of in the same situation as you, 5 boys with a girl in the middle. Each of the boys has a box with clothes that will fit soon. When one of them outgrows something I right away put in into the younger boy’s box. It’s a mix of summer and winter stuff in each box, but I like going through it regularly anyway, as I have no idea what I all have. My question to you – do you keep your daughter’s clothes?

    • Jess Connell says:

      OH man. I did. For years. And once we got to the point where she was growing out of the 6-8 year old sizes, I realized, good grief, we might never have another girl, and even if we do… the styles might be completely outdated, or the stains all surfacing, or the elastic all wearing out…

      So now, my approach is this: I only keep things that I absolutely LOVE, or that are irreplaceable or really difficult to find. (Examples: I still have a few of the special Chinese baby outfits our neighbors gave us when she was a baby. I have some of the dresses she wore when she was a toddler– the ones that were my favorite. Almost everything now, though, we pass on or sell once she grows out of it. She’s in size 12-14. Some of that, even if I got pregnant TODAY with a little girl, it could be almost 15 YEARS before that little girl might wear it. NOT worth storing.)

      Truthfully, I still have TOO MUCH girls’ clothes, and once I tackle our upstairs boys’ clothes swap (I’ve still got bins out and am finishing up that job; hoping it will all be done by next week!), I am planning to head down to all the bins in the basement and do another culling of those. It’s just not worth it, space-wise, to keep so many things that (now that we live in America and are no longer overseas) can be easily replaced from thrift store finds and pass-downs from friends, if God ever does give us another girl.

  2. Jo says:

    My thoughts exactly! My daughter is 9 now, and at one point I thought there are moms in our church who can really use it, and it’s just sitting in my closet. I did keep some of the newborn girl sleepers and undershirts. You never know 😉

    I keep stained clothes, and stuff with holes (really the clothes that need to go in the trash) for our week of camping. At the end of the day it gets put in the garbage, so less washing! I only take 2 good sets per child, one for the way there and one for the way back!

  3. Diana says:

    This was great! Thanks for sharing! I do a lot of the same things. I just turned our master closet into a clothing storage mini-room – unfortunately it’s not big enough, even with only one box per size, but at least it’s a start!! We don’t have a basement, and here in Phoenix I’ve been wary of storing clothing in the garage because of the heat (and the scorpions, of course). I’m right now in the process of learning about little girls’ clothes – so much more complicated than boys’ clothing!

    Love your videos and posts! Have a great night!
    Diana

  4. Anne says:

    I did the same two weeks ago, but i have Boys and Girls mixed which made it a bit more complicated because i had a box with purly boys and one with purly girls and one with neutral cloth. Since they are getting older i now can swop directly and the boxes are getting less. Only for one Problem i have not found a Solution yet how do you remember the swops? I always mix it up after the laundry and still sort the too small shirts in the drawer of the oldest because this has always been his shirt.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Use a permanent marker. :)

      Put one dot on the tag or back of each shirt or pants for your oldest son. When it passes down to your next son, put a 2nd dot next to it.

      Same for daughters.

      Then you just know “One dot = oldest son. Two dots = 2nd son. 5 dots = 5th son,” etc.

  5. Anne says:

    Great idea

  6. Renee says:

    Are you saving baby boy clothes too?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes, I am. I have one box for each basic size. 1-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24. Then 1-2 boxes per size after that.

      • Jess Connell says:

        The video doesn’t show it, but I have boys’ sizes all the way from 0-3 months, up to a 14/16 bin. For each gender, I also have a “next size up” bin that is always the place where I stash deals I’ve found for the too big clothes that don’t yet fit my oldest son, or oldest daughter.

  7. Erin says:

    Lol! This is exactly what’s going on in our house right now, too! :) Oh the BINS are everywhere!!
    One thing I started doing a couple of years ago was putting an extra laundry basket in the laundry room with a few clothes I thought they would grow into soon (within 6 months). I also used this basket to throw clothes into that got too small earlier than I expected. I should probably have two baskets. This kept unusable clothes out of the daily laundry cycle and kept clothes handy so I didn’t have to get out bins again before the 6 month season change.

    Loved watching the video!!

    During the normal season clothes change, I would grab that laundry basket and sort everything back into its place.

  8. Rebekah says:

    Oh, the clothes bins! We store ours in the same bins in our small laundry room. My rule is: one size must all fit into one bin. This includes summer and winter clothing- all in one bin. We wash our clothes every day, so the need for 30 outfits per person, is not necessary, not to mention the hassle of keeping up with so many clothes. We have 9 children and it honestly just adds to the work and clutter of the house to keep so many clothes per person. I used to have one bin for each: 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 12 months. I reorganized many years ago, and got rid of over half of those clothes and now we just have one bin for 0-12 months. I like simple and being simple helps with a large family. I also likes that it helps all of us realize that we don’t need a lot of material items. We can make do (easily) with less. By no means, are we deprived or making it hard on ourselves. Quite the contrary, as it is so much easier! I wish I had purged when my oldest one was much younger. He had 3 dressers devoted to his clothes. Now, my five girls share 1 dresser and 2 large shelves in their closet. Thank you for your blog and encouragement in this journey.

  9. Danielle says:

    I so appreciate that you mentioned getting rid of clothes YOU don’t like. I’m running into that with our 5th & 6th. I have baby clothes I keep hanging on to because it seems silly to get rid of them, but I just plain don’t like them. I think they’re ugly. So they just sit in the drawer. I threw them into the ‘get rid of’ box today! It felt SO good!!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Good; I did the same thing for a long time. It seemed wasteful to toss them until I realized I’d had them 5, 6, 8 years and never used them, LOL. Storing clothes to never be used IS wasteful!! :)

      Good for you!

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