Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Managing the Seasonal Wardrobe Project

I'm so excited that fall is finally here. The smell of pumpkin spice coffee is on the breezes flowing through our house this week, soothing the clutter and mess that changing out the seasonal clothing always ruffles up. It's a several-days process here, what with 6 kids and all. Because of that, I (long ago!) streamlined the job to a twice a year change-out.  We lump Spring/Summer together and Fall/Winter are paired. It means waiting a tad longer into the start of the school year for "new clothes" but with our early years of home-schooling, I never developed the "school shopping" habit of late summer anyway. With this system, I'm only buying clothing as it is needed, and not in one fell swoop unless there's a special occasion like a wedding or such. That change of focus has saved us a ton of money over the years. (aaaand, BONUS! I get to pitch all the "Back to School" flyers that flood the mailbox beginning in mid-July!)

This year, I'm enjoying the fact that at least 2 of the 6 kids are quite capable of pulling out all their summer gear, trying on the prospective fall clothing and making up a list of their "needs" for me without too much coaxing and prodding. Two of them need me to pretty much do the whole project FOR them. And the other 2 tend to wear the same "uniform" of shorts, jeans, and tees all year around. Which in and of itself presents a whole 'nuther project that I'm putting off till, well, when I have to face their closets in search of something for family photos.

Even saying that, " photos" is enough to make me cringe... anyone else get that? Coordinating dates for 8 of us plus one photographer friend. Coordinating clothing so that we at least look like we INTENDED to be photographed together. Coordinating the clothing so that we don't clash and maybe even, well, coordinate. OY. Sigh.

Oh, wait. Where was I? Fall clothes. Oh yeah.  I know I'm not the only momma who dreads this project. And I've had enough younger mommas ask how I manage it without breaking the bank each year that I figured it would be blog-worthy. So I'm posting these pics from our fall clothing project and sharing some organizing tips that I've picked up along the way of managing this task for my gang. AND I'm hoping to hold myself a little accountable to get it done and cleared off my To Do list by the end of the week. Anyone with me on that one?!

 There are pockets of the unfinished project all over
the house, upstairs and downstairs.
Normally, this stresses me out. But this year,
I'm drinking my Pumpkin Spice coffee and breathing through it.

Each kid has a Fall/Winter bin in their size, and a Spring/Summer bin. When the weather turns cooler, I have them haul their two bins up from storage and begin the process of weeding out the summer pieces. Generally speaking, we make three piles: return to storage, discard, and donate. In Baby BlueEyes' case, anything that is too small (or will be too small by next summer), immediately goes either to discard or donate. He's our last boy-o and there's no need to return things to storage for him. (YAY!) For the girls and the bigger boys, the "return to storage" pile can only be things that they KNOW they can wear again next year OR things that they know will not go out of "style" by the time the younger sibs get to them. I'm always excited when my "discard" and "donate" piles are big enough to fill a garbage bag or two. Truthfully, if I could pare things down to just one bin per size, holding both seasons of clothing alternately, I would. But these darned kids keep growing and those bigger clothes just don't work that way.

Having a well organized and labeled system for our clothing storage has been a lifesaver for me. I used to store them in whatever plastic bags and/or cardboard boxes that I could salvage but that got messy and pricey, too. Investing in these heavy plastic totes has really allowed us to protect the majority of stored clothing from dry rot, moisture damage, and other environmental issues.Therefore, we're saving money. And I'm all about THAT! Living in three different homes with three different storage spaces, I learned that lesson the hard way one too many times.

At this house, the bins are all stacked and stored in the basement.
An occasional hurricane forces my hand to purge and sort more judiciously than
the twice-yearly projects require.

As you can imagine, as Mei Mei is outgrowing her clothing (yay, she's gained about 4.5 lbs since April!), I'm trying to be pretty quick about passing it on and moving it out. It's a great feeling and I'm surprised at myself - I'm not even feeling sentimental about clearing things out. In fact, by the end of this week, I hope to have nothing smaller than 18 month clothing left in the bins and I'm excited by that!

When the summer clothes are sorted and stored or bagged up and the fall clothing is put away in drawers and closets, I have each kid give me a list of the "needs" and the "wants" they have for rounding out their wardrobes. Again, as they have gotten older the lists are easier to generate and in the boys' case, these lists are shorter and more streamlined. As you can imagine, my fashionista LadyBug has quite a few editions of her list before she hands me her "final copy." I have her help me plan out the list for the little girls, too. It's a great way to help LB think strategically at something she loves. Shhhhh, don't tell her but her artsy self has a hard time with planning and plotting so it's a sneaky way of teaching her some good life skills. She also helps me pare down the wardrobes for the little sisters by pulling out duplicates or past trends that I don't "see" and that "horrify" her. Heh!

I run through my clothing with the same system and check in with The Boss for his needs at this point, too. Then each person's list gets transferred to an index card that I store in my handy dandy envelope system. When I'm out running errands or I see a bargain on my online yard sale sites, I can reference the lists quickly and easily AND have an up-to-the-moment idea of how the clothing cash is holding up. I pretty much take the envelopes with me everywhere I go, especially now that it's just me and Mei Mei all day long. It's so much easier to shop and run errands with just one little sweetie and NO half-day kindergarten routine to work around.

When the needs and even some of the wants on a card are taken care of, I toss it and usually by November I am done rounding out the kids' fall/winter wardrobes. I love it when it happens earlier but it's been a while since I finished before Thanksgiving, between budget constraints and regular crazy-life pace, so I try not to stress and I DON'T give in to the temptation to just do it all and pay the budget back later. A little prioritizing, a little layering, and a lot of patience goes a long way. For all of us!

There you have it. Managing the seasonal wardrobes for 6 kids and 2 adults. It's not nearly as daunting as it sounds and with all the much-appreciated hand-me-downs that the kids recive from friends and family, it's actually kind of festive for the few days it takes to wrap it all up. Well, festive for the girls anyway! To the boys, it's just a project to be endured. And for Momma? It's a chance to clear out, clean up, and re-organize the rooms (including my own!) that got neglected a bit during our lazy hazy days of summer. That alone is reason enough to make me take a big gulp of that Pumpkin Spice goodness and breathe deeply of the fresh crisp air!

How about you? What tips and tricks have you discovered along the way for this big project? 


Jolita Peterson said...

Since moving to the UK, we have little need for summer clothing. We keep our sweaters & fleeces out all year! Last summer, I literally wore shorts for 2 hours. This year, we actually did have a bit of summer weather, so I had to scramble to locate shorts & flip-flops. I don't miss the massive clothing changeover!

Reena said...

You summed up the process very nicely. Pretty much exactly what I do with my girls and self as well!

Megan said...

I am in process of getting all of the clothes organized into tubs. I still have quite a few random garbage bags laying around though. I really feel your pain on the family picture clothing coordination. I decided that this year, I am just going to order all our pictures in black and white (well, probably sepia) so that colors don't matter. AND it tends to hide more blemishes, wrinkles etc. :) Thanks for sharing your system. I am inspired to keep working toward achieving my goal!

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

There should be an olympic medal for changing out seasonal clothing. I still haven't changed out ours yet because it is still warm enough to wear shorts.

Melissa Renno said...

I did the "closet switch" yesterday! My sister and I help each other do it and then we trade clothes (the stuff we're sick of). It feels like you have a brand new wardrobe...FOR FREE!!! Luckily this year, the baby will get all of Gideon's hand me downs. I won't have to buy anything as long as he doesn't grow too too much in the next four months ;) He's another big boy!

Aus said...

Wow - so flippin organized! Our "change out" received a nasty downturn this past week when we opened the closet in youngest son's bedroom and discovered that the shelf (that doubles as the hanger rod - one of those kind) had fallen off the wall...he knew about it but forgot to tell much toward our builder as toward him for "forgetting"! ;)

hugs - aus and co.