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The challenge of a minimalist wardrobe for kids

Minimalist wardrobes for kids

It’s the time of year when I start to dread the seasonal rotation of clothing. It’s still hot out most days, but fall is right around the corner and soon we’ll be experiencing an even mix of chilly days and hot ones.

Honestly, it takes me weeks to gear up for the “fun” of switching all five kids’ clothes because it’s such a big, overwhelming job.

Several years ago, I discovered a simple trick that simplified the process a hundredfold: I sort clothes into gray bins by size (separate sizes for tops and bottoms as they get older), and each child wears clothes from their current bin. And only their current bin. I no longer try on outfits to see what fits except to figure out what size each child should be wearing, and I don’t mix-and-match out of several different sizes.

However, we try to stick to a minimalist wardrobe of 7-10 outfits for each of them, and one of the biggest challenges we still face is knowing which of the clothes in their bins they will actually wear.

For example, one of our girls would only wear dresses when she was 5 and 6 years old, while her younger sisters prefer shorts and t-shirts. That means all of the dresses she handed down are sitting unworn. That could change any minute, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next season includes a completely new style for at least one of them.

True to the stereotypes, their preferences change often and without warning. I could require them to wear certain things — and occasionally I will — but I just don’t see the point in making it a battle. I rather like that they each have their own style and way of expressing themselves, and we have plenty of hand-me-downs to choose from.

While I’ve tried having them choose the outfits they want to wear at the beginning of the season, they are young and just discovering their likes and dislikes. They don’t know which items are comfortable or uncomfortable or which are destined to be their everyday favorites. (And truthfully, I am not very good at anticipating those things for myself!)

Whether we’re unpacking our own hand-me-downs or those from friends and family, I’m never comfortable sticking to my 7-10 outfits per child limit at the beginning because I know from experience that they will end up wearing the same 3 or 4 outfits over and over again and run out of clothes in between washes.

Minimalist wardrobes for kids

The last couple of times I’ve rotated their wardrobes, I’ve handled it a bit differently, and it’s worked so much better:

I still limit the number of items they each have (especially compared to the standard American wardrobe, I’m sure!), but I tend to start with more outfits rather than fewer. This is especially true because our seasons are fluid. We often end up with hot days in the fall and cold days in the spring, and we need a few outfits for the opposite season left out for that first month.

Over the weeks that follow, clear patterns emerge and I’m able to see who is sticking with skirts or dresses, which clothes they find uncomfortable or just don’t like, which outfits they say they love but never actually wear, and so on.

We then go through their clothes again, this time together, and choose 7-10 outfits that they really love and want to keep out. If they choose a lot of dresses, we end up with a few more outfits since those are only one piece and can’t be mix-and-matched like tops and bottoms. The rest of the clothes get packed in a bin and put back up in the attic so that they can be added back in for their younger sisters to choose from.

Does that sound like I’m creating more work for myself? It probably does, but it’s really simplified the process. I don’t feel the same stress to choose the “right” outfits in the beginning, and I count down the weeks until that second purge because it’s such a relief to pack up the extras.

And then everybody is able to enjoy the clothes that are left without piles to dig through or tons of extras that never get worn. Which makes it well worth the extra work!

How do you rotate seasonal wardrobes? Do you limit the amount of clothes you’re children have?