Storing Hand-Me-Downs

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Larger families mean a larger amount of hand-me-downs. Not only do we tend to be the recipients of the 1.8 children household’s clothing, we also tend to keep EVERYTHING. That said, it is not uncommon for Baby #4 or so to suddenly have NOTHING because everything wears out at the same time!

While some families choose to keep nothing that hasn’t been used in X amount of years (for instance, it’s been 10 years since the last boy was born or something like that), I don’t fall into that category. I go ahead and keep most things.

Several years ago I did a post on our clothes storage tubs. More recently, I gave you a glimpse at the new and improved clothes storage room, but didn’t give you any specifics. So, this post is a more specific look at how we actually store all these hand-me-downs.

1. Clothes are sorted by child. Once upon a time, I tried to sort by gender and size, but found that to be rather inefficient for a family our size.  I have found it to be so much easier to label by child and then dig into their box whenever I need something.

2. Every tub gets a label on the outside front.

You have no idea how long it took me to figure this one out.  Actually, it took my mother stating the obvious.  I was labeling the tubs on the top side and then moving and shifting them to read what was in them…Every. Single. Time. I needed something.  Sad, but true.

Labels for the tubs are as follows:
Baby (gender neutral)
Baby boy
Baby girl
Amy maternity
Amy regular & nursing

(At 5’6″, Blake no longer has hand-me-downs, and Ty has all of his clothes in our closet upstairs and no concept as to why I do not like to store my maternity clothes in my closet!)

3.  When someone outgrows something, it goes into the tub of the next one down. That means when Keian outgrows a pair of jeans and they are still in good shape, they go directly into Micah’s tub.  Micah’s outgrown things go into the tub labeled Baby Boy.  The tubs are labeled with masking tape, so I can easily change a tub name when the time comes (for instance, *if* this is indeed another boy, once we have a name for him, the Baby Boy tub will become his tub).

4.  Tubs are stacked based on similarity and frequency of access. The two shoe tubs are together, the girls are together, the boys are together, my stuff is together…you get the idea.  Tubs like the Baby Girl tub are not frequently accessed at this point, so it is near the bottom of the stack.

And that, my friends, is what Works For Me!

But guess what…I don’t have the monopoly on good ideas when it comes to clothes storage and such.

  • and Nony at A Slob Comes Clean tells us how to purge the clothes without fear.
  • And finally, something that has been on my heart for 2½ years….Emmy’s clothes.  Tara at Feels Like Home shows the beginning steps to making a quilt from baby clothes.  This is something I hope to someday be ready for.

So, head on over to these other blogs and be inspired!

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38 Comments on Storing Hand-Me-Downs

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38 thoughts on “Storing Hand-Me-Downs

  1. WOW!

    Tonight I just happened to be going through my son’s clothes and pulling out his next size. I also went through his NB through 0-3m stuff to pull out the gender neutral stuff for our baby girl to wear.

    We live in a small apartment with minimal storage space, so I really can’t hang onto everything right now.

    I have a large bag of clothes that I’m going to consign in 2 weeks. It’s full of things that my son never wore (and I am guessing that future boys won’t wear, either), and a surplus of pants in his current size. And I STILL have 9 pair of pants in his size on his shelf! I think that’s a little much, but oh well.

  2. This is EXACTLY how we do ours! I used to try to keep them in bins labeled by size and season (12 months winter, 3T summer, etc) but that was WAY too complicated, especially since not all “3T” clothes are the same size and not all 3-year olds are, either! This system works perfectly for us!

  3. Fascinating! I have a tub of “too big for Nathan” hand me downs, and a tub of “too small for Nathan” clothes I’m saving, and the same for my girl. I also have a tub of maternity clothes, although due to my habit of buying maternity clothes whether I need them at the moment or not if they’re under $3, I now have outgrown my rubbermaid with those…

  4. Do you have just one tub per child? Do you have several bins per child and differentiate between them somehow?
    I currently have bins by size & gender, which as you say is not the best(that whole mis-sizing mess) but considering I have at least one(sometimes 2) tubs per size & gender (like 2 tubs of 2T girl, etc.) I’m not sure what else to do. (I do put clothes in the size bin I think they belong in regardless of what the tag says.) I am currently expecting another boy after 4yrs of girls so my “baby boy tub” is really about eight tubs of boy clothes currently divided by size.
    I really like the idea of your system -maybe I just need bigger bins?
    Do you find that in digging through the bin for Jr. next clothes you end up “missing” items they could have worn because they were buried or whatever?
    (I also should note that we have two very generous families in TX that send us their like-new hand-me-downs all the way in MI, thus the abundance of beautiful clothing!)

  5. I was just trying to figure out how i was going to store the baby clothes my son is growing out of… I was wondering if i should go all out and do it by size (nb, 0-3, 3-6, etc) or just that it is baby boy, toddler etc… I will probably have another before too long so there is no way i want to get rid of all the cute clothes i have acquired :)

  6. I love storeage tubs, but lately I love the see through ones even more. It allows me to see what is in the tub without having to mark everything on the outside. I also love how they stack and store.

    If if I am not storing baby/children clothes, they are useful for people of all ages…. Mine have quilt stuff/sewing supplies, platic canvas patterns and give away items.

    Have a great day!

  7. Well, apparently I bought cheap-o tubs because I noticed that none of the tops of yours bowed like mine did! Hmmm. I thought it was all tubs…didn’t realize it was just mine that were crummy!

    Those tubs are so beautifully organized. Don’t you just love that?! :)


  8. This is my first time to comment and only cause I think my brain is too hot (it’s hot in our house right now) to figure it out on my own. Right now I have 3 children, (almost)4 yr old girl, 2 year old girl, 5 month old boy. Right now I have hand me downs organized by sizes which is complicated like you said since size is so unpredictable. I understand what to do with the oldest girls too little clothes but what about once the 2 year old girl outgrows them. Do you just start labeling them by size for the next girl???? I could have 3 boys in a row (if the Lord continues to bless us in the area of children). I do love your blog and all the practical advice!!!


    • Emily,
      Hi! I take the last girl’s clothes and put them in the tub that is currently labeled Baby Girl, but could just as easily be labeled Girl. Hope that helps :)

  9. I still attempt to sort by gender and size. I do put them away according to when I’ll need them next. I have 2 girls that share a room and are 2 yrs apart so the clothes from big sister go almost directly to little sister. They stay in the girls’ closet. The rest of the tubs and vacuum bags go into the closet under the stairs.


  10. Somehow, I thought I had already commented. Love the reminder about WHERE to label the tubs. Ummm, I forget to even label mine, which generally results in frantic searching when the first cold snap hits.

  11. WOW. I feel so organized! Mine looks almostly identical to yours! And I am not good at this sort of thing!! I label mine with white duct tape on one side and the one nearest so whichever way I end up stacking them it is accesible. We are unique in that we only have one girl, for wahile i just stored ALL of her stuff in one large trash can because i wasnt sure how she would go through sizes. I still do shoes that way. There was a time when we couldnt afford to buy plastic boxes

  12. sorry almost done:) We couldnt afford plastic boxes (even cheap adds up) so I found a store that had a cardboard box the right size that they got regualry..I waited and got a ton of those so they would stack nicely.

  13. I store the kids clothes in plastic bins as well. Yesterday, I went into the garage to get baby girl clothes out to send to a friend. As I got to the bottom of a bin, I noticed some clothes that had been chewed by a mouse! UGH! As I stood there wondering how a mouse got into my tubs, I noticed a big ball of fluff too. I figured it was the nest until I looked a little closer. A dead mouse. A very dead mouse. I quickly exited the garage, called my sweet (and not irrationally paranoid niece) upstairs and she got rid of the mouse for me. And went through the bin to finish my job. The only thing I can figure out is that the lid must not have been on very well, the mouse got in, I fixed the lid and the mouse was stuck. Shudder.

  14. I’m impressed with how organized you are! We only have one hand-me-down to do in the family – from our oldest son to the next one. Luckily, it pretty much can go from one side of the closet to the other. Luckily, we’re able to give hand-me-downs of Molly’s stuff to a younger niece.

    Great post! You make it all sounds so doable!

  15. Thanks for sharing about your system. I use a simple indexing system for our storage tubs. I am no longer keeping the things Abel outgrows since we don’t plan on having any more children, so the number of tubs in my storage area has been greatly reduced. Just this past Spring I finally got rid of all his old stuff. I, like you, was hanging onto all of it in case of another baby boy. :-)

  16. That is a great idea! I had never thought of that. I wonder if it would work as well for us, since there’s over 2 years between my girls and the things Suzi outgrows won’t fit Ivey for a while. I might have to have two Ivey tubs. I am pregnant again (due in April) and this would probably work better for my youngest and the new baby because they will only be 20 months apart. I will have to try it. I also wish I had a space that big to stack some tubs. Maybe we will have a garage someday!

  17. Wow, I’m so happy that I ran across your blog in my google search – what in the world to do about hand me downs. I’m pregnant with #7 – the last 4 are 8 and under. I have been storing clothes the gender/size way for ever and every single year (twice actually) it is a night mare to do clothes switch overs. This is so excellent. I’ll have to use some trash bags until we get back from vacation – saving my pennies until then. This is great.

    So you save all shoes together – by gender?

    • I save all the shoes together period. I have two tubs for them and I just go through them as needed. As to your other question, yes they go back in the bucket with the chance that they could fit. :)

  18. Sorry. One more question:

    What do you do about the clothes that still fit an older child but are out of season? Do they go back into their bucket? They may not fit 6 months from now, but they may…

    • what I do is have a “seasonal” box for each one. so, at the end of summer, I pull out the winter clothes and toss in the summer clothes. If they still fit, they go into that child’s box, if not, they go into the next youngest child’s box. that way, when summer rolls around, we pull them out and try them on. if they still fit, they go in their drawer, if they don’t fit, they go to the next youngest. If they happen to still be too big for that one, I put them in the bottom of the box, for them to try next year.

  19. Yep, mom of 5 and tubs are definitely the way to go. I do go by size and I did figure the front label thing right away. I only save boy clothes because I only have 1 daughter. She will be 10 this year and we are done with pregnancies. 😀 7 pregnancies, 6 deliveries and 5 kids.

  20. Great and very logical system! At this point I only have two that are still growing, so I have them in colour-coded tubs with the size range taped onto the box. Footwear is in two tubs, one for boots and one for anything else.

    When the “unexpectedly short pants” issue arises, it’s so great to just go straight to the attic, isn’t it?

  21. I currently have 4 littles 4y/o and under, 3 girls, one boy. We use clear bins (red or purple tops for girl stuff, blue top for boy stuff). I label each tub 0-3/3-6month, 6-9/9-12month, 2T-4T etc. because the bins are clear I can see exactly whats in them, which helps when looking for something specific. Also, I put the outfits in bins by when they fit, not necessarily the size on the tag (ex: if a pair of pjs is marked 9-12mos but fits my kiddos at 6 months, it goes in the 6 month bin). I also have a bin for maternity/postpardum clothes – I dont blame you for not wanting them in your closet!!

  22. Using names instead of sizes is brilliant! I have my tubs labeled by size (I have all boys at home). My daughter searches the tubs in the sizes of her two boys when the seasons change our her boys outgrow something, too. I have found that being able to pull out a tub with a complete new-size wardrobe has been an amazing blessing to our family (and my daughter’s). It is well worth the amount of space dedicated to tubs! I have plans for my husband to build platforms for all of our beds so that the tubs can slide under and free up room in the storage space.

  23. Wow, I have been storing my children’s clothes in bins like this since my first was born. It has really worked great for us as my first three were all girls. I never thought to label by name. Not sure if that would work well for us yet as I have a few sizes between two of them. Also, for labels, I put one on the “handle” of each bin. That way, even if it gets turned around, I can still see the size. I have seen on pinterest where you can make storage systems for your bins out of vox pipe or wood. Unstacking and restacking can be a lot of work!

  24. Perfect! I never thought of labeling the bins with the next kids name! I’ve gotten so many ideas from this article…I must get started organizing! Gotta go, thanks!