Wednesday, June 10, 2009

an amazing trip trick: organization (part iv) don't be loathing the clothing

I've put off writing about clothes organization because I can't really think of anything more boring. I would much prefer to write about my almost two-year-old (how is it possible that he is almost TWO?!) who almost gave himself a concussion tonight when in the ramp up of a tantrum, he threw himself on the floor and smacked his head against tile.

Well, I guess I did just write about that.

So, now hold your hats because I'm going to write about the organization of clothes for six people in a house that has two bedrooms, three very small closets and a mother who has a highly-evolved fashion sense.

(that is a total joke.)

(trust me.)

(if you could see what I'm wearing right now, you'd snort.)

As I've mentioned on more than one occasion, our house is technically a two bedroom, although we use it as a three bedroom. The third "bedroom", is in reality, a den conversion that lacks a closet - and - a door. But, because we decided not to move when we found out that we were more than doubling our family size in 2004, or adding another member to our clan in 2007, we have tried to maximize living in the small space that we have.

First and foremost, we have learned that we really do not need that many clothes. It seems that everyone in our family has a "uniform" that they wear, almost every day. When I consider the clothes that each one of us wear - it's pretty much three or four interchangeable outfits - every week. As such, we have tried to completely eliminate impractical clothes and shoes from our wardrobes.

Impractical clothes (and shoes) being defined as those that are uncomfortable - ugly - or something that we'd never (or hardly ever) wear. While keeping in mind that what wasn't impractical last year ... might be impractical this year ... so we are frequently doing an inventory and getting rid of clothes that we no longer wear, or can see ourselves wearing anytime in the future.

To help facilitate in this process, we keep a trash bag of discards always available and once every few weeks, we will sort through whatever we've pulled out of circulation to confirm they are no longer needed, before we pack them off to Goodwill.

Charlie has his own dresser, I have my own dresser, the girls share a dresser as do the boys. Because we recently decided to move Henry in to the bedroom with the door (when he's in a closed room he is more conducive to sleeping at nap time) to make room for his crib in the "boys room" we moved the "boys dresser" in to the girls room. This has actually worked out quite well because now I just have to make one stop with a basket full of clean children's clothes.

In so far as the children, pants, shirts, skirts and season-appropriate pajamas go in to their dressers. Dress shirts and dresses are hung up. Because space is at a premium since four children are sharing two dressers, we have moved all of their socks and underwear in to baskets that are readily accessible to them.

Sweaters and sweatshirts have been moved in to large baskets that are tucked into a cabinet in the girls' dresser for storage.

Dress-up clothes for the children are also stored in baskets. Which are then further stored, on top of the girls' dresser, which I bring down each morning so the kids can change their outfits 20 times a day. (which they do.) (seriously.) (i am absolutely, positively, not kidding.)

We installed coat racks - at a level the children can reach - where they hang up all of their jackets and pull-overs. One rack per child.

Winter clothes - specifically, warmer jackets, hats, mittens and thermal underwear - have been moved out to our garage and are stored in boxes that are labeled accordingly. Likewise, summer wear - specifically, bathing suits, tank tops, shorts - have been moved to our garage and are stored in boxes that are labeled accordingly. Depending upon the season, we will move these items in to the "general circulation" and move off-season gear out to the garage for storage.

We also move out to the garage for storage any clothes that are too large or too small for the children...

... As well as costumes that are too bulky to store inside the house.

Shoes for the children have been moved in to a large basket storage system.

Although I try to keep shoes segregated by slippers and sandals, dress shoes and play shoes, it seldom happens that the shoes stay separated for long. Still, this system keeps shoes all in one place and it's never very difficult to find matching pairs.

Here's a link to one that is similar to ours. (Except this one has five drawers and ours only has three.)

A few years ago, Charlie installed wire shelving racks in to all of our closets which maximizes the usable "void" space on top of our closets.

All of our sweaters and sweatshirts have been moved in to various baskets, which are very easily accessible.

Assorted hats have their own basket as do (does?) miscellaneous exercise equipment.

We bought a belt hangar to organize belts, a tie hangar to organize ties, and we replaced all of our plastic and easily warp-able hangers and freebie metal hangers from laundromats with sturdy wooden hangers. Amazon has them very reasonably priced. Here's a link.

I was so tired of shoes piling up on the floor of our closets, and after having tried several other shoe organization systems, a few years ago I purchased a shoe cubby that works great. What I really like - other than my shoes staying neatly organized - is that there is additional storage space on top.

Here's a link to one that is similar to ours.

Within the same collection of the shoe cubicle system - were some small shelves for the floor - that I purchased that we use to hold miscellaneous items like a Fender amplifier, free weights, our cremated dogs ashes - (which we have yet to sprinkle in the ocean) - and several bottles of red wine.

Please note: Charlie's cowboy boots that I begged him to purchase in 2001 during a trip to Oklahoma - and he has worn only once on the plane ride back home to California - definitely fall under the totally impractical category. But I won't let him get rid of them because they are just way too cool and if we ever move to Texas, he might need them.

In conclusion, I would like to add that this is such a chic blog. I can't imagine a guy would ever write about something like clothes and closet organization. So now, I'm just going to sit back and watch my statistics go through the roof.

Because I'm sure they will with a captivating post, such as this.


  1. Aaaahhh, another mom with a basket fetish!! I swear, we have more baskets than furniture.

    One of my favorite recent tricks has been putting the kids' beds on lifts and using all that under bed space for storage too. We use baskets for shoes too. We have one box for everyone, and they line up in a cute row in the garage, so everyone's shoes are off when they get out of the van but before they're in the house. I got it from another mom and I was so surprised at how much cleaner my floors were.

    Another trick I got from a mom: Swiffer! We have the Carpet Flick and rather than putting all the pieces of the pole in, we just put in enough to make it our kids' height. They "play house" with their "vacuum" and clean up spare crumbs at the same time. It is fabulous!!

  2. S.N.O.R.E. (JK!!) I actually enjoy learning how other people organize their house. There's always a good idea out there that I haven't thought of.
    The one thing I am curious about is how do you keep up with this blog? I have one child at home she's 15, I work full time and I finally updated my blog after about 6 weeks. Crazy.
    Denise xx

  3. Thanks Jen. I have just printed off this post (as I have all the other Trip Tricks) as I want to refer to them when I am setting up my own house in the next 6-12 months.
    Keep up the wonderful blog!

  4. Even though we have a bit more room than you, I still minimize the clothing. It just makes it much easier to be able to see what we have and do laundry if the kids don't have tons of clothes. All of our clothes go in my walk-in closet. The boys have big closets of their own, but I got tired of clothes being thrown all over the floor so everything has been in our closet for years. The 3 & 4 year old share a dresser, and the baby has a little 3 drawer rolling cart thing. Hubby and I also share a dresser. It makes it so much easier to put away laundry when the clothes all go to the same place. I also just recently went through the boxes of boy clothes in another closet to organize and get rid of stuff we didn't need. Now I have about 5-6 boxes of out-of-season stuff and different age stuff in one of the boys' closets, and I got rid of a big box of stuff we don't/won't use. Even in our old house, with a closet about the size of yours, we had all our clothes in that one closet. I was a big packrat when I was younger, but now I love purging unnecessary stuff and getting rid of clutter.

  5. Working on closets today! Forgot to ask ... What about Paper?? (ok next post maybe)

    I can attest to this one! You do a great job in the organizational department.

    It really looks like this folks! Marg. ;-)

  6. I love your organization posts, and this one did not disappoint!

    I was just thinking that the cubbies at the front door were not doing the trick for our shoes and dog equipment. I think baskets like that would really work... If my hubby can stand any more baskets in the house.

  7. I love it! I wish I were as organized as you are! Maybe with more kids I will have no choice ;~)

  8. I'm TOTALLY stressed thinking about all that "clothing rotation!" Although it seems that you have it TOTALLY under control, I think I may have started pounding out walls to add on to the house to make more room!!! Laundry and the putting away of the kids' clothes is one of my biggest stressors!!! Maybe I should stop worrying about how neat and tidy the drawers are inside. You can't see them when they are closed anyways!!!

  9. Thanks, Jen. I actually find organization discussions really interesting.

    Speaking of clothing, I've wondered what brands/stores you like for your kids' clothes? Do you shop online or in stores? Your kids always look darling, yet rugged enough to take on a playground or ride a trike. Maybe something for your long list of post ideas?

  10. Mir: YES, definitely, put the kids to work!! Since I don't use my Swiffer anymore (replaced with my Bissell Green Tea mop) > I actually reduced the handle length on our old Swiffer - put a Bissell cover on it - and have the kids follow me around whenever I mop, sopping up any excess water. I took some pictures of this exact thing the other day and need to post them!

    Denise: Blogging is cathartic for me. If I didn't blog, I'd need therapy - so I figure I could spend time doing this, or sit on a couch somewhere talking about my life. Either scenario would take time. But this is much more fun and will hopefully, be a good read one day for our kids.

    Margaret: Paper?? What paper??

    Terrell: The rotation thing is SO easy. I don't do that part of it very often, maybe twice a year. There really isn't much to it, and it gives me a good opportunity to purge stuff the kids aren't wearing. The KEY here, is by getting organized and reducing your stuff - everything you do is more enjoyable and efficient.

    Megan: I don't really shop at any particular store, and although I should shop on line, I generally don't. A lot of William's clothes were graciously given to us by some friends (mostly TCP) who have a boy two years older, and the girl clothes are generally leggings that they'll wear with a shirt or dress. I'll shop at TCP, but I also pick up things at Costco. Every so often, I'll buy things at the Carters or OshKosh outlet(s) - or at REI. I especially love the children's t-shirts made by Life Is Good. Even though they are a little pricey ($20.00 per shirt) they are so durable, our kids have been wearing the same t-shirts for almost two years w/hardly no signs of wear.

  11. Thank you, thank you!!
    I am a bit jealous though of all your handy baskets and the fact that you have your system in place.

  12. So, I've officially decided that you don't sleep much. : )
    I was just thinking yesterday that I don't understand why we have cupboards and closets in our house because no one understands that they need to put stuff back IN to them. I need to do a search on your toy organization post.(You had something on that before) I desperately need to clean out the toy closet. Its getting pretty bad... it is overflowing and now there isn't enough room in the "nook" for the kids to play...I'm experiencing toy sprawl into other rooms of our house. So thanks for the post!!!! I need some motivation! (This is Holly by the way...whole wheat maple scone girl)

  13. Is that two-buck Chuck in the closet? Mmmmmm.....

    Judy (who can't remember her google identity and is too lazy to figure it out tonight).

  14. Judy: Good eyes!! That IS two buck chuck and I actually meant to write something about it in the post but I zoned. We always have a few bottles on hand for cooking - or - if we're in a real pinch and there is nothing else in the house.

    Quite possibly, the best value around...!!

  15. Some of your pictures are beautiful and some look so odd. Do you alter them prior to posting? They look fake or something. Just curious.

  16. ODD? What do you mean ODD?

    Sometimes I will adjust the color on a picture if it seems too bright, but generally speaking - I don't do too much because my skills are pretty limited. Although ... if I can ever figure out Photoshop, I might do more editing.

    I'm curious, which pictures look fake??

  17. I missed the organization gene in my DNA. I really WANT to be this organized. Can't someone just come in and do it for me while my husband and I just maintain? My husband is 10x's worse than me too. Any attempt I make at organizing is immediately thwarted (example: organized kitchen cabinets... baking shelf, snack shelf, etc. He takes sugar off baking shelf and jams it back on the snack shelf b/c I told him to "put it away" then the crackers he pulls out don't fit back in b/c of the sugar so they get left stacked in a corner on the counter. ARGH!!!!)

    help. Seriously we lose everything. Last weekend was $100 worth of concert tickets.


  18. Loved the post. I'm a sucker for anything to do with organization. It's my obsession.

    Anyway, if you are low on closet space, have you ever considered wardrobes? Here in Germany, you don't get closets. We keep our clothing mostly in wardrobes, maybe in dressers. I like it better this way, because you can buy just what you need and place it just where you like it, rather than having your space and room arrangement dictated by the closets already there.

    We keep nearly all of our clothing in wardrobes rather than dressers because you can use the space right up the wall. We've always lived in tiny spaces, especially here in Europe, and we've learned that when space is at a premium, you move "up", ie. up the wall! We hang very little, mostly fold everything onto shelves. It maximizes space and you can see at a glance everything you have when you open the wardrobe door. You can even use baskets in the wardrobe for all the little bits (socks, underwear, etc.).

    We also rotate clothing and with (soon to be) four kids ranging in age newborn up to 12, and a tight budget, we hang onto outgrown clothes. We have a system of containers stacked floor to ceiling with any clothes that are off season or too big/small and also for shoes, so we simply go into the boxes when something is needed, as well as rotating out out-of-season clothes and rotating current season in. The boxes are labeled with sizes, of course.

    We also do boxes for shoes in the front hall. Each child has his or her own storage box on the wall for seasonal accessories (hats, caps, gloves, scarves, etc.) and under each box are attached eight hooks for their coats, sweaters, sport and music bags, etc. On the floor underneath, each child has a box for shoes. We have a very tiny front hall and it HAS to be organized, or we'd never manage everyone's stuff out there.

    Anyway, I can entirely relate to living in a tiny space with several children. It's hard, but it's also a very enjoyable challenge if you love to organize! ;)

  19. Winter clothes!!! You live where the average yearly temperature is 72 degrees. Why would you need "winter clothes"? Nice organization. I often use under bed bags for off-season clothes. Luv.

  20. I think odd was the wrong word describing some of the coloring in the pictures. Over the past few months I noticed some looked surreal...maybe cause the coloring is so crisp and bright. That's way I was wondering if you ever enhanced them. The one of Henry eating an ice cream just after this post is an example of one that his skin color looked a little unnatural...maybe it's the angle. I actually have a similar camera but a Cannon. I'll have to look back at my pics and see if I notice the same thing. Maybe camera's these days are just too sharp or something - at least from what I'm used to. Anyway like I said I love most of your pics just wondering if you enhanced a few but sounds like you don't. Thanks for the response.

  21. Anon, I hope you come back to read this response...

    My ability to truly edit photos is pretty slim, since I have a very vague understanding of Photoshop. However, I have adjusted the sharpness on certain images in iPhoto (on my Mac) if they appear too blurry.

    Also, since I don't typically use a flash, if the image is too dark, I will attempt to lighten it, which might give an unnatural hue to skin tones. For instance, Henry's picture above with the ice cream - I did sharpen the image, but I don't think I enhanced the color.

    Another example is with Kathleen swimming with a Gatorade bottle on her head from my drowning prevention post. Charlie thought it made the picture look almost fake because the image was so clear.

    I definitely understand what you're saying about some photos not looking natural - but I do my best not to get too carried away with what very little photo editing skills I have!!