Photo: Don’t dictate what must go if it makes your child upset. Pxfuel.
Your child is growing… and outgrowing many things. It doesn’t take much time at all for outgrown clothes, shoes, and toys to start to overwhelm your child’s closet and take space away from what he or she needs. Keeping your child’s wardrobe clean and organized takes some discipline and work, but in the end, they will pay off. You and your child will save time every day, especially in the mornings, when you do not have to rummage through outgrown clothes and old toys in order to find what you need for the day.
Keep in mind that cleaning out a child’s closet and cleaning out your own closet are two different things. Deciding what you want out of cleaning and organizing your child’s wardrobe will probably be different than what you want from making your own closet more accessible; while you may no longer be growing, your child needs room for new things that are appropriate for his or her current age and stage of development. Keep reading to find out more about what you need to know to successfully clean and organize your child’s closet.
Any successful endeavor starts with a good plan, and cleaning out your child’s closet is no exception. Depending on its current state – especially if there are piles of clothes everywhere and broken pieces of old toys all over the floor – you may be tempted to give up before you even start.
The best way to carry through from beginning to end is to have a plan in place. Think about whether your child will be involved in the process or not. Consider what you will do with the items that you decide to discard and make criteria for determining which things you will keep.
If you have a very young child, then you will probably need to clean out his or her closet while he or she is not present. Consider tackling this chore during nap time, or see if a friend can take care of junior for an afternoon so that you are free to get the job done.
However, if you have an older child, the process may be much smoother if he or she is involved. Unless your child is a teenager and well-organized, he or she is probably not able to clean out and organize the closet alone and will need your help. The two of you will need to plan to do this job together.
The older your child is, the more involvement he or she needs to have in getting the closet organized. A five-year-old will be able to tell you which clothes fit and which toys he or she no longer plays with. An eight-year-old can help you pick out a charity to which you will donate the items that you choose not to keep.
The more that your child is able to be involved, the cleaner and more organized that the closet will stay over the long term. He or she will be able to take pride in his or her own living space and take ownership of this aspect of his or her own life.
If your child understands that the things that you get rid of will be going to help other people, then the business of parting with them will go much more smoothly. Sit down with your child to review some local charities that could benefit from his or her used clothes and unwanted toys.
If possible, let the child pick out which charity to donate things to. He or she may be much more enthusiastic about parting with well-loved toys and a favorite outfit that no longer fits, knowing that someone else will enjoy those things more than he or she currently does.
Set Criteria For What Things Will Stay And What Things Will Go
Nobody likes to part with the old train set, whether or not they still use it. And we can all get a bit anxious that we might accidentally get rid of something that we may need down the road. To avoid some of this anxiety, set criteria in advance for what will stay and what will go.
If winter is over and your child has already outgrown his or her winter clothes, then they definitely need to go. But what about the beanie that grandma knitted as a Christmas gift, the one that your child actually doesn’t like but you want to hold onto? You need to decide in advance how you will move forward with those difficult questions.
If you have more than one child and hand-me-downs are a staple, then one question that will arise is what you should do with the older child’s clothes that don’t yet fit the younger child. To make the challenge easier, start with the oldest child’s closet.
Set aside all of the oldest child’s clothes that no longer fit so that you can look at them with the younger child(ren) that will inherit them. If the younger ones do not want those clothes, then you can get rid of them. Otherwise, you can make a plan for how to store them.
Remember That The Closet Is Your Child’s, Not Yours
Cleaning out your own closet is about simplifying your own life and making sure that everything that you need is more accessible to you when you need it. Cleaning out your child’s closet is about making sure that he or she has the opportunity to grow and develop without being held back by things that are too little or no longer age-appropriate.
When in doubt, give ownership to your child. Let your child decide how to move forward with the process of organizing the closet, even if you might prefer to do things a little bit differently. You may be surprised at what your child can come up with!
Depending on how much stuff is in your child’s closet, you may spend quite a bit of time working through all of it. Getting organized is definitely key! Don’t be intimidated by how many things are thrown in the closet or how many wadded-up clothes are lying on the floor.
Remember that this process can teach your child some valuable organizational skills. So get out the laundry baskets, plastic tubs, garbage bags, and everything else that you will need to tackle whatever may be lurking inside the closet.
Gather All Of Your Child’s Things From Around The House
No matter how organized you are, your child probably has some items hanging around in different parts of the house. He or she may have toys in the living room, clothes in another child’s bedroom, and books on the dining room table.
Work with your child to go through the house and collect all of his or her belongings. Pick up all of his or her clothes that may be scattered about, toys that may be lying in inopportune places, puzzles that have pieces missing, books, and anything else.
Pull All Of The Wadded-Up Clothes Out Of The Closet
Kids are kids, and their biggest priority at the end of a long day is usually not making sure that their clothes are neatly folded or hung with care. Their closets often contain many garments that have been wadded up and thrown haphazardly about. And that is perfectly okay.
Work with your child to get all of those wadded-up clothes that were thrown on the floor and all of the lop-sided clothes that fell off of the hangars. Put them in a pile, and don’t get overwhelmed by just how big that pile might be.
Nobody wants to sort a pile of dirty clothes to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Now that you have pulled all of your child’s things from around the house and gotten the wadded-up, dirty clothes that may have been sitting there since gym class two months ago, you need to start doing laundry.
You may have several loads of laundry to do, and considering that this is still part of pre-sorting the closet, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed. That’s okay! If your child is old enough, he or she needs to help you with the laundry. If your child is too young to help, then get a bar of chocolate to help you through the task.
While the laundry is going, head back up to your child’s bedroom and make three piles: one to keep, one to discard, and one for items of sentimental value that you want to hold onto indefinitely. If you have extra laundry tubs, using one for each pile may be helpful.
If you already made the criteria for deciding what you will keep and what you will get rid of, then much of the process will go by quite easily. You won’t have to haggle with your child over whether or not to keep the light-up space-cadet cowboy that he or she no longer plays with, because you will have already determined that “no longer plays with it” means get rid of it.
If your child is old enough, then he or she needs to be the one to decide most of what stays and what goes. Your child knows what clothes fit better than you do and also knows what toys he or she still plays with and what books he or she still reads.
Hold up items for your child and let him or her place them into the appropriate pile. When the process is over, your child will feel more comfortable getting rid of things, no matter how much he or she loved them, knowing that he or she has some control over the process.
When things get tough, and you realize that you are not getting rid of nearly enough items, apply the keep-one-discard-one rule. Hold up any two random objects. Your child gets to keep one piece, and the other one has to get donated.
Depending on your child’s age, you can turn this into a game! Have your child close his or her eyes while you select two items. He or she then has three seconds to choose which topic to keep. You may find that you are both much more eager to get rid of things than either of you expected.
When the laundry is done (and depending on the state of affairs of your child’s belongings, you may have quite a few loads), bring it to your child’s room and start sorting it. If your child is helping you out and is getting the hang of deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, then consider stepping aside for a bit and letting him or her take over.
Remember, anything that no longer fits needs to go. Anything that will not fit when it is back in season needs to go. Younger siblings get to pick through clothes that will get passed down to them to decide what they want to hold onto and what can get donated.
If you are finding that your child has a lot of old t-shirts that are too grungy to get donated, consider using them to make cleaning rags. Simply cut them along the seams that run up the sides, and voila! You have a cloth that you can use for dusting and other household chores.
There may be other creative uses for some of the items that you cannot keep. Consider what your child’s interests may be and how he or she may be able to use them to repurpose old items. But don’t hang onto anything that you are not going to repurpose absolutely. When in doubt, donate it.
Are you unsure if you or your child might need that pack of pom poms that you bought on sale at the craft store three years ago? Are you wondering if that set of overalls with the frilly center pocket that your child has never worn might make for an adorable school photo?
If you or your child have never used something, get rid of it! You are trying to get organized, not plan for the apocalypse. Get rid of the junk that is taking up space. If your child’s teacher requests pom-poms from the craft store two years from now, then get in the car and go to the craft store.
If your child has done a lot of the sorting of items to keep, give away, and hold onto for sentimental value, great! Hopefully, you enjoyed a bit of a break and maybe a glass of wine. But before you celebrate too much, make sure you review the piles that your child made.
You don’t want to accidentally donate that baby outfit that grandma sewed for your child’s first birthday or hold onto those atrocious pants that are covered in grass stains and dotted with holes. So take your child’s word for what he or she wants to keep and give away, and then review those choices.
If you have younger children who receive hand-me-downs from older siblings, make sure that you set aside the clothes that the older child has outgrown. You don’t want to accidentally donate them and then have to spend several hundred dollars buying more clothes!
But you also don’t want to undo all of your organizing efforts in order to hold onto those clothes. Find a way to store them, such as in a laundry basket or plastic bin that you label and tuck away.
Allow Younger Children To Go Through Those Clothes
There is nothing quite like inheriting big brother’s or big sister’s Ninja Turtles pajamas or sparkly unicorn sweater… unless younger siblings never actually wanted those things. Instead of holding onto hand-me-downs for them that they will not wear, allow them to go through the clothes that the older child has outgrown.
If there are items in there that they turn their nose up at, then put them into the donation pile. The plus is that giving younger siblings control over the hand-me-downs that they inherit will make those second-hand clothes more special to them.
Now you’ve got piles and piles of clothes, toys, books, and what-have-you that need to get donated. And so often, we throw those piles into garbage bags, hoist them into the car trunk, and drive around with them for the next four months.
Get your child into the car and head to the donation center. Don’t wait months and months until you finally decide that you actually need that trunk space for groceries. Take those garbage bags to the donation center now and save yourself the headache later.
Is there a particular cause that your child is showing a budding interest in? Maybe he or she has read about homelessness or seen homeless people beginning in the streets and wants to do something to help. Perhaps he or she has learned about foster kids who often get moved into a new home without any of their own possessions.
Let your child take the lead with donations. Parting with his or her much-loved items will be much easier if they will be going to a cause that he or she wants to support. In addition to getting better organized, your child will begin to learn the value of giving.
The hard part is over – getting rid of all of the junk and clutter that has been holding you and your child back. You may have pulled out dozens of garbage bags’ worth of things that needed to get donated (and some that may have needed to go straight to the trash). So now, take a minute to revel in that clean feeling.
So maybe you should stop for ice cream on the way home from the donation center! Give yourself and your child a high-five for doing such hard work and getting rid of things that you do not need.
Now that the hard part of getting rid of all of the junk, clutter, and outgrown items is done, it’s time to start getting organized. So take stock of what all is remaining in your child’s closet – probably tennis shoes, dress shoes, dress clothes, school clothes, play clothes, toys, books, and anything that may spark his or her interest.
What do you need to do to get all of those items organized so that the closet does not become a disaster zone again? Work with your child to come up with a plan for how to organize the remaining items in the closet.
You are probably going to need a lot of plastic bins or totes, wall hooks, hangars, hanging caddies, and plenty of other supplies to get the closet well-organized and make sure that everything in it is easily accessible. Maybe also a shoe rack and some labels.
Make a list of all of the supplies that you need, then start getting them together. You may actually be able to find quite a bit at a nearby thrift store, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Otherwise, head to a store that you know will have everything that you need in stock.
By now, your child is probably whining that he or she is tired of cleaning the closet and wants to play video games. Don’t give in! Maybe you both need a break, but your child needs to continue being part of the process of organizing the closet as much as possible.
Unless you want to be the one going into your child’s closet every evening and making sure that everything in there is straightened out, you need to make sure your child has ownership over this process. He or she can learn to take pride in his or her belongings and living space by having a role in the process of organizing the closet.
If you are tired, your child probably is, too. Few people on this planet actually enjoy organizing the closet and feel energized after pulling out much junk and taking it to a donation center. So take some time to rest, with the intention of recharging yourself to finish the task.
Maybe you need to watch a light-hearted movie together or play a game of cards. Or read a silly book while eating brownies and sitting inside a blanket fort. In the process, you will be teaching your child the value of taking a break instead of quitting altogether.
Alright, breaktime is over. Time to get back to work! To tackle the process of organizing, to remain organized, you will probably need some labels for the various bins and totes that items will get sorted into. You don’t need a fancy label-maker, in any case.
What you need is your child’s creativity and engagement. Let your child make labels and even decorate them! You may need to help your kid write “Summer Clothes” and “Scarves and Gloves” on the labels, but then let him or her color and embellish them as much as he or she wants.
Make Sure Your Child Can Keep Up With The Organizing System
If your child is unable to maintain the brilliantly meticulous organizing system that you come up with, then your system is too hard. Unless you want to be the one keeping your child’s closet for the foreseeable future, you need to make sure that you involve your child in organizing it.
Make sure that the system is one that your child is able to follow through with. Allowing him or her to decide where different things should go will help ensure that at the end of a long day, your child will put things in the proper place.
Nothing is more discouraging to a child than to try to make progress in a particular area and find himself or herself stymied by a parent. If your child wants the closet to be more organized and you insist on doing everything a certain way, then he or she may feel discouraged and not even try.
You should be trying to support your child’s positive efforts. Let him or her take the lead in organizing the closet so that you can play a supportive role and be an encourager. Otherwise, you will both become frustrated and discouraged, and the whole effort of organizing the closet will ultimately be a waste.
With every significant change of seasons comes a considerable shift in wardrobe. Take a morning twice per year to clean out the clothes from the previous season that no longer fit or will likely not fit the next year and then bring down the clothes that will be needed for the upcoming season.
In addition to having the opportunity to change out your wardrobe, cleaning out closets twice per year will make sure that junk and clutter do not have time to accumulate. You and your child can revamp the organization of the closet and make sure that everything necessary is within reach.
Many closets only come with clothes racks and a top shelf. However, adding extra shelving can make organization easier. This is especially true if your children share closets – you need to maximize every square inch of closet space to make sure that siblings have enough space to store their belongings in an organized way.
Shelves can be ideal for organizing children’s clothes, especially if they do not use a chest of drawers. They can also provide space for placing storage bins and totes so that everything that your child needs is within reach. Just make sure that the shelves are not so high that the child cannot reach them.
If walking into your child’s closet with the thought of organizing any of it makes you want to turn on your heels and run away to St Tropez, don’t buy a plane ticket quite yet. Begin in the top of the closet on the left side. Work towards the right side, then move your way down.
Make sure that you pick up every single item in the closet and examine it instead of just making a passing gesture. Better yet, take everything out of the closet and go through it with your child.