Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How To Inventory Hand-Me-Downs

We've been blessed to overflowing with hand-me-downs and yard sale clothes. The only hard part is storing them!

We use a simplified version of The Tightwad Gazette system. We sort and store future items by age.

Where do you keep all those clothes?
I dream of a basement lined with long clothing racks, but I make do with a high closet shelf and space under the crib.

One could easily spend more on a storage system than the wardrobe itself! We've experimented with all kinds of containers:
  • copy paper boxes
  • Rubbermaid bins
  • Ziploc Big Bags
  • Clear trash bags
  • Old suitcases
My secret: the container you select is not NEARLY as important as the inventory you keep.

Otherwise, you may end up with 8 shirts to 2 khaki pants! The Tightwad Gazette recommends index cards taped to each box.

I think a master checklist is much easier. Carry it from closet to basement to thrift store. You’ll know at a glance whether you have next year’s Easter dress in stock.

I created a free Google Spreadsheet for our inventory. To begin, I listed every item my kids might possibly need in a year, from swim suits to holiday clothes. Now I simply note each new addition. Under 3T dresses, I pencil in “plaid” or “blue” to prevent duplicates.

Will I fill every need ahead? No way! But the empty spaces on my spreadsheet keep me focused on what we need--and not just another cute sundress!
You can see my personal Kids Clothing Inventory Sheets here:
Girl
Boy
Baby

52 comments:

Sarah said...

That spreadsheet is such a good idea!

Joan said...

I noticed on your spreadsheet that you have a column for up to size 10for clothes for Elise. How far out do you buy clothes? I think it is hard to predict what size a child will be in what season. I also am concerned about clothing being out of style if I buy too far out (I guess sleepwear and polos and some things don't apply). For those reasons and storage I hesitate to buy more than a season ahead. I am interested in other's systems for buying in advance of need.

Roxie700 said...

Good ideas as always. Thanks for sharing. Roxie

Kristina said...

Thank you for this!!! We are bursting at the seams with hand-me-downs and I never know what I have! I will use this! Thanks!

Shannon@Idylwild said...

This is the big problem I'm slowly working on over the next week or two. We are blessed with a large storage closet downstairs but it is stuffed to overflowing. I've been saving every bit of boy stuff since we have 4 boys to dress AND holding onto all the girl stuff because I'm sentimental about it and still hope to have another little girl to pass it onto. But it's just gotten way out of hand. I love the spreadsheet idea. I've been making lists every season but that gets so time consuming. Thanks for sharing your spreadsheets!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

I wouldn't BUY far ahead for items like pants, where fit can be tricky. However, I definitely stock up on adjustable L. L. bean shorts for Andrew when I see them for fifty cents. Likewise, I wouldn't BUY a size 10 dress for Elise right now, but if someone wants to pass along a fancy silk flower girl dress in that size, I'll be happy to take it, mark it on the sheet, and tuck it away for a portrait or special occasion.

If I were buying things on sale at a department store, I would only buy one season ahead.

However, free items or wardrobe staples under $1 may be worth stocking up depending on your situation, especially for items which are expensive to find at the last minute.

After this last year of weddings and funerals, Andrew has navy blazers in sizes 10, 12, and 14--all bought for 99-cents or less.

Candace said...

Thank you, Meredith! I am busting right now as well. Joan, I buy clothes that far in advance as well. My kiddos are tall and slender and it is hard to find slims or elastic waisted pants right when we need them so I buy them at yard sales for no more than a $1 a pair, preferably 50c and store them. I have four rubber maid tubs full of kids clothes right now and an XL Ziploc bag. Part of them are winter clothes that we needed in MD, but I am sure that we will shed a lot this winter in TX. I label with sex and sizes and go through each box at the turn of the season to weed out clothes that will no longer work (very seldom does this happen) and to pull out the ones that will be needed. The ones that we will not be able to wear I pass along to friends in need or give to my frugal friends and family's children as gifts...they never care they are second hand.

TJ said...

You've got me on this one. I'm terrible at my clothing inventory. Part of the problem is my daughter. I store away her clothes, in whatever container I find handy, and before I know it she has those 10-12 clothes pulled right back out. Same thing with the too small clothes that I try to get rid of.

If I had a better system, I may be able to prevent some of that. For right now, I'm mostly concerned with the boy clothes. I have enough friends with older girls that those hand me downs, paired with my mother in laws Goodwill trips have kept her in clothes. I'm taking hand me downs from 1 boy to my son, and trying to make them enough for both boys. Recently though some more boy clothes have been coming my way. And things that will fit for the first 3 months will go in the drawers, then the next 3-6 months will be in a box to start sorting through as the boys grow.

I need to implement your system!

Blushing hostess said...

I cannot tell you how glad I am to see this - it is such a burdern to us and more so because of how often the military moves us! Thank you!

Melanie said...

Great idea! We've been blessed with tons of hand-me-downs, but I never know what I need to be on the lookout for without sorting through the whole tub for that size! Now I just need a day to inventory!

Camille said...

Excellent idea! I find that I often end up with an overload of one size, and then absolutely nothing in another size. Or end up with just way too many clothes all together because I forget what I bought.

Sharon said...

What an awesome idea! I printed those out for both my girls and am going through their clothes this weekend. I always find I have excess of something and this will hopefully prevent that. Thanks!!

Victoria said...

How wonderful! I was at the thrift store yesterday and bought my daughter 2 pairs of jeans. One for this fall and another for next year. In the back of my mind I was wondering what I already bought for her for this fall though. The spreadsheet will be a wonderful help!

When my daughter was a baby I had trouble figuring out her size but now I pretty much know what she will be the next year and I know a lot of the brands that fit her well and look for those at GW, yard sales, etc. Thank goodness too for the adjustable waist pants! Love them.

Lu said...

We use the Ziploc Big Bags- not exactly sure of their "name", but they are fairly affordable and I write the size and season on each bag. As I rearrange, obtain more clothes for that "bag" I just scratch out and write again since the whole bag could be written on. Also, they don't take up as much formed space as a box and are bigger than most boxes you find!

mama2B said...

Meredith, I was just trying to work through the 3 bags of clothes given to our son over the past few months. I think I'll be making a worksheet to see what gaps I need to fill in.

I agree that the way you store clothes isn't nearly as important as keeping an accurate tally of what you have accumulated. It's easy for people to get sucked in to thinking that one needs to purchase a storage system.

Joan; classic clothes NEVER go out of style. I'm not one for trendy print tees and characters all over kids clothing. Think collared polo shirts, khakis, timeless dresses with classic cuts.

kykathy said...

Unfortunately, I don't have anyone to give me any hand-me-downs for my 3 yr old son, but I do buy at yard sales, thrift stores and clearance sales. I will by for next season at retail stores but am careful about pants, as I don't know if size /length will work. I do love adjustable wasit pants! I will buy a little bigger than a season out if I find good deals at yard sales, seems like boy's clothing (in good condition and decent brands) is harder to come by than girls. I have some pajamas up to a size 6, and just used a $10 off any order at Penney's to buy size 5-6 underwear that was already on sale. I really need to try this system of inventory, or something similar, to keep me from overbuying! I noticed you do not have a category for pajamas on Anrew's sheet (unless I overlooked it, what does he sleep in? I have noticed pajamas ar harder to find in bigger boy sizes, and I do love just-bathed kids in cute pj's!!

Nancy said...

Great post. I currently have an ever-growing collection of outgrown boy clothes, but unless I come across a truly unbeatable deal, I don't stock too far into the future. I do an annual re-stock at the garage sale weekend in my parents' community, though. Two or three days of shopping nets me an entire year's wardrobe for him, plus some Christmas presents and household items.

Melinda said...

This is an excellent idea. I haven't gotten any hand me downs since my 3 year old was a couple of months old, but I do a lot of shopping at thrift stores and the 50% off day at our 3x a year consignment sale, so I find some great $1 or less deals. But, I've been so disorganized, that when I sit down to go through what all we have, I tend to find duplicates, too many of one type of item and not enough of another, etc., so I will definitely be using the spreadsheet idea. Thanks!

nicola said...

OMG, i have almost exactly the same system and have posted about it, too.
(and we do the same for shoes as we do for clothes.)

one tip...if you get overwhelmed keeping a list of what you have, switch to a list of what you DON'T have.

here is the link on my blog:
http://whichname.blogspot.com/2009/04/hand-me-arounds.html

great topic, meredith!
nicola
http://whichname.blogspot.com

laurel said...

You are so organized! That is a great idea!!

Workin' MAMA! said...

My son and daughter both have enough drawer and closet space to house the extras and I thank God for that!
- daughter jumped to a size 14/16 and skipped the 10/12 altogether!
son - age 4 in a 4/5T - all his drawers are labled - I've bundled his too small items up and there going in our 'fill a bag for 2 bucks' yard sale next month!

great idea on the spreadsheet too!

momof4sweetsisters said...

I keep mine in bins/lids with 1clothing size per bin. I do write it on a index card in large print and tape it to the side facing out so it can be seen easily.

Maria said...

Great system. I too have mine in bins but I have yet to make a spreadsheet. Definitely something I need to do.

Thanks for sharing the spreadsheets.

Heather said...

Once again you have inspired me. With # 2 on the way I guess I need to inventory and organize. If I have a girl I am all set..lol

My stuff is all in the garage in old diaper boxes. SO much for real organizational skills...lol

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Thanks Meredith! I have sale purchased undies and shoes inventoried but not the clothes. I need to do this.

Simply Susan said...

I like the thought of a spreadsheet, but I think I will either print it smaller or put it on an idex card to put in my planner so I can carry it with me at all times. You never know when you might find a good deal ;o)

LeeAnn said...

My favorite clothing storage bags are the zippered plastic ones you get when you buy a mattress pad or comforter. Since I finally replaced our king-size mattress pad this year, I had a good sized one to put all the too-big boy clothing into.

For nice dresses I'm saving for my 6yo (who has two older sisters) I just hang them in my own closet. She has a smaller zippered bag under her bed of her winter/too-big girl clothing.

Since there are four years between her and the next oldest girl, I have been pretty ruthless about only saving what I really love. Otherwise we'd be drowning in clothing! Four years is too long to hang on to *everything.*

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Very clever, because what I end up going overboard on is shoes. I have such a phobia of being without Mary Janes that I end up with 3 pair in every size and color!

Brenda said...

I have two sons (now grown) who were the happy recipients of lots of male cousins' outgrown clothes. My daughter, on the other hand, had no female cousins that were older and could pass down clothing.

I always bought ahead at clearance sales and what few yard sales were held then. I always knew what they had even though I had no special system. I do like the spreadsheet idea and will use it for my granddaughter.

My daughter skipped size 12 as well. Some of this size she did wear once or twice, but basically wore a 12 for a very short time! What is it about girls? Anyone else's daughters go from 10 to 14?

Jackie said...

I can remember doing this with my boys hand-me-downs. Sure saved searching through boxes.

God bless.

Heather said...

LOVE THIS! I have started doing a similar thing with my little guy. I've got boxes for different sizes and they switch around as he is in a certain size and I get more of ones he is closer too.

I keep a handwritten spread sheet of sorts and a list of shoes I have for him with me as I rummage/thrift shop to prevent huge overloads or big gaps. I went through his stuff in the spring so I could maximize my 'shopping' at rummage sales this summer. I've almost got him covered for the entire next year and am working ahead as I see great deals. I've bought up to size 7 (he's turning 1 tomorrow) when I find khakis and nice pants for $.25. I've heard its harder to outfit boys as they get older (from you and others) so I figure those things I can store, especially for that price. And how much will boys khaki pants change in 6 years?

You really can dress a child well for very, very little if you are even just a bit organized and are willing to put some time into looking for the bargains. We've gotten no hand me downs, but the expense has been small. A winter coat for $2 has been the biggest purchase so far!

I call my lists my rummage sale helpers and I love them! I also wrote a post about them as they save me lots of time and money :)

Heather

Heather said...

Sorry, I forgot!

Could you let us know how many of each thing you think is good to shoot for? I'm transioning out of baby things into toddler/little boy things and am not quite sure how many shorts/pants/polos/etc I should have for him as he gets older. We have no closet space and I do not want him to have TONS, but am curious what other mom's think is a good number of each thing to have.

Thanks so much!
Heather

Amy said...

I love the spreadsheet idea. I used to do that and I need to start doing it again. We have an abundance of hand-me-downs that need to be sorted.

Gina @ The Shabby Chic Cottage said...

With two girls it's much easier than multiple kiddos and multiple genders. I just throw the clothes from Lala into a chest as she out grows them and everytime Bre gets to the next size we go through the chest before we go shopping. We don't get a lot of hand me downs from other places and yard sale clothes are EXPENSIVE here. I find that Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Ross & even Target has much better prices on their clearance racks. It's not a true "method" but it works for us.

Cara said...

I'm going through our clothes too, and trying to really restrain myself to stuff in great condition, brand name, and usually unisex if I'm buying way out. I've found that girlie stuff is super cheap on clearance racks, but boys are harder to shop for.

Wondering exactly how much newborn/infant stuff I should be keeping around. Seems like the smaller sizes I accumulate more of.

Jennifer said...

I really need to get an inventory. I feel like I have a good storage system, but I have no idea what I have. I like your spreadsheet idea, thanks!

Meg said...

This is a fantastic idea that I will definitely use. I get loads of hand-me-downs from my sister-in-law (from her two girls to my two girls). My other s-i-l hands down her son's old clothes to my son. The girls' clothing is out of control! I dread the seasonal change of clothing because there is just so much stuff. I'm glad that now I'll be able to at least get a grip on what exactly we have...

and for the record, most of our handed down clothes are kept in kitchen garbage bags with the size and season written on the outside.

Carrien said...

But cute sundresses are all my girls will wear. lol

Thank-you for the spread sheet idea. Wow! When I grow up I want to be that organized. :)

Angela said...

We, too, were inspired by the Tightwad Gazette - i always shop and store ahead for kids clothes. We use storage tubs, but I keep 4 x6 cards taped to the top and front with a detailed list of what each tub contains at any given time.

A friend at church asked if she could borrow some newborn sized diaper covers since she's ordering a diaper service to start cloth diapering. I was glad to have my system, because I could pop down to the basement and find the tub labeled "0-6 mo baby boy clothes. Diaper covers up to 20 lbs" in about 3 minutes.

Glad you've found a system that works for your family!

hsgbdmama said...

This is a great idea, especially since we've been blessed with clothing up to size 18/20 (oldest is wearing size 8/10 right now).

Thanks again! :-)

Loni said...

I love this method! I keep LOTS of hand-me-downs (and hand-me-ups) but haven't found a satisfactory way of keeping inventory. This is perfect. Thanks!

Melissa Lester said...

You are so clever! I think my husband would appreciate my adopting the spreadsheet approach just to impose some limits on childrens clothing. It is especially difficult for me to stop buying for my girls. There are just so many pretty options for little ones!

Do you keep a similar inventory for your own clothing purchases? I have heard that a lot of people duplicate purchases when shopping for themselves because they are drawn to similar styles over and over. I have been surprised to find myself falling into that trap on occasion too!

Kylie's Mom said...

Hand me downs rule! I just wad everything into garbage bags, write the age/gender/season on a piece of masking tape with a sharpie and throw it in the attic! Woohoo! Every season, we put more stuff up there and take a few minutes to bring some stuff down.

When we lived in an apartment, I stacked cardboard boxes as neatly as possible in closets so as to preserve valuable space.

I second buying staples when they're dirt cheap, like turtlenecks for winter and plain t's and things like that. And kids don't care about style, especially when they're really little.

Tubo Family said...

Thanks for the great idea, with reduced income I am going from preferring second hand prices to having a much tighter budget which has me wondering if the current economy is going to create more demand and less supply for second-hand. I can't help but think that many of my thrifty,"almost new" second-hand purchases are the direct result of someone else's excess, for which I am grateful and do not want to take for granted...

Twisted Cinderella said...

I need to sort through our hand-me-downs for Princess Magpie and the new baby. I really do need to come up with a better system. I will definitely be reviewing your system when I get to it.

Nathan & Alison said...

You have perfect timing in posting this. :-) I have a 3 month old boy who is growing like a weed and already in 6mo clothing. I have a heap of clothes he's grown out of needing to go into storage and growing heaps from garage sales of future clothes, but no system for organizing or storing. Thank you for your wonderful idea! I'm going to be doing inventory this week.

Jana (sidetrack'd) said...

The spreadsheet is a wonderful idea Meredith. It would be especially useful for keeping up with baby clothes (up to 2T) which we have in abundance for both a boy and a girl! I have a question that takes it a little further, though - how many outfits (or pieces) to you aim to have on hand for each size? I always seem to have an overabundance of clothing and often end up with clothes that were only worn once or not at all.

Honey said...

Do you mind us printing out and using your form? Thank you. I have 5 little ones and I always thrift and garage sale. So it gets a little out of control around here. I have things in the basement in rubbermaid containers labeled, but I do need to go back to a list. Sometimes I just jot down "no more pj's" or "no red dress shirts", to stop me when I find something we already have. I no longer buy shoes ahead even though it is tempting because of how inexpensive they can be. But I get to that season and they don't fit anyone or it hurts their feet, or I buy 6 pairs on black patent maryjanes. I found I was losing $ on shoes we couldn't use. I do resale them, but I don't think it's worth it to me to buy, store, sort, then resale shoes without getting any use of them. Any tips about shoes?

Kitchen Stewardship said...

I read the idea of an index card master list in “America’s Cheapest Family” but never did it (only one child at the time, so it wasn’t a big deal). Now I have two kids, and already I’m beginning to see how one might lose track! Maybe your post and the back-to-school sales right now will inspire me to get some index cards and get cracking! :) Katie

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

You are welcome to print and use, although it may be easier to size one suited to your own family, using the spreadsheet I linked to as a guide.

I don't have a set # of clothes per category, to tell you the truth. You already know I try to have 3 pairs of shoes per person, per season. I do keep a separate page of inventory for shoes, especially those hard-to-find athletic shoes in wide sizes.

Only you can determine how many outfits is right for your family. It seems like we go through two a day for Elise and John, so we need more than we will when they are older.

Having a spreadsheet--even if you don't limit the number--at least lets you spread your buying out across pants, dresses, shorts instead of clumping all your money in shoes and shorts, etc.

Owlhaven said...

My mom (a mom of 8) used paper grocery bags--she simply wrote the size, season and sex of the clothing on the outside of the bag. Then she lined up the bags on the top shelf of closets in every bedroom. Worked great.

I mostly use Rubbermaids, labeled and stored on high shelves in my garage.

Mary, mom to 10

Angela Childress said...

Thank you for sharing your spreadsheet. I am starting to do the very same thing for my whole family. And was starting to create one when I thought I would search for one. I perused your blog, and like it! I will be adding it to my follow list! :)