Keep or toss: What to do with your kids’ used clothes in Chicago

Anyone who has more than one kid, or plans to have more than one kid probably has a picture similar to this somewhere in their house:

Boxes, bags, towering piles of clothes, shoes, stuff that you can’t/won’t get rid of because you’re  saving it for the next child.

There are eight years between my oldest and my youngest so I have boxes of clothes that have moved with us and been stored for eight years. I also have mixed genders, so for six years I was saving clothes for two kids. Want to know a secret? You will keep getting clothes for all subsequent children even if you have a thrift store’s worth of clothes in your basement. Now that we know we are done (done, done, truly done) I have been purging and going through all the stuff like crazy and here are my tips for what to save, what to throw and where to throw it.

What to Save:

Save the “important to you” things. The outfit they came home in, a favorite jumper, the first little team jersey. Even if you never have another child you will likely want to have them for mementos or to pass on to grandkids.

Anything homemade. Resale shops don’t take them and if someone took the time to make it it’s probably meaningful (see above).

Big ticket items. Save every snowsuit, bundleme, jacket, high end brand. Those keep their value and are worth having around. Every season we shop our storage for coats before heading out. This includes fancy dresses and suits, you never know when you or a friend will need one for a wedding or funeral you hadn’t planned on, always good to have them on hand.

Baby basics, things for the first two weeks when you are too tired to sort clothes, etc. Have a box of two weeks worth of gender neutral basics, PJ’s, blankets and onesies you can grab without thinking about.

What to Toss:

Shoes. I saved shoes for eight years. They are not easy to store and they take up a lot of space! My kids feet are totally different and when they finally overlapped in size the shoes didn’t work because they were worn in the wrong spots so they caused my toddler to walk funny. Just about the only shoes I have found worth saving are dressy shoes that were only worn a few times and snow boots. Otherwise the space is not worth what you may save.

Infant stuff that’s not covered above. I think by the time this last child was born I had approximately 274,361,584,942 infant pajamas. Now, babies go through a lot of pajamas in those first months, but that’s still too many. Also these are the most common “Yeah, you had a baby!” gift that people bring you. I got them from everyone. If you are worried you won’t have enough remember resale stores are always overflowing with infant stuff and you can get pajamas for $1-3.

Anything that’s stained or faded. Really, unless it fits it under the very first point. I saved things that didn’t look too bad. But with the discoloration around the neck from drool, etc. and after sitting in storage for who knows how long, they look so bad. It will make the clothes look dated and old and it’s just not worth it.

So now when I go through my two bigger kids clothes at the end of a size or season I am way more picky about what I keep. It helps that I know who they are going to, but honestly I thinned the bulk of their stuff last year as soon as the gender of the baby was discovered. Okay, six to eight after. I needed some downtime.

My honest, former clothes hoarder opinion is: No more than one box per size for all seasons.

What I do now is essentially recycle the bulk of my children’s clothes. I take everything they have outgrown and divide it into two piles. The high end, exceptional items get sent to Moxie Jean.Their payout rates are slightly higher than my local shop. Everything else goes to a local shop. At both locations I take the store credit. Store credit will almost always get you more. Anywhere from 10-25% more than cash. I use those credits to buy the kids – all of them – what they need right now.

Anything the resale shop doesn’t take, and for me that’s generally a lot of my girls clothes (because they always have tons of girls stuff), goes to charity. I gift smaller sizes to our local women’s shelter and pregnancy crisis center (they are also so grateful for maternity and nursing wear!). The bigger kids usually go to Goodwill or the National Children’s Cancer Society to be resold in their thrift shops. Anything that is stained or ripped I take to my city for recycling. Yes, recycling! I was so thrilled when our city added textile recycling. If you city doesn’t have it, H&M stores collect clothing for recycling and will offer you a discount when you do! I do the same thing with shoes through a local running store but Nike’s-reuse-a-shoe has many locations and Crocs Cares will recycle or reuse old Crocs.

So go clean some closets, stop hoarding old clothes and start purging. You may find that you make enough for new back-to-school clothes, or maybe you will clear enough space for your very own Mom Cave?

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