Of all the things about parenting I thought would bring me anxiety, organizing and laundering my children’s clothing wasn’t on my radar. That was, until we had our first baby shower and were inundated with baby clothes: adorable onesies, cute little outfits, precious pjs, and teeny-tiny socks. Before our son was born — he’s now five and we just had kindergarten roundup (tear!) — I distinctly remember sitting in the nursery rocking chair staring at a basket of newly-washed clothing (because, you know, you have to wash everything before babies can wear it…while I myself tend to enjoy the crisp feel of a new shirt), wondering how to best organize it all.
I call this my nesting crisis. I think I arranged and rearranged where the various items of clothing would go a few (er, a dozen) times. While I have been fortunate to have pretty smooth pregnancies as far as my mental health is concerned, baby clothing and where to put them about did me in both times. Yeah, weird.
Turns out, there’s no wrong way to organize a mountain of baby clothes — the best approach to take is one that works for you. And, at some point, more clothes will be hanging out in laundry baskets in the hall than in the closet anyway, because surviving is more important than putting away clean clothes. With that in mind, I have learned a thing or two since my nesting crisis.
First of all, to this day, I still have a mild obsession with matching all of our socks, especially the kids’ socks. And the smaller they are, the more easily they get sucked into the vortex of lost things. The difference after five+ years of motherhood? I don’t immediately tear through the house looking for any that are missing — or attempt to disassemble my dryer (kidding)! Instead, I keep the spare sock(s) in my son or daughter’s sock drawer and wait for the blessed day when the stray emerges from a newly-washed sheet or falls out of a long sleeve as someone gets dressed.
I understand now that it was never about the missing sock. It was about control. When you have children, you have very little control and chaos tends to be king — heck, control is a myth, am I right? Knowing that all the socks are neatly matched in each child’s sock drawer provides me a much needed sense of order. But here’s the thing. They’re just socks. And they’re tiny. So, cut yourself some slack.
Having some order, though, makes getting ready in the morning easier and, as they get older, helps empower kids to choose their own outfits and pajamas (or as we call them “jamas”) because they know where to find everything. Here are some tips that help us keep the kids’ clothing somewhat under control.
Put clothing staples within reach of little hands.
We have the kids’ underwear, socks, pajamas, and overnight pants all in the lower drawers of their dressers, so they can have more responsibility in dressing and undressing.
Dividers, get drawer dividers.
Separating socks from undies and long-sleeved pajamas from short-sleeved ones has helped a lot. The kids can better assist with putting away laundry because it’s clear where everything goes. When they were babies, it was nice separating various diapering supplies in their drawers as well as different types or colors of onesies — yeah, I have a problem.
Use the closet.
I put whatever I can in the closet so we can see all clothing options — this helps make sure everything gets worn as opposed to all of their t-shirts being buried in a drawer. In our previous home, I used a sweater organizer to add shelving in the closet. When we moved, we actually had the closets in the kids’ rooms redone to increase functionality with the adaptability to move the rods and shelves as the kids get bigger; it was an investment we have not regretted.
On the heels of organizing came anxiety about clothes as our kids outgrew them. When our son was a baby, I was pretty disciplined with putting baby clothes in appropriately-labeled tubs in a more timely manner. Welp, if I’m honest, now, I tend to pull out individual items as I notice them getting snug and throw them in a pile in the corner of the closet. I also take our son’s clothing and shoes that I know will soon fit our daughter and throw them in her closet. This system works until Mt. Clothing topples over, which it did over this past winter break. It took a day or so for me to get things back under control.
The moral of the story is random aspects of parenting can sometimes catch us off guard with the stress they bring. Before I had kids, if you’d told me lost baby socks or onesie organization would take me to the brink, I would have laughed in your face. Now, I’m here to say that some hard but relatively mundane stressors are best weathered with self-compassion, humility, humor, and a willingness to try new solutions.