HDYDI: Organize a Kids’ Closet

Sometimes I feel like organizing my children’s closets is a bit like shoveling snow.  As soon as you clean it up, you look behind you and see more falling.

Alas, after doing this five times over, I’ve come to realize the most important thing is this:  have a system that is easy enough so your children have ownership.  If you’re the one doing all the work, then it’s just not functional.  Below are my best tips for decluttering the closet, designing a workable system, installing functional shelving and sorting through the thousands of kid clothes/shoes/etc.  Grab a cup of Joe, this one might take a while 🙂


1.  Take everything out and sort it.  Yep, all of it.  Make those three piles you see on TV home shows – trash, donate, keep.  My goal is always to keep the trash minimal, the donate pile big and the keep pile reasonable.

2.  Evaluate the space.  If you have a small closet, just store that child’s clothes and keepsakes there.  We try to think about closet size when assigning our children their rooms.  We knew the girls would care more about that than the boys, so they got the big closet.  We store extra things in there space, like shoes, Halloween costumes, winter jackets and “keepsake” clothes (more on that in a second).  The boys have limited space, so we adjusted the design accordingly.

Girls Closet “Before”

Girls’ Closet “After”

Boys’ Closet “After”

3.  Map out the space.  If you can swing it, you should really take down the manufactured shelving home builder’s put in the closet and start over.  The reality is, vertical space is your most precious commodity.  One shelf and one clothes rod is not efficient storage management.  A man must’ve planned those closet systems!  My favorite solution is elfa from the Container Store, but I only buy closet systems during their annual 30% off sale that runs December 24-President’s Day.  Several home improvement stores offer wired shelving options for less money.  Whatever you choose, make it a system that can grow with your child.  You can also enter your dimesions on the Container Store’s website and they kick back a design to you within 24 hours.  Even if you don’t use them for everything, it’s a great “dream” of how a closet organizer would utilize your space.  And, it’s free!

4.  Bust out the Kleenex.  During Lent, I got rid of *almost* 40 bags of stuff.  It is hard to let things go – at least it is for me – when it comes to my kids.  For some weird maternal reason, I have such strong memories associated with my children’s clothes.  It is hard, but it has to be done.  It is not right to live in such abundance when others go without.  I found GREAT joy in donating many of their clothes to our local children’s therapy gym where Luke goes for therapy.  Yes, you can definitely donate them to Goodwill or sell them in a garage sale, but we have such a strong connection to our therapists and I know so many of those children need clothes.  For the ones I just couldn’t part with, there is a solution.

5.  Set aside a “special clothes” box and create a “keepsake” box.  I have one special clothes box for the girls (combined) and one box for the boys.  In it, I have special outfits like the hospital “going home” outfit, preemie clothes and other special outfits that have the strongest emotions.  It allowed me a compromise.  I could keep some, but they had to fit in the box.  The rest had to go.  For the “keepsake” box I have things like their baptismal candle, baptism/first communion cards and other special keepsakes that don’t fit into their baby albums.  Yes, I actually have one for every child and they are all updated.  I’ll do a HDYDI about all that this summer!

6.  For clothes storage, we do two things.  We have a two-tier clothes rod.  The clothes on the upper rod are from the previous season and/or year and the ones on the lower rack are for wearing now.  Sometimes, we’ll hit the end of a season, but my kids haven’t really outgrown the outfit.  I know they might be able to wear it for a month or two when the season rolls around again, so we keep it in plain sight so I don’t forget about it!  You could always put it at the back of the closet, at the end of the rod, if you don’t have space for an upper/lower hanging system.  The other option is to purchase clear plastic containers and label them by sex/season/size.  I made a handy checklist (Clothes storage) that I slipped into a plastic sleeve and then put in the front of the container so I could easily locate “Boys, Fall/Winter, 4T clothes,” for example.  Just be sure before you put anything in storage that you sort it first.  If it’s torn or damaged, trash it.  If it’s something you want to donate, put it in your donate pile and get it out of the closet.  Only store things you want your kids to wear again, otherwise you’re taking up valuable real estate.

7.  Start loading everything back into the space and LABEL, LABEL, LABEL.  We put seldom used items on the top shelves (sleeping bags, luggage, blankets and their “childhood box”).  We opted to forgo buying dressers and utilized the basket shelves from The Container Store.  Money. Well. Spent. (or actually not spent!)  We’ve made them eye level so they are within reach and they hold underwear, socks and pajamas.  The girls have extra bling, like the letters with ribbons to hold all their bows (rainbow color order, of course).  Trust me, Clare could sing the rainbox song at age 3.  We also store their headbands and shoes on the shelves, along with blankets, stuffed animals and pillows.  I found these great label templates on BH&G, Bin Storage_green.

8.  Make it a priority to keep everything off the floor.  There is nothing I hate more than a closet floor I can’t see.  Think vertical!

9.  The best part, is I can send my kids upstairs on laundry day and they can put 95% of their clothes up by themselves.  I do a quick sweep on Monday mornings and spend about 10 minutes putting things back in order.  Truth be told, the kids’ closets look like this most of the time because they know how the system works.

10.  A happy child makes a happy momma!


  1. Cathy on April 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    would you come organize my life please?!!! 🙂

  2. Nicole on April 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Your closets are a think of beauty… I feel like we have our children’s things under control, but not in as “pretty” of a fashion… 🙂 You are amazing!

  3. Molly on April 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Come to my house, please! I’m on the verge of a closet re-do in Lauryn’s room. I’ve purchased two 3′ shelves one 4′ freeslide for hanging clothes. My goal is to get everything from our living space downstairs (toys) up to each of the kids’ rooms. Lauryn’s closet is 3.5×4.5 and I have 9 ft ceilings to really go verticle. I had Container Store draw me options, it’s just the ordering that overwhelms me!

  4. Lisa Schmidt on April 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    This one makes it really hard to like you, woman! 🙂 Thank you for indulging my request; I appreciate you taking the time to write it. You rock!

  5. ELM @ A Family Treehouse on May 4, 2012 at 10:31 am

    OH. MY. GOODNESS. I need you to live next door. uh, I mean in the room with green walls in my house. We are getting ready to go out the door and visit the library. But, I wanted to check and see what you’ve been up to as I have been absent from blog-land for a while… BUT, I wanted to say – holy smoke-olies! I told my girls just last night that there was going to be a “smack down” on the closet and bedroom situation and that it was getting an overhaul. I am inspired to say the least!!! It is a rental house, so I won’t be as thorough as you… but I can do some 3M Command strips for vertical!! Wooo Hooo!!!

  6. HDYDI: Organize a Kids’ Keepsake Box on July 31, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    […] I wrote about the massive closet overhaul we did on the girls’ closet, I mentioned a keepsake box I created for each of the kids, but I never gave you the skinny. When […]

  7. […] Oh my heavens, y’all. You know what I fan I am of the blog, iHeartOrganizing. Jen always has great and stylish solutions to making life more organized. She is THE organizing queen. I’ve been following her blog for so long and admiring her projects and that of her reader space contributors. Never once did I think I’d be one of those contributors. But, yesterday afternoon I received an email that she wanted to feature the girls’ closet project. […]

  8. Carolina on August 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Congratulations Dear Friend! I am SO excited for you. I am a follower of iHeartOrganizing as well and I love her posts. Keep up your great job! Hugs!

  9. Debi B on August 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I love this! I am REALLY interested in the way you store the hair bows. I couldn’t completely see the one furthest back, but would love to know more about this. We have two bio boys and then have adopted two little girls and all the hair bows are such a mess for me! lol LOVE little girls, but I have no idea how to organize all the stuff they have that the boys don’t! lol

  10. Kathryn on August 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Debi, thanks for stopping by at Team Whitaker! Congratulations on the adoption of your two girls – how exciting! I stored the bows in two different ways. The first we used a wooden letter from their first name, painted it white and then hot-glued a wide grosgrain ribbon to the back. I use it to clip on the solid-colored bows in rainbow color order. The mirror at the back was from Southern Living at Home – the dress-me-up mirror (it had a curved design with holes every few inches). I strung grosgrain ribbon through it and clip the seasonal bows to the ribbon. You might be able to find one on Ebay or make one yourself. But, the letters have worked beautifully for us, too. I hope that helps!

  11. Team Whitaker: 2012 in Review on January 7, 2013 at 7:30 am

    […] HDYDI: Organize a Kids’ Closet […]

  12. […] and fold it, you put it up. I’m a big believer in making kids independent, thus the reason we redesigned their closets to be more functional, for us and them, and why we use chore charts that are […]

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