Basic Clothing Checklist For Kids (Or Wash Day For Dummies)

May 2, 2011  
I'm sick of washing clothes.

The laundry baskets in this house are always overflowing - sure, this is (in part) a time management issue and something I'm working on, but because I am smart enough to recognise my own weaknesses, I'm devising a brilliant new plan. Said plan's basic philosophy is this - Why make keeping up with the washing harder than it needs to be?

I know, groundbreaking. But bear with me here folks.

My kids are not clothes-horses, not by a long shot.  Quite frankly, I don't put much stock in keeping myself up with the Joneses, clothing-wise, and so I've never really stressed about doing so for the kids either.  If we rip or outgrow something, we replace it, and with the exception of one or two specific-use clothing items, I'm not terribly fussed with where I get it from either.  I've bought things from Myer, Big W, Kmart and specialty stores and it all gets the same treatment from me, posh brand or discount brand.  Do I need to wash this separately?  Does it cost more for this size 4 preschool top than it did for my own coat last winter? Will intended child wear it more than once?

That said, I've noticed several things over my 12 ½ years as a parent that definitely affect the way clothing management happens in this house.

  • Eldest grows like a weed - he's already taller than me (5'4").  We don't expect clothes bought one winter to last him to the next the way we used to be able to get away with when he was younger.  Consequently replacing most of his wardrobe every year kind of takes care of the whole 'expensive brand vs whatever-gets-you-by brand' debate.  I'm already hard-pressed keeping him in shoes that fit (in three months alone earlier this year he skipped two complete shoe sizes) so his wardrobe tends to be a bit sparser than your average pre-teen.

  • In an almost comical alternate example, Middle (who is fast approaching his 11th birthday) is barely growing at all.  He wore the same size 6 school pants for the first four years he was in school.  Economical? Absolutely.  Unfortunately for him, his wardrobe is The Land Of A Thousand T-Shirts (and more) because he gets all of the almost-new hand-me-downs that his older brother barely breathes on before he outgrows.  His clothing collection (mostly tops, as Eldest is rough on pants - think The Incredible Hulk and you're just about there) just keeps growing.  His issue isn't constant replacing of items that he grows out of but managing volume and wear (since he's in them for so long).

  • Youngest is a girl (9 ½).  None of the boys' clothes can be handed down to her so even though she's growing at a lovely, normal rate, and her wear-and-tear level is probably average, we don't have the benefit of a built-in clothing source from an older sibling.

Three different kids.  Three different clothing management needs.

Generally, kids these days have too much clothing.  I know for my kids, they wear the same ten items over and over until they go threadbare, supplemented with the occasional additional outfit, but a fair chunk of the clothing in their wardrobes sits relatively untouched.  Big red flag.

So I sat down and thought about what amount and type of clothing might work well within our family arrangement. Some thoughts that came to mind:

  • My kids go to public schools, and both schools have a uniform.  This minimizes the outfits needed for everyday wear, but it means I need to keep a comfortable level of school pants and tops on hand.

  • I don't like to wash clothes. On an organized day I'll wash at least one, sometimes two loads of laundry, but more often than not I'm not afraid to admit I stretch that out to once or twice a week (several loads each time).  Obviously we need to have enough clothes to cater for the gaps between wash days.

  • We don't go to too many ultra-fancy places so two or three 'nicer' outfits per kid is plenty.  The rest of their clothing is more than suitable for 99% of the events/places we attend on a regular basis (and we keep the items we do have in great nick so they remain suitable).

  • We live in a 'Mediterranean' climate - no need for snowsuits or thermals in winter (at least not during the day) or many other items relating specifically to a local climate/environment - except maybe a hat (if you're living through Alaskan or Canadian winters, for example, I suspect your needs are a wee bit different to ours!)

Armed with that information, I devised a Basic Clothing Checklist - something to ensure that we a) don't waste time washing, drying, ironing, mending, moving and storing pieces of clothing we never wear and b) we don't make our lives more complicated than they need to be.  Here's what I came up with (bearing in mind that each family is different, and each has different clothing needs - our kids are 12, nearly-11 and 9, so our clothing list compared to a family with a toddler or infant would be vastly different. The idea is to examine your OWN basic needs)


Everyday Clothing

10 short-sleeved tees
5 long-sleeved tees
5 jumpers (sweaters)
4 pairs jeans
2 pairs slacks / pants (Eldest/Middle - navy and tan, Youngest - neutral colours)
2 pairs tracksuit pants
5 pairs casual shorts

School Uniforms

3 pairs long pants (navy)
3 pairs shorts / skorts (navy)
5 polo shirts (light blue)
2 zip-up jumpers (navy)
2 plain tees / polo shirts for sports days (in their respective house colours)
1 broad-brimmed school hat (navy)

Socks & Underwear

12-14 pairs underwear
12-14 pairs socks * (white only)

Special Occasions

3 party dresses (Youngest)
3 dressy button-down shirts (Eldest/Middle - these are teamed with the slacks or jeans)


1 set summer pajamas per child
1 set winter pajamas per child
2 swimsuits (Youngest)
2 pairs swim shorts (Eldest/Middle)


1 winter rain jacket
1 scarf (more a Youngest thing, I don't bother buying one for the boys)
1 beanie
1 pair of wool gloves
1 casual summer hat / cap

1 pair school shoes ('regular' or 'sneaker style'), black
1 pair sneakers, white
1 pair thongs (flip-flops) / slip-on shoes
1 pair fancy 'pretty' shoes (Youngest only - the boys use their black school shoes)

I could easily cut the 'basic clothing' list down even further, but this is the aim for now.  With school uniforms, I used to have a big Saturday laundry session for those, so I needed enough tops and bottoms to last the entire school week. I worked out that when the kids were younger, I could get away with them wearing the same pair of shorts or pants twice a week without them needing to be washed (so stretching the three pairs out to five days' worth) but the tops were what came home visibly dirty every day, so I needed five of those per kid.  These days, three complete sets of uniforms would be more than enough, and I could probably even get away with two (washing a mid-week load).

I'm not there yet (!!) but I'm definitely pitching and purging with each load of washing I do.  The idea is that once we hit our 'happy equilibrium' with the kids clothing, we keep and maintain only this quota - if we bring something new into the rotation, we donate something older.  Or if we're dipping low in, say, jeans, we know to buy only enough in that incredible end-of-season sale to match our own family's personal clothing needs.

A quick note on clothing storage: I keep ONE plastic tub in storage labeled 'Out Of Season Uniforms'.  During summer, our uniforms' longer pants and sweaters are popped in here, and conversely, shorts live in the tub during winter, plus it includes uniform items waiting to be handed down from Eldest to Middle (whichever season).  Only the clothes of the current season - regular clothing or uniforms - make it to the closets.  This makes it a no-brainer for the kids, who know that everything hanging up or in drawers is the right size and type, and everything can be reached easily, not battling for space between the two-sizes-too-small summer dresses and the eighteen sweaters.  Similarly, I keep ONE (large) tub with clothing items that I bought during sales, that will replace other items currently in rotation when they finally give up the ghost. We don't have too many sources (cousins, friends etc) for hand-me-downs in larger sizes, so no real need to store them for our kids for later, with the possible exception of a few good quality items from Eldest that will go to Middle when he finally has that growth spurt everyone keeps talking about.

We also hang everything we can - it gives the kids a clear idea what's on offer and it frees up their (minimal) drawer space for socks, underwear, sweatpants, pajamas and other bits and pieces, without creating the 'perfect storm' that is sending them in to find 'the blue shirt' - which will inevitably be at the very bottom of the stack in a drawer. I don't know about you, but I could think of a dozen things more fun than re-folding (again!) a whole drawer full of shirts!

So there you have it - maybe not for everyone, but I am looking forward to the day when I can finally say I have the clothing situation licked in this house. I mean, how cool would it be to know exactly how many clothes it takes to keep your household running smoothly - and not nakedly - while at the same time enjoying thereafter the simplicity of wash day?

First the kids' clothes, then it's on to mine and The Bearded Avenger's duds! Yippee!

(*the best thing I ever did, socks-wise, was to buy ONE SINGLE BRAND, in ONE SINGLE COLOUR, in THREE DIFFERENT SIZES, all of which had the size stitched to the bottom of the foot.  I tossed out every other sock they had.  Every one.  They each got 12 pairs of white socks this past January and washing is a breeze - at least where socks are concerned! - because I no longer even have to bother balling socks.  Every sock matches every other sock in 'their' size so they just grab two loose from the pile and away they go.  They know if they have the wrong sock because they recognise their own size merely by looking at it.  I can't believe I never did this earlier!)


Marita said...

Fantastic and simple solution you have there.

I went with 7 of tops, pants/leggings, skirts, PJs, school dresses. 1 fancy part dress each. 14 pair underpants and socks.

I find we need more casual summer clothes because of the long summer holidays. Where as in winter the kids need more winter school uniform.

When doing laundry I prioritize husband and childrens uniforms so tend to find myself running out of clothing before everyone else. A good incentive to get washing.

sarah said...

Goodness I wish I could follow this line of thought but alas I just love kids clothing too much, in fact it is the only thing I really spend money on. But then again mine are younger and clothes are cuter so maybe this will change as they get older???

Then again the way that Abby and Hannah covet shoes ............ I am guessing maybe not :-)

Love how you work things out, I personally just walk into my laundry every day and heave a big sigh!

River said...

Is that a list of clothing per child?
Because that seems like a lot.
My kids had school uniforms-2 sets each in case of painting day or tomato sauce accidents,
then they had tees and shorts, probably 5 tees and 3 shorts,
7 undies and socks,that's one set per day.
I bought plain tees, in unisex colours, so hand-me-downs weren't a problem
2-3 sweatshirts (again unisex colours) and long pants for winter,
1 pair swimmers each for summer.(wear rinse dry)
1 pair school shoes each,
1 pair sneakers each.
girls-2 dresses each, new if the older girl had grown, hand-me-down for the younger.
boys-2 good shirts and pants each, same deal as above.
winter- 1 parka per child.
4 kids and I washed once a week x 3 loads.
1> school clothes + hubby's army uniform
2> other clothes including mine
3> towels and sheets.

laura said...

Thanks! This list help me a lot as we are also a family of 5!

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Kristina Davis said...

These are all great onesies especially the dress one. Most of these are gender nuetral as well which is great for baby showers and gender reveal parties. I found a few like these at
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