So, back in May I started a “three month” experiment to find out how many clothes my kids really need.

The reason I have “three months” in quotations is because this experiment has gone on much longer than I originally planned!

Let’s just pretend this is the “month 3 update”, instead of month 4 1/2, shall we? ;) These are some of my final thoughts and things I’ve discovered in my quest to figure out how many clothes kids really need.

—–> Related: Check out my “month 1 update” in which I digress about my daughter’s full and messy closet. There are some awesome reader comments on this post as well.

When it comes to answer the question “how many clothes do kids really need?” the true answer is that it depends. It makes a difference what your lifestyle is (and by lifestyle, I don’t mean the desire to put 30 pairs of brand-name jeans for your child on a credit card).

I’m talking about the things you spend time doing–your life’s style. For instance, if you live on a farm, as one reader pointed out so well in my second post on this topic, you will likely need a lot of clothes for each child, preferably every day clothes that you aren’t going to weep over if they get filthy dirty (which they will). I grew up on a farm and that’s what happened. We’d go through 3 or 4 outfits per day on some days and I know that my mom was thankful to have a lot of clothing for us, even though she probably did the wash at least once a day for 25 years. 

If you are a family who goes to a lot of church or other dressy events, you may want to have several outfits that are interchangeable to make sure everyone is looking nice without having to do laundry every other day. But you can still keep this to a minimum. For instance, my two boys have 3 pair of dress pants, one khaki, one khaki corduroy and one dark corduroy and 6-7 shirts that match with those pants. You can easily do this for girls too, even though I haven’t yet managed to organize this type of system for my daughter (ahem). Something about her liking to wear dresses all. the. time.

My 5 year old daughter’s clothing for fall and winter

If you have a newborn baby {like we will very soon}, you may need more clothing than average the first few months. Obviously babies go through several changes a day at times, so it’s good to be prepared. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money on these clothes! The obvious tips of shopping yard sales, consignment stores and thrifty stores help you save money on the precious things they will outgrow very quickly. 

I have barely spent any money on our fourth baby’s clothes so far. I swapped clothes with a friend who was having a boy since we’re having a girl, I hit up a few garage sales this summer and paid between 25 cents and $1 for some really cute things, received hand-me-downs from a generous friend and purchased a few items with a Target gift card someone had given me over a year ago. This is what we have for 0-3 month clothing:  

  • 3 dressy outfits
  • 2 “sweatsuits” {sounds so 80’s, doesn’t it?}
  • 12 short sleeve onesies
  • 3 long-sleeve onesies
  • 4 sleep gowns
  • 5 bibs
  • 8 pair socks {because you know those tiny things get lost in the wash!}
  • hats/mittens
  • 3 lightweight sleepers
  • 6 warmer sleepers
  • 3 pant & onesie outfits

Not overkill but enough to get us by for the 6 weeks she’ll likely be in these clothes, if she follows my other children’s growth patterns. The onesies and sleep gowns we have were used by at least one of our other children–may as well reuse them if they’re still in good shape!

So, depending on what your life looks like right now, your needs will be different. That’s why I have a difficult time coming to a hard and fast conclusion on exactly how many clothes a child needs. 

But I do think there are some general rules we can all follow to help keep clothing to a minimum and save money on them in the meantime:

Stay out of the stores. Stay off the websites. If you are a browser/shopper/lover of fashion, that is likely how your children end up with so many clothes. There can be a moment in time where our desire for things becomes an idol and as Christians, how do we handle this?

I love this verse from Isaiah 44:9 {ESV}: All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.” God wants us to flee from idolatry and keep our eyes from those things if they tempt us. He gives us a way out! Pray and ask the Lord if you are struggling with this type of thing.

Instead, make a list of the smallest amount of clothes your children can get by with. Buy that amount and no more! Adjust your attitude about doing laundry more frequently. Then, if you still reasonably need more, add a few items to their closets. {Please note, this is what I am saying to myself as well!} 

  • Even if it’s a good deal, don’t buy it if you don’t need it. This might be sort-of the flip-side to buying expensive things from stores or boutiques, the hunt for a good deal and the inability to refuse one. But the truth is, it isn’t a good deal if you don’t actually need it.

    Reader Tera had a great idea that I am using now: write down what you intend to buy for each season for your children and keep that list with you when you go to yard sales, etc. Once you have bought all you need, just stop buying. This is also something we can commit to prayer, trusting the Lord to help us overcome our impulses. 
  • When you pare down your kids’ clothes at the end of the season, get rid of the extras right away. Have a box or boxes in the closet or some central location that are designated for give away, throw away and resale (if you can be sure you’ll resell them and not hang on to them!). I have very little clothing that I am keeping now for next year’s garage sale. Just last week I took 2 bags of clothes to a consignment store and now I am just going to donate the rest to a family that I know needs the clothing. Some organizations like the Purple Heart will come and pick up your items for free!Because it is hard to predict what size my 2 year old will be in next season, I am not going to keep many hand-me-downs from his older brother because they may not end up fitting and then they just sit around! Instead, I will hunt for bargains as needed.
  • If it doesn’t fit, you must….get rid of it! We have three drawers in our upstairs kids’ bedroom and a very small amount of hanging closet space. Our younger two (a boy and soon-to-come newborn girl) will share these drawers. I decided that if there are more clothes than we have room for, the clothes must go! 
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford. My aim is to spend half of what I spent last year on my kids’ fall/winter clothes, which wasn’t a ton but it was too much for my liking. Perhaps you can make that your goal too, or even 75% less if you are really ambitious! If you are blessed enough to get all hand-me-downs, this won’t even apply and perhaps you can put the money you estimate you would have spent into savings!

Happy Pregnant Woman Shopping In Baby Store

Did I stick with my original plan on the number of items to have per child? I’m pretty close. My daughter has several dresses but those were hand-me-downs and since she loves to wear them (with leggings in the winter), we will just end up with fewer pants for her than originally thought. And I did decide to do 3 pairs of dress pants instead of two for each boy since the winter is really long here in these parts! 

What about you? Have you been able to pare down your children’s clothing and find a system that works for you? If not, what are some of the challenges you are facing? I’d love to have some ideas and motivation for future posts!


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6 Comments on How Many Clothes do Kids Really Need? {Month 3 Update and Final Thoughts}

  1. It is so true that the more you see in stores, online and in ads, the more it makes you want to buy!

  2. It’s been really hard for me. Mostly because we really cant afford to replace something if we do end up needing it. which means I tend to keep everything because we might need it. Which leaves me feeling sometimes like the might someday come to life and rampage. :)

    • It is so easy for me to hang on to things, especially because I think I “might” need it someday. I don’t know what amount of stuff you have but maybe you could set an amount that you want to keep and let go of the rest? I’ve found that I really need less than I originally thought! I totally understand where you’re coming from!

  3. With my 7 month old son, it’s SO hard to get his closet stocked in a good way. He’s currently in 9-12 month clothes and in some cases, 12-18 (pjs and some onesies). Sizing is such an issues – and some clothes are made really funny so a 12-18 month outfit really looks like a 9-12 month. Anyways, we go consignment sale shopping each season and I play the “predict his size” game – which I usually half-lose :/ It’s a learning curve for sure! My goal is always to spend smarter and predict better the next season! :)


    • Oh, the predict-the-size game! I have played that often! My 3 kids have almost all grown at the same rate so I’m finally figuring out how to buy them things ahead of time, especially since garage sale season where I live is short (no one wants to do one in January when it’s 10 below) ;) You are doing a great job just trying!

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