I used to think my children didn’t have a lot of clothes. Based on the amount of clothing I saw displayed at garage sales, my kids really didn’t have much in comparison, I reasoned.

But when we started to be able to go 2 full weeks without washing anything (except socks and underwear), I began to see that perhaps we weren’t as minimalist as I thought.

Seriously, where did these clothes come from? I wondered. I became convinced that they reproduced on their own, like mushrooms. Then I started thinking about just how we filled our drawers and closets.

A shirt here, a dress there. I’d buy things on very good clearance and then forget what we had (because it was packed away in a box) and buy more. Next someone would give us hand-me-downs. Then the kids’ birthdays or Christmas would come and grandparents would give clothing as gifts.

It was all coming into our house in a inexpensive manner, but as we go along in our frugal living journey, I’m realizing more and more that a deal really isn’t a good deal unless you’re going to use itOur closets aren’t overflowing but we’re definitely not lacking in selection either.


One of our three financial changes for 2013 is to spend less money on clothes, especially our children’s clothes. We are 30 miles from the nearest thrift store and with three children and being pregnant, I don’t have a lot of time or energy to browse clothes or go in on days where there are rock-bottom deals, stuff-a-bag sales, etc. Garage sales in our small town don’t have a lot of selection and so that’s hit or miss as well. 

The best ways to make this change seem to be to pare down and minimize our children’s clothing “collections” and to stay organized about what we already have so we don’t buy duplicates or too many extras.

In our family we have two boys and one girl (until our next girl joins us on October!) and we don’t go many places throughout the week. This means that I’ll have a chance to wash clothes that get dirty fairly often. 

Super duper clearance clothes from Old Navy–I’m going to remember & use them!

Based on our needs and our lifestyle, this is what I’m planning on having (per child):

  • 2 pairs of dress pants/shorts/skirts, in different colors 
  • 4 nicer dress shirts (polos, button up, etc)
  • 1 fancy dress outfit (1 fancy dress for my daughter)
  • 5 outfits for play that are interchangeable and can get dirty without me minding
  • 2 nicer casual outfits
  • 3-4 pairs of pajamas
  • 1 swimwear item
  • 2 pairs of shoes, one dress, one casual (read why I always buy new shoes for my kids)
  • 1 pair of play sandals for the summer (like crocs or flip flops)
  • Seasonal jackets & outerwear as needed
  • Undergarments & socks as needed

I’m also going to be stricter about when clothes go in the wash. At the end of the day, if it’s not noticeably dirty or smelly, it can go back in the drawer or closet. This saves on wear and tear from washing as well so the clothes last longer.

Possible barriers to success:

  • I’m a clean freak, so I expect the whole “waiting to wash” thing to be a slow process
  • I will forget to wash clothes and my kids will have nothing to wear but undergarments (public nudity is not my thing)
  • I will wake up one morning and realize I have gone completely insane

Maybe this seems like an extremely minimal amount of clothes and it’s going to backfire. I’m just going to try this as an experiment this summer, so I won’t let go of the winter clothes I’ve already stocked up on for this winter just yet. I want to see if these amounts of clothing are really consistent with our needs.

toddler clothes hanging in the laundry room. close up

Already I’ve had a little success! I was pleased to find after going through my 2 year old son’s clothing last week that the only thing I had to buy new for him this summer were one pair each of dress and play sandals. I’ve saved some of his brother’s clothes and bought a few clearance items last year so that was very helpful.

Likely benefits of a minimal children’s wardrobe:

  • Less storage space used to store clothes for the next season or when saving for the next child down.
  • Less time washing, drying and folding (maybe my kids can manage it ALL now!)
  • Better record keeping
  • Saving even more money!
So the question remains: Will this experiment work? I’ll keep you updated! 

How many clothes do you think a child should have? How much is too much? If your kids have too many clothes, what is your plan to pare down?

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Read about what I did to clean out my daughter’s closet plus the series “finale” where I share the results of my experiment!


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40 Comments on How Many Clothes do Kids Really Need?

  1. Hi there –
    Great blog.
    Do you know where I could get a list online for my 10 year old daughter to use?
    should we separate autumn, winter, summer, spring.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Julienne, I am not sure why but I didn’t see this comment until just today! I’m not sure of any list online but I wonder if a search on Pinterest would turn up some results! We just separate by two seasons because we have such a long winter where we live. I really don’t buy “spring” and “fall” clothes, but I do have some leggings for my daughter that she layers under her skirts as it is turning colder. Hope that helps!

  2. Weeding through the clothes, it’s a never ending process!!I love the idea of taking everything out of the dresser, and only putting back what they wear.

    We have more clothes than the kids can go through in a week or two, and my kiddos are still small, so they soak their clothes with drool, spit-up, water play, etc. I usually change them at least twice a day. This is just too much! I don’t mind doing laundry more often, just need to get us there, clothing wise!

    It’s SO hard when there’s such cute cloths out there.

    • That is part of the struggle I think for some, is not buying the clothes in the first place! I really have to force myself not to look at catalogs and websites, because what I don’t know, I don’t miss! :)

  3. I love this! I’ve tried to do this a few times, but with three girls and grandmas and aunts who like to buy dresses–it is challenging! Seriously. I don’t think I’ve bought the girls any clothes in quite some time and our closets still overflow.

    Paring things down is on my to-do list before we start back to school!

    • And you have 3 girls too! I can see how the dresses would overflow ;) I’m already looking forward to paring down even more before the fall.

  4. I’m a super cheap Mama. I refuse to spend a bunch of money on clothing (I do agree with you on the shoe thing, and we do the same as you). I always buy ahead, as we don’t get a lot of hand me downs. I shop yard sales, thrift stores and clearance for the next year. I’ve figured out that I have to keep a list in my purse, so when I find a good deal on something, I can check my list to see if it’s needed. I just make tally marks next to items as I pick them up, so I know when I have enough of an item.

    • That’s a great idea to keep a list in your purse so you remember what you have! I’ll be doing that for this fall and winter.

  5. I’m working on keeping a minimalist kids wardrobe. I have about 10 “every day” outfits for my daughter, but too many dressy clothes right now (gifts). As I plan ahead and try to shop sales for good deals I’m trying to figure out if 10 every day outfits, a mix of a few nicer casual with mostly play clothes, will keep us stocked! Any word on how your experiment has gone?

    • I will have an update coming early next week! We did end up with too many dressy clothes for my daughter…they were things we were given or I had purchased on clearance last year. She loves to wear all those dresses though so I haven’t been able to take care of those yet :P I would think your idea for your amount of clothes would work well! I discovered a couple of interesting things last week when we were gone for 7 days which I’ll share next week!

  6. I love this post. I buy more winter clothes because our kids wear them longer but for the summer, they have about a weeks worth of outfits that we rotate through. It’s nice to see a more minimalist approach!

    • Thanks! Yes, winter is a whole other matter when it comes to kids’ clothes. We have a longer winter here too, so I’m going to have to increase the amount of clothes they have or at least know I’ll have to buy a few extras as they grow.

  7. I love your minimalist kids’ wardrobe! I remember one fall in law school when Will only had two pair of play pants (and one for church, I think.) It was kind of crazy, but it worked and I knew my MIL had a whole bucket of boys’ clothes for me to go through when we came for Christmas. :)

    • Good for you to get by with such a small amount, Anna! I already had to buy some extra pjs for J, he grew too quickly!

  8. I don’t think that’s too few at all. We’re pretty minimalist when it comes to clothes as well. I found that even when we had more, the boys only WORE the same few outfits over and over anyway, and the excess just made a cluttered mess.

    • Cluttered mess…that’s exactly what it’s become, at least more cluttered than I’d like. I’m really looking forward to making more room!

  9. You are smart to have some play clothes in there that you don’t have to worry about! ;)

    Throughout the years I have loved finding them clothes at the thrift store or on sale that were a good deal. I didn’t buy them a huge amount of clothes but I’m sure that they had more than they needed.

    If you have them take everything out of their drawers or closets and then put things back as they wear them,(or in the laundry) at the end of the month you’ll be amazed to discover that they only actually wear a small amount of those clothes.

    Now mine are young adults and I rarely buy them clothes anymore. It’s just so hard to know what they would like or not like or what they have or don’t have.

    I would love to have you link this up with my “Making Your Home Sing Monday” linky party today, if you’d like! :)

    • Thanks for the great advice, I will try that with the clothes. It would definitely give me a solid idea of what they’re actually wearing! I will definitely link up tomorrow as well :)

  10. Great list! Thank you so much for sharing. We get a large supply of clothes from relatives and sometimes my daughter’s closet is way too full. My goal this week–to pair down to what she actually likes and will wear. Thanks for the inspiration. I’d love to have you link this up to Titus 2 Tuesday on Cornerstone Confessions. Hope to see you there!

  11. I like the way you listed out the outfits. Looks like you covered all the bases pretty well. I’m weeding out my 6 yr old daughter’s wardrobe this week, doing something similar. It simplifies life and eases up a lot of stress!

  12. Just the thought of less laundry is a HUGE motivator. With 3 girls clothes definitely multiply while we sleep (or so I tell myself).

  13. My husband and I have talked about doing this for a while now. We go through sooo much laundry for a small family! Thanks for the motivation. Maybe we’ll try it this summer…

  14. Yep, I just put 5 trash bags full of clothes in the back of our van to donate in the morning. I feel like I do this every 2-3 months! There are 8 of us and I am desperately trying to cut down on all the excess in our home!

  15. I love this. We’re moving this summer and I’m trying to purge as much as possible. In my own closet, I got rid of SIX BAGS of clothes today. And our closet is still full. That’s ridiculous. I am trying to do some serious attacking on all of our stuff!!

  16. I did this a couple of years ago with my (then three) kiddos. Somehow life took hold as well as Grandma’s wallet and just last night, I was staring at the towers of folded laundry and wondering how we had gotten back to so many clothes already. Guess it’s time to cut it down again!

  17. Jenn,
    I have wondered about this, too, when our children were young, but now have several friends who are asking questions. Glad for your ideas…I would like to ask you to consider sharing once again on Deep Roots At Home’s Wednesday link-up. I miss seeing your posts!
    Many blessings to you :)

    • I was looking for your link-up this week but I think I checked it too soon and then didn’t come back–just linked up now! I’m finally starting to be consistent with posts again after being so sick for so long, so I’ll be over more frequently! Thanks for your sweet comment, Jacqueline :)

  18. I’ve been looking for a good guideline as to how many clothes a child should have and it seems that no one wanted to write this post ;) I think I will try the same thing this summer.

  19. I’m undertaking a similar project on my own clothes. I donated two pretty large baskets full of clothes I no longer wear. But I think I still have too much. I’m trying to get it down to the almost bare minimum over the next few weeks. It’s all part of my Project Simplify blog series over on ModernishHomemaker.com. I’m also purging my kitchen, bookshelves and living room area. Even though I don’t have kids – these are great guidelines for grownups as well.

  20. I have two kids. As they out grow or damage their “good” clothes, I put it in a drawer and it becomes their “play” or “around the house” clothes. it’s fine except nothing gets thrown away and only little gets donated or given away. However more and more clothes seems to come in the house. I love this post. It’s motivated me to figure something out. Not sure what yet, but I’m gonna get it done.

    • Awesome! I’m glad we can motivate each other :) Those clothes just seem to appear out of nowhere, don’t they?

  21. I came to the same conclusion years ago when our family was growing and we were running out of room for dressers! We now have 8 children and what we do is share dressers. In a family this big, with a house this small I can’t squeeze in a separate dresser for each child. 3 of my girls share a dresser. I share one with my oldest daughter, My 4 boys spilt 2 dressers between them. If we’re having a hard time fitting our clothes in the drawers, then it’s time to pare down. I think you’ll find that you’re making the right move!

    • Thanks, Jillian! I’m eager to apply this to mine and my husband’s clothes as well (after baby comes in October). Sharing dressers would definitely be good motivation to declutter!

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