paring down for fall: toddler clothes

already getting a lot of use out of these wellies

The other week I asked about end of season sales for children’s clothing, who uses them to stock up and what your experiences have been with guessing sizes. They were some great comments here and on Facebook and a few people even emailed me. I’ll share a few of the responses with you:

      • I used to shop these sales extensively for clothing for my six children. I also used to store up clothing from thrift stores and garage sales a couple of years in advance for each child. Over time this became a complexity nightmare. I would end up forgetting what I have in storage no matter how carefully I organized it. I don’t think I saved any money because I would end up getting rid of 75% of what I had  when I became overwhelmed and began simplifying, or someone would give me clothing and I would be overwhelmed trying to sort out clothing for six children. – Tiffani (by email)
      • My best advice is: take advantage of the sale if it is less than half price and only buy 2-3 items of the same kind, this way you can save it for the second kid. – Charlotte (blog comments)
      • I used to try and pick up items “for next year”, but now I don’t. It always seemed like when next year came around, we were gifted (generous grandparents!) or received hand-me-downs from nieces and just had way too many clothes. – Melissa (blog comments)
      • It’s a must for our family. I never pay full price for our clothes, and buying new is a rarity. When things are purchased new, it’s on clearance. 90% of the time my daughter is clothed in brand names and recent styles for children, but instead of getting them new, I’ll always buy up a size used. Nice when Goodwill has 1$ prices on all clothing under size 4T. Got some adorable Polo jeans that sold for 95$ last year for a whole buck. That sort of thing I’ll always buy for next year. I can always sell it if it doesn’t fit. – Memie (Facebook)

Once again, every family finds what works for them. We’re not all the same, we have different needs, different numbers of children, ages and sizes of children. Some families live in areas with drastic climate changes during the years. Others live in more temperate cities and don’t need to switch out clothing. I also think we naturally gravitate towards our strengths. If you’re highly organized and are savvy with reselling clothing you can turn end of season sales into a money making venture.

Reading about all of these different systems helps me keep my mind open about my own plans.

One thing that will not change: do a thorough wardrobe review before buying anything new.

Before I even made a list of what Henry already had for fall I had mentally, and verbally to Chris, committed to buying 2-3 new pairs of jeans or chords for him.

After determining what still fits, and what is too lightweight to keep in rotation, I think he should be fine as is. No need to add any pants to his wardrobe. So, until those jeans are mid-shin or don’t button up, he’s wearing them.

most of the Henry's fall wardrobe


Wardrobe List for a Toddler

  • 6  x  jeans/pants
  • 5 x pajamas
  • 1 hooded sweatshirt
  • 1 button down shirt
  • 1 sweater vest
  • 2  t-shirts
  • 3 polo shirts
  • 6 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 3 onesies
  • fleece jacket
  • rain jacket
  • rain suit
  • wellies
  • walking shoes

If our laundry system didn’t require 24 hours + per load we could probably get by with less. We’re a touch over Project 333 requirements but I’m not sweating it. This is what works for us right now, this season and at this age. Our outerwear list feels long but… we don’t have a car. Or a very big home. We’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors through a  rainy season. Proper clothing and footwear can make those outdoor adventures fun, instead of cold and miserable.

We are sad to see summer go. The horse tram shut down for the winter the other weekend. No more horse hoof sounds outside our window or tram drivers waving to us as we walk along the Prom. Chris and I took Henry on a few farewell rides. I’m irked I never got a good photo of all of us on the tram but here’s Henry on one of the last runs. We actually used the service both for fun and function: it was a convenient way to get to the park without the stroller.

we love horse trams!


So who else tackled kid’s wardrobes recently? Anyone drastically reducing for the first time? I switched out my own clothing as well and will have a post about it soon. One thing I really like about the process of unearthing last winter’s clothing: feels like shopping. The best kind of shopping because it’s free and you already have space for it.

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  • I am tackling the children’s clothing today. People gave us a lot of clothes for our little girl, but a lot of them are to small for her. She’s 6 months old this week and she’s been wearing 12 months clothes for a month now. I need to go through and see what I need to go buy, probably just a few pairs of pants and a few long shirts. The rest of the stuff we’re just going to have a garage sale for next month a long with several other things I want to get rid of.

  • Well since we have pretty much one season here, we never switch out wardrobe until a kiddo needs a size up. Our guys tend to have LOADS of tee shirts, but that’s because they can wear them year round. Our 3 yr old especially has many shirts (maybe 20ish). When they get to an age where they wear clothes for well over a year, I like having some variety, so they aren’t wearing the same 6 shirts. As for the rest of the clothes, I think there are a couple long sleeved shirts, a hoodie or two, fourish pairs of jeans, tons of shorts (will be wearing them Mar. through Nov.), two pairs of close toed shoes (for school) and three pairs of flip-flops. Our almost 18 month old has much less, but that’s because they grow out of clothes every 6 months at this stage. I love having a decent wardrobe for big brother because I know if something gets stained or ruined, there’s still enough for when little bro needs to reuse them.

    • You’re in a great situation. Temperate climate and an older same gender sibling. You’ll be able to make a lot of use of your older son’s wardrobe for your younger son. Heard from other commenters that they like to do the same: invest in nicer pieces/ bigger wardrobe for the older child because it will get lots of use.

  • Since my little one is in school since September, they are wearing their uniforms Monday-Friday, and only wear ‘normal’ clothes on the week-end/school holidays. Uniforms make life so easy! :)
    So they each have:

    3 pyjamas
    5 white vests
    2 white thermal T-shirts
    7 pants
    10 pairs of socks (including school socks) (all of these from M&S, they are fairly cheep and of good quality)

    2 pairs of school trousers
    5 school polo-shirts
    2 school jumpers
    1 school tracksuit
    1 black school shoes
    1 school trainers

    2 jeans
    1 trousers
    1 shirt
    3 rugby shirt
    2 long-sleeve T-shirt
    1 jumper
    1 fleece with zip-on raincoat
    non-slip socks for home
    walking boots

    I make sure all tops go with all their trousers, so items can be mixed.

    • Thanks for putting your list up here. This is great!

      I’m excited about uniforms for school here. They even wear them in Reception (Kindergarten at home) so I 2-3 more years and Henry will be in them.

  • I’m doing this tackle right now… problem being. She’s in daycare, 2 and 1/3 years old, and potty training. I tend to send her wearing a pair of pants and 3 or more pairs of pants a day. I know it won’t always be like this, but it’s been difficult, I’ve been constantly doing laundry and am not currently a great judge of what she’ll actually need for the fall right now.

    • That is a tough stage. Not looking forward to it myself. Also a good reminder for me that we might need to double our pants count for potty training (thrift store here I come!).

      Good luck with the potty training =)

  • I recently went through a huge unintended stuff reduction – thanks to the Bastrop wildfires. Ugh. Not a fun way of getting the minimalist thing going but still, effective. As we are currently living in an RV and plan on staying in this for at least a year (only one child and she’s 3 years old – and she has her own room) I really need commit to this thing NOW. I had wanted to before the fire, but there was so much stuff to get through… problem solved!

    So, my question is, how many clothes does a 3 year old girl NEED in Texas (near Austin) where right now it hit 101? It did snow last winter, so some winter stuff is needed… Kids clothes have been donated in abundance thankfully, so I don’t think that I’m going to have to buy her much, but I still want to keep a lid on what stays in her “dresser” from the donated stuff.

    Luckily for me, as a tall lady that is hard to fit, my clothes are already limited. I think that other than a new coat and maybe a few sweaters and long sleeved t-shirts, I’m probably fine.

    Thanks for the inspiration – I’m determined to make this whole disaster a positive thing and this is the best way that I can think of!

    • So sorry to hear about you losing your home. That is terrible!

      You have a great attitude with using the tragedy as a positive for keeping possessions simple. Good luck!

      PS. Also a tall lady that is hard to fit =) I guess the silver lining to it is that for a woman trying to live with a smaller wardrobe, I am not tempted by sales. I wear a 12 or 14 long and that is hard to come by.

  • Tackling the kids’ wardrobes is becoming a September tradition for me. Unfortunately, I am feeling woefully inadequate in this department right now. I thought I had my youngest’s wardrobe down to a bare minimum, and then we were gifted a huge bag of hand-me-downs for him from some friends. Thankfully the clothes are lovely (Polo, GAP) and totally his style. Grateful that there is room in the wardrobe to put this stuff, but I’ll definitely be looking to follow Henry’s very reasonable wardrobe list for BOTH my kids in the future. :)

    • Nice score on the hand-me-downs. That is one thing we have really missed. I got a HUGE bag form my brother and his wife before Henry was born and it was very helpful. Loads of 0-3 month sleepers. Now that we’re overseas we’re not inline for that kind of stuff. Hmmmm… would it be poor form to search out a new friend that has say, a 3 year old boy?

  • WOW!!! I’m in the middle of simplifying the boys room. The toys have taken over!!!! But, when I saw your Wardrobe List today I thought, that’s not so hard I’ll just take a few things out and done….not so fast…they have clothes EVERYWHERE!!!!! I did not realize it was so bad. I think I’ll be swimming in clothes for the rest of the week….=S

    • Hahahaha! I’ve had a few of those projects myself. You think it will just be a few hours and then realize you need to devote a day to decluttering the toys and the wardrobe. Good luck!

  • Again, you have inspired me to get this – it is still warm here (there was a still a humidex of 30 C the other day), so for once I am ahead of the game.
    I am happy to say that for the first time in a while, I can actually put all the clothes in the drawers neatly, without having to jam them shut, even with the fall / winter pieces added.
    I have cleaned out the summer clothes that are no longer appropriate, discarded some damaged ones, stored a few pieces for siblings (1 box) and have a box to give to friends.
    I even managed to get out the snow suits, and found that I only need to get my oldest a new jacket, as her pants still fit. We are lucky that grandparents purchased new winter boots so now we are truly set for a snow fall…

    • Well done!! Must feel really good to be so on top of things. I was feeling good too… and we are experiencing a ‘heat wave’ and I’m rolling up my jeans and unearthing my Birkenstocks. It’ll be gone by the weekend so no need for me to get the skirts and tanks out.

  • Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who keeps clothes to a minimum and in that effort makes a list! Here is my boy’s winter list:
    -3 jeans
    -1 trouser
    -8 tee shirts (which are worn under dress shirts on cold days)
    -2 button-front shirts
    -1 sweater
    -1 coat
    -8 underwear
    -8 pairs of socks
    -2 pairs of dress socks
    -1 pair of dress shoes
    -1 pair of casual shoes
    -4 pajamas
    I have a girl’s list too, but my girl is only 15 months and I am still trying to figure out the perfect wardrobe that keeps her warm for winter yet doesn’t require loads of stuff. For us, the key is layers. Rather than having long sleeved tee shirts, we layer a tee shirts, a sweater then a coat if need be. I don’t have to change out a bunch of tees that way. This is just my winter list, obviously summer includes things like swimming shorts and casual shorts. My boys do wear out the knees of their jeans, but I’ve become an expert patch-er. There are so many variables to this though. Climate, activities, expectations from the child’s school, not to mention style preferences and budget. It’s a good thing to discuss.

  • I was pretty darn happy when I unearthed almost everything we need for winter from last year’s wardrobe.

    So a question I have, does it snow there or just rain? If it does snow, do you plan on keeping him in the rain boots?

    • I’m told that last year they had 6 weeks of snow on the ground. Excited/scared about that. Snow can be fun but it would be challenging to get around in it with my toddler and no car.

      We have a snowsuit from last year that I will use, with the rain boots, if it snows.

  • i have recently transitioned my sons wardrobe for more winter fare. its tough (living in Florida US) winter here being 80 degrees on and off next to 50 degrees etc. but I think I have it pretty much nailed as is. about 6 or so pairs of pants. one or two pairs of heavy pants for those really wet chilled days. jackets i get lucky on at thrift stores (because people here dont want to store them for 2 weeks of the year lol) i get nice quality for very cheap sometimes. I am pregnant with twin boys now, and that has changed how i store/save/buy for my oldest. now i buy a lot less items, but higher quality/price and save them for the younger ones. i still shop at thrift stores and yard sales but im much more picky and really think about it now.

    im so glad that i had the forethought to save clothes for future use with us. Our budget is a tight one most of the time, and usually when its time to change seasonal clothing, there isnt much wiggle room in the wallet. so having that basic stock of bigger clothes that fit is essential for us. we live ina tiny house so space is limited. i get smart with how to stash it and bring it out when its needed. giving myself plenty of time to wash and fluff the clothes in time to wear so i dont get overwhelmed. i like my ‘system’ and its working (right now for us) but im always open to new ideas.

    • my downfall is MY OWN wardrobe. impulse buys, constantly changing wasteline and now im pregnant!, plus generally im too cheap to buy things for myself so i end up buying a lot of items that will not get worn too much. OR end up just wearing holes into a few things that are super comfy since nothing fits. that is why i have so much fun dressing my son. even if he in a growth spurt or when i had to take in his pants for how lean/tall he was at the time. so much less stressfull dressing him than me!

  • Great timing. It was only this morning that I discussed ‘going through her wardrobe’ with my youngest to clear out items that no longer fit!

    When I was a young child, I had 3 outifts: 1 on, 1 clean and 1 in the wash.

    I have gradually being paring down our clothes to a reasonable, but not overly minimalist, level. Personally I don’t think one sweater is enough for colder climates. I think 2 is the minimum, but we can easily manage with less t-shirts and trousers/bottoms. I would say it’s easier for kids to get by with 1 pair of trousers or jeans but not one sweater, since they are more likely to get dirty (by play or food) than trousers. Realistically, since we line dry, 1 of anything isn’t ideal 😉 Having said that, I think and manage in terms of Summer & Winter wardrobes and not Autumn (Fall) or Spring. So strappy tops and shorts are removed and long trousers, warmer tops and jumpers come in. We then layer according to the daily temperature. It’s particularly mild this year so far.

    Also, whilst I’m happy wearing the same couple of tops and jeans every day, I don’t actually like looking at my children (or husband) in the same fleece/sweater every day. So we almost do our clothing upside down: 2 or 3 ‘bottoms’, but 4-6 warm ‘tops’, by which I mean hoodies/fleeces to go over t-shirts. We live in England.

  • We also live in UK. The winters have been very unpredictable the last few years. My son who is four has
    2 pairs jeans
    2 pairs jogging bottoms (comfy for nursery but I don’t like them that much)
    4 long sleeved tshirts
    2 tshirts to wear under things for warmth
    1 button front shirt for smarter days
    1 jumper
    1 hooded top
    3 pairs pjamas
    1 coat
    1 pair shoes
    5 pairs socks

    and that is all. He never runs out of clean clothes and I wash twice a week. If something isn’t dirty it will be worn for two days (not undies obviously). He could do with a pair of wellies because we walk the dog in muddy woodland every day but I have cut back so much on what we own and buy that I can’t bring myself to get them when they are not absolutely essential. I just scrape the mud off and wipe his shoes after each walk.
    Love the blog by the way, very inspiring.

  • I finally got around to paring down the kids clothes. I got rid of over half they own, but I still feel like they have a lot. I am struggling to get rid of more at the moment as the stuff is in good condition and still fits. I don’t hand down clothes, so we don’t save them. (I have 3 girls) I figure I will let them keep what they have since paring down (6 outfits per child). I guess it is not THAT bad, but I think it just looks like a lot. I don’t plan to add anything more, but when we do I think we will be quite choosy.
    You have inspired my family in so many ways! It has helped me convince my family to go minimalist. Were working on it. With 5 people I feel like we have a TON of stuff. You have become part of my morning routine. I wake up with my coffee, your blog then I move on to the paper. Keep writing please. I need all the tips and help I can get.

  • I jus finished minimalizing my clothes and my kid’s clothes. I cut down out clothes to about 10 outfits each. I didn’t have the nerve to do it any further. I went through the clothes they have grown out of and only kept the nicest of the nicest and only within a year of their size as well as the best peices they have grown out of (not done having kids yet. I had over 11 rubbermaid bins of girl clothes size nb-6 and 4 of boy clothes nb-2t and now I am down to 3 bins for each gender. One bin for the really cute stuff thy have grown out of that I want to keep, one for storing clothes for the next season (we live in Alberta Canada so we get very cold in the winter and fall mediocre in the spring and hot in the summer). The last bin is for the clothes that they will grow into. Already laundry is a bajillion times better!!! I can do my 5 and 3 year old in 1 load of laundry, mine and my 8mnth old in 1 load, my husband’s and the linens in 1 load and cloth diapers every other day or so. So instead of 10 loads I do 4 loads plus diapers. I feel so liberated!!!! I want to move on to booke then movies. The only think stopping us from movies, is that my husband wants to get them stored on an external HD before letting them go. Anyways, thanks for the inspiration to fight the meterialism monster!!

    • I read and she once mentioned that she keeps her children’s wardrobes at 10 outfits. We’re actually on the edge of not enough right now. Cold summer here and my son has three pairs of jeans/trousers waiting for him that are a bit too big.
      10 outfits is a great amount. For messy kids that is less than a week’s worth of clothing. :)

  • I have two-year old boy/girl twins. I LOVE dressing these babies! Consequently, they have a LOT of clothes. However, I spend a minimal amount of money for each item. While I like only the better brands, I keep their clothes nice and resell them at consignment sales where I also purchase used clothing in excellent condition. New clothes are bought on sale and clearance, or on ebay. This has worked out really well for us!

  • I bought ahead last year for this summer and ended up only having about $15.00 in stuff that wasn’t the right size. however I used those items in a baby shower gift for a girlfriend since her child is about 4 months older the size 18 month summer will work for her little one. I have found buying dresses and putting leggings on with is and a little sweater or long sleeve onesy makes the outfit go to the fall season a lot easier and I also have an extensive spread sheet and give out a grandparent wish list every 6 months. each grandparent a different set of items. So I just bough next summers wardrobe im talking 10 outfits/dresses. 2 sweaters a bathing suit and a summer fancy dress for 65 bucks. While selling her last years wardrobe for 159.72 exactly from my yard sale with a tote still to drop off at a consignment shop. I want to know how do moms buy ahead for shoes? This seems to be wear I spend a lot of money she has very narrow feet so those cute little clearance target shoes are always way too big.

  • I know this is an old thread, but I did want to post a quick comment to say thank you! My husband and I are in the process of making our boat lighter – passing on and selling anything we don’t use/want, and decluttering the rest to storage boxes (out-of-season clothes, for example), and charity shops. We get A LOT of hand-me-downs from my sister, who has a five year old – very kind and helpful, but the volume of clothes can be overwhelming!

    My routine for my little girl’s presents has become quite established – clothes for her October birthday, and toys/books for her Christmas present; I buy from Facebook selling sites, ebay, and sales. I’m laid up with a bad back this last couple of days, so have been to my fave sites and bought some great bargains. I was debating one last purchase – a skirt, and Googled ‘how many clothes does a 3yo need? – I found your site! You reminded me that, no, although it was lovely, it was unnecessary.

    So, here’s my list for my 3yo girl:
    4 x pair trousers (2 x smarter, 2 x more casual)
    2 x skirt
    2 x dresses
    1 x dungarees
    2 x leggings (more to wear with dresses than on their own)
    5 x long sleeve t-shirts
    2 x short sleeve t-shirts
    1 x jumper
    1 x cardigan
    1 x hoodie
    1 x coat (waterproof)
    1 x shoes
    1 x wellies
    2 x swimsuits (love swimming!), underwear and socks

    In the summer, she gets a couple of pairs of shorts and two summer dresses. It’s a little bit longer than I’d like (I think I could lose a pair of trousers, and two pairs of leggings), but it’s a great start. Thank you so much for the template!

  • My four year old son always grows out of a size mid-season, so we end up doing the mid-season switch despite my attempts to keep him in one size the whole season. At least now that he’s in year-long sizes, he’ll still fit the larger size at the beginning of next year’s season.

    I’ve only bought clothes new a couple of times, and always on sale, but even then they feel expensive. I mostly shop at kids’ consignment shops (there are four within easy driving distance of my scheduled locations), as well as sometimes hitting the big Kids’ Exchange sale in Raleigh that happens every six months. Long lines for checkout, but pretty much a one-stop shop for practically everything, especially clothing and items like baby swings and play kitchens.

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