As you can see, after you turn the glass handle, there's a full flight of stairs leading to the attic. The majority of the attic has a wooden floor with tongue and groove joints. This makes storage a piece of cake. But even if it weren't hassle-free, I'd still keep hand-me downs so that we could save money on clothing our children. In 2010, I've spent exactly $8 clothing my child. She had a stomach virus when we were on our way to Shreveport for the day, so I had to stop and get a new outfit for her, since I'd forgotten to put a spare change of clothes in the diaper bag. Otherwise, that total would be 0.
I've been working on a system of organizing Isabelle's clothes since long before she was born, and I've tried several methods of storage. I've used the giant-sized ziplock bags (that are designed for storing clothes), cardboard filing boxes, and large Rubbermaid totes. The ziplock bags don't work well for me. I tend to overstuff them, which makes them come open as I'm walking up the attic steps. The bags also complicate matters when it's time to find the clothes. I've since switched to boxes.
I really like my cardboard boxes. I was trying to follow Amy Dacyczyn's method of organizing children's clothes, as outlined in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She puts boy clothes on one side of the attic chimney and girl clothes on the other side. She suggests cardboard filing boxes because of their uniformity. It makes it easy to see, at a glance, how much clothes she has in a given size. I love the boxes because they stack up so neatly. They're also smaller, which makes it easy for me to bring them up and down the attic stairs, even when pregnant, because they're not full enough to be very heavy.
I've also used Rubbermaid/Sterlite totes. In a lot of ways, I prefer these boxes because they hold more clothes and because they protect the clothes better. But they're bulkier, so when I'm pregnant and can't lift 50 pounds, I have to wait for my husband to do the attic lugging. I'm really starting to lean towards these instead of the cardboard boxes. They do cost $5 or so per box, but my husband bought a number of them at our church garage sale for $1 each. They're his preferred method for storing anything.
I'm sure some of this is obvious, but here's what you're going to do. Get your boxes ahead of time. When you receive a bundle of hand-me-downs, sort through according to size. Place clothes in each box and be sure to size specifically. I once just stored a box of things and labelled it 18 months-3T. You can bet I regretted it, and when it came time to use them, I had to completely reorganize the clothes. When I have an abundance of a certain size, I often sort according to season. It just makes life much easier for me later on. And make sure you clearly label the box. I generally have labels on the thinner two sides of my boxes, so that no matter how the box gets rotated on the way upstairs, when my husband brings them up to the attic, the label is facing out.
I no longer wash the clothes prior to storing. I used to, but quickly realized it was silly. First, my friends always wash the clothes before giving them to me anyway. But more importantly, after something has been sitting in the attic for 6 months to a year, I'm most definitely going to wash it before putting it in Isabelle's dresser or closet. So it's a waste of both time, water, and effort to wash the clothes before storing. Shoes and coats are stored separately from clothes, but the same rules apply.
If you develop a good storage method, you'll find that you can accept all hand-me-downs. My daughter is 1 and wears size 18 month or 24 month clothes. In my attic, I've got clothes that go all the way up to a size 6. The size 6 box hardly has a thing in it, but it's up there with a few little dresses, just waiting to be joined by more clothes. If you really want to become a master of hand-me-down clothes, you've got to properly organize them, or you'll never use what's been given to you.
This is one of several posts in the Babies on a Budget series. Yesterday's topic was Accepting Hand-Me-Downs. Click here to read about why we take second-hand clothes and how this has saved us money over the past two years. I'd love to hear any of your ideas on storing baby clothes.