How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe

How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe – buying, selling and donating used and preloved baby, toddler and children’s clothes

If you’re a parent of a child you’ll know the pain of the ever expanding children’s wardrobe. Babies grow incredibly quickly but need quite an alarming amount of spare clothes (not to mention how cute outfits are so how can you resist them?) and you’ve probably found you’ve gone from newborn, to 0-3 months, to 3-6 months, to 6-12 months in very quick succession. Some kids slow down once they hit toddler and are in a year plus, but mine certainly didn’t. At 20 months William has already outgrown all his 12-18 and 18-24 month clothes and is now in 2-3 years!

You can recycle, reuse or sell just about anything these days, from getting money for your old car to cleaning out the children’s wardrobe.

Not to mention the fact that children’s clothes are fairly seasonal – with thick fabrics and long sleeves in winter, and thin airy cotton with short layered vests in the summer. If we’re dealing with under 5s, it’s unlikely what fits one year is going to fit a full year later. So how do you clean out the children’s wardrobe and what should you do with all the clothes you don’t need anymore?

How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe – separate what doesn’t fit any more

The first step is to decide what simply doesn’t fit anymore and this should be the easiest job. Step by step go through all the children’s clothing you have in wardrobes and drawers and pull out anything that’s definitely too small. As you’re going, separate anything sentimental that you might want as a keepsake so it doesn’t get mixed in – for example I’ve kept William’s outfit that he went home from hospital in and the personalised onesies he wore for his first mother’s day and first Christmas as well as a few of his newborn hats. Just little memories that I know will mean a lot to me when he’s older.

I just had to save this special onesie and a few other pieces as keepsakes, but the rest can go!

You might have some clothes that you’re not sure if they fit or not and the question for those clothes are, are they appropriate for the current season? If they’re already on the way out for fit, it’s unlikely they will last more than one season away. So if you’re going into autumn it’s unlikely those cute summer skirts are going to make it till next summer and it’s time to say goodbye.

Of the clothes that are left, carefully go through them and assess their condition and suitability to be worn again and you might find a few pieces do still fit but you’ve decided not to keep them. It’s more efficient to do this in bulk once or twice a year, so be brutal!

How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe – is anything damaged or stained? It can be recycled!

With baby clothes you might find that there are some stains that simply won’t budge – milk and food are the big ones. For older clothes there might be stains from specific drinks or food, or worse, things like marker. Some clothes might be damaged with holes or rips. If it’s just a missing button but they’re otherwise in good condition, they might be able to be repaired – but anything major isn’t likely to be worth the work.

According to WRAP (working together for a world without waste) up to 1/3rd of clothes in the UK end up in the bin despite being recyclable. Stained and damaged clothes can be recycled into upholstery, car seats, industrial blankets and cleaning cloths. You might think they’re worthless, but trust me, someone is going to be able to turn them into something else and that’s way better than landfill. Unfortunately they can’t go in your usual council recycling bag as they have to be processed specifically as textiles. You can use Recycle Now to find out where your local clothes recycling bank is – they’re often in big bins in supermarkets and you can just drop anything in and it’ll be sorted and recycled.

How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe – is it worth keeping for the future?

Only you can decide if you think this clothing will get used in the future. Do you plan to add to your family and how long do you need to keep it for? Where will you store it that’s dry and secure? How much did the clothing cost in the first place? Is it really worth holding on to things like vests and onesies for what might be five or more years if you’re not planning another child any time soon? Do you have loads of storage space so it’s no inconvenience to keep it? It’s up to you!

For me, as I’m a mum of one and done I already knew there would absolutely be no more children for me. I have no siblings and none of my friends are planning on having children. Therefore it made no sense to me to store clothes indefinitely, so I sadly had to accept it was time for them to move to new homes. At the end of the day it’s an opportunity for another mum and baby to use them, so I tried to look at it in a positive light of clothes getting well loved and used.

I’ll only ever have the one child, but he fills my life completely.

Have a think about your situation before deciding but by now you should have a pile of clothes that are too small or unsuitable, but are in good enough condition to be worn again by someone else.

How to clean out and declutter the children’s wardrobe – selling clothes.

It’s time to decide what to do with the clothes that are in good condition. You have two options, you can sell them, or you can donate them / gift them. If you’re going to sell them it’s best for you to bundle them up into small bundles so that you can hopefully have as little hassle as possible listing and selling them. Bundle them according to size, and if you have large bundles, consider splitting them according to type. A new mum might be looking for Christmas appropriate clothing for example, or a summer bundle for a holiday.

Special outfits, expensive pieces or designer labels (especially hand crafted items or organic clothing) will often sell individually, but more run of the mill clothes should be bundled for convenience. Make sure you make a list of what’s in the bundle, take a photograph of it, note the size and anything the buyer needs to be aware of like condition and then get listing!

Good places to sell children’s clothes include:

  • Ebay – Free listing but you’ll have to pay a percentage of the end price as a fee and you’ll want to weigh the bundle and make sure your postage is correct.
  • Gumtree (UK) / Preloved (UK) / Craigslist (USA) – Free listing but reaches local people only.
  • Facebook Marketplace – Free listing but reaches local people only and requires you to have a Facebook profile you’re willing to connect with strangers on.
  • Car Boot Sale – Entry fee for a car and only on specific dates locally.
  • Tabletop sales – NCT usually run various local tabletop sales and these specifically bring in new mums which makes them excellent places to sell and very good for larger collections, but there is a table fee and you might have to wait a while for the next one.
  • Brand-based Facebook Groups – some brands will have their own Facebook group. For example I managed to sell outgrown Lottie & Lysh clothing for around 80% of what I paid for it! This is because as limited run fabrics and hand made in the UK, it’s in high demand. It’s worth searching for a group if you have hand-made items, items from Etsy or higher-end retail clothing such as Joules, Boden and Frugi.
I paid around £45 for the hand-made Lottie & Lysh Dinoland jacket in this picture, and sold it for £34 + Postage on Ebay! Buyers looking for a specific make or item will be happy with a small saving if your clothes are in excellent condition.

To price the clothing you simply have to make a rough estimate based on what you paid for it and what other clothes are selling for nearby. This is one of the big advantages of eBay as you can let other people decide what it’s worth. In general I found I would get as little as 10-20% of the value back on supermarket style brands, but up to 80% back on more exclusive clothing in good condition. 10-20% of what you paid doesn’t sound like a massive amount, but it does add up. Alternatively, you could think about donating the less valuable pieces to charity or families in need.

How to clean out the children’s wardrobe – donating to charity shops / goodwill / gifting.

If you have decided that it’s either too much hassle to sell, you want everything gone as soon as possible, or you want to help others who might not be able to afford clothes for their children right now. Charities will always take children’s clothes.

  • Offering it for Free on one of the above sites is an option
  • Taking it to a local charity / goodwill shop means people can buy affordable clothing and you support a charity with your donation
  • Local women’s shelters and homeless shelters may accept donations
  • You are likely to have a local “baby bank” which works in the same way as food banks – charitable organisers match families who can’t afford to buy new clothes right now, with the right items. You can usually drop it all off in bulk. Google “baby bank” or “donate baby clothes” and your area and you should find one. If you’re in South Wales, I donate all the clothes I don’t sell to Cwtch Baby Bank.

By sorting out your clothes and ensuring that they’re either recycled or re-used you’re both decluttering the home and making sure that nothing ends up in landfill, so it’s environmentally friendly too!

This Christmas shirt cost me £2 from a pre-loved stall at an NCT clothes fair before Christmas instead of £20 from John Lewis. So buying second hand can save you some serious money as well!

I hope this has helped give you some advice and motivation to get clearing. Once the wardrobe is clear you’ll find it much easier to pick out outfits to wear and also to see when you need new clothes. You might find you can get some nearly new bargains on Ebay or local sites, as like you, lots of other parents will be having a clear out. Then it’s off to the shops for some adorable outfits!


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