The main reason baby clothes are challenging to sort and store, in my opinion, is that no two clothing brands label their clothes the same way, and even clothes of the same size by the same brand can seem wildly different. Of course, we can't really blame the brands -- after all what does a 6-month old look like, anyway, when mine could be 14 pounds and yours could be 20 pounds? So you've got newborn, and 0-3 months, and 3 months, and 3-6 months, and 6 months, and 6-9 months, and 6-12 months, and 9-18 months. I've tried as much as possible to organize Natalie's clothing not so much by what the label says but how the clothes match up to each other. That 0-3 month footed outfit from Naartije Kids is the same size as the 6-month footed outfit from Carter's, so those items are side-by-side in the closet. If you stick to what the label tells you, there's a good chance you'll wind up forgetting about certain articles of clothing and by the time you remember them your baby will have outgrown them.
Here's my assessment of baby clothes so far:
- Clothes that fit for the greatest amount of time: short-sleeve onesies and socks -- these stretch a lot and grow with a baby. Natalie can still wear 3-month onesies but nothing else from the 3-month category.
- Clothes that fit for the least amount of time: footed onesies/sleepers -- so many babies, Natalie included, seem to outgrow the length before the weight.
- Truest-to-size brand: Carter's -- At 8 months Natalie is wearing a combination of 6 and 9 month clothing.
- Runs-on-the-small-side brand: Gap -- Natalie could wear 6-12 months at 4 months.
- Runs-on-the-big-side brand: Circo (from Target) -- Natalie can still fit into a newborn outfit at 8 months.
- Always-seems-mislabeled-regardless-of-brand item: hats -- Natalie has so many hats, most of which she's never worn because they've never fit her. Her head is relatively small, yet which, if any, hat will fit her is a crap shoot.
- Most-amazingly-good-quality-for-the-price brand: H&M, particularly the kimono-style long-sleeve onesies made from organic cotton. These fit so well and the material is so thick.
- Most-versatile clothes: casual dresses -- turn them into tunics with jeggings when they become too short and you've got one stylin' baby girl.
When faced with a pile of baby clothes, most of which Natalie has outgrown but some of which are toddler-sized hand-me-downs or gifts, I had to devise a system. In reading online about what other people have done I had visions of a garage full of plastic bins of baby clothes divided into tons of different categories. But most people who have elaborate systems also have at least five children -- a basketball-team's brood. We did not need anything complicated.
For now we have two piles that go into two bins: girl and gender neutral. I imagine as Natalie grows we'll have fewer gender-neutral items and more girl items, but for now this seems like a good way to get started. If we have another kid or we loan out/give away clothes, we've already reduced our workload by half just knowing if the clothes are for a girl or either sex. Right now each bin contains two piles of outgrown clothes and one pile of toddler clothes, with room to spare for the 6-month summer clothes and more that will be making their way into the bins shortly.
Now that we've freed up some dresser drawer space I've tried to better organize the clothes that she can still wear now and the clothes she'll be fitting into soon. Baby clothes seem to fall into a number of categories, especially because so many tops and bottoms come together as outfits (when does this trend stop -- with teenagers?). Natalie can still rock some 3-6 month clothes, primarily onesies, but everything else is 6 months or above. I figured I'd keep all the up to 12-month clothes out in her closet and in her dresser and not in the bins so I don't make the mistake of forgetting about any clothes that could fit her in the near future.