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Organizing Baby Clothes

Martha Stewart Kids, Volume 1 2001

They may dangle mere inches from hangers or take up the tiniest bit of room on shelves, but even the smallest garments can cause chaos in a closet. Add a second child to the mix and you multiply the confusion -- the hand-me-downs of a summer baby may fit her little winter-born sister for only a few months out of each year. Dressing your baby and locating clothes as you need them can be made easier.

Start with an organizing system based on interchangeable modular units such as boxes, baskets, and sacks. Clothes in a closet or armoire can be arranged by size and kept in order with dividers hung between each group. Hanging organizers, hooks, rods, and clips on doors will keep the rest of the items you need most within view -- and reach -- for those many wardrobe changes. Plus, you'll be better able to determine when it's time to pack the outgrown clothes away for the next little one who will need them.

Hanging Dividers
The hanging-divider system you see in most clothing stores may not seem like an obvious choice for a baby's room, but it can help keep a small wardrobe in order. Arrange dresses, jumpers, and sweaters by size from left to right, starting with the smallest, then separate groupings with hanging dividers. The dividers can be as simple or as decorative as you like.

Cover different-colored hangers in striped cotton and hang a metal-rim tag, stamped with the size in months, over each. Another option is to use adult-size hangers as dividers between baby ones. Make dividers for up to two years ahead -- believe it or not, that time will come soon enough. You'll be able to see what you have and what you'll need to purchase.

Drawer Organizers
Containers designed to hold a grown-up's accessories can hold whole categories of baby clothing. Wooden sock boxes are the perfect place to put away footed sleepers, folded and lined up in rows. Tie boxes can hold bibs and rattles. Use a wicker basket for baby shirts and bulky sweaters. Look for containers with open tops so you'll be able to identify the contents of each at a glance. Collapsible fabric sacks, labeled by size, can hold half a dozen rolled tees (we sewed a number button on the sack below to indicate the size). Keep the sacks you need at the front of a drawer, and stash a few filled with the next sizes behind them for easy changeovers as your baby grows. Sacks of outgrown clothes can be moved to a bottom drawer or closet until you are ready to store them.

Door Storage
Bedroom and closet doors are a natural place to stash the things you'll need just before stepping outside. Hang the hooks or rods for coats and sweaters above a baby's reach. A hanging organizer can hold the shoes that always seem to be missing when you're in a hurry. Here, the day's socks are clipped onto a crocheted daisy chain with miniature clothespins. Pairs of baby barrettes can be attached as well, so you'll know where to find them when you're dealing with a baby who is ready to get up and go

Short-Term Storage
You may be tempted to pack away baby clothes by type (pants, tops, and the like), but it's more helpful to group items by size and season. This way, it will be easy to find your first baby's summer rompers for your second child to use for a few weeks in fall. Wash clothes with mild soap, and make sure they are completely dry before storing them. If you have room in a closet, store delicate garments on hangers draped with cotton fabric covers. The rest of your baby's clothes can be packed in boxes. Breathable containers, such as canvas boxes and lids are best. If your boxes are cardboard, however, be sure to wrap the clothes in acid-free tissue. This will keep acids in the cardboard from leaching into the fabrics, which will discolor them. Label each box with the size, season, and type of garment.

Preserving Special Outfits
Important garments, when treated with care, will become symbols of the most wonderful memories. A christening outfit, for example, deserves the highest order of preservation as a keepsake or to save for future generations. Use only archival materials for such heirlooms: Wrap clothes in acid-free tissue paper to prevent fabric from yellowing, and store them in a canvas box or, even better, a metal box, which will keep bugs out. You'll also want to label the box, perhaps with just your baby's name, or with a list of the contents and the date. When you have more than one box of special clothes stowed away for a distant tomorrow, it's helpful to keep track of them with a photo record of each. Photograph the contents of your boxes before you close the lids. You can file the snapshots away in a drawer or use them as labels on the boxes. This way, you won't have to expose the contents to air by lifting the lids to see what's inside. Store the boxes in a dark, dry area, such as an attic or a closet shelf, to prevent any damage from light or humidity.

Miniature garments that get little mileage before they're outgrown can be worn again and again by younger siblings, cousins, and friends, or donated to local charities. Inheriting a collection of baby clothes can save a new parent money and time -- remember how often you ran out of clean T-shirts and had to do laundry. Also, since most children younger than 2 are not concerned with what they wear as long as they are comfortable, hand-me-downs are quite practical. Not every item is a candidate, though. Underwear, for one, should be discarded after it's outgrown, and first shoes are meant to be worn by only one set of small feet. Stained clothing, too, should be taken out of circulation.

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