It’s bittersweet when our babies get bigger. But I have to admit, part of the “sweet” for me is in updating their wardrobes. As a minimalist family, it can be a fun opportunity to connect and collaborate together as we curate a simple closet that serves their personality and needs so well.
The first step was to take everything out of the closet and sort it into two piles: trash or donate (if he wasn’t the youngest, there would be a third hand-me-down pile). Clothes that are worn out, beyond repair, stained, torn, etc. go in the trash. The rest get bagged up and put in the trunk of the car for donation.
One of the things I go over in detail in the Minimalist Wardrobe class are my 5 Pillars for designing a curated closet: climate, lifestyle, comfort, fit, and style. We base a kid’s wardrobe on these same pillars. This season in our climate warrants pants, tees, and a sweatshirt. We live an active lifestyle with a lot of nature. He prefers “soft and stretchy” (his words), so sweats and soft tees. He’s long and lean, so drawstring waistbands are helpful. Blue is his favorite color.
One question I get asked a lot in the style department for kids is around character clothing. I shudder at the notion of turning my children into human billboards, providing free advertising for various shows and brands that we are forced to be accosted with all day. But I also respect my kids’ sovereignty.
For me that looks like the same strategy used by so many of us full-term nursing mamas on the natural weaning path: don’t offer, don’t refuse. I don’t stroll with my kids through the Target clothing aisle inviting them to grab whatever jumps out at them (because obviously, ads are designed to grab your kid’s attention).
Instead we sit down and collaboration together on those pillars above and I look for options to present them with that meet those criteria. For example, he really likes the feel of the Old Navy soft tees. So I pull them up online, give him a quantity, and let him choose which colors he wants.
But if a kid comes to me with a burning passion for a Ruth Bader Ginsberg t-shirt, I will support them in that self-directed pursuit.
One question that I get a lot is how many pieces are ideal. The answer to that question is another question: How often do you want to do laundry?
We all have a one-week wardrobe because we all do our laundry once a week (each person has one day a week when the laundry room is theirs and yes, every one does their own laundry). A one-week wardrobe means we each need all of the pieces we would wear over the course of an average week.
Thinking about your child’s pillars, an average week in the life of your family, and how often you want to launder, what does your child need? Grab a journal or open a note on your phone and write it out. Think of it like setting seats at a table.
Here’s what I wrote down for West:
Pants: 6 pairs of sweatpants and 1 pair of non-sweat pants (for an occasional nicer event)
Shirts: 7 t-shirts (everyday uniform) and 1 button up shirt
Sweatshirt: 2 sweatshirts for chilly weather
Shorts: 2 pairs of sweat shorts
Swimsuit: 1 pair of swim trunks
Pajamas: 4 pairs of fleece pajama pants (which he only puts on after showering clean in the evening, so they can be worn more than once) (he doesn’t like to wear pajama shirts)
Undies: 7 pairs of boxer briefs
Socks: 7 pairs of white ankle socks
Shoes: 1 pair of keens, 1 pair of sneakers (his current shoes still fit)
That box in the top of his closet is his hand-me-down box so that is the first place I shop for his needs. There was a nice flannel, a couple button up shirts, a couple t-shirts, a couple tank tops, 2 pairs of shorts, and pajamas up there for him.
I put everything that remained in this size from the hand-me-down box into the donate pile. Just because it served his older brother well doesn’t necessarily mean it will serve West well. For example, Bay likes to wear dark jeans. West hates denim. So the nice jeans from that box went straight into the donate pile.
After shopping the hand-me-down box, I go online. He plays hard and I know from experience that cheap sweats don’t last more than a few weeks on him, so it’s worth it for us to invest in sweats from Hanna Andersson, which has the most durable sweat pants I’ve ever found (the knees are even reinforced and when I bought some for my firstborn, they lasted through all 3 kids). They happened to be 40% off when I bought them but there are always discount codes floating around. I showed West the color options and he chose black, gray, and blue.
Then I went over to Old Navy’s site, where we could order the very soft tees he likes best. Just like with the sweatpants, I pulled up the item and let him choose from the available colors. Then I added one pair of non-sweat pants for the occasional more formal event (though they still have a soft elastic waist band and draw string).
Update: After my dad saw how happy and nice West looked running around in his cool new pants, he bought him 4 pairs of the shorts version. So he’s now all set for summer too!
At this point, I’m sitting here with two tabs open on my internet browser, looking at the hand-me-downs now hanging in his closet. This is where I edit for cohesion and ease of dress. For example, when my kids were younger, I would only get neutral bottoms and colored/patterned tops (or vice versa) so that they could pair any tops with any bottoms and look great. At this point, West can handle pairing his black/gray/khaki pants with his blue tops and his blue pants with his black/gray/off-white tops.
This is basically your chance to step back, look at the full picture, and do any editing. When I was helping Bay with his last update, we noticed during this edit step that he didn’t have anything green, even though it’s his favorite color. It was a lot of very cool grays and dark denim, but even this dapper dude wanted some splashes of color. So we made a couple simple swaps and he felt like his wardrobe was more of an accurate reflection of his personal style. And yes, kids have a budding sense of style too!
From start to finish, we had everything done in one afternoon (well, we had to wait for the shipping, but you know what I mean). It’s a wardrobe that is perfectly tailored to West’s needs and preferences. It’s simple. It’s easy. And you can create a minimalist wardrobe like this for your kids too.