“How many clothes should one child have? Is there a list somewhere that I could get my hands on that spells out the amount of pants and shirts and socks and underwear and sweaters and so on and so forth that one child should have? I have 5 kids and I am overwhelmed by the amount of clothes that keep piling up.”

Five kids definitely adds up to a whole lot of clothes. I think you’re on the right track by trying to figure out how much everyone *needs*. Finding a one-size-fits all list, however, could have some draw backs. There are so many lifestyle factors and personal preferences involved. Some people need and want a lot of variety in their clothing, and others could wear the same thing everyday and be perfectly happy. So, let’s go about creating a list that works for your children, their lifestyles and their preferences.

1. Start with a basic list of garments. You can easily put this together by looking through your kids’ closets and drawers to see the types of things they’re currently wearing. Include shoes, socks, pants, shirts, shorts, dresses, skirts, blouses, tights, underwear, etc.

2. Once you have your basic list, factor in the appropriate style of each based on where your child goes. For example, your daughter may wear a dressy dress to church, but casual dresses to school.

3. Now consider your laundry cycle. If you do laundry once a week, your child needs a minimum of seven pair of socks. If you do it once every two weeks, each child needs fourteen pair of socks, minimum. For each type of garment and style on the list, consider how many you need based on how frequently you do laundry, and how frequently you do the activity. For example, if your daughter takes ballet once a week and you do laundry every two weeks, you need two ballet outfits.

4. Now factor in variety. Once you have your bare bones minimum list, think about how often you’re comfortable having your child repeat articles of clothing or outfits. If your daughter wears dressy dresses only to church, you go to church once a week, and you do laundry once a week, in theory your daughter needs just one dressy dress. If you want her to have two dresses to choose from each week, double the number. If you want her to be able to go a whole month and wear a new dress every Sunday of the month, she needs four dresses.

5. Give yourself a cushion. I’d recommend a few extra garments for weeks when laundry gets delayed, or your little one has a messy day and needs to change clothes midday. Once you have a reasonable number, clear out the extra clothing. Keep it on hand in a box until you’re comfortable you’ve got the right number of garments. Once you’re certain, take everything else to charity for donations. Maintain the desired number by always subtracting out one item for each new one your bring in.

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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