SMALL SPACES: a clothing system for kids + linens that simplifies life and maximizes space
So a while ago I shared about a clothing system we have and I’ve been meaning to share more about it but last year was a blur of a year so here we are finally posting about it now.
Long story short with this system, I was tired of doing laundry! 😂 more than for space, which we are always looking to maximize, the clothing system stemmed from me feeling like laundry ruled me and I could never keep up.
I had heard of a capsule wardrobe but honestly the word capsule overwhelmed me. It felt complicated and time consuming and expensive and the one time i looked into it quickly I left even more overwhelmed (so much so that I am not sure if what we are doing is a capsule? maybe? basically just call it our “minimal clothing system”)
Anyway, my goal here was one- to gain the time that laundry took away from me back! 😂
It took a while to fully understand how to do it (plus our summer working in the Smokies where we only took 7 sets of clothes per person to let me see this in fact was possible) but we now we have a system that has decreased laundry from 8 loads per week for our family of six, and doing laundry everyday, to just 3 loads per week (1 lights, 1 dark and 1 linens.) This system has given us so much freedom to do so much more because clothing, washing, folding and dressing is not a struggle anymore.
As we've shared before, our heart behind all of these changes we have made has been for more family time and time doing the things we love. We've been on a search to eliminate the non-essentials in life so we can focus on the essentials and the amount of laundry it took, the space it occupied and time it took me daily to keep up with it all definitely felt like a non-essential. While yes, laundry is important and necessary, it just felt like we spent way too much time doing it so I went on a mission to see if this area could improve and we could gain this time back.
At first I thought I was doing this for the laundry. I mean, that was my number one goal. But now, as we are on the other side of it, I can tell you it has changed so much more than just that. It's made getting kids ready simpler. It's made packing for trips easier. It's actually been LESS expensive than what we were doing before, which I thought for these systems it would be the opposite. It's given us our weekends back and made Mondays fun again because it's ok to go several days without doing laundry because I get it all done in one day now (and I can choose which day that is!) And lastly, for the spontaneous-loving family that we are, it's allowed us to go on more spontaneous trips and adventures because we can easily find things since there is less to keep up with!
It's made life simpler, which is something we value so much and appreciate the most about this system.
Ok, so let's get to it! I don't want this to be overwhelming for you so I've been thinking of the best way to write this post and I think the simplest way will be to list every category of clothing and linens separately and share what we own now (vs. what we owned before) and the rules we have when it comes to shopping for said clothes.
I also want to add that this took us t i m e . Doing this all at once would have been impossible for us since I first needed to understand what I was doing and what worked for us, so for this system I focused on monthly progress and celebrated it! and simply set goals to achieve during future shopping trips etc. Eventually we got there and the getting there was not overwhelming but d o a b l e .
If for some reason you feel overwhelmed after reading this post, just remember that, you too, can focus on just one category at a time and start there. Celebrate progress as you go and eventually you will get there!
K I D S
Ok, so the first thing for me was the kids. Our kids' clothing was the first one that felt the most out of control laundry wise and the one I struggled with the most keeping up with.
I will list out what we do for the boys (4 yo, 9 yo, 12 yo) and what we do for Penelope (21mo old).
B O Y S -
T E E S - 9 per child
Tee shirts were probably the single biggest change we made here from our old system and, now, the most essential item in their wardrobe.
My goal with tops for them was one- to find one style of top that worked for everything: school, church, adventures (hiking, biking, exploring), playing outside and for lounging. Before, I shopped for clothing for different occasions. Now my focus is to look for pieces that work for all occasions.
Instead of shopping for a different top for each different thing, I learned to look for tops that could do it all. This method of shopping minimized the amount of
clothing we owned because each piece is so versatile.
I decided on 9 because 7 would only give us one top per day and I wanted to account for accidents, juice spills, etc. I really only wanted to do laundry once a week so 9 tops has given me room to have one top per day for each child and a few extras in case someone spills something and needs to change.
For tees and tops I like to keep them minimal and mostly stay away from prints (unless the print is versatile enough that works with all bottoms they own.) I do keep amount of print tees minimal since tops with prints normally can't be dressed up but our oldest is super into graphic tees right now so we do have a few for him he loves. Color wise I love warm solid colors, as well as neutrals like a great white tee and find that they can be easier to dress up with a nicer shoe (giving tees versatility in use.)
Style wise I like to stick to box tees and your basic tee and for the most part short sleeve since short sleeve works for all seasons. Before this system we owned a mix of tops, everything from long sleeve to polos to lots of only play tees to a good amount of nice tees to last through the week. I have found that just having one style for us has simplified so much of our lives for us and really, it's all we need. Tees are so versatile!
B U T T O N - U P S H I R T - 1 per child
The button-up. We own one.
Since the tees I get for them are nice enough to work for church and anytime they need to look nice, we really only need one button up for weddings and special occasions which don't come super often in the year.
We used to own at least 3-5 per child and after a while of them sitting in their closet mostly unused I noticed this is not something we really have a need to own a lot of. I gifted them and only purchased one I loved for each boy for those special occasions and they do come so rarely for us, only owning one has been great.
P A N T S : 2 - 3 per child
Pants are another essential in their wardrobe and we own 2-3 pairs per child, (we have one of our boys who only has 2 pairs pants because he prefers shorts more so he wears one pair of shorts often. We have one that has 3 pairs of pants because he prefers pants over shorts)
Style of Pants
For pants I focus on color and material and keep their selection pretty neutral. The goal here is that every pair of pants needs to go with every top/sweater they own so I stay away from patterns and loud colors that are not easy to match.
Go-To Style: Our go-to style for pants are pique or twill joggers which are some of the most versatile pants I have found.
Pique is basically is a nicer material than your typical sweat pant making it nice enough for church but also comfortable enough for play. Twill is the same. It's nicer than a jogger but still comfortable for play.
Pair them with a nice tee and shoes, they work for church. Put some tennis shoes on, they work for play.
S H O R T S : 1 - 3 per child
(This varies per child. We have one child that is hot natured and even when it's cold complains he is hot so he lives in shorts, more than pants. Then we have one that prefers pants so he doesn't own regular shorts)
Our go-to style for shorts is really anything neutral in color that adapts well with several style of tops. I love harem style for little ones and stretch chinos for older (which basically is the style of a nicer short that can work for church but comfortable enough for play and outdoors since they stretch when you move)
I have found some great neutral pairs and just like with pants, the rule when buying shorts is that every top they own must easily be paired with the shorts. I stay away from buying the same color tops and bottoms and keep their short selection pretty neutral so they can wear them multiple times per week and stay away from bold colors that make that one pair not versatile to wear multiple times per week.
**note on bottoms- bottoms wise,(pants and shorts) the boys don't own a full 7 pair of bottoms per child. Tops get dirty everyday just about, but bottoms in our family just last longer. The need of washing after every wear is just not necessary in our family. This will vary with lifestyle. Our extra curricular activities include swim multiple times per week which the boys just need a bathing suit for so this allows us to own less bottoms in the season we are in right now. The key with this system has been to be intentional in the season that we are in and in this season, less bottoms is what we need (more on lifestyle at the bottom.)
S W E A T E R S : 1 - 2 per child
So this one was actually a bit of a hard one for me because I love sweaters. I think sweaters are fun and I love how the boys look in a cute sweater so I had to really think hard and focus on the goal here which was to simplify and decrease laundry.
Funny enough, this change turned out more positive than I thought because whereas before I purchased a lot of sweaters that I liked and were cute, with this system I was able to shop for 1-2 sweaters that I really loved and were really great.
This also allowed me to branch out to brands I normally didn't shop before, like handmade shops and shops with beautiful purposes, and allowed me to stop focusing on only shopping sales (because in the end, shopping sales was not actually more cost effective. I was spending as much as I would shopping sales in larger quantities than shopping a few items I really loved from a great brand.)
Go-To Style- Since I only get one to two per child, I make sure that one or two goes with everything each child owns. Since each one of their wardrobes is so minimal now, it's easy for me to remember every article they have so I can choose a sweater that goes with everything. I stick to matching friendly tones like creams, tans (but colors also work and we own colors too) and try to choose a fabric that can be dressed up or down.
J A C K E T - 1 per child
For jackets, the boys own one.
Instead of owning several pieces for several purposes, I now I look for jackets that are:
-light enough to carry in a backpack (I look for them to be packable)
-yet warm enough to carry us through the few cold days here in the South as well as during our travels.
We've done away with owning several jackets for several types of weather. Instead of owning a rain jacket, at least a couple of zip up light jackets, and one winter jacket (sometimes two if we had hand-me-downs that year) we just look for one that meets all of those needs.
P A J A M A S - 1 - 2
So pajamas we own 1 for some of our boys and 2 pairs for our youngest one. Honestly, our boys prefer sleeping in boxers so the one pair of pajamas they own is really for when we travel and for lazy days where we all get in our pjs and watch movies at our house.
This year we decided to forego Christmas PJ buying and instead buy each child a solid soft pair of pjs that can work for Christmas day but also year round. This made the purchase intentional, and also helped me find cuter ones that I normally don't find when I am just looking for multiple pairs of pjs or shopping all the sales. Again, this part will vary according to season you are in and lifestyle. Penelope owns more PJs because we are still in the baby season but the key with this system is to be intentional with the season you are in and minimize where you can. Small changes translate to big ones over time and will give you a simpler, more doable life!
B A T H I N G S U I T S - 1 per child
Bathing suits, each child owns one. We used to own several pairs thinking it would be easier for swim season and travel but one is really more than enough. We lay them out during vacations so they always have a dry one when it's time for the pool and it's been so nice to have simplified this.
For swim trunks I like to stay pretty neutral and choose colors that can last for a couple of seasons. This is actually an item we use a lot of with swimming multiple times per week and what we do work wise with our travels. About every 3-6 weeks we are on the road and swim trunks always come with us year round.
I feel like swim trunks are super hard and most of them are crazy bright and full of patterns and it's really hard to find neutral simple swim trunks so once I do, I hold unto them.
W O R K O U T C L O T H E S : 2 sets per child
Since the style of tee and pants we get them allow for play and adventures because they're so comfortable, we really don't need a lot of workout clothes for the boys. As the boys have gotten older, they have become more and more into workout clothes so we have a few sets for them for when we all go to the gym and when they want to wear them out.
Go-to Style: workout clothes are almost their own category but as far as style, I do try to choose tones that pair well with their sweaters and jacket they own so they can warm it up if need be during the colder season.
U N D I E S - 9
Undies is the same as shirts- 9 pairs to allow for some extras. This comes in handy during days at the beach when the kids change often and allows us to never run out too early forcing me to do laundry.
S O C K S - 9 pairs per child
Same as undies. Each boy has an average of 9 because it allows for one per day and a couple of extra in case a pair gets wet.
B A B Y G I R L
So for Penelope we have kept it very simple.
The goal for her has been comfort and finding items that work for both play and sleep since those first couple of years are so full of it. I don't like ironing so I don't buy anything for her that needs to be ironed before wearing. Her whole wardrobe is soft cotton and comfortable and makes laundry day easier because NO IRONING (whoop whoop!)
Since she's our sweet baby girl, I have focused on accessories (more than quantity of clothes) like cute headbands, paci clips and a couple of sweet bows to add fun to her simple outfits and create different looks within one outfit. I don't have a lot of accessories for her either, just a few neutral ones that go well with every outfit.
Overall, Penelope is the one with the most clothes because we are still in the diaper season. There are days we go through two outfits per day because of a leaky diaper, applesauce spills, etc so for that she really has a lot more quantity than the boys do. For this season my main focus has been to own outfits with multiple purposes (outfits that work as pjs but also work for play and outings.)
P A J A M A S - 7 sets
7 pj sets. This is one of the categories where we own more than the boys because of the season of diapers and naps that we are in.
Pieces with Multiple Uses-
Now because Penelope needed more pieces for sleep, my goal with pjs has been to find pieces that also work for outings. She has 4 pairs of Three Little Warriors light sweatshirt/pant sets that double as pjs and everyday wear which I Iove because it gives me more options without having to own more.
Photography by Megan Osborn Photography
For sleep we just leave the pair as is and we have pjs. For outings we either just pop her little Hunter boots on, a cute headband and paci clip or we pair the top with leggings and some sandals.
Photography by Megan Osborn Photography
We also love L'oved Baby snug PJ sets. They're very high quality and serve as under layers during winter season which is super great.
A L L S E A S O N D R E S S E S - 2
The key with dresses for me is to find something that works for several seasons (if it makes it that far of course) Babies can outgrow things so quickly but can also stay in one size longer than you think so I focus on items that can still work whether its hot or cold and only get a couple and add layers or take away depending on the season.
If the dress has long sleeves, I cuff up the sleeves to make it short sleeve during summer and pair them with sandals and a bow. For winter I add layers, pair them with leggings, a warm hat, boots and a jacket.
** Tip- another thing to remember with all-cotton dresses is that it's super easy to cut sleeves off with some fabric scissors because 100% cotton does not fray. It simply rolls up once cut so this is a little trick I use often with our boys' tees and even dresses once winter season is over and I want the sleeves either permanently cropped or gone. (no sewing necessary!)
A L L S E A S O N R O M P E R S - 2
Ok, so all season rompers- they're basically sleeveless rompers with pants that are lightweight enough for summer yet cover enough for winter.
For summer, I pair these with sandals, a cute headband and a cute paci clip. For winter, we put layers (one set of tight fitting pjs underneath), a sweater, cute hat, jacket and her little Hunter boots.
We are about to outgrow the two she owns but this style was so awesome through last summer, fall and winter and were versatile enough to last through 3 seasons.
S U M M E R
While my focus is to find outfits that transition into several seasons, we do have a couple of months that are very hot so for those months we own a few lightweight pieces.
S U M M E R R O M P E R S - 4
4 short sleeve shorts style
In the summers she lives in short sleeve rompers. We have 4 shorts style and rotate that with her two dresses and sleeveless rompers during the week. This gives us 8 outfits total during the week which really works out for us since she stays home with us and just wears pjs at home (and the total accounts for accidents and gives us one change of clothes if we need one)
S W E A T E R S - 4
We own more sweaters for Penelope because she has outgrown her sleep sack but still doesn't sleep with a blanket, just sweaters.
We have two sleep sweaters and 2 outing sweaters but the sleep sweaters also work for outings so that really gives us a total of 4 to use with outfits.
Sweaters for girls are fun because they can give her few outfits a whole new look during fall, winter and early spring. These are crucial for our all-season rompers and dresses and can even give the look of a sweater/skirt combo when paired with one of her dresses which is fun.
H A T S - 1
For winter hats we own one per season. Last year she had a super warm one that
looked like a bear and melted us every time she wore it!
This year I looked for a super warm one for winter months and travels and found a great neutral one with the cutest pom that's been our go-to for all the cold days. The pom also comes off which is fun since it gives it a different look and it's essentially 2 hats in one.
**Hat tip- when buying hats, look for a hat that goes well with every outfit. Both hats from last year and this year paired well with every outfit she owned allowing us to just own one.
J A C K E T S - 1
Jackets we own one per season (unless they can make it for longer than one season which we always love!). We got Penelope a great full suit one last year that made it through last winter and to the beginning of fall this year (and to our trip out West) but by the time our winter hit, she needed a bigger one.
I chose colors that pair well with everything she owns so I can use the jacket as an accessory as well.
Last year it was cream, this year I found a sweet pale pink oversized one.
S W I M S U I T - 1
Ok, so swimsuits, just like for the boys, I feel are hard to find for girls. I love a good swimsuit that covers well (means less time putting on sunscreen and more time for fun, whoop whoop!) and I also like them to be pretty simple.
Again, like the boys, we stick to one and lay it out to dry during vacations and time at the pool.
S O C K S - 9 pairs per child
Same as the boys. Penelope also gets 9 pairs because it allows for one per day and a couple of extra in case a pair gets wet or dirty and we need to swap out.
S H O E S - 2
For shoes we own two. One pair of sandals and a pair of rain boots and since we only own two, I was able to look for pairs we really loved.
The sandals we own are for spring, summer and early fall and we pair that with everything from the leggings + sweaters to the dresses and the rompers. Basically everything she owns can be worn with the sandals.
The boots are the same except they are an all-season shoe for us. They are awesome for fall, winter, spring and even summer for when we go on our little adventures and she needs something close toed and waterproof.
For snow, we pair her little boots with thick, warm socks and they are Penelope's snow boots when we visit snowy places because they are water proof.
C O S T
Owning less for our kids has actually meant we can search for items that seemed like a splurge before because cost wise, those items actually total less than what we were spending before.
So with shoes for example, before this system our toddlers had :
(1) pair of sandals/flip flops
(1) pair of tennis shoes
(1) pair of dress shoes
(1) pair of specialty shoes (snow boots, water shoe, etc)
(& then if I ever saw something cute on sale, I would buy it and they often had multiple in ea. category)
With our new system, Penelope only owns two pairs of shoes which means I can shop for pieces that would've "seemed" like a splurge before because in actuality owning less expensive ones was actually more expensive due to the quantity we owned.
So for example, let's say our average cost for toddler shoes was $20/shoe (which is what our norm was). At 5 pairs, that is $100.
With the new system, the Hunter boots that seemed like a splurge before are $50, and the sandals are $30. Total for both comes at $80 which is still less than when we owned more.
That's been one of the coolest parts of this system, is the freedom it has given us to really shop intentionally for what we want because not only does it simplify life but actually even costs less.
As long as when you are doing this you focus on the item you are "splurging on" as a multipurpose item that meets several needs and takes the need for "more" out, like the Hunter boots are for us, then you'll be good!
*Reselling tip- another thing we have learned through this system, is the value of good brands in the kid's resale market. Brands like Hunter, Rylee and Cru, and Childhoods have great resale value and allow you to get back most of what you spent if the item is in good condition and you choose to resell. Reselling pieces is a great way to shop intentional and look for specialty pieces that meet multiple needs (instead of just shopping the sales and purchasing more) and even though we are still spending less with this system than before, I love that on some pieces that we buy for the kids are easy to resell because it makes this system even more cost effective.
C O L O R S
Ok, so when it comes to colors the goal for me is to find tops and bottoms in the same color family that can be paired with one another well. This means focus on tone and stick to colors with the same tone (warm colors with warm, soft colors with soft, bright colors with bright and only buy within the same tones)
This also means that if I love olive green, I cannot buy an olive green top and an olive green bottom because that would take out one outfit combination and that top and that bottom would not be paired well (unless I am wanting a monochrome look, which does work with some colors)
The goal is for every top to pair with every bottom so that each outfit is versatile, you can achieve more looks and the quantity of looks expands because you don't just own one top that can go with one bottom and that's it. You can actually create several looks with one item.
Pair each top with jeans and
plimsolls for outfit #1
Grab the same tops and pair them with some rolled up pique joggers and sandals for a more casual, beachy look in outfit #2
Pair the same outfit with the same joggers, but rolled down, and some casual shoes and you've got a cozy, play friendly outfit
APPLY RULE TO EVERYTHING-
The color and tone rule is is the same for the sweaters, winter jackets, shoes and any accessories (headbands for Penelope, winter hats, bows, etc)
The awesome thing about shopping this way for kids is that it also makes getting ready easier which is so awesome for us with having four kids. Basically any combination they choose works and they are able to do this themselves instead of having to lay things out for them which makes this a mommy win!
It's also decreased arguments on what they want to wear because anything they choose works which has just been life changing.
L I N E N S
Ok so for linens, the biggest change we did was change everything to white cotton so all linens could be washed together. Quantity was also a big change and one that affected laundry in a big way.
COLORS- Before this system, we owned every color under the sun and every material a linen could have. This made for lots of loads of laundry and lots of dirty laundry that just sat in the hamper because there was always a bigger priority of what needed to be washed.
QUANTITY- Before this system, we had a huge amount of linens. Everything from hand-me-downs to sizes that we didn't even own a bed for, (what!?) and we focused on "what if's" a lot more than the reality of our everyday living, which didn't require as many linens as we owned.
SHEETS, DUVETS, PILLOWCASES
(1 set per bed only)-
So for all things sheets and duvets, we donated our old sheets and the doubles we had of them and purchased (1) set of white sheets and duvet per bed .
We decided not to have an extra pair due to space (and also to force me to wash sheets instead of allowing them to sit dirty in the hamper, which happened almost everytime when we had an extra pair.)
For towels, we got rid of all of our old towels and purchased all white bath towels so we could wash them with sheets, duvets and beach towels. This change alone has made laundry so much easier and less because it all falls into one linen load and not multiple ones!
BEACH TOWELS- we own 4
We gifted our old beach towels (we owned some we even grew up with which was funny) and purchased a very light in color beach towel set that allowed us to wash them with bath towels and sheets.
We only own 4 because we don't like to carry a lot with us when we go to the beach, lake, pool so the most we ever take is 2 and just share.
For linens, I wash as needed and do (1) load of linens every week. This does not mean everything we own gets washed every week, it means I wash what needs to be washed and every week something different gets washed with exception of towels which get washed every week. I am able to combine towels, sheets and duvets and it always comes out to 1 full load per week which is awesome.
T H I N G S T O N O T E :
L I F E S T Y L E
So while this system has been life changing for us, it's important to note that everything I shared is specific to our life, activities and lifestyle and what we have found works for us in our everyday. This will vary per family and may require alterations depending on your activities and lifestyle. Our boys don't do organized sports, they do swim three times per week which only requires a bathing suit so our laundry and amount of clothing in that area will be different than someone who has multiple children in organized sports.
Remember, some areas are going to be different for you and may not work for you. For us our goal has just been to simply:
-Be intentional with what we buy
-Shop for pieces that are versatile and can adapt to different seasons
-Make sure every item they own pairs well with one another
-Shop for pieces that meet several needs in one.
Another rule we always apply when it comes to clothing (and really everything we bring into our house) is the rule that for every items that comes into the house, the same or more must leave before the new one is put away. This means if I shop for a new top for the boys, I always find a top that no longer fits them before I put it away. This allows us to never have more items than we need and be intentional with what we buy (and not buy if everything we own still fits great and is in great condition.)
B R A N D S
Another thing this clothing system has done is given us the freedom to choose quality and values of companies over quantity, since we actually spend less with this system. Since launching Three Little Warriors we have come to understand what we, as consumers, support and the importance of knowing where our clothing comes from and it has been incredible to have the freedom to shop for pieces that not only we love, but stand for people, values and empower and lift others up in the process. That was something that before this system seemed nice to be able to do, but not really affordable. This system has now given us the freedom to be intentional with what we support and we couldn't be more grateful for that since this is a topic we feel very passionately about.
C O S T
Like we mentioned before, we spend less on clothing doing this system than we did shopping in larger quantities that focused on sales. When we shopped sales, we overbought, shopped often and bought unnecessarily. Even changing the way we shop all together to better and higher quality brands, we still spend less which is not something I thought possible doing this style of clothing system.
C E L E B R A T E P R O G R E S S
And lastly, as we mentioned in the beginning, we couldn't recommend this system more. It has changed our life for the better in so many ways and given us freedom in more ways than we could've never imagined. However, we did not get here immediately or make all of the changes all at once. We went slow and little by little, this system became our lifestyle and easy for me to think about and apply now.
If all of this seems overwhelming but the idea of the results sound appealing to you, choose one change you can make and focus on that. If it's PJs, minimize the amount of pjs for the kids and celebrate that! Then slowly move unto tops on your next shopping trip and donate your old items once they've had sufficient use.
It took us a while to get here but we got here and celebrated progress along the way and slowly made this our lifestyle and couldn't be more grateful that we did.
Well, thank you so much for reading! Would love to know your thoughts on this post and if you own less, more or any changes you have made in your life to help you deal with stuff and space! Leave a comment below or message us through instagram, we always love hearing from you and appreciate you being here as we share a bit of our life with you all!