Monday, June 29, 2015

No Really ...

The other day I mentioned to a friend of mine that I keep a spreadsheet of the boys’ clothes, and she looked at me like I was some strange, hyper-organized, control-freak supermom instead of the mostly ordinary, fairly messy mother of two she knows me to be.

“No really,” I told her, “it makes life so much easier and it’s so much simpler than you’re probably thinking.” 

Here’s the thing. Having too much stuff stresses me out. (Except obviously books. Bring on the books, I say!) Particularly having too much clothing stresses me out. But if you are going to have less, you need to be more organized about it than if you have a lot. Which is counter-intuitive, I know. But it’s not organizing the stuff itself that is important (although that’s always nice), it’s being organized about what you have in the first place. If you have a huge pile of clothes, the odds are pretty good that somewhere in the pile, there is a shirt that will go with those shorts, even if you didn’t buy the shirt with the shorts in mind. But when you only have a handful of things, you need to keep track of what you have so that you know if there are any holes in the wardrobe, so to speak, that you need to fill before the next season.

For instance, at the beginning of the spring, all I had on hand for Munchkin’s summer wardrobe was two pairs of army fatigue pants, one pair of fatigue shorts and three polo shirts. Now two bottoms and three tops would seem to make three outfits, but the polo shirts clashed pretty terribly with the fatigues, so I know that somewhere between February and warm weather, we’d need to come up with some more neutral tops and some denim or khaki shorts. Since I had it all written down in my spreadsheet, it was easy to know what to shop for at the spring consignment sale.

Twinkle wears Munchkin’s hand-me-downs, so when I’m putting Munchkin’s clothes away at the end of a season, I enter all the items that are still in good shape in this spreadsheet in Twinkle’s column in the next year’s spreadsheet. This makes it very simple when grandparents ask what they need for Christmas, or when I feel like sewing or knitting them some things for next season but haven’t decided yet what to make. Instead of dragging down a bin full of clothes and digging through it, all I have to do is check the spreadsheet.

Here’s how I organize it.

(Before going any farther, I should say that the way I use excel drives ‘Stache absolutely nuts. I am not nearly as computer savvy as he is, and I tend to use excel in a rather messy, intuitive sort of way. I am not necessarily recommending that you make your sheet exactly like mine. I am sure there are better ways or programs to do this. However, this sheet works very nicely for me.)

This is the basic format, without any clothes entered:

The “total items” number I enter in by hand. The “projected items” is the sum of all the numbers you see. As I enter in clothing items, I change the numbers to reflect how many items are now needed. The “estimated cost” is the number of items (either total or estimated) times $6.66, which is what I expect to spend on each item. (We buy almost all the kids’ clothes from JBF, a high-quality, high-volume consignment sale that happens each spring and fall. After going several times, I’ve found that I typically spend about $6 + tax on each item if I’m not there on a special sale day.)

Here is the spreadsheet with some of the items entered.

Notice that the projected items and projected costs are now much lower. I could make the cells bigger to show the whole list of “already have” clothing items, but then my spreadsheet would be more unwieldy. I prefer to just click on the cell to see the full list. If I am planning to make something for the boys but haven’t yet, then I type it in bold as a reminder to myself that although I do plan to make it, it’s not a done deal yet.

Some more notes on my numbers of items. I made this list based on how often I do laundry, which is once a week. We go to a church where anything from casual to dressy is considered appropriate, so only one specifically nice outfit is plenty for us. The summers when we’ve had family weddings on the horizon “wedding outfit” was also entered into the spreadsheet. During the summer we often put them to bed in a t-shirt, or even just a diaper, so they don’t need as many pajamas as in winter. The boys don’t go to preschool  or daycare, so if we run out of clean clothes and they spend a day in their diapers, there’s no harm done. The boys don’t wear socks in the summer, because I snatch at any excuse to not have to keep up with tiny socks. I buy nice leather sandals for them to wear to church and crocs or sandals for the rest of the week.

After all this dry talk of spreadsheets, why don’t we have some pictures of the boys in their summer clothes? 

The boys in their "water glasses"

I should plan more than one hat for Munchkin: he's a big fan.
Why do I even bother planning clothes for Twinkle? This is his preferred outfit from May to September.


  1. I see the point of such organization but as slow as I type , it would be faster for me to shop or iron or wash than to do the spread sheet. Great pics! I love the banjos!

  2. That's so beautiful! I am a confirmed dork as far as building spreadsheets and a couple of summers ago went through my and my mom's fabric stash and built a sheet of fabric, yardage, type, and projected project. It works really well for reminding you of what you have without digging through bins.