Organization equals sanity for moms, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about organizing a kids closet. I’m talking about 19 of those mistakes and what you should do instead!
This post was updated on Sept. 4, 2023.
After seven years of sorting my own kids’ items, talking with family and friends, and seeing other kids’ clothes storage, I’ve noticed many mistakes moms make when organizing a kids closet.
No, I’m not a professional organizer, but I am a real-life mom with real-life kids who knows that the fancy closets we see on Instagram or Netflix are not real life.
Every mom knows that an organized closet saves time and stress. It can cut down on fights with your kids and arguments with your spouse.
But yet, it’s still so hard to figure out how to organize kids clothes.
Moms still wonder: “How do I organize my child’s closet?” and “How should I store my kids clothes?”
So you head head out to Google or Pinterest, and you find a lot of tips. Some of them good; some of them bad.
Here’s the thing: kid-friendly closet organization shouldn’t cost a lot of money, and it definitely shouldn’t require a lot of maintenance.
Keep reading to see what I mean.
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Things to Avoid When Organizing a Kids Closet
1. Organizing items to within an inch of their life.
Let’s say you splurge for a nice closet system that has a place for all of your baby’s clothes and items. But then your kid grows into a 10-year-old with bigger clothes and different needs, and now you’re stuck with a system that no longer works or you have to spend more money to change it.
Storage solutions should be easily adaptable as the child grows.
And let’s talk about organizing drawers. First you have the drawers, then you have dividers in the drawers, then you have organizers in the dividers in the drawers. Everything fits perfectly, until there’s something else you want to add that doesn’t have a place.
2. Buying without sorting, planning, or measuring your space.
Figure out what you need first, and measure your space to make sure you get the right size. If you don’t, you’re just creating more work and frustration when the items don’t fit.
You can even do this in phases. Buy the first organizers you need, put things away, and then figure out what else you need.
3. Using too many storage bins.
This is especially true for kids toys. You might be tempted to buy bins for every type of thing they have, but chances are the toys will get mixed up anyway. And when everything is stored in bins, your kids might not use them because they’re not accessible.
It makes sense to have Legos in a separate bin, but you don’t need to separate Barbies and LOL dolls. Keep things as broad as possible because it makes clean up easier.
When I was pregnant with my oldest, I bought a diaper bag that had a gajillion pockets for the gajillion things I’d need for her. But after she arrived, I found myself just throwing everything into the main compartment. I was either in a hurry or holding her, and I never used all those pockets.
4. Buying too many bins with lids.
Let’s be honest, most kids won’t put the lids back on bins. Heck, if I’m in a hurry, I don’t put lids on the bins, either!
And now those lids that are supposed to help you declutter are just clutter themselves.
With that being said, lids do make sense for some things! We stack painting supplies and crayons in separate bins with lids. But my son’s cars are in an open soft bin that he can dump out easily and (I can) pick up quickly.
5. Labeling bins with words when your kids can’t read.
Label with pictures until your kid can read. Or label with pictures and words to use it as an early phonics lesson!
6. Buying the same color bins.
You can skip the labeling altogether if you buy bins that are different colors. You and your kids will learn which items are in which color baskets without having to look at labels.
Learn from my mistake! We have a few of the same bins in the same color, and while it looks cohesive, it’s makes my life harder. I’m constantly looking in multiple bins because I can’t remember which one has the Legos vs. the beads vs. the art supplies.
If you want a colorful color-coded closet of ROYGBIV, buying different color bins is where you do it!
Shop Must-Have Kids Closet Storage Items
7. Color coding clothes.
I understand that color coding clothes looks pretty, but I’m not convinced it saves as much time as professional organizers tell us it does.
Be honest: who is going to keep up with it? Your kids? Ha. Your husband? Heck no! You are. You’ve just created more work for yourself when the kids will just mess it up anyway.
Organizing by category is enough, and the categories are up to you. I separate my kids’ clothes first by activity (casual vs. dressy), then weather (short sleeve vs. long-sleeve, shorts vs. pants).
My kids’ casual clothes are folded in hanging organizers in the closet, while dressier clothes are hung up. Short-sleeve shirts and long-sleeve shirts are in two separate compartments in the hanging organizer. (The only exception is that we hang sweaters and sweatshirts because I don’t have enough hanging compartments.)
Here’s another thing to think about: If you have trouble finding your kid’s favorite shirt in his closet, then he probably has too many clothes. And the next mistake applies to you…
8. Having too much stuff.
Kids need a lot less than we think they do. They grow so quickly that they barely wear much of the clothing and shoes that they have. And if they’re like my kids, they tend to wear the same few shirts over and over again while the rest of them just sit in their closet collecting dust.
My kids have one pair of sneakers at a time. When they outgrow them or wear out the shoes, they get a new pair. They have one pair of flip flops, and a pair of dressier shoes. And sometimes I don’t even bother with dress shoes for my son if his sneakers are a little dressier. (We also live near the beach in Southern California where things are a lot more casual. We can get away with It here.)
Consider creating a capsule wardrobe for your kids to make life easier for all of you. And also understand that when they’re young, they can totally get away with wearing colors that don’t match or mixing patterns. Just roll with it. Sometimes I look at my kids and cringe because they don’t match, but they dressed themselves and I’m thankful for it.
9. Not making everyday items accessible to your kids.
I made this mistake with some of my kids’ toys. I had them in bins on a shelf the kids couldn’t reach. So every time they wanted their crayons or my daughter wanted her Barbies, I had to stop what I was doing and get them down.
If your kids share a room, put the youngest child’s clothes on the bottom of the closet and the older child’s clothes higher so they can each reach them. Don’t store things they use often where they can’t get them.
Or place something underneath that they can step on like a stool. My kids use the plastic storage bins as step stools. I didn’t plan it that way, but it works!
10. Thinking the closet needs to be Instagram worthy.
Oh, this brings me back to the color coding. And the labeling. And the bins of one color.
Pretty ≠ functional.
And you know what else? Releasing those expectations can be incredibly freeing.
Instagram is NOT real life. I’d love to see most of those closets after a week with kids in them. Can ya picture it?
You also have closet doors for reason. Close them.
11. Watching too many organizing shows on Netflix.
You didn’t know your kids were supposed to have a super fancy, hyper-organized closet until you watched Marie Kondo’s show or the Home Edit’s show, did you?
You didn’t know that what you had wasn’t good enough, did you?
Stop watching these shows or scrolling Instagram if they trigger bad emotions in you. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
12. Not using kid-sized hangers.
Kids’ clothes will fit on kid-sized hangers for a long time, so you really need to buy them. Don’t think, “Oh, I have hangers, these will work!” They don’t, not really.
13. Storing things in the closet or room that shouldn’t be there.
Think about how you and your kids use their room. If they don’t play with toys in their room, then don’t store toys in there.
Do your kids put their shoes on in their room or by the door before they leave? Store the shoes where they put them on. Whenever I put my kids’ shoes in their closet, they can never find them and then the shoes end up by the front door anyway.
14. Not storing things in the closet or room that should be there.
Again, think about how your kids use their room. Non-clothing items should go in the closet if it makes sense.
Do you want to know what’s in my kids’ closet besides clothes? Extra bedding for their mattresses that I change in their room. A small fan and a space heater that we use in their room. An overnight duffel bag for weekly sleepovers at their grandparents’ house that we pack and unpack in their room.
Makes sense, right?
15. Adding drawers for everyday items.
I would love to have everything put away in drawers where you can’t see it. But my kids’ don’t often close drawers (neither does my husband, for that matter), so it looks messy.
Or have you ever picked out a top from one drawer and then looked for bottoms from another drawer only to realize they weren’t clean? And the remaining bottoms don’t work with that top, so now you have to go back to the first drawer?
Keeping everyday items out in hanging sweater organizers means that you can see everything all at once. You (or your kids) can see which top, bottom, and socks they can wear without having to open three separate drawers.
I know this kids’ closet storage system works well because my husband recommended it to his buddy who’s about to become a first-time dad to twins. You know it’s good when your husband tells his friends about it. Haha!
16. Hanging items that should be folded.
I try to fold as much as possible because I’ve found it’s easier for my kids to grab folded clothes rather than hanging ones. It’s definitely better to fold t-shirts rather than hang them; a little creased t-shirt never hurt anybody!
But I know you’re still wondering what to hang and what to fold. Amiright? In general, you want to fold clothes that stretch out easily (like delicate sweaters), and hang clothes that wrinkle easily (like button-down shirts).
But remember: these are not hard and fast rules! My kids sweaters are pretty sturdy and hangers won’t stretch them out. I hang them because I don’t have an area for them among the folded clothes.
Follow general guidelines and then make it work for you!
17. Not storing seasonal clothing or bigger sizes.
If it’s snowing outside and your kid’s shorts are still in the closet, get them out of there! Or why would you have 3T clothes hanging in the closet if your toddler is wearing 18-month clothes?
But don’t put them in storage in your attic! Utilize under-the-bed storage boxes and use bins on the top shelves of the closet. Be prepared for the unseasonably warm day in the winter when your kid wants to wear shorts. Putting the larger sizes waaaay out of sight means they’re out of mind when your kid actually grows into that size.
18. Not decluttering often enough.
Decluttering must be a constant task in your life. Go though your kids clothes every so often and remove the clothes that don’t fit, they don’t wear, or are ripped. Same with the toys: remove toys they no longer play with or are broken.
If you have room in your closet, you can even keep a large bin where you throw old items until you have time to get rid of them properly. Let’s say you notice a shirt no longer fits, place it in the bin until you have enough items to sell or donate.
19. Expecting kids to stay organized.
You’ve probably read many articles about how to organize kids’ clothes where the authors write that if you just get your kids bedroom closet in order, it’ll inspire your kids to stay organized.
It’s cute, really. Bless their hearts.
I have high expectations of my kids. I expect them to be nice, share, eat well, be respectful, and not destroy their things.
But I don’t expect them to stay organized when they’re only 7 and 4 years old. I did at one time, until reality hit. They just don’t care, and they especially don’t care to keep it organized the way I like it.
Yes, I’ll expect them to stay organized when they’re older. But right now? There are more important things for them to do.
Let it go, Elsa.
When it comes to organizing a kids room, do what works for you and your family. Just because it’s life-changing for someone else doesn’t mean it will be for you, too.
This post is about mistakes moms make when organizing their kids’ closets.