Ask Deborah: To save or to dump, that is the question

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Parent’s organizing questions to help role-model organizing to their kids!


Q: “I don’t know if we’re going to have a second child, but I’m hesitant to get rid of anything, just in case. What should I save and how do I organize and store it without resorting to just throwing everything into the attic?” — Wendy, mother of Jenna (6 months)


Get six to eight large plastic bins for holding on the the "just in case" items.

A: As a new mom you’re instinct is to save everything! But most of us don’t have the extra storage space and even if you did, you’re going to see that there are certain things you didn’t really need and others that you couldn’t live without! And the few favorites that are memorabilia worthy. So what’s a mom to do? Get into the routine that as your child grows out of things (clothes and toys and all that other stuff we get wrangled into having) that you start to put them into clearly labeled bins. I cannot emphasize enough the phrase “as your child grows out of things“. This is crucial… because if you leave it for the tomorrow that never ever comes…. you end up “resorting to just throwing everything into the attic” as Wendy indicated! Do this at least once a year, say on their birthday, which is a date you can never forget! By the way, this is a time-management strategy to schedule annual maintenances on your birthday.

Get six to eight large (66oz) plastic bins. If you get them all at once, they’ll all match and you have them when you need them! No excuses! Rule of thumb; if you are not having more kids within 5 years span, then do yourself a favor and pass things on instead of holding onto things “just in case”. You can always arrange to have them sent back or get hand-me downs from others.

Label bins by developmental stages and size ranges. Why size ranges? Because kids sizes are not necessarily determined by their age. A one year old child might already be in size 18-24mos  clothes or a 6 year old boy in size 8 (having already out grown boys 4-7 size range). Also, by doing this, it will be easier to pass off to relatives & friends when it’s your last child. You empty the bin in a box or bag and viola, here’s the kid’s stuff! Makes life easier and it’s what being organized is all about.

Storing Clothes: Label bins like this: Infant 0-12 mos, Infant 12-24 mos,  Toddler 2-5T, Boys 4-7, Girls 4-6x, Boys 8-20, Girls 7-14. You can break down infant and toddlers into boys & girls if you want. Or break down each size range into seasons. It all depends on how many clothes you’re saving. What NOT to save: obviously ripped or stained clothes, anything white, they usually don’t last… and some experts say no shoes, since their feet mold to the shape etc., but economically I say, save what you need to save! By all means save any special occasion, dress  clothes, handmade sweaters, anything that is a knit (sweats, tees) and jeans, uniforms, sports stuff. And save those kids clothes that cost you a fortune! While you access, was it worth it? What not to save, the clothes your kids hated to wear! Why put yourself through that power struggle again?

Storing Toys: Put toys in separate bins, since they developmentally grow out of clothes faster then other stuff.  Label ‘Infant Toys’, ‘Toddler Toys’. Save the good stuff, tried and true classics in plastic or wooden. Store puzzles in zipper lock bags only if you have ALL the pieces. Ditto, anything with lots of small pieces store in zipper lock bags. (but think…do you really need these?!) Stuffed animals are dust-mite collectors, so I say no to that! I never store away books, only holiday books. Once they are done with the board books, donate or pass on. Store memorabilia for each child in a separate bin, not to be mixed up with the hand-me downs.

What you are role-modeling is that once they are done with something, be it clothes they’ve outgrown or toys they stopped playing with, that it is time to pass it on for someone else to use. You are nurturing being giving and charitable and role modeling that we don’t hold on to things forever… only very special treasures that we deem worthy of memorabilia. The rest of our stuff is to be used again by others who need them. It’s the circle of life. If children grow up going through this process each year early on, you are giving them a valuable life skill that helps them deal with change, which is what letting go of stuff is all about, and in turn what organizing is all about; deciding what to keep and not to keep and being okay with your decisions!

Deborah Kawashima, C.P.O. a certified professional organizer, founded her company, Creative Organizer in 2004 after working in the fashion industry as a children’s wear designer. Growing up her parents owned Montessori schools,  this natural sense of order influences her approach to organizing, Deborah specializes in working with parents and their kids, focusing on helping parents role model organizational and time management skills to their children. In addition to working with her clients, she is currently a life skills instructor at  UCLA extension Pathway, a unique program for college age students who are developmentally challenged (autism, Asperger’s Disorder etc.).

Got questions? Email her:

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Jackie Houchin

    Good advice, even though I don’t have kids at home any more. Now if I could just get SOMEONE to come her an do it! 8-)

  • Jackie Houchin

    Good advice, even though I don’t have kids at home any more. Now if I could just get SOMEONE to come here an do it! 8-)

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