Organizing Toddler Clothes: Lingerie Laundry Bags

In the two weeks before I ended up on bed rest, I went through a fit of nesting. I made big changes to the nursery (which remain frustratingly unfinished) and tied up a thousand little loose ends around the house that were bothering me. Some changes were necessary, but most were just little things that I thought might make life easier. Now, many of those unnecessary changes are making my life much easier and giving me at least a semblance of control/participation in the day-to-day of the Morgan household.

One of those fixes dealt with Eva’s clothing situation. As Eva approached toddlerhood, she started showing a lot more independence when it came to things like getting dressed in the morning. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to dress herself (a terror of getting her head stuck in shirts has stunted that development) as it was that she wanted to design her outfits. It was sweet and funny at first, watching her pick out things that didn’t match or letting her pair sweatpants with her Minnie Mouse costume, but as time went on dressing Eva became a huge pain.


She was very insistent about picking out her own clothes, especially in the morning before school, and she would often want to wear outfits that were not only mismatched but impossible, such as two sweaters, a headband, and a pair of socks. When she did manage to put together an outfit that covered all necessary parts of her body, it almost always included some completely unnecessary element, like  a poncho or a ski hat.


We also had a laundry problem, in that Eva constantly emptied her drawers of clothing in search of the perfect outfit and then I had to do the icky Mom smell test to determine if things were clean or dirty. It’s a little thing, but when it happens every day it starts to really grind on one’s nerves. It also cut into my work time, since I would clean her room after she went to school, only to have her destroy it again in search of her new post-nap outfit. So, when I started thinking about putting the shared nursery together and finding a place for her baby brother’s clothes, I realized that we were going to have to come up with some sort of wardrobe overhaul.

I did initially think about putting much of her clothing in storage, in the same way that I had thinned out her toys, since Eva Diva has quite the closet. Ultimately, this wasn’t a good solution for a few reasons. One is that Eva is still flirting with potty training and her clothing consumption goes way up on diaper-free days. Another issue was that she continues to grow quickly (up if not out) so clothes taken out of rotation would likely miss her all together. The final problem is that, unlike her toys, I’m not in control of most of her wardrobe. About 99% of it is made up of gifts from family and taking them away just seemed mean. So, I needed to come up with a way for Eva to be involved in selecting her outfits without allowing her to burrow through all of the drawers in a daily display of toddler frustration.

The solution has worked out surprisingly well: lingerie laundry bags. If you aren’t familiar, lingerie bags are small mesh bags with zippers that are designed to hold your delicates when you toss them into the wash with everything else. I guess I don’t have the kind of delicates that necessitate these bags so I had to do a Target run to pick some up, but I was happy to find a Room Essentials branded lingerie bag for $1-2 a piece. I picked up a dozen, brought them home, put together twelve outfits, and zipped them up. Now, Eva’s main drawer in the dresser contains the zipped bags and she can peek at them to choose an outfit.


We also have a drawer for “extras”, which are shirts/leggings/etc. that didn’t make it into the outfit bags that week and we use those either for messy play clothes or as sub-ins if she has a spill. When she’s getting dressed for school in the morning Eva knows that she can only pick the outfit bags out and not mess with any other pieces of clothing.

I can’t even tell you how helpful this has been, as OCD and anal retentive as it is. Cutting Eva’s options back make the mornings go much smoother and she’s content to peer at the top two or three bags and pick without digging through all of them. I’ve also tried to be consistent about the outfits in the bags so that she knows what to expect when the outfit is on.

Other benefits include the fact that she’s rarely mismatched anymore, clothes that go together are now being worn together (therefore fading evenly), and we can easily grab a bag or two if she’s headed out for a long playdate or needs a backup outfit for school. It doesn’t take any more time to do her laundry either, since we keep the emptied bags in the drawer and refill them when the clothes come out of the dryer. If anything, it’s keeping her clothes much neater because she isn’t trampling them on the floor.



Now that I’m on bed rest, I have to admit that this has been a sanity saver. I’m not the one who dresses Eva in the morning these days and I’m glad that my mother and Kyle don’t have to put up with the power struggle that was once picking an outfit for school. I also get to put the outfits together still since they bring in the bags and laundry, which is very controlling of me but it gives me a nice mom feeling to be able to dress her.

Plus, my (adored) husband doesn’t always understand which top matches which pants and hasn’t had the benefit of learning all of Eva’s clothing quirks. For example, she has a black and grey jacket that she loves, but the sleeves are cut in such a way as to make layering over another long-sleeved top almost impossible. If you do get it on over long sleeves, two things are certain: (1) she will become drenched at every hand-washing because she can’t push her sleeves up and (2) the armpits will bunch up in the car seat just when you’ve merged onto the freeway and she will scream as though she’s being boiled alive unless you find an exit and fix it. I now know to pair it with a particularly light t-shirt that wouldn’t bunch up if you paid it and Eva gets to continue wearing her favorite pain-in-the-butt jacket.



Oh, and if you’re worried about Eva’s stunted creativity since she’s dealing with Type A Mom, you’ll be pleased to know that I filled one of her drawers with socks and accessories, which she is allowed to rifle through after she puts her outfit on. If I had completely removed her ability to go all Edith Head on me, I’m pretty sure she would have run away from home. Besides, you never know when an outfit might need that little extra something…

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hope

    This is a really clever idea! I didn’t mind her looking all Punky Brewster since she can still get away with it at this age, but I do understand the frustration it caused you when you had to clean up.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm
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