March 13, 2008

Swistle Training Session: Storing Deals

My mom produced the coveted Pecan Roll recipe, so I've added it to yesterday's post.

The Swistle-on-Facebook experiment is so far a wild success. I found I could subscribe to status updates in my RSS reader, and it's like getting a bunch of intriguing little mini-posts. My favorite this morning was "Claire just did something strange and unprecedented and not necessarily smart. But she remains chipper." Ha ha ha ha ha! Or how about "Tonie has a plan. She's going to find you at the end of the world." You guys are so SMART and FUNNY, I would totally select your profiles from an online dating service, even if you were also short and bald.

Tessie and El-e-e were asking (almost TWO MONTHS AGO?? it feels like last week) how do I STORE all my awesome scores.

It's true, the storing is not as easy as the scoring. In fact, sometimes I turn down great deals because I don't want to handle the storage. My recent (TWO MONTHS AGO) acquisition of shoes all the way up to size 11 (when Elizabeth is only now in size 6) was an anomaly: normally I am not willing to screw around with sizes more than two or three ahead. Not only are there storage issues, but things go in and out of style and children change: the child who yesterday wouldn't consider any shoes except her pink cowgirl boots, today isn't as interested in them. Also, sometimes something doesn't work out: while I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I bought darling pink daisy maryjanes at 75% off in every size they had--only to discover that the toe box was way too short for her to get her foot into. At least I hadn't spent much.

Anyway. Storage.

What I do is, I have boxes in closets. For the twins, the current set of boxes is labeled "3T," "4T," and "5T and Up." I use empty diaper boxes. When I buy something new, I can just stuff it carelessly into the correct box. The careless stuffing is the KEY ELEMENT of the plan: it can't take more than 3 seconds or I won't do it and I'll end up carelessly stuffing big heaps of clothes onto shelves and into the backs of closets, not to be found until our children are disposing of our earthly possessions through sobs of---one hopes---grief and despair, rather than of disappointment that there's no inheritance to speak of and none of our crap is worth anything.

Did I tidy the tops of the boxes so that things wouldn't look carelessly stuffed, even though I JUST SAID that careless stuffing is THE KEY? Yes, I did.


When the season changes or the child outgrows clothes, I pull out the next box and poke through it. So, for example, when the warm weather left us behind in a cloud of dust last fall, I pulled out the 2T boxes to look for pants, and the 4T boxes to look for long-sleeved shirts. Pretty soon, I'll start looking in the 3T box for shorts, and the 4T box for short-sleeved shirts.

When a box is empty, I re-label it and put it at the other end of the line. After I took the 2T pants out of the 2T box, the 2T box was empty except for a couple of scraps that could go into the 3T box. I scribbled out "2T" and wrote "5T and Up" instead, and I scribbled "and Up" off of the "4T and Up" box. This takes about 5 seconds. It takes longer if what you do is turn the boxes around and and label the fresh clean side so it'll look tidier for the picture. What am I DOING? Now my picture doesn't illustrate my point at ALL!

Boots and shoes, it depends. In the front hall coat closet I have two large Rubbermaid totes; one is for snow boots, and one is for rain boots. When I buy those on 75% off (I HATE to spend full-price for something so VERY BORING), I dump them into the bin. When I need some for a child, I root through the bin until I find their size. Shoes, I put in a little heap in each closet. But if I get a whole lot, as I did with Elizabeth's maryjanes, I make a tidy row in order of size. Even if I later put stuff on top of them, they're still in order underneath.

Oops, too many 7-1/2.


Coats bought ahead are hung up in the coat closet.

Snowpants bought ahead (I hate spending money on those, too) are put in a large box in the coat closet. They probably need to move into a tote now: the box is overflowing.

There is ONE MAJOR FLAW in my system, and it is this: I haven't established a good way of keeping track of what I have already purchased. So if for example I am at the store and am confronted with stacks of cute basic long-sleeved shirts at 75% off, I have only my memory to rely on: Have I already bought enough in size 4? Or could we stand to have more?

Fortunately, when we're talking about $1.74 per shirt, it doesn't really matter if I buy too many, whereas I will kick myself if I buy too few and later have to pay full (well, sale) price, so I err on the side of too many. This rarely fails me, because I have a good memory and because I generally have a FEELING about how stocked we are. The few times it HAS failed me (one time I ended up with three nearly-identical green shirts for Rob), I've weeded out the extras and donated them to a local charity shop, tags still attached, and then I feel good about giving the shop something NEW for a change.

36 comments:

AndreAnna said...

Target has little girl polos and shorts for 1.98$ by me right now. I may have lost my mind and damn near cleared the rack. But my kid will have shorts and tshirts for the next three years for $130.

I put all my "buy-aheads" in tupperware bins in the attic/crawlspace labeled with sharpies. When I change out the box, I just cross out the sharpie mark and make a new one underneath.

js said...

You are a woman after my own heart! My family makes fun of me for shopping like that! I only have one, and I know the savings is great. I can't imagine how much better it is for you!

As much as they make fun of me, they do have to admit I'm super smart (DUH!). I had so many things purchased for my daughter before she was even born that I didn't buy a new thing until she was over 1 year old. I had clothes up to a size 7 that'd I'd gotten for super cheap!

Rock on lady!

Erica said...

Once again, I have an overwhelming urge to marry you. I cannot keep track of the clothes I buy ahead for ONE CHILD. This winter, I bought all the wrong things in the wrong size. Granted, it was my first winter with a child, so I'm hoping to improve. But still. You are my hero.

Jill said...

Wow. Just...wow.
Also? I love how you explain what you do, take pictures to make things look nice, then explain how you tidied up anyway. Hilarious.

Jess said...

Stephanie and I have discussed it, and we agree: We both want to be JUST LIKE YOU.

Mimi said...

I've also wondered how you store all of those cute clothes!
I'm working on a new storage system because I live in a state of fear that I will FORGET to have the boys wear something really cute that I bought. Oh the horror.

Cass said...

I'm inspired...and also concerned. Am I already behind the eight ball? SHOULD I be shopping for unborn child NOW? Where do I draw the line? Is it just one year in advance...or do I shoot for the moon and go two+

Let's say I go to the outlet this weekend and I'm at Carter's what do I buy by now 22 week in the womb baby?

LoriD said...

The diaper boxes are a good idea. The totes usually have some kind of lip on them that wastes precious closet space when stored side-by-side.

We have a whole double closet dedicated to hand-me-downs and advance purchases, but it still gets pretty messy. Also, I try to make use of the height of the closet, which is not a good idea. Like you, if it can't be sorted in 3 seconds, it gets relegated to the "must sort later" pile.

Emblita said...

I do the same thing with the boxes- except on a smaller scale since I only have one child.
What really gets me is when I'm digging through the grow-into boxes and discover something that is already too small..... soooo fustrating! Any ideas on how to avoid that?

Swistle said...

Emblita- That sometimes happens to me, too, especially with the way some brands do their sizes larger and some do them smaller. It's irritating to take out a 4T shirt for a 4T child and find that the shirt won't even go ON it's so small. One thing that makes it easier is if you mostly buy the same brands: if the child is Faded Glory 3T and Cherokee 4T, you can put Faded Glory 4T and Cherokee 5T in the next-size-up box together. Mostly, though, I just hope for the best and try to shrug off the missteps and be glad I didn't pay much for them.

Tessie said...

Three Things: Comment Edition

1)THANK YOU for that recipe and may I say that I got a kick out of your mom's comments, not only because they were awesome, but also because I can hear that you two have a similar "writing voice", if that makes sense (it totally doesn't).

2)Speaking of your mom, it occurs to me that I can submit unsolicited Name Requests for HER TOO! Therefore, I submit:

Carol
Beverly
Bonnie

3)Diaper boxes. GENIUS. I threw away TWO this morning and I actually FELT BAD about it, which is quite unlike me, but they seem like they would be so USEFUL, if only I could come up with a Magical Use.

JMC said...

I have a similar system, only mine is dedicated mostly to hand-me-downs than to new stuff, since 4 girls. I keep all the stuff in roll-away under-bed bins.

Swistle said...

Cass- I don't buy much ahead of time for babies, because their growth is too uncertain. Most of my babies have been about 6 months ahead on sizes (that is, wearing size 18 months at age 12 months), but not in everything: they're long-torsoed, so mostly they wear bigger sizes in overalls and one-pieces, smaller sizes in separates. I wouldn't have know that ahead of time. Also, they change size so rapidly: older children IN GENERAL do one size per year (though they can still surprise me), but little babies might do a size or two in a season. I buy a few basics (sleepers, onesies, socks) ahead of time if I find them on clearance, but I don't think the good Buying Ahead time starts until around 2T/3T.

Swistle said...

Cass again- Oh! But I DID use boxes to sort baby gifts. Because people will give you all sizes (I got some gifts in SIZE FOUR, even), and it's really hard to mess around with storage when you're all postpartum 'n' such. So it's good to have some baby boxes. Maybe "3-6m," "6-9m," "9-12m," and "over 12m." Something like that.

Swistle said...

Tessie:

(1) Our speaking voices are also similar.

(2) Ha ha! I'll tell her.

(3) Diaper boxes are also good for storing Christmas ornaments.

Anonymous said...

Not a Target returner? I hear a lot of flak for Target's without-a-recipet return policy, but I LOVE shopping there because I can just buy buy BUY and don't even have to keep my receipt as long as I pay with my credit card.

drowninginlaundry said...

I like to hit the 99 cent sale at TCP outlet (about a 2 minute drive from my home) and stock up in basics: shirts, vests and pants in the next 2 sizes. Sadly us Canuks do not have Target. :::cry:::

I keep The Dictators current clothing on the left side of the closet and the stuff to grow into on the right side. Shoes, hats mitts and stuff are stored in a 3 drawer rubbermaid "dresser" looking thing on the right side of the closet. I cleaned out "the dark side" today to get the next batch of clothing ready. Good times.

The diaper boxes are a genius idea though - gotta add that to the dark side.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I love that, too! I do return things when I can, but often I don't discover mistakes until after 90 days, and they don't take back ANYTHING after 90 days.

Saly said...

I have a very similar system. All of my buy aheads are in rubbermaid totes, one for each child. All of the clothes they have worn already, are labeled by gender and size in bankers boxes and arranged in our basement. I am so excited to start putting my system to use and getting out clothes for the new baby!

Tessie asked me for photos before too, of that and of my pantry which is ridiculously stocked, so we'll have to compare.

Misty said...

You should sell the tag on clothing on ebay. Then you would be MAKING money through the buy aheads.

Also, are there even people who don't shop at least one season ahead? I can't imagine saying, Oh, it's Fall. My kid has no cold weather clothes. Let's go spend (insert too high price) for a pair of jeans they will wear for a few months.

Does that sound nuts to anyone else?

Jen said...

yes, it totally sounds nuts to me too, misty.

what i end up doing is shopping the end of a season (like winter now) for the following year's season. my daughter's only 8 mos so it's kind of a gamble but, like swistle mentioned, when i'm paying a dollar-something for a sweet little cardigan (seriously!) i just hope for the best. i sure as heck can't leave it to languish on the rack - that would be nearly criminal.

great post - i'm glad i'm not the only one with 5 sizes in tubs that get fuller with every trip to target.

desperate housewife said...

I just a few a months ago realized I could USE all those value size diaper boxes to store too small and too big clothes in! So now both of my kids' closets are full of diaper boxes too. Just like Swistle's. (Contented sigh.)

Danielle-lee said...

i totally could have used those pink cowboy boots about a month ago! darn! :)

el-e-e said...

Misty -- don't make fun!! That is totally what I DO! *turns away, ashamed*

I would LIKE to be smarter and more prepared. Thankfully I have a friend who sends me hand-me-downs in advance of the upcoming season, but for that one item (like jeans)? I'm often buying right then and there, IN the season.

I'm trying to be motivated by my hero, swistle.

Linda said...

Misty,

I shop mainly at consignment stores, so I do end up buying a lot for the current season. Right now the stores are no longer accepting winter stuff and are stocking up on summer clothes. In another month I'll go shopping and have a great selection of used clothes that my kids can wear this summer. Of course, I always look a few sizes up, too, because I CAN'T HELP MYSELF.

Amy said...

Oh. My. God.

I have to go lie down. :)

Sam said...

I've started using diaper boxes for handy storage, as well - in my case, storing all the clothes my kiddo has outgrown in preparation for a huge consignment sale happening in a couple of weeks. But now I can use them for store ahead, too! I love it. I've not gotten TOO adventurous with buying ahead QUITE yet because I have such a mondo big child - I did have to go out and pay full price for a pair of jeans, yes, but he's worn the dog out of them - and I'm learning as I go! Thankfully it's warm most of the year here and winter clothes aren't the norm. Besides, when he's inside, it's pretty much all onesie, all the time.

Nowheymama said...

Excellent information! Must..get..organized....

Anonymous said...

I have two boys ages 1 and 2. I ALWAYS buy the big box of diapers, and...throw them out. After reading this post (and spending $20 on plastic storage bins last week) I am devastated! This is such a wonderful idea!!!

Aaaack! I can't stop thinking about ALL THOSE BOXES I could have used. These thoughts are going to distract me for the rest of the day.

Thanks for the great ideas and for being such a fun place to visit Swistle!

Ashley

Vicky said...

Great tips for staying organized. There is nothing I hate more than finding an outfit that the child is too big for because I misplaced it.

SieraKiera said...

I have a non storage related question for you. I admire your storage capabilities. I hope that I can be a thrifty shopper once my bambino arrives. I haven't bought more than the basics as I figure I will be swarmed with hand-me-downs once s/he arrives.

Back onto my question... Do you know of a good way to clean soft/plushy baby toys? I have thrown a couple in the washing machine and they don't seem to work as well before they were washed. I have a lot of the kind that you pull and they spring back and vibrate.

Swistle said...

SK- I always put them in the laundry, but you're right: they don't always come out so great. I remember the mom of a childhood friend used to put stuffed animals in a pillowcase (knotted at the open end) to protect them in the washing machine. I wonder if that would help? Toys that are plush + non-plush are a pain, and I avoid them.

SieraKiera said...

I have been given many... Thanks for the advice. I will try it or I thought maybe just soaking them briefly in hot soapy water and letting the machine rinse them.

Sara said...

I need to start buying ahead like you!

Kristi said...

Are you for hire? Let me know and I'll start saving for airfare.

Kate said...

This is so great. I don't even have kids yet, but I'm totally taking note.