Capsule Wardrobe for a Toddler

The conventional wisdom is that kids need lots of clothes, but I’ve found the opposite is true – we find keeping kids’ clothes to a minimum simplifies laundry, keeping track of clothes, etc. (The same is true for adults’ clothes, too – and dishes, and sheets, and and and…you’d think more is better but it just creates more inventory to manage, as The Minimal Mom says.)

Today I’m sharing our toddler’s “capsule” wardrobe from this past summer to give an idea of just how little your kid(s) might be able to get by with.

For reference, my kid gets dirty pretty regularly and we wash clothes almost daily, thanks to cloth diapers and laundry for four people. If you do laundry less frequently, you can adjust accordingly.

Without further ado, the Toddler Capsule Wardrobe for Summer 2020:

2 sets of jammies
4 short-sleeved t-shirts
3 pairs of shorts
2 pairs of lightweight pants
1 long-sleeved t-shirt
A bunch of socks (including my favorite pink ones with the pink John Deere t-shirt and the purple socks with the tie-dye shirt)

Not pictured:
1 sweater not pictured
1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of sandals
1 pink John Deere ball cap for sun protection

Plus 2 pairs of pants and 2 vintage John Deere t-shirts as backup at daycare, including this gem (with some soup on it, pre-laundry):

(Can you tell we are a John Deere family? My uncles farm with them/sell them.)

Everything goes together (more or less), and almost all of this was inherited from our daughter. I thrifted the sloth pajamas and was excited not to have to buy anything more for this stage.

My spouse, however, was a bit skeptical about whether this would stretch far enough – it does look a bit sparse in the drawer! But I persuaded him to give it a try, and we never ran out of clean clothes (as long as we remember to check the dryer/clean clothes hamper, ha).

If you’re nervous about making it work here’s how to try it out without committing:

  1. determine the number of clothes you think will get your kid through a few wash cycles;
  2. pick their/your favorites until you reach that number;
  3. put the rest in a box someplace out of sight and inconvenient to access so you won’t be tempted to break it open and will be forced to go check the dryer and the clean clothes hamper first :)

I have since thrifted a few pairs of toddler pants for the coming cold, but I shouldn’t have even bothered because our friends just dropped off a grocery bag full of clothes passed on from their youngest, all in great shape and many that fit my kid right now. Hurray! Now to get my older kid to go through her clothes before the in-person portion of elementary school starts… she has a lot more opinions about clothing than the baby does :)

If you have little people at home, do you have a minimal or capsule wardrobe for them? If you haven’t tried it out yet, would you ever consider it?


Thrifting Baby Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, babies really don’t need that much – and what they do need can be thrifted!

Why thrift baby stuff? So many people donate baby goods (toys, gear, clothes) in great condition precisely because they either buy or receive so much baby accoutrement that they don’t end up using; their excess can be your gain! Plus, when you pay thrift prices, you can afford to experiment and see if your baby loves a bouncy swing/rock and play/swaddler/etc. without breaking the bank.

Tips for nabbing secondhand baby stuff

Where to look: Most thrift stores have kid/baby sections that will cover the bases. Baby/kid consignment stores are good for higher quality clothes and specialty items; the same applies to consignment events like Rhea Lana. Borrowing from friends or searching your local Freecycle/”Everything’s Free in [Insert Your Town Name Here]” group are also great options to try out gear with zero financial investment.

Don’t thrift too far ahead of time. It’s so tempting to stock up on everything baby-related that you “might need one day” and end up with your storage spaces spilling out with unused, bulky baby gear and clothes that just frustrate you on top of trying to soothe a crying baby while sleep deprived. The truth is, you just don’t know what your kid is going to want/need/like down the line because every baby is different. If you’re worrying you’ll never find a particular item in a thrift store again, I’d say don’t – because baby gear cycles through so quickly, it’s very, very likely you’ll see it again or be able to borrow from friends/find it secondhand.

I work particularly hard to avoid this with kids’ clothes so I don’t end up with a bunch of stuff that might not fit during the season it’s meant to be worn, might not be what the kid likes, might duplicate hand-me-downs/gifts we receive later on, etc. The exception with each of my kids so far has been one toddler shirt I just fell in love with when they were still babies/in utero – something that made me smile to think about what they would be like when they were old enough to wear it.

Cleaning: wash clothes, blankets etc. as you normally would before using. You can add white vinegar to the washing machine if you’re worried about sanitizing. Vinegar diluted with water is also a good way to wash baby furniture, toys, etc. made out of wood or plastic.

Here’s the baby gear we’ve thrifted – both for our first (now in preschool) and our current newborn:

Play mat

These are always hanging around the Goodwill. Just run the fabric bits through the washing machine and add on your own dangly toys (that’s Giardia on ours) to keep infants entertained. I find the over-arching arms a bit of a pain to store when not being used, though, so we might ditch this and just use one of the many blankets we’ve been given, since the current baby has a big sister to keep him entertained :)



We borrowed something similar from a friend the first time around and found it super handy for times when we needed to put the baby somewhere secure to do things with two hands (like, say, eat dinner). When I was newly pregnant with #2 I nabbed this replacement for $10 at a local thrift store. The music/vibrate feature on it is broken, but since the Spouse and I hate toys that make electronic noise, we were perfectly happy with it as-is.


Changing Table

With baby #1 we used an inflatable changing pad from IKEA on top of a dresser as our changing station. That dresser is now in the guest room; we often have family and friends staying with us and didn’t want to run in to our guests’ space every time baby #2 needed a diaper change. Luckily a parishioner spotted this made-in-Italy changing table with drawers and buckle-in straps on his neighbor’s curb and brought it over in the back of his truck – so while not technically thrifted, it’s a total secondhand win. I wiped it down with vinegar spray, put the same inflatable changing pad on top, stocked the drawers with diapers/onesies/blankets, and called it good. PS Hi baby hand!



We co-slept with our first kiddo, but since she’s now a preschooler who still climbs into our bed some nights, it felt safer to give kiddo #2 his own space so he didn’t get stepped on. When I saw this SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper at the thrift store for $15, I knew it would be the perfect way to keep the baby right next to me for middle-of-the-night feedings but still safe from the midnight rompings of his older sister. (Both our mattress and the bassinet are on the floor.) PS: that blankie was made by my aunt for my sister and me decades ago – talk about hand-me-downs!


Bottle dryer

The spouse makes fun of me for this one because with our last kid, I scoffed at these artificial grass-like bottle dryers as space-wasting one-use inventions of the baby industry, designed to sucker bleary-eyed parents out of their money with promises of making life with a baby bearable. (Yes, I was dramatic about it.) But after multiple years of playing Jenga with our older kid’s bottles and pump parts on our regular dish drying rack, and after swapping said drying rack for a simple dishcloth on the counter, this time around I was willing to pay $3 to thrift a designated spot for the bub’s bottles. We’ll see whether it was worth the investment (and additional counter space) once I start pumping and bottle feeding.



Our preschooler bought this cute little elephant rattle at Goodwill with her birthday money as a gift for her soon-to-be-born baby sibling. (Awwww.) She likes to entertain him with the rattle sound, but we’ve found an even better use for it: the trunk is his favorite boob substitute, even moreso than the bink he inherited from his older sister. That accounts for the milky stains on the elephant’s face – time for a wash cycle!

Do the same with toys as with clothes – resist the urge to thrift alllll the toys/games/puzzles at the thrift store until you know what your kid likes and they are old enough to use it. There will always be more Melissa and Doug at the thrift store, I promise.



Our baby clothes for #2 are a combination of items passed on from our older child and from friends, plus a few gifts. As he gets older, we’ll do what we did with his sister – thrift whatever we need to fill the holes in his hand-me-down wardrobe. This is the one “ahead of time” shirt I mentioned above; I spotted it in a Goodwill while I was pregnant and fell in love with the colors and (surprise surprise!) mix of visual patterns.


What have you thrifted or found secondhand for the small people in your life? Any tips to share?