June 24, 2009

The Dot System

Years ago, when I had just two children, I was visiting with a friend of mine who had 5 children, 4 of them sons all close in age. She was very excited at the job she had done of reorganizing her sons' closet and took me on a tour. In the course of the discussion she mentioned the dot system. As often happens when she and I are chatting, the conversation took many twists and turns before my husband said it was time to leave.

But, before we got in the car, those words came back to me and I had to ask, "What is the dot system?" I am so glad I did. At the time, I had just two children and I was at the end of yet another unsuccessful treatment in which doctors told me it was unlikely that I would ever have more. I didn't see that I would ever need the dot system. But, God knew, I would indeed, one day need this little gem of wisdom.

Ruth answered me with the glint and gleam of a woman who had the answer that would solve all problems of mothers the world over. Forever. The dot system is how we know which clothes belong to which child. After her explanation I had to admit it really was quite ingenious and yet so simple that any weary mother with a sharpie could carry it out to perfection.

The first born child gets one dot on the tag of a shirt. The second born gets two. And so on. So our little Ellie has seven dots on her tags, Samuel six, Aedan five. You get the idea.

A suit starts out with Nathaniel. It has four dots on the trouser and jacket. When he outgrows it we add another dot and pass it down to Aedan. When he outgrows it we add one more dot and pass it down to Samuel.

This is so helpful when passing clothes down from one child to another. But it doesn't stop there. Quite often, I will buy the boys matching outfits. No trouble figuring out who it belongs to. Even Pa can read the tags and know which closet it should go in.

Side note. The dot system may be fool proof but Aedan and Samuel were still wearing each other's knickers moments before we left for church on Sunday morning. Fortunately, my skilled eye could tell that the boy's and Pa had a little mix up, when I noticed Aedan's knickers looked more like shorts and Samuel's appeared to be full length trousers.

A few helpful notes when implementing the dot system. On clothes with stamped tags, we use an inconspicuous place on the seam at the back of the collar for shirts, dresses and sweaters and at the back of the waist for skirts and trousers. On the bottom of the heel for socks. For things that are too dark for a sharpie to show up we use white out.

When we buy new things like underwear, socks, or t-shirts the whole package gets marked right off to prevent any confusion or need for sorting after the first washing.

When pulling boxes out of the attic to unpack Summer or Winter clothes we do this. First off, at the end of each season each child's clothes are put into a Rubbermaid with their name on it. I engage the help of my teenagers to make the checking and unpacking go easier. We work one child at a time assembly line style.

One of us, usually me, monitors the trying on and checks for proper fit and need for repair or alterations. If it is too small it goes into the box of the next younger child for their fitting session.

If it fits the child trying it on, we check it for the correct number of dots. If it needs dots, it gets passed onto the person in charge of the sharpie.

Once it is marked, if it needs changes or mending it goes to the person in charge of sewing. If it is OK, it goes to the laundry or dry cleaning pile. Unfortunately, our only storage is in the attic so everything requires washing to get the storage smell out of it.

Once the child's box is empty, we go to their closets and drawers and fill the box with all the things to be stored away for the next season.

After everything is washed, ironed, hung and tucked in drawers we count and working from a list of what I think they will need for that season I can then draw up my shopping and sewing list.

And that my dear readers is the Dot System with a little bonus.

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  1. That is an awsesome idea...sure beats writing names and then crossing them out when the next one needs it. I love this idea!

  2. Looks like you got a great system working there for you. Since I have 10 years between my girls I don't have a hard time figuring out thier clothes. But my boys are 2 years apart...my system...Kinzie my 5 year old for the longest time when she was little would watch me fold clothes, and as I was folding she would yell out...Kobe's...Kaleb's! She didn't mess up that often. ;o)

  3. I've had to start this recently as the boys have some of the same Aeropostle tshirts, and I can't tell them apart. It does make everything easier, doesn't it!

    I am wowed that you are on level 3. Maybe it's because I'm older but I don't like working out that harder. I push myself just enough to break a sweat and get my heart rate up but I don't overdue it for me, and level 3 would be overdoing it right now for me!

  4. Great idea and very simple. I'll have to remember this when we add to our family.

  5. Great idea! Even though my boys are 4 years apart, my toddler is big for his age so he can wear some shirts my older son has only recently outgrown, but I've noticed the shirts I sort out of my older son's closet sometimes make their way back there rather than into little brother's closet. This system would really help solve that!

  6. This is a great idea!! For a large family like yours, it has to be a lifesaver. And Rubbermaid tubs are so fabulous! As a child, my clothes always got stuffed into a cardboard box.

  7. Wow, what a great idea. You sound like you are very organized. With seven kids I'm thinking you have to be.

    I have a boy and a girl so most clothes just get moved out of our house. I try to share with friends sometimes, but mostly we need space for current clothes and I get them out of the house as soon as no one can where them anymore.

    Have a great evening,

  8. Thanks for keeping me on your heart today. I feel better and have had no pain so I didn't have to take any more pain meds.

    I even posted my 6th photo challenge a little bit ago.

    Thanks for that invite. It was fun.

  9. That whole dot thing is a great idea! If I had more than 2 I would totally use that!

    PS...I was very overwhelmed with the clean up at first and I am not going to say that I have not been surprised by a small form of crusted on refried beans on a door moulding or behind the trash can...2 years later we are still finding little surprises occasionally!!! LOL. And, I still eat them, but I no longer cook them!