Keeping kid stuff under control can be tricky. It's not your stuff, but yet small children can't be fully responsible for the things they have. You can slowly teach them to be responsible, but it doesn't come naturally to them.
Of course I have the very limited experience of a mother of one, but my personal experience tells me that kids don't need a lot of stuff, and children prefer experiences, creating, reading and hearing stories to having a lot of stuff. Each child is unique and some are minimalists naturally while others are collectors very early on, and I would encourage everyone to give the little ones some slack with their crap :)
Yet I still think there is no child who prefers stuff over companionship, love, attention, imagination and adventure.
For example Indiana loves to craft and we quite often make anything she fancies ourselves. Sometimes it's temporary like the magician's cape (her bath towel), sometimes something I put some time and effort into, like her stick horse and fairy wings, but quite often it is something made out of paper and cardboard (like her magician's hat and the bunny's wings). The latter stuff is the stuff that I have to keep under control. If I see something lying about for a long time without her playing with it, I put it in an upper shelf in a cupboard. I clean it out periodically. If she asks about anything that is in there, I can still rescue it for her. Usually she never remembers anything, she is too busy in her new creative endeavors. But if she accidentally sees something she may want it back. So I admit to being a little sneaky here, but otherwise we would be inundated with her craft. And we have been, when I didn't clear thing out for a while when I was sick. You could hardly see the floor.
I have a love-hate relationship with CRAFTS. I love the creativity and making things yourself, being resourceful and not just automatically thinking that you must go buy something. We always first think if we can and want to make it ourselves. But of boy, do I abhor the clutter that crafting creates. So to keep my sanity and some sort of balance, I resort to cleaning it out on my own. I do involve Indiana too, and she often does help, but sometimes when I really just want things neat and organized I do it my way.
With toys and clothes we have the policy of not keeping stuff that she doesn't play with or wear. We will give away even really pretty clothes, because if she refuses to wear them, there is no point in having them crowd the closet. Indiana tends to like to wear the same things over and over, and if she doesn't spill something on herself she can wear the same clothes for a couple of days. Basically as long as they look and smell clean! :) Then I sometimes have to fight her to put them into laundry! But at least it keeps our amount of laundry down. I am surprised at how little she actually needs. I feel like we constantly have clothes in her closet that she isn't wearing, although she doesn't have much! I know by now quite well what she likes, and that's comfy jersey clothing, leggings, sweatpants, tops, and a couple of dresses. If she has more than two or three dresses they never get worn. To be honest, she currently has more clothes than she wears. If she has 7 pairs of pants and 7 tops, that's clothes for two weeks or so, but as we do laundry much more often her favorites are in rotation and much of the clothing goes unworn. She actually has ten tops right now which is double of the amounts she actually needs. As she grows out of them, I'll try to not replace all of them. I will put away the clothes that will not fit her after summer, and re-assess her needs in the fall. She may not go through 7 sets of clothes each week, but I'd still feel weird not having that much, you know? And of course it's good to have some extras in case of accidents. The amount you need depends on the age of the children, how messy they are, where you live, whether they go to daycare, how often and how big loads of laundry you do, and so on.
I also try not to buy the next size up until she needs them, but I do have a few larger clothes waiting, that I got from my sister. Cute children's clothes will always be available in shops, there is no need to buy in advance. Some people like to buy in advance from sales, but I generally feel like I buy so little that I can just wait and buy what I need when I need it, and I may find it on sale, or I may pay full price. Sometimes if you buy a lot in advance, they may not fit at a proper time of year, you may forget you have them, you may be gifted similar items and end up with too many, and so on.
Here are her clothes just now. The upper shelf is pajamas, socks and undies, the middle shelf is tops and bottoms (some of the pants are in laundry right now), and the bottom is her wool pants and cardigan, two hoodies, two dresses and one skirt. In addition to this she has her summer clothes, which is just one small pile. Some of the clothes, like leggings and thin long sleeved tops, work well most of the summer too in our climate.
I wish she didn't have any opinions about clothes and would wear whatever I made her wear, but I've given up on that. When she hadn't even born I had this idea that she would wear dresses every day, ha! I've felt frustrated when she refused to wear something really nice I'd bought her. But I decided to get over myself and my wish to control the way she dresses. I CAN influence it, but I don't think it's worth a fight and bad feelings to try to force her.
When we moved here she was allowed to pick what she wanted and leave what she wanted. She didn't want to take the doll house, for example, even though she sometimes played with it.
Toys are not a problem with her, and I've talked about it before how little she wants. Last weekend we were at a Horse Fair (the real reason we went there was that they had a lot of activity for stick horse enthusiasts, like "training" and such :) ) and the police also had a booth there, and they had collectible cards for the kids of the police horses and dogs. You could take as many of the cards as you wanted, but Indiana only wanted to take one. She is frequently like that, which does make my life easier!
Sometimes it's US who have a hard time giving away kid stuff, isn't it? Whether it's toys we think are really cool or cute despite the fact that our child completely overlooks them, or clothing we chose because it hit all the right buttons with us and which we keep around in the hopes that the scratchy zipper will stop bothering our child in a few months. Sometimes we keep stuff because it was expensive. Sometimes we think the child will change her mind about it.
If we honestly look at our child's stuff, and whether it's being used and appreciated by the CHILD, it will help clear out a lot of stuff, I dare say. And at least over here, second hand children's clothes and toys and books are really sought after and flea markets specifically for kid stuff are really popular, so you know the thing you are donating or selling will be very welcome in another home.
One last thing:
In a study published last year titled “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” researchers at U.C.L.A. observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings.
I like this study, because it makes my reactions to clutter feel less weird or neurotic!
And really, it makes sense. Everyone knows how stressed moving makes them because they have to deal with ALL of their stuff. Cleaning house is just the same but on a smaller scale. And boy, did I used to be in a foul mood when cleaning, back when we had too much stuff.
I'll leave you with that but you are welcome to ask questions and I'll try to answer, and maybe you can give each other some tips in the comments too, as I in no way claim to be an expert on the subject! This is just an example of how we deal with kid stuff while living simply.