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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Simplification Continued

I'm sure by now that you have all gone through all the toys and eliminated a good deal of the toy chaos in your homes. After all, I inspired you all so much with my own process of eliminating our toys, right? Well, now that you've tamed the toys, it's time to corral the clothing. Today, we attack the closets.

Clothes overrun our home these days. It seems that no matter how much I get rid of, there is still way too much left over. I really need to consider just how much my children "need" when it comes to clothing. Seriously, does my 4 yr old child really NEED 20 different short sleeve t-shirts? I can't imagine why she would need so many, and yet I find it to be nearly impossible to get rid of them. I'm attached to her clothes for some strange reason. All I can figure is that it's a hold over from my days as a kid when I didn't have very much at all. I think I'm living vicariously through my child's closet. Of course, I realize that it's time to stop hoarding the clothes. I really need to pare down our collection and my next stop is the kids' closet.

The first step in clearing the closet is really quite easy. Start by taking everything out of the closet and dresser drawers. Put all the clothes in one big pile and prepare to sort. When starting this project, you really must be prepared to be brutal.

The next step is to sort the clothing based on size. If the item no longer fits, then ditch it. Now, if you have a younger sibling that you intend to save these outgrown items for, that's all well and good. But the outgrown clothing can hide somewhere else until they fit the next child in line. A box with a lid makes a wonderful storage spot for clothes that you intend to keep and use again. Use a permanent marker to write the size of the clothing on the outside of the box and then stash it away somewhere. Don't just leave them in the closet to wait until they can be worn again.

Once you've sorted out all the clothing by size and removed anything that doesn't fit, get those outgrown clothes out of your way. If you aren't going to keep them or pass them down to somebody you know, then take them to somebody that you know will use them. I recommend that you donate your outgrown clothes in good condition to your local Foster kids. Take the clothes to your local Child Protective Services office. There are always way too many children and never enough clothes, so your donation will be greatly appreciated. Foster children often come into the system with only what they are wearing. So, pack up what you're going to keep and put it away, then pack up what you're going to get rid of and put it in the car or by the door so you won't forget to - you know - get rid of it. You don't want those bags of donations to just sit around in that wonderfully clean closet, now do you?

Phase two of the sorting process will require you to take stock of what you've decided still fits. You can attempt to combine some of this step with the first step, but I find it to be much easier if I do these things in separate phases. How many pairs of jeans do you have for your child? Slacks? Short sleeve t-shirts? Long sleeve shirts? Socks? Panties? Okay, really, does your child need 20 short sleeve t-shirts and 15 pairs of jeans? Really? Think about it. How much of what you are looking at does your child actually wear? Which items does your child consistently avoid wearing because she doesn't like the way it looks or feels? This is the most difficult part for me because this is where I have to ditch perfectly serviceable clothing for no reason other than the fact that I have too much STUFF to deal with.

Ideally, your child should have 5 complete outfits that all mix and match to create endless possibilities. I also recommend that your child have a few extra shirts. Here's my list of what I believe a child should have.

-- 5 pairs of jeans / pants / shorts (in the summer)
-- 5 to 7 short sleeve shirts
-- 5 to 7 long sleeve shirts
-- 2 or 3 dresses for girls
--10 pairs of socks (because they like to disappear)
--10 pairs of panties / underwear (because they often get dirty
-- 1 light weight jacket or sweater
-- 1 warm coat in the winter

I have this list, but I always find it so difficult to adhere to these guidelines. This stage of sorting is where I have to decide what stays and what goes. Now that you know what to keep, you need to ask yourself some key questions.

Start by sorting the pile of clothes that you've determine still fit. You should separate these into categories based on the list above. Once you have these items sorted into the above noted categories, decide which new pile you want to start with. Try to maintain a system to make it easier for you to remember what it is you're trying to do. For my purposes here, I will use the short sleeve shirts as a starting point.

Gather all the short sleeve shirts and sit down next to the pile. If you feel it is easier to do this in bits and pieces, then take the pile to a different room so you can concentrate on the task at hand instead of focusing on the bigger picture of ALL THOSE CLOTHES that need your attention. It's far better to take your time at this point in the process than to rush through it just to get it all done.

Start by picking up one shirt. Inspect the shirt for rips, tears, stains, or other issues that might eliminate that piece of clothing. If you find the clothing to be in good condition, ask yourself how your child feels about this particular shirt. Does she love love love it and always want to wear it? If so, place that in a new pile for clothes to be kept. If she only loves it a little, put it in the maybe pile. If she doesn't like it at all or rarely wants to wear it, put it in the donation pile. Continue this process for each shirt in the pile until you are done.

I do want to make one note of exception to the above method of elimination. If you happen upon a shirt that you know your child loves loves loves and said shirt has some sort of minor issue that can easily be fixed, then keep it. Set it aside so that you will remember to make whatever corrections need to be made before you return it to the closet.

Once you finish with the short sleeve shirts, move on to the long sleeve shirts and repeat the process. Continue this process until you work your way through the entire stack of clothing. It is likely to be a lengthy process, but the satisfaction of completing this process is well worth the time and energy that you will have invested.

The next step in the clothing simplification process is determining if you have enough or too much in each category of the finished piles. If you find that you only have 2 or 3 short sleeve shirts that your child loves loves loves, then recheck the donation pile and add 2 or 3 of those shirts that ranked a bit lower in the ranks. However, if you find that you still have 10 or 15 short sleeve shirts - all that rank in the loves loves loves it category - then you have a few hard decisions to make. Start be getting rid of the shirts that you don't particularly love and then go from there. If you can't decide what to ditch from the loves loves loves it ranks, then here's a suggestion. Hang them all back in the closet - with a twist. On each hanger, place a piece of paper or masking tape. When your child wears that item, take the tape off the hanger. In a few weeks, reevaluate the collection and get rid of anything that still has tape on the hanger. If the shirt was not worn in 5 or 6 weeks, then it isn't nearly as loved as you thought.

Once you finish with your child's closet, you can use this same system to tame your own wardrobe. Fewer options makes getting dressed so much easier for you and your children.

To maintain this new order, avoid the temptation of rushing out to buy new clothes for your child because their closet will now seem so bare. Also, continue to evaluate the status of every piece of clothing during future laundry sessions. It's far less complicated to maintain the closet inventory than it is to eliminate the overgrown mess.

Having taken the time to write this post - I must say one more thing.

I am SO GLAD that all my children's clothing is packed up in boxes right now because we're getting ready to move. Since the clothes are all packed up except for the barest minimum, I do not have to go sort through them. I get to just walk away now and forget all about this sorting process - well, at least until I unpack in a couple of weeks. In the mean time - all of my wonderful readers get to go do a bit of sorting. Have fun without me (and imagine me laughing my head off while you're sorting clothes and I'm not).


Liss said...

I just had a clothes clean up. Now I can not find my daughter’s brand new never been worn school jumper. It’s not back in the draw with her school uniform, I’ve taken the draw out of the chest just in case it fell down the back of the draw not there, not in the washing, not in the bag of hand me downs to her cousin that were created from the clean up.

It’s got to be with those missing socks :)

April said...

You go girl clean them closets. Want to come do mine LOL