When I was pregnant with Frankie, I probably spent at least an hour every day dealing with little baby clothes in some way — buying them, laundering them, folding them, looking at them, smelling them, switching out the outfits in the hospital bag, organizing the bigger sizes, picturing the scrunchy little baby that was soon going to be inside that grey striped onesie.
Three years and five months later, not much has changed. Somehow, I’m still spending an hour every day dealing with clothes — picking them up off the floor, treating stains, wrestling her out of her baby sister’s socks and triple layered tutus and into something appropriate for the park / grocery store / library.
Frankie has grown into a little girl who loves dress-up. We keep dress-up clothes in her closet. Nothing too extreme — a basket of scarves and headbands and a short rod for a few dresses, vests, tutus and wings. Alas, her dress-up play extends to every drawer and closet in the house. She’s just as likely to drape herself in my bathing suit as a kitchen towel as her own clothing. On any given day, she changes her outfit every half hour so long as we’re at home and sometimes when we’re not. I have to return a laundered bag of random clothes (including underwear?) to daycare at least once a week (and she only goes two days!).
All of her “real” clothing lives in this four-drawer dresser. The drawers are super deep so it’s not remotely full, but she empties it daily. Pajamas are just as much fun to dress up in as furry vests (sometimes in combination). I’m constantly picking up discarded clothing and trying to keep her dressed for the 15 minutes it takes me to get the rest of the family ready to go anywhere. The last thing I want to do is crush her spirit, but with everything else I’m constantly doing, like changing diapers, feeding the baby, making snacks, etc., all these costume changes were really starting to feel like an obstacle in our day.
I tentatively decided that it was time for a dresser edit. After all, if she was going to empty her drawers every day, would I rather pick up and refold 20 shirts or ten?
At nearly three and a half, Frankie is very aware of her possessions. She’s incredibly observant and has a memory to match. We were at a friend’s house recently (hadn’t been inside in nearly a year) and she asked where some hooks in the stairwell had moved to! Getting rid of anything was sure to create a new problem for me — namely having to explain that we no longer have that exact dress, pair of pants, etc. whenever she wanted to wear it (so, every day).
Plus, she may have had more than she needed, but everything in her drawers fit her and — once they didn’t — could be saved for Winnie, another girl born in the same season. It seemed wasteful to get rid of perfectly good clothing, but I had to remind myself that the excess clothing was causing a lot of daily frustration and that if Frankie didn’t need it, Winnie wouldn’t either when the time came.
To get started, I didn’t need to pull everything out, seeing as it was already strewn all over the floor. And rather than touch every item and ask myself if it sparked joy, I decided to follow some really useful advice that I read long ago re: paring down kids’ clothing. I asked myself how many pieces of each type of clothing (pants, long-sleeves, short-sleeves, etc.) Frankie needed to get to laundry day and decided to pick the best of what she had, just enough to meet that number. (Ideally I’d do laundry twice a week, but I’ve been doing it more like every other day since her dress-up habit really took hold.)
Here’s what I decided on for Frankie:
- Dresses: 2
- Long-sleeve tops: 6
- Short-sleeve tops: 6
- Sweaters: 2
- Jumpsuits: 2
- Pants: 4
- Shorts: 4
- Pajamas: 4
Since we live in a really mild climate year-round, we don’t have much in the way of seasonal clothing. Save for a few changes in outerwear, she can wear the same clothes all year. But, for summer, she also has 1 bathing suit, 1 sun hat and 1 pair of sandals. For winter, we have 1 toque, 1 pair of gloves, 1 muddy buddy, 1 fleece pant/jacket set, 1 heavier coat and 1 pair of rain boots. She has 1 pair of runners that she can wear year-round.
But what’s “the best” anyways? She wears everything and it all more or less fits, so how to pick which 6 long-sleeve tops to keep?
I started with the “more or less fits” part. Frankie is nearly three and a half, average height and pretty slim. She can just as easily wear something sized 2/3Y as 3T as 4T as 3/4Y. I even had a few 18–24m items in her drawers still. I think that’s how we ended up with so much excess in the first place. I’d buy ahead (or the grandparents would) and when the 4T stuff fit, I would add it to her drawers — but she hadn’t fully grown out of what was already in her dresser. Every season her wardrobe grew, out of step with her own physical growth. But certainly the 18–24m clothing was snugger or shorter on her than the 3T stuff, so I pulled that out first to either save for Winnie, sell or donate. (Those knit pants in the photo above are 18–24m and the top is 3/4Y.) Next, I assessed the 4T stuff and pulled out anything that was a bit roomy or long on her and I put it aside to reintroduce later this year or next, only once she’s truly outgrown what’s in her drawers. The majority of what’s in her drawers now is 3T.
Next, I got rid of anything that made my life more complicated than it needed to be — bye-bye to the cute overalls that required my help in the bathroom and the shoes she can’t tie on her own. I put everything in this category up for sale or in the donation box; when Winnie’s big enough for them I’m not going to want to tie her shoes either.
With what was leftover, I assessed brand, colours and condition. Was it a local and / or ethically made brand? (We try and shop local, handmade and / or second-hand, but not all gift-givers do.) Did it “go” with other clothing I was keeping? And was it covered in paint or otherwise looking a little worse for wear?
Once all these decisions had been made, there really wasn’t much leftover to make a “tough” decision on — I’d pretty much reached my numbers.
Ideally, this will be the last time I have to give what’s in her drawers this much thought. Moving forward, I plan to shop only once she truly needs a bigger size, continue to buy things in neutral colours and patterns and, wherever possible, intercept clothing gifts if she doesn’t need anything new.
She’s also definitely ready to participate in the editing process — clothes, toys, books, etc. The reason I haven’t involved her yet is because, often, the reason I’m editing is for me — because I can’t stand to read that terrible book one more time or deal with the tiny buttons on a shirt. Right now, what she would choose to keep for herself is not the same as what I would choose to keep for my sanity, so I’m going to stay in charge for a little while longer.
Finally, editing her clothing hasn’t changed her desire to play dressing up or the number of times she changes outfits in a day, but, with fewer options, she can only go back to her dresser for a new top so many times. And I vastly prefer three stains on one shirt than one stain on three different shirts, since three shirts takes triple the time to treat, hang to dry, fold and put away.