Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Revenge of the Clothes Boxes

My last post was the thousandth. I should have thrown a party. Or given something away. Anybody want an 18" suncatcher of a bowl of fruit in primary colors?

We had a fabulous weekend of hiking, canoeing, and generally enjoying the absolute pinnacle of beautiful fall weather and colors.

Now it is raining, and raining, and raining. Which means I must face my promises to take the ducklings up to the attic and--shudder--organize the clothing boxes. Somewhere I read advice to the effect that you should just consider the thrift store your attic and donate all your children's outgrown clothes there, and then go buy others when you needed them. Whoever said that could not have had (or planned to have) very many children. That, or they must have loved shopping.

I hate shopping. Even worse than I hate organizing. It takes a lot of time and hassle to assemble a decent-looking wardrobe from hand-me-downs and my very, very occasional forays into second-hand shopping. I certainly don't want to throw it all out as long as there's a possibility I might need it again someday. Truly, if I had tons of money I would just mail-order them a few basic pieces that could all coordinate with each other, and donate them when they outgrew them.

Since I don't have tons of money, I keep piecing things together. This is a messy process. Especially when the boxes have been moved a few times, and winter clothes were shoved in random spots by one fleeing from the summer attic heat, and seasons never change all at once, and children never outgrow an entire set of clothes simultaneously, and the ducklings' very favorite game to play is packing for a trip, and one very foolishly asked certain younger relatives to move the boxes without making it clear that THROWING them was not the proper method.

I sort through the debris and wonder why clothing manufacturers cannot get their act together on children's clothes sizes. Just when I've figured out that 18 months is the same size as 12-18 months, NOT as 18-24 months, and when I've figured out how many pounds that is, some other manufacturer decides to throw an "extra-small" at me. Every once in awhile a European garment shows up to completely throw me for a loop. I can excuse the Europeans, but not the Americans. There is no excuse here like there is for adult clothes, where they must all compete to make us feel as skinny as possible. Toddlers Do. Not. Care. what number is on their clothes. Just set some industry standards!

Furthermore, long experience has taught me that dresses should be put in a size down from what they say, or they're likely to be too short when they come out; and on my kids, at least, pants probably belong in a box up. So um, this is a 2T dress, which means it goes with the 18-24 month clothes, but this 24 month dress needs to go in the 12-18 month clothes while the 24 month pants need to go in the 2T box . . . and meanwhile somebody has fallen down and gotten stuck in an empty box and somebody else is wanting to help by moving things from one box to another, just like Mama!

I got the main sorting done this morning, and if it can just stay sorted until I can get back to it, I'll go through and weed through the clothes until I can easily close the box (paper boxes DOB brings home from work), one box per size and gender. (It seems to me only fair to allow a summer and winter box once they get old enough not to grow into a new size every season, though, so I'll probably keep two boxes of D1's most recent size.) This is when I can get rid of anything with yucky-feeling fabric, or anything that long experience has taught me is too much trouble to put on. Sometimes I look back at things I picked up before D1 was born and wonder what I was thinking. I got a little too desperate when the first few yard sales I hit didn't have much good. I should have just been patient.

So here's my hard-earned thoughts on children's clothes. These are all buying recommendations; I will temporarily take hand-me-downs that don't quite meet up if I don't have enough clothes to rotate in a particular size.
  1. Only get 100% cotton. Anything with polyester will feel yucky really, really fast, if it doesn't already. And 100% cotton is not hard to find anymore. (As to whether you want to pick up wool things, I leave that to your dry cleaning bill.)
  2. Choose a color scheme for a child. D1 pretty much gets pink and purples, D2 pretty much gets orange, red, or sometimes green. (These are colors they like and look good in, for the record. I hate pink.) They both get denim, which goes with everything, right? The more I do this, the fewer odd garments they have that never seem to go with anything and clash horribly with their coats and shoes.
  3. If you're buying an isolated garment, as opposed to a set, make sure it either is neutral (jeans, khakis, simple solid or striped tops) or will go with a readily-available neutral. You are never, ever, ever going to find clever matches in second-hand clothes if they don't come together. For little girls, denim pants or jumpers with a little mixed-color trim can usually be matched to something, so I count them as neutral.
  4. Don't get things you don't like. Children may have clothing preferences when they are old enough to earn their own money and drive to the store. OK, maybe a little before then. But while you can give them choices, you're the one who has to look at it and pay for it. Personally, I shudder at TV characters on clothes, so those always go straight out.
  5. From birth to four months, look for how easy it is for you to put them on. Snapping all the way down the front usually works best for me. Slipping a newborn head through any neck hole is a challenge. Fussing with elaborate fastening procedures on someone who spits up at every feeding is just not worth it.
  6. From four to eighteen months (more precisely, from rolling over to walking very well), look for mobility. Long, loose garments are going to tangle them up and slow them down. Shirts that snap underneath are perfect, since their tummy stays covered and their legs are free. I try to avoid long dresses for girls at this age, except for Sunday morning. All-in-one outfits should be cut pretty tight or have elastic around the waist, or they'll get tangled in them.
  7. From eighteen months on, avoid those snaps underneath, and anything in the overall or coverall line. Not only will you be ready for potty training whenever it occurs, but I've always found it much easier to dress a wiggly toddler standing up than have them lie down long enough for all those snaps.
  8. All clothes for two year olds and up should be purchased with an eye to how easy it will be for the child to learn to get them on and off by himself. I try to stick to wide-neck knit tops and elastic-waist pants, plus over-the-top dresses and jumpers for girls. It is a happy, happy day when your child can dress herself. Don't delay it by stuck zippers and tiny buttons.
  9. Make sure you hold onto a few less-than-perfect things sturdy enough for playing in the mud.
  10. Don't count on sizes--hold the clothes up to each other and make sure they are close. Some manufacturers consistently run large or small. (Unfortunately, I can never remember which.)


Carrie said...

Good tips!

BTW, I HAVE overalls for kids. Esp. when they start walking. The reason? All those stupid buttons keeping the legs together. J2's pant legs will NOT stay buttoned and so it looks like he's running around in a denim jumper, homeschool mom style. WHY WHY WHY buttons to keep the legs together? I'd rather elastic pants that can be swooped off quickly and easily. Nooo buttons.

Carrie said...

I meant to say HATE not have in all caps. I HAVE overalls too but I'm looking for a donee.

nsremom said...

I totally agree on the dress thing. What's with dresses being SO short. I mean, most girls wearing dresses are headed to church. The last place I'd allow short skirts.

and you forgot to mention the curse of the slims. (I wish that curse would befall me, but anyways...)

3 of my kids are taller than average and skinny. The other happily fits in everything normal. Try getting a regular size pants (i.e. size 8 jeans) on a skinny tall girl. Do you go UP a size for the length? or stay that size for the waist?

ugh. I like summer, shorts are easy!

Seis said...

Wow, the age guide is really helpful. I wish the blogging community would have started this conversation at the beginning of the consignment sale season.

SongBirdy said...

I didn't ever have many outfits for my toddlers, but what I did do was buy 2 of each shirt. Why?

Because we used one at home and one for if we had to quick rush out. Usually the pants stay fairly clean. At least respectfully clean. But the tops! Oi! Especially if you are like me and want your children to feed themselves. Bibs are good but drool!

Financially we had a really small wardrobe. 10 outfits and 1 Special outfit. 2 times per year or however quick my son would grow out of them. Then I had 4 sleepers.

That was great. For some of the outfits I had two different bottoms/skirts for the same 2 tops. Lots of flexibility but still matched!

Because I only have and can only have 2 children, one of each, I don't store my clothes but wash them up and pass them on to my sister in law.

Uncle Steve said...

Nothing about clothes (Goodwill-type stores work very well for me), but big congrats on the thousandth post! That's a major milestone. I think it calls for a celebration or a party - maybe with a cake made up to look like a blog entry.


chickadee said...

i think if we didn't have to throw them in boxes, if in our attics we could put the extra clothes on hangers and racks, i think the whole shopping in your attic thing would be nice. however, i hate the mess and insanity of digging through tubs of clothing year after year.

Meredith said...

Oh, yes, I dream of a walk-in closet where I can put each and every future garment on a big rack, divided by size. That way, those "bleeding sizes" that may go in one box or another are right there next to each other.

Eric and Wendy said...

All so true, alas... Plus shopping at thrift stores and hand me downs the clothes have shrunk through many washings gives you many mystery size garments.

steph said...

I appreciate this post, especially since I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 month old. We had a GREAT mother/kids consignment shop in ABQ, but I haven't found one in Tampa yet, so it's good that I go back to ABQ for reserve duty every once in a while!! I leave Sunday for just such a trip and I have some shopping to do--#1 needs size 3T and we have no friends with kids bigger than her for hand-me-downs. I love that little kids don't know the difference because if it weren't for Grandma, #2 wouldn't have a stitch of new clothing--I saved all of it (and I had bundles of second-hand store buys, hand-me-downs and new clothes for her...I have two girls, so it works. Of course, the weather is a little different here (especially winters!!! I was snowed in for weeks during both pregnancies in ABQ since we lived in the mountains), and the girls' birth dates are just off (older one is April, younger is January.)

I hear you also about boxes and organizing. I have two seriously overflowing baskets of to-be-stored clothing that were neatly organized once upon a time, but since they were used as packing material to get us across country in a hurry, and were then gleefully used to practice dressing bears and babies (I don't know why I bother buying toys--diapers, blankets and children's clothing are her favorite toys), and THEN washed several times (because I had no idea what was used and what was cleaned, and with two very mobile kids, laundry doesn't get done THAT regularly)...well, reading your post, I don't feel so "out of sorts" (ha ha) any more!!!

I agree with everything you said except that occasionally you can find a good second hand store. It wasn't always good, and it seemed like there was always a deficit of girls' pajamas (boys' pjs weren't any big deal--we bought them--but I thought it was strange) and there must have been a ton of babies born when #1 was because it was hard to find girl clothes in her size at any time. She's always just off.

Well, there go my little alarms! I get free time this morning, but only because #2 was up at 4, teething and marathon nursing. Sorry to take up so much room! I just really identified with this one.

Ben, Kyri & Rachelle said...

Yes, yes, yes on the sizing issue. Sadly, Ben had outgrown a lot of his brand-new things before I discovered that 3months meant 0-3 months. My kids end up in separates. Outfits never fit well. Both have longer torsos and shorter legs. Now at 3, Ben's pants fall off of him if they fit him in length and he's not old enough for slim.

You organize? I have plastic bins of clothes. Divided roughly by his and hers and general sizes. But she wore some of his unisex.

As for what to buy? Whatever you find cheap at garage sales that looks durable, comfortable, and cute. -rlr

Sarah said...

I just read your post on my blog and am SO enjoying yours! Apparently I am "counter-cultural" too . . . we might have two kids by the time we're thirty! Whoa Nelly!

Anyway, here is the question of the day (and I know you wrote this months ago, but regardless . . . ) what is the difference between a size 24 months and a size 2T? Our little guy (10 months) is wearing everything from a 6-9 month top (not a onesie, he's got a long torso so always grows out of those a minimum of six weeks earlier than the max) to 9-12 month clothes to 12-18 month clothes. As a more experienced mum, what do I buy next? 18-24 months or 2T? Good Grief.

I look forward to reading more! And I'll be praying for your pregnancy and health for you and your new little one!


PS - Regarding your comment on my blog. I find now that I'm only making two fruits (bananas and apples) to make and freeze to defrost with porridge for breakfast, lunch tends to be a mix of kale, an orange veg (sweet potato or carrot) and avocado - sometimes by themselves, sometimes mixed with yogurt) and dinner one of the meat meals on my blog. So, I do make a few fruit or vegetable specific cubes, but have figured out what he does and doesn't like and have minimized the work. He won't do for green beans on there own, but mixed in a stew, he's happy (and I think he'll like them as a finger food - they've just got that strange grassy flavor by themselves steamed). Anyway, hope you have a lovely day and enjoy the weekend with your family!