You lost it. Not your patience (yet). Not your sanity either (although you're close). No, you've somehow left your little sweetheart's Spiderman sweater at Nana's house, and now he's threatening to never leave the house again.
If you have little ones, you know how particular they can be about their clothes. That dinosaur sweatshirt? If anything happens to it, you'll be trying to move heaven and earth to find a replacement, because your son practically lives in it. The colourful tights that your daughter just HAS to wear with her pink dress. And if you had any sense of style, you'd understand why, her expression seems to say when you've only got the grey tights in the drawer. And that adorable vest you bought on sale would look so cute on her...if only she'd be willing to go near it.
Forget celebs. Kids. They're just like us. (But less reasonable.) Even as adults, we have complicated relationships with the contents of our closets. There are pieces you're obsessed with, and ones you don't even remember owning. There's that dress that instantly lifts your mood and those cheap knockoffs that didn't even last a week. There's the pair of comfy but stylish stretch pants that you can always count on, and the special occasion top that you can never find when you need it. There might even be a shirt that you only love when you're in the right mood. Otherwise...it sits kind of funny.
You might even remember a shirt you insisted on wearing everywhere in 3rd grade, or how you felt when you got your sister's hand-me-downs, while she got new clothes. Not cool, mom!
When dressing yourself can be a minefield sometimes, is it any surprise that dressing your kids can be overwhelming too? Especially if you want them to look good? Things have to be clean, match, and most importantly, your little monster has to be willing to put them on! That's a big if, we know.
When less is more.Often this means we fall into the trap of more. Buying more so you'll have more on hand. Buying more in hopes you can do laundry less, that they'll find a new favourite, maybe just because there's a sale.
But kids grow fast and fashion waste is a very real thing. When you buy multiples, duplicates, and multiples of duplicates, you end up with a huge pile of clothing. A few might be worn over and over, while the others are neglected. They'll be outgrown in a season (or less!), and the cycle begins again. The pieces that have fallen apart end up in the landfill. The pieces that haven't languish in empty diaper boxes, taking up real estate in your home until you find someone to offload them on.
The solution? Being mindful. Buying less, and according to their needs. Choosing higher quality items that can handle lots of wear and play, and frequent washing. Pieces that won't fall apart even after your kids grow out of them, so they can be passed on.
There's a lot of buzz around minimalism. You may have heard of the book Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which the author Marie Kondo advocates for a crisp, clean life, free of extraneous clutter. With kids, you know how hard that can be. They come home with crafts and scraps of paper, the toys are everywhere, and their clean and dirty clothes are often in the same pile...indistinguishable without a sniff test (ugh).
If you're up for it, their closets are a great place to start. Given how quickly they outgrow their clothes, you're less likely to have a huge emotional attachment to them (vs. trying to dump your box of high school yearbooks and class pictures). Most kids have an overabundance of clothing, a mix of hand-me-downs, gifts, and bargains that mom couldn't resist snapping up. How much of what they have do they actually need? How much could you toss before they'd even notice?
By paring things down, you and your little angel (if you're feeling charitable that day) will know two things
- This is the only sweater/dress/pants/superhero cape available.
- You can't leave the house naked.
So while cutting down your options seems like a bad thing at first blush, it actually helps streamline the process a lot more. Less to choose from can be a good thing. Remember when you had 30 channels to watch, and not 10,000 possible shows on Netflix? On that note, remember when you could only watch one episode a week? We got a lot more done back then.
Making it happen.The first step? Stop shopping for next season. You can tackle that once you've done a purge and done an inventory. Deep inside you know that another sale will come around again. Trust.
Next, look at your multiples. Your kid probably doesn't need 6 hoodies. You can eliminate the 2 that he hates wearing, and cut one or two more based on fit and style. Put the castoffs in a pile (you'll probably be shocked at how big it ends up getting). Hopefully, this will motivate you to keep going. Depending on your child's temperament, you might want to consider asking for their input too. They might have some really strong opinions about what should stay and what should go. Not to mention that it never hurts to get some buy-in.
When doing this exercise, remember to choose the most versatile pieces whenever possible, as your keepers. Anything that can be worn in multiple settings, is neutrally coloured, and made with soft, natural fibers are the best bets. These items will be used frequently, match with almost everything, and most importantly, be comfortable to wear.
[A quick aside: try to donate or pass on as much of your castoff pile as possible. Shelters and community programs often work directly with families in need and may appreciate receiving clean clothing in good condition for their youngest clients. Online buy and sell or trading groups could give you the chance to make a bit of money while reusing and reducing waste. A donation bin can be a good, quick-fix option as well. Whatever you choose, it'll feel a lot better than sending the clothes to your nearest landfill.]
When you see the empty drawers, do a little happy dance and start making plans on how you'll use them to store other things around the house. They won't stay empty for long, so make sure to reallyrelish this moment. Storage space is hard to find.
If you find there are gaps in your child's wardrobe after the purge, now (finally, you're probably thinking) is the time to consider a shopping trip. But make sure to have a plan. Your days of wandering the kids' aisles aimlessly are behind you! Draw up a list of their needs, comparison shop, and have a good idea of what you're looking for before you go. At the very least, check return policies before you buy - it'll help if you happen to fall back on your old habits.
While there's no perfect number to a downsized wardrobe, 5-6 everyday outfits, plus a couple sets of pyjamas could be quite sufficient for most kids each season. This number covers a week's worth of clothing, assuming that a couple items are clean enough to be worn twice if required. Special occasion clothing can be purchased as events come up, or better yet, you may be able to find something from the local thrift store or your mom friends. Some kids can go a few months without a major event to attend, while others may get VIP invites on the regular (lucky)!
Let loose and break the rules While true minimalists might stop here, we believe in having a bit of fun. The most practical items tend to be monochromatic, neutral, and simple. But, as you may have realized as you tried on your sparkly top from 10 years ago (and then promptly took it right off again), you can get away with a lot more when you're young. So give your kids some space to express themselves by picking out a few statement items too. That funky sweater with the ice cream cones all over it? Why not? That graphic tee? Sure, you know he's Mr. Handsome, so let his shirt say it too! There'll be plenty of time for a more serious wardrobe once they hit adulthood.
Our tip? Go with crazy tops rather than bottoms - they're easier to match. Choose something well constructed, so another kid will have a chance to enjoy it once your little one inevitably grows out of it way too quickly. Fashion should be ethical, sustainable, and eco-conscious, but it should also be fun!