Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Want Vs Needs- So Many Clothes!

Moment of truth- five years ago, when I was single and living in an apartment without a washing machine, I took my clothes to the laundromat one time during that six month period. No, this did not mean that I was a disgusting pig who wore grimy smelly clothing for months on end (although not having children to dirty my clothes definitely helped). I was able to wash laundry one time in six months because I had enough clothes to last me three months (with only the rarest hand wash)!

Not too long ago, my ancestors had to pack up whatever prize possessions they could fit into a little satchel, pick up, and start their life in a new country. When push came to shove, there were very few things they actually brought with them; everything else got left behind.
Yet, you ask the average Westerner today to pick up and move, they'll likely be taking along a U-Haul or two, minimum, because they just have so much stuff!

I've been packing up our family's belongings for our move and doing some pretty serious downsizing. My new home is lots smaller than my current one (we're moving from a 955 square foot apartment to a 500 square foot place) and most of our current belongings will not fit. I've been needing to ask myself and my husband "Do we really need all this stuff?" The obvious answer is no.
I've had to make tough choices and cast aside most of the clothing that we own because the sheer volume that  we own simply will not fit in a 500 square foot place. (I've got a few nifty ideas for storing them though that I'll share in a future post, though.) Hoarding seems to be a typical issue among families with no money- since you don't know if you'll be able to afford to replace things, you keep more than average. I'm hoping that, should things need replacing, I'll be able to do so easily via hand me downs and second hand stores, as is how I built up my original stock of clothing.

Together, my husband and I have gone through my clothes, his clothes, my children's current clothes and the clothes that don't fit the kids at the moment and came up with some rules.

Purging Clothes- Rules

  1.  If you haven't worn it since you've got it, chuck it.
  2.  If you haven't worn it since you've moved to your current home 4 years ago, chuck it.
  3. If you haven't worn it in the past year, chuck it, unless you have a good enough reason why you haven't (like maternity clothes if you weren't pregnant, but are still hoping for more kids).
  4. If its ripped or stained, chuck it (unless you want to make it into rags if your supply is too small).
  5. If its horribly out of style, chuck it (even if it might come back into fashion 15 years down the line).
  6. If the color doesn't look good on you, chuck it (so you don't put it on by mistake).
  7. If the cut isn't flattering on you, chuck it. (Don't assume you'll fit into it again. You'll just make yourself feel bad seeing something that you've outgrown.)
  8. If your spouse doesn't like it, consider chucking it. (Of course, keep those few comfortable sweats that he doesn't like, but on a whole, it isn't a bad idea for marriage to keep both of your preferences in mind when dressing in the morning. This goes both for men and women.)
Some of the clothes no longer welcome in my home

Once you've eliminated about half your stash by getting rid of the above, only keep as much clothes as you need. Ask yourself some questions:
  • Laundry- How frequently do you have loads of wash to do? Can you do them more frequently (and still have full loads)?
  • Clothes Drying- How do you dry your clothes? Do you line dry? How long does it take your clothes to line dry in the winter? How about in the summer?
  • How many days needed? How many days of clothes do you need to always have clean, dry clothes? If you do loads every 3 days and they take 3 days to dry, you'd need six days worth of clothes to always have clean and dry. If you do wash every other day and clothes take a day to dry, you'll need clothes for three days.
  • How Outfits Daily? One shirt, one pair of pants, and one set of pajamas? 
  • Wearing Clothes Twice- For kids who don't have accidents at night, pajamas can be reused a few times. Sweatshirts can be reworn as well. Pants and skirts usually can be worn a few days before needing a wash.
  • Mitigating Factors- Do you need backups in case of blow out diapers, stomach issues, accidents? Add some extra in there so you won't be stuck.
After all this, I narrowed this down to 7 of each main type of clothing in each size for my children. I could probably do with fewer, but I don't want to get stuck if I fall a bit behind on laundry. 
7 short sleeve shirts, 7 light long sleeve shirts, 7 wintry long sleeve shirts. 7 pairs long pants, 7 pairs shorts. 2 sweatshirts, 4 long sleeve undershirts, 2 short sleeve under shirts. 2 pairs dress pants, 2 dress shirts.
For myself and my husband, and newborn clothes which get soiled quicker... well, we're still getting there. I have 10 (!!!) more bags of clothing to sort through.

I have to admit, its very freeing to get rid of all this clothes. I've still got loads more decluttering to do, but I already am feeling the weight of all this clutter lift from my shoulders.

Decluttering's Done- What Next?

  • Pass it on to someone who can use it. Let someone else benefit from your cast off clothes.
  • Re-purpose the clothes. I've made softies from old clothes, as well as satchels, bean bags, and art projects.
  • Donate to a second hand store.
  • Host a sale- maybe you'll make a few extra bucks that way.
  • Post an ad on freecycle.
What are your decluttering tips when it comes to clothes? What do you keep and what do you toss?
Part of Thrifty Home's Penny Pinching Party.

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