Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Managing the secondhand wardrobe

Western Warmth wonders how to manage kids' wardrobes full of secondhand and hand-me-down pieces.

I do not mix and match. Period.

While I see a lot of lonely designer tops and bottoms, I leave them in the store unless they are a matched set. As my son grows older, I acquire one polo shirt for every pair of shorts. For the little one, one-piece baby dresses make my day!

To keep outfits complete, I hang all the pieces together on one hanger. We have also used hanging bags with each compartment devoted to one day's clothing.

In the supreme act of efficiency, Amy of Amy's Humble Musings buys knit one-piece outfits for her small children. She stores them in a laundry room drawer, and when she needs to be somewhere the next morning, dresses them the night before.


Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

I used to hang everything in outfits, but now they are kept in drawers (shirts, pants etc) and both kids pick out their own clothing each day and get dressed by themselves (Princess is 6, Buddy is 4).

Granted, they sometimes wear some interesting outfits, but they are learning to be self sufficient, and they are learning to express themselves in what they wear. I might not like a lime green flowered shirt with striped pants-but hey Princess thinks it looks beautiful.

Also we spend so much time during the day telling children what they can't do~they have so little control over their own lives that I think it is good to let them have control over this one area. After all, what does it really matter what they are wearing? When they wear something really funky the teachers at school KNOW that it is because they picked it out themselves, and not because I am some sort of horrible parent. I do of course insist that the clothing fully covers all the important bits, and that they are dressed appropriately for the weather.

Saralyn said...

WOW. I'm seriously impressed. My kids have their favorite outfits that I see on them probably three times a week--right after they come out of the laundry. Actually, it may have something to do with the fact they don't like folding. It goes something like this--boys=camoflauge, girl=anything foofy with pink cowgirl boots. But hey! We wash behind our ears and tuck everything in on Sundays!

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

This is totally one reason why I want to send my kids to a school with uniforms. Less clothing hassle in the morning. I find that buying outfits is a lot more expensive than buying pieces, but when I think about it I've never regretted buying an outfit because it's so easy to grab out of the closet.

Queen of Carrots said...

This must be the day to talk about kid's secondhand wardrobes!

The trouble I have with complete outfits is that my kids inevitably ruin half of it--tomato sauce on the shirt or wet pants--and I don't want to have to change them entirely every single time. I try to get clothes all in the same color scheme so that almost anything will look OK with anything else. If something looks like it belongs in an outfit, though, I only get it if it's complete and then I try to keep it together.

That, and outfits for boys are hard to find. On the other hand, interchangeable clothes for girls are hard to find. D1's wardrobe is tending more toward outfits.

Anonymous said...

Taking this question a step farther.....how worn is too worn, how soiled/stained is too stained? Do you keep all secondhand or hand-me-down pieces until you are sure you are done having kids or do you disgard as the clothes become unserviceable?

This is truly a question I pose out of curiosity as I am trying to decide if I'm being frugal or just hanging on to stuff out of sentimental value. See, we have a 19-month-old daughter and I am pregnant with our second, a boy. I do not want to keep things just for the sake of keeping things.

I believe a good start for ME will be to go through Miss K's bags of outgrowns and look for the outfits.

Another question I wanted to ask here, do you loan friends and family your children's clothes once they have outgrown them or do you hang on to them for the eventual/hopeful (!) next child?

Thanks -
Jenn (JB)

p.s. sorry for clogging up your comment section with so many questions.

Shelley said...

When I first read this post, I didn't realize it was just about children's wardrobes. Meredith, you mix and match your own clothes, don't you? I would find that I'd need a lot more clothes if I didn't :)

Seis said...

I blogged about this topic today in response to your discussion.

Also, where did you get those wooden hangers for kids clothes in your pictures?

Meredith said...

Jenn, I think I might feel differently if I had had a daughter first. Andrew pretty much puts on whatever I hand him, without even noticing his clothes. We'll see about Elise when she gets older. For now, this works for us.

Queen of Carrots, I know what you mean. I found that when I switched to clean tops (or pants) throughout the day, I would end the week with loads of pants but no shirts, or vice versa.

That's why I think the one-piece outfit is the greatest invention ever. If only boys could get away with them over age 2!

Meredith said...

Taking this question a step farther.....how worn is too worn, how soiled/stained is too stained?

I am not as picky about clothing as some people. I will buy a less than perfect outfit if it's cheap enough (25 cents) and of course I will accept any and all hand-me-downs that are offered!

However, because their clothing is so cheap and free, I don't feel guilty about getting rid of something that's past its prime.

Do you keep all secondhand or hand-me-down pieces until you are sure you are done having kids or do you disgard as the clothes become unserviceable?

If the clothes are unserviceable, they don't deserve storage space!

I am one for giving away when you are done with something. Right now we'd love to have another baby, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to. I am giving away all of the kids' clothing as we're done, save for a few very special smocked dresses just in case!

Why not let someone else wear and enjoy the clothing while it is still good? I know other people have more frugal views on this, but I have not had good results with long term clothing storage. Even then, there's only a 50% chance that you'll have the same sex child again. Why not continue the chain of generous hand me downs and hope you get some good karma in return for the next baby?

Meredith said...

Another question I wanted to ask here, do you loan friends and family your children's clothes once they have outgrown them or do you hang on to them for the eventual/hopeful (!) next child?

I never loan. I only give.

It's too much pressure for the recipient. Sure, it would be nice to have those clothes cycle back through eventually, but accidents happen. I wouldn't want to pass along the burden of care to a busy mom.

There is no shortage of kids clothing in America.

Meredith said...

Meredith, you mix and match your own clothes, don't you? I would find that I'd need a lot more clothes if I didn't :)

If I didn't have to mix and match clothes, I wouldn't.

Seriously! I am a bad dresser. I do best in outfits.

I also find that secondhand outfits are a much better buy than individual pieces. For instance, our Salvation Army sells two piece (and sometimes 3 piece) sets for $6.99, while two individual pieces will cost $8. Go on half price day, and you have paid only $3.50 for a whole outfit.

It makes the searching a little harder, but to me, it's much easier than trying to match disparate pieces of thrifted clothes.

Right now I am wearing a lot of Chico's clothing which all goes with the base pieces of 2 black skirts and 1 pair of black slacks I bought originally (as a set, used).

Meredith said...

Also, where did you get those wooden hangers for kids clothes in your pictures?

When we had our first home, I was trying to make our walk-in closet look like a store--to help with resale. I bought chrome store fixtures that stuck out from the wall in addition to the regular rods.

I began accumulating wooden coathangers wherever I could find them cheap. At that time one thrift store sold them in bundles for 10 cents a hanger.

I ended up with FAR more pants hangers than we needed, so I began to use those for kids clothing.

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

There are some fantastic tips in this post and in the comment thread!

I usually buy my daughters clothes in 3 colors only. This year its pink, white & brown. They are stylish colors for this year, but also I know that everything she has will match...for the most part anyway. She does have one orange & black halloween outfit, and one red white & blue outfit from fourth of july...and sometimes she throws in a red shirt with a pink & white skirt or something. Usually though this saves me tons of time because she can dress herself and choose her own clothes.

3boysmama said...

All I can say is wow when I saw your son's clothing hanging up with underwear, socks, etc.

I like to give my son a chance to pick out what to wear and also teaching him what colors go together, etc. At 4 1/2 he is getting the hang of it. I already think he might be color blind so I think he needs all thehelp he can get!

I don't understand about not buying clothes that aren't in an outfit. Except for 0-12 months I don't think I ever see older kids clothes in outfits. Most kid's shirts will match with jeans or khakis.

3boysmama said...

I also think that I've become pickier about kid's clothes since I know that I have 2 boys for them to go through. (and possibly 3!)

Meredith said...

What I mean (with boys clothes) is that I have one shirt that is worn with one pair of pants--that's "an outfit."

I try not to buy more shirts than pants. Knowing that one set of clothes goes together each week really simplifies the laundry and dressing each morning.

We do have a few odd t-shirts for messy days or to wear over swim trunks, etc. But otherwise? I keep the amount of clothing very small by not getting too much.

The photo you see was taken two years ago when my 3 year old needed more help than he does now. I still like the outfit concept because it requires no thought. He can also sort his own clean laundry into "outfits" because he knows what goes together.

Baleboosteh said...

Oh, this is so helpful! I am having major 'issues' with the boys clothes at the moment - storing the ones in use and matching them up is a real headache and it is purely down to my lack of organisation and method. Almost all of their clothes are 'donations' (for which I am truly grateful) but because of this I seem to have trouble organising them and that makes 'robing' very stressful, for me at least. It never occurred to me to match them up, in advance, and make up 'outfits' just as you would purchase in a shop. Thank you for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post. Everyone seems to approach this area differently. After 5 children, ranging in age from 17 to one year, my experience has been to shop ahead at garage sales, thrift stores, etc, and get things before we actually need them. That gives me lots of time to find things that will work for us. I don't think I have EVER found complete outfits for any of the kids, except when they were babies. All I ever find is lots of separates and pieces. But I am OK with that. If I like it, I buy it. I buy anything that catches my eye, is in good condition and is unstained, etc. I launder them and put them up for the future. Then, when we get to the appropriate size or season, I pull everything out, see what fits, what we like, what works together, etc. With my girls, it always seems like a giant "dress up" party! We have a lot of fun looking at all the "treasures" we have collected, and deciding what we will keep. Anything that doesn't fit, that we don't really like, etc, gets quickly passed on to someone else. We simply don't have room to save the "maybe" items. At this point in life, I pretty much know what I like, how our days go, etc, so I find that most of the items I have saved actually end up being useful and go together very nicely! I make a list of any items that we need to fill in the gaps, but usually there isn't too much to fill in. And I am OK with not having a 100% thrifted wardrobe for my kids. I am just thankful that we get as much second hand as we do, and I figure that only having to buy a few new things is a blessing.

3boysmama said...

That is a good thought, Meredith about not buying more tops than bottoms. Sometimes, however, i can get away with dressing him in the same pants the next day. But the shirt almost always needs to be laundered. (interesting enough my 2 year old boy is neater than my 5 year old!!)

Anonymous said...

Garanimals -- that is my philsophy. LOL Everything goes with pretty much everything else, with the exception of 2 pairs of dress pants, but which go with the 2-3 dress shirts and sweaters I have for each.

As my oldest gets older, I am going to pare down (I have too much -- but cannot resist good garage sales and clearance sales!).

We have lots of sweat pants and short & long sleeve t-shirts, as that is an easy daily outfit. It works well for my high-energy crew.

Now I just need to figure out what I want to do with the outgrown clothes -- try to garage sale them again or bless our local Christian thrift store. I'm leaning toward the latter, to help other families in need.