Friday, September 7, 2012

Benjamin's $15 Summer Wardrobe or Why Kids Don't Need a Lot of Clothes

We have been very blessed to have had to buy very little clothes for our kids.  Our kids get clothes for gifts a lot (I am all for practical gifts!), and we've gotten hand-me-downs, too.  We've purchased the most for Benjamin - and that's still not a lot - and just a few things for Joanna and Ezra.
So it was a little strange for me when at the beginning of summer I realized Benjamin had nothing to wear for the coming season (well, okay, he had one short-sleeved shirt).  I wasn't going to go out and spend a bunch of money for a new wardrobe, and I've always believed that kids don't need a ton of clothes, so I was kind of curious to see just how much he actually needed for the summer.

I started out by looking through my fabric stash (including clothing I'd saved for repurposing) and found a few fabrics that were boy-friendly.  I made Benjamin three pairs of shorts, but he didn't like one pair for some reason, so that brought us down to two.

I purchased two plain t-shirts ($4 each), and with the one he already had, that made three shirts.  I chose plain t-shirts so that he would be able to mix and match them with his shorts.

He also had a pair of sandals that had been given to us.

After a couple of weeks, I felt that two pairs of shorts and three shirts weren't quite enough, so I found an inexpensive shirt/shorts set for $7 and added that to his wardrobe.  With those, I feel like he had the perfect amount of clothes for the summer.

While this small amount of clothes might not work for everyone, here's why it worked for us and why I think kids don't need very many clothes:

- I wash clothes every 2-3 days, mainly just to keep the laundry pile under control, and because I line-dry, which takes longer than the dryer.  However, washing every few days also allows you to have fewer clothes, because you don't need a week's worth of clothes.  Also, I don't put clothes in the laundry if they aren't actually dirty, we wear them again.

- I rarely change my kids' clothes during the day, even if they get a little dirty.  I no longer use bibs on Benjamin, but I would if he were still a messy eater.  Also, I don't worry too much about little stains on kids clothes, for a few reasons:
a) Kids are messy.
b) I can't spend all day changing clothes (nor do I want to spend all day arguing with the child who hates changing clothes).
c) Their clothes would likely get stained no matter what I did.
d) I have enough things to worry about!

- Benjamin rarely needs to change clothes during the day.  Being potty-trained for well over a year now, Benjamin almost never has an accident, so he doesn't really need "back-up" clothes.  However, I couldn't have gotten away with just three pairs of shorts with Joanna, because, being newly potty-trained, she still has accidents and sometimes goes through two or three pairs of shorts in a day.

- Kids don't feel the need to wear different clothes all the time; in fact, they usually love wearing the same things over and over!  I remember having a couple of favorite outfits as a kid - things I wore pretty much every day!  Joanna received a bunch of hand-me-downs from a friend, so she has about 8 or 9 summer outfits, but even still, she has a couple of things that she wants to wear all the time.

- I have found that only having 1-2 pairs of shoes at a time (depending on the season) is ideal for a few reasons:
a) Again, kids like wearing the same thing over and over.
b) Kids outgrow shoes quickly.  Joanna is on her 4th shoe size in less than a year and a half.  They are barely worn before they're outgrown.
c) Kids usually don't need different shoes for different occasions.  A plain, nicer pair of tennis shoes can work for both play and church.  For Joanna's first three sizes of shoes, we had a pair of cute, sturdy Mary-Jane style shoes that went with both jeans and dresses.

- Having fewer clothes makes it easier for kids to get dressed.  Children can get overwhelmed easily, so having fewer choices helps them make a decision and get dressed more quickly.  It helps me, too, when I'm the one choosing clothes!

Of course, having a small wardrobe is great for other reasons, too:

- Having fewer things reinforces our values.  I'm not saying that having things is necessarily bad (I like my things and I definitely have more than I need), but I want to teach our kids that we don't need a lot of stuff, and that we can and should be happy and content with what we have.  Kids are naturally like this anyway, and it's my hope that they can stay that way.

- Having only a minimal amount of clothes is something anyone can do to reduce their clothes budget.  Not everyone sews, and not everyone has friends or family to give them clothes, but anyone can limit how much they buy.

- When you buy less, you can sometimes afford to buy better quality, so your clothes will last longer.  This is something I'm still learning!  Just keep in mind that more expensive doesn't always mean better quality!

- Less stuff takes up less room.  This is very important when three children share a bedroom!  It's also important when you are storing outgrown clothes for siblings (we're currently at 10 boxes and counting!).

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