Nobly sorting the boys' clothes

I loved this old blog post I read by Christy Fitzwater on clothing your family:

Celebrate the Noble Art of Clothing Your Family

She talks about the love and skill it takes to manage your family's wardrobe and the value of everyone having clean clothes that fit. In the article she quotes some verses from Proverbs 31 speaking of the virtuous woman:

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

Christy points out that whether or not you know how to spin and weave, someone has to take charge of making sure the family is clothed and that is no mean task. It's a labor of love and it takes thought and intention.

I enjoyed reading her words because it gave me a fresh perspective on one of my most hated chores: sorting through the boys' clothes drawers and taking out what doesn't fit, changing out summer or winter clothes. I have to do it 3-4 times a year because they grow so fast. Basically every season change. I always dread it and put it off longer than I should.

Last week I knew it was finally time again. How did I know? It's been about 55 degrees and rainy for nearly every day in August and each morning Silas emerged from his bedroom dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Looking like he was ready for a trip to the beach. Sad to say, but shorts weather will likely not return to Fairbanks this year. We will probably have snow on the ground in 5-6 weeks and there it will stay until March or April. Or May, but let's not talk about that.

So yesterday while I was putting away laundry I did it: I sorted and tidied their clothes drawers. And I actually enjoyed it this time because I realized that this job matters. I thought about what I have learned over the past 4 years.

One of the most important things that I have learned is to just keep what you need. When Micah was a baby I kept his clothes sorted into 3 milk crates: Sleepers, shirts and onesies, pants and socks. People had generously given me not just baby shower clothes as gifts but also garbage bags full of pass-me-down baby clothes and I studiously washed and folded each piece and put it away in the milk crates. In particular I remember one brown onesie with a guitar on it that said "Rad Like Dad" which I thought was pretty ugly (though I do think his dad is rad) but I never would have gotten rid of it because babies go through a lot of outfits, right? He might need it.

It just took time and experience to learn that even the most drooly baby doesn't need 20 pairs of tiny sweatpants. So now I know. Micah never did need to wear that "Rad Like Dad" onesie. Actually, since he was a newborn baby in the winter I hardly even used onesies. I dressed him pretty much only in fleece or knit sleepers or pants and long-sleeved shirts. Julian, of course, was a summer baby and he lived in onesies for a couple of months. The point is, after awhile you can tell if there's a substratum of clothes in your children's drawers that never gets used.

Right now I do laundry about once a week. Sometimes twice a week if I'm on top of things. For most of our marriage Christopher and I have had to use a coin-operated washer and dryer or do laundry at my mom's house, just once a week. It's just in the last 10 months that we've had a private washer and dryer in our apartment. Because I could usually do laundry only once a week I always tried to make sure that everyone had enough pants, shirts, pajamas, socks and underwear so that we could go a full week without doing laundry and still wear fresh clothes every day. Usually that means 7 plus a few extra for accidents. More extra outfits the younger you are. Kids do need a lot of clothes, but since I do laundry about once a week, anything beyond 10-14 outfits tends to be unneccessary. That's been a very useful goal to keep in mind while I manage the boys' wardrobes. No more re-folding 30 baby onesies when my child decides to use the milk crate as a boat and no need to have a drawer bulging with 18 t-shirts.

Of course, when considering how many extra outfits someone needs you also have to consider their personality. We have one child who is fairly punctilious about eating his food and another child who needs a new outfit after nearly every meal. One of our babies rarely spit up and two others spewed milk everywhere on a regular basis. So there are a lot of nuances to wardrobe management.

Another thing I've learned is that besides everyday clothes it's helpful to make sure everyone has 2-3 outfits for church. Maybe a plaid button down shirt, a nice pair of pants, a v-neck sweater or a quarter zip pullover sweater. Cute as they are, we don't go all out here with the little suits mainly because it's Fairbanks and hardly anyone wears a suit to church but partly because that's just not an affordable option, not when they outgrow their clothes every few months.

Right now I am excited about a Hanna Anderson baby sweater I found for Julian at Once Upon a Child last week. It's gold-colored knit with an embroidered bear and honeybee on the front. So cute! I dressed him for church paired with a some little black corduroy pants. I love a man in a sweater. So I'm kind of happy that fall weather is already here.

I have the older boys' drawers organized by shirts, pants, pajamas, underwear and socks, and then one special drawer for a swimsuit, bowtie, jacket, belt etc. When I went through their clothes I evaluated everything in each drawer very quickly. First I pulled out all the shorts and set them aside. Then for the rest of the clothes I looked to see if was ripped or stained or hopelessly stretched out of shape (do anyone else's kids like to put their entire body through the neck of their shirt or curl up their legs inside their shirt?). If so, I threw it away.

Next, does it fit? If not, I put it aside to get rid of or save for a younger boy.

If it fit, then I asked myself "Do I like this? Does it look nice? Do I enjoy seeing them wear it?" If the answer was NO, I put it in the get rid of pile. I made an exception if it was something I myself don't prefer but I know they love. Silas has a humongous neon orange t-shirt that makes me cringe inwardly a bit but he gets a proud little smile on his face whenever he comes out of his room wearing it. So that stayed. Micah loves an old green t-shirt with all different kinds of bugs on it. It's a little worn out but I made sure to keep that too. Overall at this point in our lives they're not too opinionated on clothes, so that makes it easier for me to get rid of clothes that I think don't look good on them.

At this point the shirt drawers were still overflowing. So I picked out about 7 long-sleeved shirts and 4-5 short-sleeved shirts to keep for each of them in addition to their Sunday shirts. Even for the one who wears peanut butter and jelly all over his shirt after lunch this should be plenty.

Then I was done! It didn't actually take very long.

The funny thing about pajamas is that when the boys run out of clean pajamas we let them wear one of Christopher's white t-shirts to bed and they love that more than anything. The other night Silas said to me, "I want to wear one of Daddy's t-shirts like Micah."

"Sorry," I told him. "Micah didn't have any pajamas in his drawer."

"I wish I didn't have any pajamas," he said sadly. I had to laugh because he was wearing a pair of blue and white pajamas with alligators all over them and he looked adorable.

Managing clothes and laundry isn't glamorous but it is a venerable work.

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