This week has been a big one in our house. So far, we have taken three van loads to our local thrift store full of stuff that we are no longer using. Most of that stuff was clothes. Can you believe it? And all I can think about are the other areas in our house right now that are out of control, itching to be reduced so that we can make space for less.
I woke up this morning determined to tackle Zoe and Elsie’s wardrobes. After both Jeff and I completed a capsule wardrobe (read about it here) earlier this week, I knew that it was something that we needed to do with our girls’ closets as well.
Parents to daughters out there – what is it about having little girls that causes their wardrobes to multiply clothes at break neck speed? (Maybe parents to boys can attest to this too. I’m coming only from one perspective here.) I feel like we are swimming in a sea of accessories, cardigans, tights, leggings, dresses, skirts, sweaters, fancy shoes, regular shoes, fancy boots, regular boots, purses, and the list goes on and on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as guilty as the next person. There’s something so fun about buying girls clothes! And since I was usually buying it second hand….well, it was a deal! Look at all the money I saved! (Seriously?!) However, the truth is, both girls, Zoe in particular, were experiencing the same dissatisfaction with their overwhelming wardrobes that I had been struggling with.
First of all, you need to understand Zoe. She is an old soul; an eighty-year old woman trapped in a four-year old’s body. She doesn’t make decisions quickly. She likes to sit and chat and discuss how she feels about making decisions. She wants to know how you feel about the decisions that she is making. She wants to weigh the pros and cons of each decision. And I love this about her. Except at 8:00 a.m. when the decision is what she is going to wear for school, and I still have to brush her fuzzy blonde hair, have her make up her bed, brush her teeth, feed her breakfast and scoot out the door to be at school for 8:45. Plus get Elsie ready on top of it all. Every morning we are running behind. I feel like I’ve been sending Zoe off to school in a flurry of, “Get your clothes on! Brush you teeth! Pick out your outfit! Wash your face! Put your pants on! Make up your bed! If you don’t decide what you’re wearing you’re going to be late for class…”
Zoe is also at the stage in her life where she wants to pick out all her own clothes. As her mom, I tend to be the one who buys her clothes (excluding gifts from grandparents or aunts and uncles). Up until she was three, Zoe was fine with me picking out her outfits. But in the past year, she has been very clear in what she likes and does not like. And let me tell you, what she likes is often NOT what I like. (Going through her closet today made me realize just how much I was dressing her like myself.) No wonder each morning she’d stand in front of her closet and not want to wear anything that I suggested. And my reasoning was, “Well, there’s nothing for her to wear! I should go out and get her some more clothes!” (Which I’d do. And the clothes that I’d come home with were all similar to what was already in her closet…clothes that she was totally disinterested in wearing. It was a bit of a vicious cycle.) She had begun to wear the same clothes over and over. (Clothes that I said I would NEVER let any kid of mine wear. Let it be know that I can’t stand Disney themed clothes. I’m just not a fan. But Zoe’s two favourite outfits have Anna and Elsa plastered all over the front of them in sparkly decals.)
So I realized, whether I liked it or not, over half of the clothes in Zoe’s closet were not being worn. And it was time to do something about it. I wanted to take the indecision out of her morning, just like had been taken out of mine. I wanted her to like getting dressed and to stop having it be such a big deal all the time. I wanted to eliminate the stress between the two of us in regards to her wardrobe. An added bonus for me would be less laundry to deal with if her wardrobe was minimized in size. (Zoe would tend to throw her clothes that she tries on into her laundry basket, whether they were clean or dirty. Which resulted in me washing clothes that were never dirty in the first place…a major waste of time and money!)
When minimizing Zoe’s wardrobe, I followed many of the same steps that I outlined in my previous post (here). (You will notice that I’m talking mostly about Zoe’s wardrobe. I did reduce Elsie’s wardrobe as well, however, she’s not at an age yet where she cares about what she’s wearing. For her, she couldn’t care less as to what was taken out or added to her closet. Basically, I treated her wardrobe like it was mine. Zoe’s is a different matter, however, since she is at an age where she has an opinion about what happens to her clothes.)
My first step to decreasing the clutter in Zoe’s closet was to pick a time. It’s true that minimizing her wardrobe would have taken less time if I would have waited until she was at school to do so. But I felt that for me to make those decisions about her clothes without her present was violating her space and the connections she has to certain articles of clothing. (I know, that may sound loony. But to me, it felt disrespectful to decide without her, even though I know very well that I am the parent and the one who paid for those clothes.) Besides, I also felt that this was a perfect opportunity to teach a life lesson and to practically demonstrate to her one of our core family values of contentment.
The second step was to give up control. In order for this to be a fun interaction, I realized I needed to ask Zoe’s permission to get rid of certain clothes. And if she said “no” I needed to respect that. (Even if it meant keeping all the Disney shirts and getting rid of the cute floral cold-shoulder shirts. Or the adorable moto pants with faux leather knees. I’m not bitter or anything.) At this point in time, I also explained to her why we were getting rid of her clothes. I was surprised how quickly she grasped the idea that because she had been blessed with much, this was an opportunity for her to give to those who weren’t. Kids really are amazing.
Even though I had given Zoe the reins with what was “yay-ed” or “nay-ed” in her wardrobe, I realized that I did need to have a few guidelines to go by, or else we’d be keeping everything. So I used a set number for each category of clothing. For example, Zoe loves her dresses. But there was no way that she needed seven dresses when she really only wears them to church on Sundays. So I told her that she could keep three dresses of her choice and then give the other four away. I did the same for pants (she could keep five pairs). Not surprisingly all the jeans went because they felt uncomfortable. We’re now strictly a legging family, people. I set a reasonable number for sweaters, t-shirts, shorts and pajamas. This way, I ultimately was the one who decided how many items were kept, making it possible to minimize her wardrobe effectively. But Zoe still felt like she was a part of the process and that she had a say in what did stay and/or go.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to reduce her closet by more than half. Her pile of clothes to donate filled an entire tote and two diaper boxes (which, when you’re a little person and your clothes don’t take up much space, that’s equal to a lot of clothes!). I felt like she deserved a reward after helping me out so willingly so I unearthed a box from the back of her closet with some clothes I had put away for her to grow into. She was so excited to see the new outfits I had bought for her. It actually made her want to get rid of some of the clothes she had decided to keep so that she could incorporate the new clothes into her wardrobe! (Which was fine with me because she had insisted on keeping a couple of shirts that we sadly stained but they were her favourites! Seeing the new clothes, though made her quickly put those old shirts into the throw out pile.)
Once again, in the end I was blown away by the life lessons my own kids can teach me. Zoe was so quick to let go, to get rid of unnecessary clutter in her life, to give to someone who was in need. Once again, I underestimated her willingness to give; I miscalculated her ability to be fine with less. I had expected a reaction that would have involved far more meltdowns and not wanting to let go of favourite objects. But here I was subjecting on my daughter what my reaction would have been if someone were to force me to downsize my closet. When is it in life that we lose the ability to give so cheerfully and willingly? When do we lose that capacity to be content with less? Hopefully we all can take a page out of Zoe’s book and not hold on so tightly to things that have no true significance.
In the meantime, please be understanding if you see me out and about. I won’t be hard to miss. I’m the mom with the kid wearing every colourful Disney branded outfit known to man. But we’re content. And I’m doing a heck of a lot less laundry.