Growing Pains

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We were excited when the new size 6 pants I’d ordered for J arrived. She’s been growing like a weed and had grown out of her clothes. I asked her to try on the new pants, but sadly, she reported that they were far too loose in the waist. I washed them all and put them aside.

After several days with temperatures in the 70s, today was a relatively chilly Texas day. J came out of her room dressed in 5T sweatpants. They left a good portion of her shins bare. My foot came down.

“No ma’am,” I told her. “Those pants are too small for you. Please put on your new purple ones.”

She came out of her room again with an important update. “These are too big.”

I took a look, and they seemed to fit just fine. I noticed her pulling them up at the hips, bunching the fabric on both sides below the waistband.

“I think,” I informed her, “that you have become accustomed to your pants being too tight. It’s just like how you resist switching to new shoes when your feet grow. You’ll feel comfortable in a while.”

That did it. To cut a very long, very loud story short, she lost it. There was screaming and stomping, tears and threats, and a general insistence that her panties were going to fall off without super-tight pants holding them up. I don’t try to reason with the unreasonable, so I didn’t point out all the things wrong with her argument until M wanted to discuss them with me over sister’s screams. Yes, I agreed, her panties did stay on when she jumped on the trampoline in a dress. J even tried M’s panties on, only to break down into a fresh slurry of tears because they were too tight.

Proving myself to be the meanest mommy in history, I insisted that J go to school in her own panties and pants. Once she’d settled into the car and quieted a bit, I told her that I was 95% certain that she would get used to her new clothes by the time school was done. I also suggested that perhaps part of her resistance was that I wasn’t making her sister go up a size. She agreed that that was a big part of it. It wasn’t fair that M got to wear the old pants.

“The fact is,” I told her, “that your sister is just smaller than you right now. You’ve always been used to sharing clothes so it feels strange not to, but it’s no different than you having different shoes because of your different sized feet.”

J struggled with this idea, but had accepted it by the time we got to school.

When I picked her up after daycare, she said those sweetest words: “Mom, you were right.” She loved her new pants and had received 2 compliments on them. They were softer than the old ones, which she admitted had been too tight. She even agreed to model her too-small and just-right clothes for a before-and-after photo set.

A 7-year-old with a tendency to resist change isn't a fan of switching to a larger size of clothing

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!

That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.organize

Modify your system as children grow

Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.

Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.

Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.

Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.

For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.

Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.

SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.

Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.

RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.

A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!

Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl
Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl

Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.

We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.

RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.

Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them. Photo Credit: katypearce
Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them.
Photo Credit: katypearce

Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.

Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.

Toddlers

An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids' clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Photo Credit: peyri
An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids’ clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Sadia uses this technique, but needs to tidy her daughters’ drawers at least once a week because items have come unfolded.
Photo Credit: peyri

Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.

If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.

Preschool and school age

This is exactly what an elementary schooler's closet often looks like. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it's winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There's overflow on the floor, which is why Mommy needs to come in an enforce cleanup every so often. Photo Credit: master phillip
This is exactly how an elementary school kid’s closet often looks. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it’s winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There’s overflow on the floor, blissfully ignored by the kids in question, which is why Mommy needs to come in and enforce cleanup every so often.
Photo Credit: master phillip

Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet.  Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”

Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.

Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.

Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.

Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:

They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).

Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.

Teens

The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.

Children of different ages

Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.

When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.

For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!

Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.

All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.

By size, season and child

jackets
Winter jackets can be very bulky to store, so consider using space saver bags from which you can suck out the air with your vacuum cleaner hose. The bags will expand some during storage, but not if they’re packed together tightly enough in some out-of-the-way corner!
Photo Credit: dharder9475

Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.

All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.

Clothes to grow into

Photo Credit: if winter ends
You could store future sized clothes with the tag on for easy identification, but it’s wise to wash new clothes before dressing a baby in them, since sizing can irritate delicate skin.Photo Credit: if winter ends

To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.

SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.

Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.

Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!

SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.

When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.

Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.

RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”

Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.

Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.

Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.

Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig
Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

The short version of everything we’ve said is this:

  • Avoid clutter.
    • Sort clothes by size.
    • Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
    • Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
    • Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
  • Find a system that works for you.
    • Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
    • For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
    • Pick your battles.
  • Change the system when it stops working.

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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How to Afford Twins: Free Used Stuff

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There’s a lot of free used stuff out there for kids, if you know where to look. Children go through stages and sizes so quickly that there’s often a lot of wear left in their things after they no longer need them.

Hand-Me-Downs

My girls, M and J, are small for their age, so they end up receiving hand-me-downs from their friends. I’m not too proud to accept used things from friends, or even strangers. I see both the offer and its acceptance as gestures of love.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: reinvented

One former neighbour kept my girls in shoes for 2 whole years. I didn’t buy a single new item of clothing this summer beyond splurging on birthday dresses for all 3 of us. My kids have had a constant influx of new clothes from an older girl on our street, a classmate and a former neighbour.

Of course, it helps that M has no interest in wearing clothes that match her sister’s. If your kids wear matching or coordinated outfits, this may not work for you. I do find, though, that many of my friends buy the same things in different colours for their girls, and there are usually 3 hot shades that are “in” in a given season. Completely different brands will feature exactly the same colour scheme. You might be surprised by how many coordination opportunities you can find with hand-me-downs.

When two of my ex-husband’s high school friends announced that they were both pregnant with girls, I split my daughters’ matching infant and toddler clothes in two and mailed two diaper boxes of gently used clothes to Washington State. I’d been holding onto them in case any friends had twins, but everyone seems to have b/b or b/g twins.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

J and M determined told me that they no longer play with their doll house. I asked them to sit on their decision to give it away for a couple of months, but they’ve held firm. We’ll be passing their dollhouse and furniture to another little girl, the daughter of an old friend of mine from grad school. We hope she’ll also get many years of joy from it.

Trades

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: Renee Silverman

My daughters’ dance school has a fantastic shoe exchange program. Since they teach tons of growing children and know how expensive dance supplies can get, they have a big  bin of ballet, tap and jazz shoes in the office. When a child outgrows their shoes, their parent can add them to bin and go through the shoes that are already there to find a replacement, one size larger.

I do still occasionally have to buy new dance shoes, but the majority of my girls’ shoes have come from the bin in the 4 years they’ve been taking lessons. If your kids dance, play soccer, or use other specialized equipment, perhaps you can look into setting up a similar exchange.

Freecycle Exchange

Here’s how the Freecycle Network describes itself:

It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.

Participating in Freecycle groups has been a great motivator to keep me decluttering. If I don’t use something but it still has life left in it, I no longer hold onto it in case it comes in handy later. Unless it has sentimental value or I see a real use for it, I offer up unused things to people who will give them new life.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com

I’ve been in 3 different Freecycle groups in my time. They work similarly, with some variation. Some groups allow pet rehoming posts, while others don’t. My two adult cats came to us through Freecycle offers. Their previous family had lost their home and couldn’t keep them. Some groups ask you to offer at least one thing for each thing your receive. Some groups are sticklers for you specifying the area of town you’re in, while others are less stringent. Some ban people from the list if they have a history of asking for stuff and then not showing up to pick it up. As long as you use good judgment about who to share your personal information with, you’ll be fine.

In general, you sign up for an email list and quickly learn the format and etiquette for offering your unused stuff to others for free. Watch the list, and when something comes up that your family needs, send a nice email to the offerer. Some people use a first come-first served policy, but I always took at least a day to try to identify the most needy people for my girls’ hand-me-downs. Clothes and shoes are frequently offered in Freecycle messages, but I’ve seen washers and dryers, exercise equipment and even food given by people who won’t use them to people who will.

Since I work outside the home, I often leave bags or boxes labeled with the recipients’ names on my front porch for them to retrieve at their convenience. There’s something very satisfying about blessing others with clothing that came to my girls through the generosity of strangers in the first place. I gave my girls’ cribs away, one to a newly widowed mom of 6 who had recently taken in a pregnant high schooler, bringing her brood to 8. That was a pretty great feeling.

Craigslist

Freecycle, mentioned in Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.comCraigslist is a service similar to that of the Freecycle network, except that the majority of things posted are listed for a price, often negotiable. Instead of being primarily email list-based, Craigslist has a public website for each region that it covers. In addition to stuff, people also advertise services, jobs, housing and ridesharing opportunities.

I don’t troll Craigslist looking for free stuff, since my Freecycle lists cover me on that front, but I have occasionally gone looking for long-term investments. I bought my daughters a fine electric keyboard at a fraction of its cost new ($250 for a $900 instrument) and have been keeping my eye open for the right playscape to go in my backyard. I had a coworker watch Craigslist for me for the keyboard. I’m a singer, not a pianist, and he fixes up older keyboards as a hobby, so he was far more knowledgable than I. He was able to point me towards a solid instrument at a decent price and I snatched it up.

As with any activity involving meeting strangers, be smart about who you share your address with and whose home you choose to enter. Consider meeting in a public place or bringing a friend with you. Meet during daylight hours. Don’t share a whole lot of information about your kids.

And please, don’t forget to pass your own things on to others when you’re done with them.

What’s your approach to free stuff for your family? Do you love it? Think it’s tacky?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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From the Archives: Secondhand Shopping and Shopping Cheaply

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Young children go through a lot of clothes and gear. That could get expensive, so secondhand shopping and shopping the sales are attractive options. Here’s what The Moms have had to say on the matter over the years.

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So Many Clothes, So Little Time

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What would you do if you had three days to yourself? Sleep? Read? Take the world’s longest, bubbliest, hottest bath? Go to Vegas?

My twin daughters, M and J, spent Memorial Day weekend in El Paso with their dad, stepmom, grandparents, and stepsisters. Daddy and Grandpa picked them up immediately after school on Friday, and Daddy and Grandma dropped them off at home around lunchtime on Monday.

I had that entire time to myself. After work on Friday, I went to a happy hour/pizza dinner with my coworkers to celebrate the successful completion of a key project. On Saturday morning, I went to the gym. On Saturday evening, I went over to a coworker’s apartment for game night.

The rest of my time off, I did housework. Don’t get me wrong. I did sleep in and take that long bath, too. My focus of the long weekend, though, was trying to get my house under control. I scrubbed my bathrooms and kitchen to sparkling. I tackled the nightmare that is my daughters’ room. I organized my pantry. I vacuumed and mopped. I put clean sheets on all the beds and washed the dirty ones. I unpacked a couple of boxes from our August move from El Paso to Central Texas. I washed a regular weekend’s quantity of laundry.

I folded laundry. And I folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded. And folded.

And I put the laundry away. Cool weather clothes got packed up in old bedding bags; that packaging is perfect for long-term storage. A few clothes that the girls have never worn, a precious few they’d outgrown, and a few tops I’ve outgrown went in the charity donation pile. Everything else went on a hanger or in a drawer.

I watched the hours tick by while I folded and stored our linens and clothes. I waved goodbye to the hours I’d hoped to spend baking thank you cookies for the girls’ teachers and after-school counselors. I lingered a longing glance on the time I’d hoped to spend reading. I spared, once again, the lives of weeds towering over me in the back yard. I kissed goodbye to the time I’d planned to spend redoing my photo wall. I’d hoped to frame some of the girls’ artwork and intersperse it among the photos.

I wondered whether we really needed all the clothes we own. One thing about having very small kids who don’t grow very fast is that they can wear the same clothes year after year. After 3 winters, our collection of size 4-6 tights finally kicked the bucket, with their knees racing the toes to the first to surrender to the holes that would inspire my child to yell, “Dead tights!!” Some of the girls’ oldest leggings have suffered the same fate.

My daughters are incredibly easy on their other clothes. Despite my best efforts to find loving homes for clothes that the girls never wear, my kids have enough clothes to consume most of my three day weekend. I don’t even have to sort between their clothes. They share everything but panties, and even that is because they have different preferences. J can’t stand to have elastic touching her skin, so she has to have Hanes panties with a fabric-covered waistband. M loves her days of the week panties. I picked them up on a whim, and had to turn around and get two more packages when she declared her undying love for them; they were the first panties she’s never expressed a fear of falling off.

I digress. They have one small drawer stuffed to overflowing with pajamas. Another bulging drawer houses panties and socks. We have a large dresser drawer for tops, and another for bottoms. Dresses, light cardigans, and dress up clothes fill the girls’ clothes rack. I don’t use the closet rod in the girls’ room because they wouldn’t be able to reach their clothes. Instead, a free-standing clothes rack from Ikea sits inside the closet at its shortest setting.
Drawers are filled to the brim with small clothes.

This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable quantity of clothes for two young American middle class children, but it’s nuts to take care of. It certainly beyond my capacity. My favourite quadruplet mama named her blog the right thing: Buried in Laundry. My girls might not be happy about it, but I suspect that we could get by with far fewer items of clothing. No, I know this to be true. In Bangladesh, where I grew up, it was the norm for all but the richest to receive two new outfits per year.

So why do we, in the developed world, spend so much of our time, money and energy on clothing? My 7-year-olds have already absorbed our culture’s adoration of a varied closet and would never wear the same outfit twice within two weeks, perhaps even a month. My ex-husband was horrified at how long I could keep my clothes. He constantly talked about chucking all my clothes and buying me an entirely new wardrobe, but I couldn’t go there. It seemed like the silliest expenditure of money I could imagine. Don’t get me wrong. I love window shopping and cute clothes. I love to wear clothes to fit my mood, to suit the weather, that make me feel confident and competent and pretty. I don’t need the cute clothes, though, and every new item is something else to add to the laundry insanity that’s already beyond my control.

What’s the secret to staying to keeping your closet manageable? How much clothing do your kids have?

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Parenting Petite Kids

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I’m short. People use all sorts of nice euphemisms: petite, vertically challenged, little. At 5’0″ (152 cm), my legs are just long enough to reach the floor when I’m standing. I have to perch on the front edge of your average chair to rest my feet on the ground. If I sit back, my legs swing in a very unprofessional way. I often find myself tucking one or both legs under me at work. As my daughters put it, I’m “a very small mommy.”

My 6-year-olds are very small girls themselves. Their first-grade classmates revel in picking them up and twirling them around. They don’t seem to mind much, instead enjoying being the “cute little ones” of their classes. M just made it out of the 1st percentile on the growth chart, weighing in at 38 lbs (17.2 kg) at age 6 years, 9 months. That’s 3rd percentile, people! She’s a giant! J’s 41 lbs (18.6 kg) puts her in the 10th percentile. She’s come a long way since her 3 lbs 6 oz (1.5 kg) birth weight.

My daughters’ current small stature likely has very little to do with their prematurity. Birth at 33 weeks gestation explains the girls’ low birth weight, but most premature infants catch up with their birth age peers in height and weight by the age of 1 or 2. If you think about it, it makes sense. My girls are 2 months “younger,” measured from conception, than other kids born in May 2006. When they were -2 months old, it was a big deal. At 4 months old, it was still a pretty big deal. At 6 months, J weighed 12 lbs 12 oz, and M weighed 11 lbs 12 oz, and they were on track. At the age 6 years, 2 months doesn’t make all that much of a difference. You can just blame me for their lack of stature.

I suspect it’s much easier to be a short girl than to be a short boy, but society’s gender attitudes is a topic I won’t touch just now. I’ll just say that I don’t perceive myself or my daughters to have any hang-ups about being short.

Being especially small comes with challenges all its own. The world is built for average-sized people, so we make adjustments. We have stools in every room of the house so that we can reach the things we need. I learned what products could be tweaked to accommodate the realities of raising short babies, toddlers, and young children.

Car seats

It takes a lot of blankets to secure a baby of less than 5 lbs in a carseat. from hdydi.comThe first time I dealt with the unique experience of having a super-small child was coming home from the hospital. Our Graco Snugride infant seat was technically okay for a 5-pounder, but how were we to keep the babies from rolling around? The size of the infant head support it came with was laughable in comparison to my littles. The NICU nurses came to the rescue, once again. They showed me how to roll up receiving blankets and layer them around the baby to keep her in place on her first hundred or so car rides.

In the US, we’re taught that children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are both at least 1 year old and weigh 20 lbs, and recent recommendations encourage waiting until they’re 2 years old. As I understand it, the weight limit is a matter of having enough mass to resist being thrown in the air in the event of a crash. The age limit has something to do with the length of the spinal cord in comparison to the spine. As my pediatrician put it when I raised a concern about the girls’ legs eventually getting cramped, “Better broken legs than a broken neck.” My girls were well past age 2 before we turned their Britax Marathons forward-facing.

Now that they’re 6, J and M continue to wear 5-point harnesses in their Diono (formerly Sunshine Kids) Radians. Their classmates are all in booster seats, but M doesn’t meet the 40-lb weight minimum, and I’m in no hurry to reduce the girls’ level of containment in the car. Again, it doesn’t seem to bother them too much, although I occasionally get nasty looks at how long we spend getting the girls situated getting in and out of the car at the school pickup drive through. They can buckle and unbuckle themselves, but two buckles each necessarily take longer than one a piece.

Shoes

M and J started walking at 12 and 11 months, respectively. They both wore infant size 2 shoes at the time. There are very few walking shoes that come in a size 2. I certainly couldn’t find any. I ended up resorting to custom shoes ordered from Preschoolians in their “Walkers” line. They weren’t cheap, but they did allow us to go to the park without fear of stones and splinters in the girls’ feet. It wasn’t long before J and M were walking into daycare in the morning instead of me carrying them.

M tends to end up in light up shoes even at age 6; it’s hard to find sturdy, comfortable, school-appropriate shoes in a kid size 9.5. J’s a size bigger, and there are many more options open to her.

Clothes

Clothes weren’t quite the same challenge as shoes. Preemie clothes were gargantuan on the girls the first few months, but once they fit newborn sizes, it was easy–and so much fun–to shop for them.

J and M will be 7 in a few months. I just gave away the last of their size 4T clothes on Freecycle, because they’re fitting comfortably in 5Ts in most brands. When it comes to clothes that can fit loosely, such as sweatshirts and T-shirts, I can shop all the way to an XXS. The nice thing about being little is that M and J get a lot of hand-me-downs, and some hand-me-ups, from friends.

The girls have been wearing the same 4-6 sized tights for 3 winters in a row now, and they’re starting to fall apart. I’m not complaining. I remember how expensive it used to be to dress two kids when they were growing into new sizes every 3-5 months.

J and M’s first public school in El Paso had a uniform. We had trouble finding uniform shirts to fit them, so they just ended up wearing their XXS shirts baggy. I couldn’t get khaki bottoms that wouldn’t fall down at the store recommended by the school, but ended up finding good options online at French Toast.

Shopping carts/high chairs

For a long time, I’d go to the grocery store with one baby in a front carrier and the other in an infant seat placed in the cart. However, even though this continued to be practical weight-wise, by the time the girls were one, they wanted to sit in the cart and look around. The first time I tried, they flopped all over the place, and I gave up. M and J regaled nearby shoppers with wails and demands to “Sit cart! Sit cart!” as I pulled out the double stroller to try Plan B.

Ikea came to the rescue. They had an inflatable cushion that I could place around the girls to keep them propped up and contained. Unfortunately, they no longer sell it in the US. It was genius! I also used this cushion in restaurant high chairs to great effect.

How do your kids compare to others in size? Do you have any product recommendations to help kids on the smaller end of the size spectrum?

Sadia is the single mother of 6-year-old identical twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX area, where Sadia works in higher education information technology.

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A word about baby clothes

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Categories Family, Infants, Other people, ProductsTags , , 12 Comments

As anyone with a new baby can attest, people love buying baby clothes.  The new grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even just random family friends can barely resist.  They come to visit with a little box in hand, from Macy’s, Target, BabyGap, or wherever. Thoughtful, sweet, generous. And when it comes to clothes, who can blame them for the impulse buy?  Somehow, a t-shirt is just plain cuter when it’s that small.  And when it’s a gift for twins?  Oh. My. God.  Smaller may be cuter, but nothing beats a matched set.  We all have our collections of matching outfits in the dresser, and whether or not you’re into dressing your kids alike on a regular basis, sometimes you just can’t help it.  (Hopefully they’ll forgive thank us later.)

But I have learned several important lessons about baby clothes, and in particular baby clothes as gifts, from my experience over the last 8+ months as a mother of two (very differently-sized) babies. (Forgive me if this all sounds ungrateful. I have actually taken it all as lessons for myself as to how to buy for other babies.)  So, courtesy of Daniel & Rebecca, here is what I have learned about how to buy gifts for other babies:

First, whenever possible, find out what sizes the babies in question are actually wearing.  I don’t expect people to automatically know that, at nearly nine months old, my daughter still wears size 3-6 months. My son, on the other hand, seems to be the rare child who actually wears his actual age range (at exactly 6 months, he switched to the 6-9 month clothing, etc.).  Obviously, people who don’t get my kids dressed every day would not know this, but there are easy ways to find out. Grandparents make good spies.

Second, look at the size of the outfit you just chose before you buy it.  I know that, if you haven’t spent a lot of time with baby clothes recently, they all just look small and cute.  Impossibly small, in fact, so you get the bigger size, because no real baby could possibly wear the 3-month size.  I can’t tell you how many people have lovingly presented us with gifts and, while looking at my kids, exclaim that they should have gotten the bigger size.  But I assure you, my kids have not outgrown the size 18-month shirts at age 6 months.  Really.

Third, now that you’ve learned what size they wear and have actually inspected the labels while in the store, don’t buy too far ahead.  If you want to buy for the next season or two, if you want to buy a size up from what they wear now, that makes good sense.  Buy summer clothes in early spring, in the next size.  Great.  But did you really have to buy the size 2T fleece jackets for my 4-month-olds? (I can’t make this stuff up, people.)  I mean, yes, the jackets are adorable.  I can see how you were drawn to them. Especially the fluorescent pink animal print.  But I have no idea when my kids will wear size 2T, and whether or not that will even be at a time of year when fleece is appropriate outerwear.  Plus, I have to store it somewhere for the next 1-3 years.

Fourth, think for just one moment about the practicality of the outfit in question. I’m not saying all baby clothes have to be practical.  Dresses on baby girls are super cute, even if they make no practical sense at all.  But really… baby cashmere?  Just because they make it doesn’t mean you should spend your money on it.  Take the $60 you were going to spend on that sweater (that my child will wear once, vomit all over, and outgrow), and buy three outfits from Old Navy. You can splurge from time to time, after all, that’s what gifts are for. But be reasonable.

Lastly, and I think this is a good rule for any gifts, please please please include the gift receipt.  We love that you were thoughtful and generous and got us an adorable outfit from BabyGap.  The trouble is that both Aunt Sally and Aunt Kathy walked past BabyGap during the same week, and they both fell in love with the monkey shirt (it’s just so perfect for little Jimmy!).  And while the shirt is, in fact, perfect for little Jimmy, he doesn’t need two.  Plus, I’d rather exchange that 12-month sized sleeveless outfit for something my daughter can actually fit into this summer, instead of wistfully staring at it all season long, until she can finally wear it. In November.

I know, I know.  People are just being sweet and thoughtful and generous.  And I love that someone was thinking of my kids and wanted to get them something nice.  I also know that I’m preaching to the choir, here. But after getting two sets of very strangely-sized off-season outfits this weekend (blessedly inclusive of gift receipts), I felt compelled to put my lessons into words.

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