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.
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?