Monday, August 13, 2012

Clothing from Heaven

Any mother of many will understand the challenge of managing the whole issue of clothing her many children.  At first consideration, some might think that providing the clothing would be the most difficult part of providing raiment. 

"NOT SO!"  I, together with any other mother of many, will firmly assert.

We Americans are very spoiled.  Very wealthy.  So much so that most of us don't even notice our wealth.  It's very easy to think that one has to spend a fortune on a wardrobe for one's kids.  That's the kind of society we have. 

As a case in point, I will provide this illustration.  A few years back I picked up a boys' Ralph Lauren dress shirt for John.  I got it at a charity thrift store.  I probably paid two or three dollars for it.  I don't remember, but two is my usual upper end of spending.  I may have gone to three if John really needed the dress shirt at that particular time.  The shirt is obviously of better quality than a Wal-mart or K-mart special.  Its fabric and cut have remained satisfyingly crisp and even throughout many washes. 

A quick google search tells me that similar shirts at Nordstrom might cost about $40 at full price, or perhaps $25 on a markdown.  Or someone lucky or diligent enough to find a clearance might get it for half of that yet.

Next in line of cheapness might be a consignment clothing store, or an overstock type venue such as TJ Max or factory outlets.  But I don't really find those to be a wise investment for me.  The prices are simply too high for my budget.  I don't live near any such stores.  I don't care about name brands.  But for others with a little more cash flow, the time and location to shop often, and a preference for higher end clothing, such places can be an excellent shopping choice.

On the other end of the spectrum, someone who keeps track of sale days and bag sales at the local thrift stores, or who lives in a town and so has easy access to rummage sales might find my two or three dollars quite spendy. 

And so, there are variations in how much one is willing to spend, and the quality on which one chooses to spend.  It does not have to cost a great deal even if one were to purchase all the clothes each child needs.

But (insert here a dramatic pause, and perhaps a drum roll or other suspenseful music), there are also hand-me-downs.  And most mothers of many have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hand-me-downs.  This is the clothing from heaven phenomenom with which many mothers of large families perpetually deal.

There is the constant influx of bags of clothing, for many of which we are extremely thankful.  But it's very easy to save too many things in any particular size or season.  There are times when we don't have time to sort the things coming in.  There are times we don't have the energy to pull out all the stored away boxes to put the recently acquired items in their proper spot.  There are times we can't keep up with weeding out the worn, torn, and too small items from the stock in current use. 

Any mother of many will agree that this one aspect of raising a large family seems to consume a disproportionately large amount of maternal energies.

And that's the project I've been tackling the last few weeks.  Clothes for the four youngest to get washed up, sorted out, gotten together, stored away, weeded out for consignment or charity or rags.  And to remember to keep nagging at the middle set of kids to do the same with their own.

The following anecdotes are cut and pasted from facebook.  They will set the stage for my final story.

First, on Saturday as I worked I posted,
Joe accidentally picked up some 55 gallon trash bags for a picnic on Memorial Day. I've packed one totally full of things to take to Goodwill, plus another one well on the way to full. Hurray for Mary! I bet I could fill eight of them before I would feel caught up on the clothing situation around here. But it's a healthy start.
And then in response to the question, "Are you going to be able to lift them," I explained,
It will be a two man job. I probably could, but they are quite tall, as in almost up to my armpit. So I'd worry about breaking the bag by dragging it.

But see, I have this other problem w/ stuff I pack up to give away. Since we live 75 miles from Goodwill, so have to plan a special trip to take the stuff in, it sometimes sits around for awhile. Inevitably, some little hole will be torn in a bag,  And then for some reason, curious little ones always have to pick at little holes until they become big holes, and so all my carefully sorted stuff ends up all over my hallways, all mixed all together. This time I am putting everything in these super big, super strong bags, in the hopes that they will not experience such a fate. I hope.
Last night, Sunday, I told this follow-up story,
I had one of those Calgon situations regarding the bagged clothing. This is the three 55 gallon bags.  Remember from yesterday?  I noticed throughout the day today that little holes were developing here and there on the bags.

"Stop picking holes in these bags!"

I caught kids climbing those big black mountains and sliding down a couple of times.

"Get off those bags and leave them alone."

Joe asked last night if I wanted his help to get them to the car right away so that they wouldn't get damaged.

"Oh, I've talked to the kids, I think they'll be fine. Besides, I don't know which vehicle I will have to take to Grand Forks."


So tonight, I was home alone with the younger five. I went to the back of the house for a little while, leaving them unattended for a few moments.

"Remember not to play on these bags, you guys. They are starting to get torn up," I reminded them as I walked away.

When I came back, there they were, a couple of the kids, bags knocked down, kids jumping and sliding all over them.

Big holes everywhere and clothes gushing forth. 55x3 gallons of clothes mind you.


"We're sorry, Mom."


Except for the 165 gallons of clothes spewing forth into the hallway yester-eve, the clothing sorting/managing project has been going mostly smoothly.  I packed up four boxes of toys to keep them out from under foot.  I put them along the wall of the hallway, and put a big quilt over them.  It looks like a bench, and I don't think the little ones have thought to peak under the quilt to see what's making the bench.

I do have, however, the typical ongoing battle with Inge and Donna, the chronic clothes changers.  They are eager to try on all those pretty new-to-them clothes.  These are currently waiting in the living room in baskets, for me to decide what will best fit where in the dressers.  I want to wait until I have all the clothes sorted and ready before I decide, so that I know I'm making the best use of space possible. 

But there is always the question.  Is it really a better use of time?  Would the girls stay out of the clothes better if the clothing was in the bedroom dressers?  While I'm still occupied with this gargantuan task, would I be able to monitor them, and follow through on keeping them out of the clothing in the dressers?  Which will be less tempting for these two little monkey-shiners?

Mostly, especially considering the propensities of these two youngest girls, they are exhibiting an immense amount of self-control.  I only holler at them a couple of times a day to stop getting new clothes.  I've been mostly keeping everything they have worn and soiled into the laundry chute, and most of the unsoiled items back on their hooks or in the basket.  Mostly.  But it is an ever present responsibility.  I have to stay vigilant with them.

But for this next little story, you need little tangential explanation.  Sorry.  Please do stay with me.

I find little girl slips to be one of those things of which I've accumulated too many throughout the years.  Each girl fits them differently, each dress needs a different length, etc.  Also because I buy used, things don's always last long.  So when I see a slip somewhere for mere pennies, I tend to buy it.  Hence, the gradual accumulation.

But the other angle on this whole accumulated slip situation, is that in the crazy-disorder of my last several years, I've stopped worrying about slips.  I'm lucky to get dresses on the kids, let alone slips.  If one of the girls ends up in church with a see-through dress,... oh, well,... it's not the end of the world.  I'm just glad most Sundays that they are clothed and shod when we go out.

And so the idea of a slip, and it's proper use, is wholly unfamiliar to my youngest girls.  They think these silky, lacy items are merely pretty things for playing dress-up. For that reason, I tend to keep the slips hidden away.  But that adds to the difficulty of introducing the properly use and purpose of a slip.  When I need one, I can never seem to remember where they are hidden.

So now, in the process of going through all the clothing items in the house, I have found about ten slips.  I had them in my "pile of last stuff" that has invaded one of our living room couches.  And today was the day to tackle that pile.  All those odds and ends were waiting for me to put away.  Things like mittens and hats that never got put away properly last winter, baseball and sun hats, headbands, bandanas, assorted rags, cloth napkins, doilies, about 50 pairs of tights in varying stages of disrepair, and yes, slips.  All this had to be sorted today and put in some order.  And I did it.  I got it done.  Each kind of thing that does not yet have a proper spot, now has a bag or box that is labeled. 

After I had finished sorting that particular mountain, I asked Inge and Donna to put the slips in a box of things on Stella's dresser.  Temporarily. 

"But, Mom,: said Donna, "They have a place in my locker cupboard.  Remember we used to keep them there?"

"Yes we did.  You're right.  But right now we are cleaning and sorting and reorganizing.  They might not go in that same spot once we get everything put away.  I want you to put them in the box until I decide where their spot is going to be.  Please put them in the box for me."

The girls took the slips, an armload each, all those satiny items slip-sliding in their little arms, and went their way.  To the bedroom.  To the box on the dresser.  Ideally.

But alas!  It was not to be.  About 20 minutes later they came into the living room, each dressed in their choice of pretty lacy slips.

"Oh, you girls!  I wanted those put away.  Please take them off and get dressed in your regular clothes and PUT THE SLIPS IN THE BOX!"

"But, Mom, we want to look pretty.  These are pretty.  They are for dress-up and we want to dress up."

"Yes, they are pretty.  But they are for underneath dresses.  They are like underwear.  They aren't supposed to be dresses.  They aren't supposed to be toys."

They both got kind of confused expressions on their faces.  They looked at each other sheepishly.



Joe A said...

And now the two little ones are out at the swingset in those "dresses" playing with the kitten.

theMom said...

Hmm, yes, I noticed at lunch that they were still dressed in their "pretty clothes." Stinkers!