Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mary's Back to School Store, and her thoughts on having so much stuff

It's that time of year.  It's that time of life.  Well, it's just plain time.  Time to go through all the bins and boxes, bags and piles of stuff.  Stuff that built up over time.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.

There was a time I was organized.  I may not have gotten everything done each year during the "turning over of the wardrobes" seasons.  But I was still mostly, somewhat organized.  But now, ... boy, oh, boy. 

Some readers may remember me having written about the somewhat severe depressive episode I finally sought treatment for over a year ago.  I'm very happy to say it's much better now.  Not all the way gone, but so very much better.  I find myself slowly recapturing the little bits of my life that had gradually descended to chaos during that time.  And because my depression came on quite gradually, I hadn't really realized, until I started going through things, how bad it was, and for how long I'd been sliding.  I didn't know how long it had been since I'd been able to keep up in a somewhat, mostly orderly fashion.  And since that time of former order and organization, my lifestyle and family situation has changed quite a bit.

When I started my family, knowing that we were hoping God would bless us with a larger than average number of children, I shopped second-hand faithfully.  I had a system.  I had tote bins and boxes for each size and season, and I kept things well stocked.  When we needed something, I could simply grab the right bin and pull it out.  As my kids started wearing out their clothes, I found myself somewhat compulsively buying and buying, and accepting every offer of hand-me downs. 

Until eventually, I was almost literally drowning in children's clothing. 

When we homeschooled, it didn't really matter what my kids looked like most days.  As long as they were clothed, I was happy.  I'm such a "use every part of it" kind of person, that I'd find myself passing on the better quality things to others with kids in school.  As a homeschool family, we dind't need nice or trendy school clothes.  We were glad to wear out everything to the last thread, even the old 1980s stuff. 

OK, not really.  At least my kids would strongly disagree with me on that one.  I was glad for them to wear such clothes.  But they were not so glad.  One of my oft-repeated mom sayings is, "You won't go naked with me as your mom.  I will always have a selection of clothes for you to wear.  But if you want to be picky about your clothes, you'll have to save your money and buy them yourself."

As our kids gradually entered the public school system, the pressure to have nicer things increased.  And I'm not talking about just the trendiness, although that was surely part of it.  But there is also the simple fact that when my kids went out into the world, I didn't want them wearing the patched and mended-multiple-times, and sometimes unmatched clothing we could wear around home.

It was actually quite a sore subject for me.  I really, truly acutely believe in using what we have, and not getting new if what we have still has wear left.  I know for a fact that much of what my kids wore was not suitable even for second hand giving.  And it made me mad that society's expectations were such that what I considered, "making good or responsible use of our resources," might be by others considered, ... well, ... trashy, or even "being neglectful of my children."

The other thing that has changed for us since my formerly organized days, is that my youngest children are growing up.  I no longer have to have a constant, regenerating supply of clothing in each size.  I'm getting to the end of it.  My older kids mostly buy their own clothes.  I'm getting rid of the smaller things.  I don't need to keep such a large stockpile of the middle sizes anymore.  There is no longer a conceivably infinite number of kids who will need to use those stocked up clothes. 

As I go through everything these days, finding all the bags and boxes, bins and piles of things that had backed up during the years I was mostly non-functional, I'm weeding out. 

I'm getting rid of most of the worn things.  These go to a neighbor's shop for rags if they are really, really worn.  But the folks at Goodwill and our local Northern Lights thrift stores have assured me that they will take anything.  If it's beyond what will sell second hand in America, they can sent it to other countries where people are less spoiled than we are here.  If they can't use something even for that, the cloth can be recycled.  That I can live with much more easily than simply throwing things out.

I'm also getting rid of the out-dated styles.  I mean, really, Mary!  with as many hand-me-downs as we get on a regular basis, do I really need to hang onto that 1980s era dress for a teenager?  Or how about that 1990s pair of high wasted jeans iwth the biggish legs and small ankles?  None of my more recent kids have worn them.  Even the older kids probably only did so under duress.  Why keep them?  If some little girl in a less prosperous country can enjoy them, then wonderful.  And if not, they can always be turned into insulation or mulch, or whatever it is that is made from recycled cloth.  Or maybe someone here will buy it for an 80s day at school or a Halloween costume.  I don't have to keep it.

Over the past year, I've probably stocked three or four Goodwill stores with my donations alone.  I've likely clothed entire towns in developing countries.  Really.  It was crazy.  Whole vanloads of stuff went out my doors. 

And still I find more.  More stuff.  More things to weed out.  More piles and bins and boxes and bags.

The good side of it is that I don't really have to school shop.  I only have to find the things we have.  Because of all the weeding out I've done in the last year, that part of it was relatively easy this year.  I did Stella's clothes the other day, just by pulling out the right bin.  And today, Donna got to go through the next smaller size.  It's still a big job, helping a little one stay on task, trying on a gazillion things.  Knowing that I might get interrupted and not be able to finish in one sitting.  But at least I don't have to spend money on gas, time on the road to get to the nearest mall, and energy fighting the crowds.  And I certainly am glad to not spend the money on new clothes for the kids each year. 

Today was also shoe day.
Mary's church shoe store
For over a year, I've been unable to get to my packed away shoes.  Too many things were in the way.  And before that, for several years, everything was getting done only very inadequately.  I've ended up buying the cheapest possible new shoes for the kids several times throughout the last several years.  I hate doing that.  It makes me cringe thinking of it.  I know for a fact that I have shoes here for them to wear.  But I just can't get to them.  And everything is in such disarray it would take forever to find what I need.

Mary's athletic shoe store
But I'm getting there.  Today was the day.  The day to get all the shoes in our house gathered together, sorted out, bagged up if we're never going to use them, and divvied out to those who need them.

The bags for Goodwill, all shoes.
Besides what I have pictured, I also threw away one bag of very worn, hardly anything left of them shoes.  (But only after I took the laces out, of course!)  And I bagged up two grocery sized bags of nicer shoes for consignment.  I used to have two dress shoe bins, one boys' and one girls'; and three athletic shoe bins, small, medium, and large.  Now I'm down to one dress shoes bin and one athletic shoes bin.  I also have a sandals and flip-flop bin, and a slipper bin, too.  Oh, and an unmatched shoe box, too.  Where do all those shoes go anyway?  I keep thinking they've got to be here somewhere. 

It feels so good to be down from eight bins to five.  I may still find more as I continue to organize.  Most of our home library is still stacked up in the room that formerly was the organized store room.  Those boxes of books have been knocked around and dug through, too, so are in as much disarray as everything else around here.  It's possible I may yet find a box or two of unsorted shoes when I get time to go through those.  Any mother of many will know what I mean, ... one of those boxes that gets thrown together during a frantic cleaning session, but then never put away right.  Yep, that's exactly the sort of things I've been trying to find my way through for the last year.  All that kind of box.  Everywhere.  Boxes, bins, piles, bags.  Sheesh, where does it all come from?
Mary's dress store, each part of the rack is a different size or season
Here's one final picture.  This is one of the things I did the other week.  I finally unburied most of my girls' dresses that had been lost in the heaps for way too long.  The girls always had a few things.  My kids never went to church naked.  But it made me a bit sad to think of the sometimes torn or shoddy things they've worn, when we have so many cute things downstairs.  But again, it was inaccessible.

I don't even want to tell you how many bags I got rid of that day.  Ready?  I bagged up nine bags for regular thrift store, plus four for consignment.  That was mostly dress clothes for both sexes, and ages infant through 18 years.  It was terrible how much stuff had built up. 

It feels so good to begin to get organized.  It's wonderful and energizing to begin to be efficient and on top of things. 

It feels good to have so many things for consignment, that I can put many very nice things into the Goodwill bags.  We are so very blessed.  God has used our friends and our neighbors to shower us with their extras.  And He has blessed our country with incredible material largess.

May I ever remember to thank and praise Him for such providence!

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