Simplify the Children’s Wardrobes

“He was clad rather shabbily (but, as it seemed, more owing to his mother’s carelessness than his father’s poverty) in… very wide and short trousers, shoes somewhat out at the toes, and a chip-hat, with the frizzles of his curly hair sticking through its crevices.”

Many years later, Hawthorne’s description of “the little urchin” in House of the Seven Gables lives fresh in my mind.

None of us want to be that careless mother. Thankfully, it no longer takes the average mom hours with a needle in hand to make enough shirts to last her son through the summer.

Our problem is generally quite different: an over abundance.

As moms, the goal is simple: to start the morning in clean clothes. (Who can vouch for them after an hour at the park?!) You don’t need a dresser full of clothes or half a dozen pairs of shoes to accomplish this!

In fact, a simple wardrobe makes it easier to keep the children presentable. Have you ever stared blankly at a full closet wondering “What in the world should they wear?” By limiting the selection to a few durable outfits you (and they) like, when morning rolls round you don’t have to wade through a heap of clothes to find something appropriate. And matching.

Too many clothes is most American’s problem. Why not hand the excess on to someone who really needs?

Two simple questions help determine how many outfits your child needs to avoid “urchin status” and keep the wardrobe manageable.

How many messy is your child? My toddler can easily go through two or three outfits a day (and sons are, reportedly, even messier), but usually it is more like one to two outfits daily.

How often do you do laundry? Of course, if it isn’t dirty, don’t wash it! There’s nothing wrong with wearing the same outfit two days in a row.

With those two questions in mind (and using  need in the loosest sense possible) what clothes does your child need to be presentable, cute and clean?

This list works for us:

  • Dress clothes: Two or three outfits.
  • Everyday clothes: Seven or eight outfits.
  • Pajamas: In the summer a clean t-shirt and shorts work great. Then in the morning they’re set to play. In the winter a couple warm snugly pairs are nice.
  • Shoes: dress shoes and a pair for everyday play (if they’re neutral all the better!)
  • Socks and undies: a 8-10 pairs of  socks for every day and a couple pairs of nice socks… and about twenty pairs of underwear if you’re potty training!
  • For girls: Hair bands, ribbons and bows. The simplest difference between “urchin-like” and presentable is simply making sure hair isn’t covering the eyes.
  • Summer fun: Swimwear, “wet shoes” (we LOVE crocs!) and a sunhat or two.
  • Winter warmth: Jacket, gloves, hat and winter boots.

Another way to keep it simple if you have boys and girls is to gravitate towards neutrals. I’m all for masculine boys and feminine girls, but coats and play sandals, underwear and everyday socks don’t need to be covered in dolls or trucks. Leather, tan, chocolate, or any shade of green works for well for either gender.

What works for you?

photo by Siewlan

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    • anna says

      I know what you mean, even with just a few outfits in my son’s drawer, there are two that he wears ALL the time. They’re comfy, adorable and easy to get on him. If I did laundry often enough, they’d be all he needed.

      I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid that I have to have enough “back up” clothes for sickness/blow outs/emergencies. So that’s why I’ve kept more. What have you decided to do?

      ….went and read your post and LOVE it! 🙂

  1. says

    I kept more outfits for potty training/blowout diaper ages. Now that my son is potty trained (over a year by now) and virtually accident free, I don’t need too many spare clothes. And if I need to wash clothes because I don’t have enough, they’ll dry in an hour if I hang them outside in the summer. I did leave extra winter clothes for backup.

    • anna says

      Penniless Parenting— Wow! Where do you live? It’s so humid here that it takes FOREVER for clothes to dry outside. They dry much faster hung up inside. …maybe I need to try the sun though, I’ve been line drying in the shade. 🙂

  2. says

    I find that each child has different clothing needs. The toddler is prone to diaper messies, food messies and so on…so she needs more.

    The 4-year-old has a skin condition that requires heavy creams that are hard on clothes, so he needs more.

    The 6-year-old is accident prone…so she needs more. (She’s the one with holes in the knees, stains that won’ come out, and so on).

    But the 10-year-old is relatively clean and unblemished, so he needs less…now to convince him he doesn’t need to throw those heavy jeans in the wash every time he wears ’em (wink).

    • anna says

      Susan— I know what you mean! We stayed at my in-laws last summer during school break and I tried convincing my brother-in-law that he really could fold his clothes at night instead of putting them in the laundry basket if they weren’t dirty. It didn’t work very well!

  3. says

    Great suggestions, and I love to hear the 20 pair of undies if training. I have about that many for my son who is just about ready and was thinking I was nuts! On that note, when you potty trained, did you put them in undies prior to them always telling you and making it to the potty, or did you try some “wetting” practice so they know what happens?
    Thanks! Suzanne

    • anna says

      I’m afraid I don’t have all that much experience yet Suzanne, but for me I found that if she was in a diaper, I was much less careful to remember to remind her to go potty. In undies, I had extra motivation….and so did she! 🙂

  4. says

    Anna, my location isn’t something I publicize on the net. But if you’re curious, email me pennilessparenting at yahoo dot com and I’ll tell ya.
    Line drying in the shade can take a decent amount of time here- only in the direct sun does it take an hour or two (or three, depending on the thickness of the material).

  5. says

    Children thrive on less… less clothing, less toys, less clutter. I think the trickiest part is convincing well-meaning relatives that you don’t need a whole lot more stuff! 🙂 I guess I just did a massive amount of laundry during potty-training days because my children each got three 3-packs and that was that. But it worked! In the end, that’s what matters. (I do put my kids in separate jammies vs. clothes in the summer months though… sleeping in clothes just feels funny to me. Nothing wrong with it… it just isn’t my thing. :))

    • anna says

      Jessie Leigh– yes, it’s amazing how much happier a child is with one toy than ten! One of the perks of living in a small house is I can tell grandparents that “we just don’t have room!” 🙂

      And you’re right. Each family has something different that works for them!

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