Monday, February 27, 2012

Shirt cheap

Our most recent pants emergency led to a massive cleaning and reorganization of J-son's closets and drawers this weekend, as well as a bit of a purging of the stockpiled clothing.  Here's a photo of the box of giveaway clothes.
The clothes that will leave our home for better places.
Some of the discarded clothes didn't make it into the box; they were so stained they became rags.  When we think about frugality, we often think about how to get more things for cheap.   But saving time/energy/space also means letting go of things that clutter up our life, as J-son discovered in the lastest round of "what's in your closet?"  The reasons for getting rid of (and often, replacing) clothes from our home are varied.

Growth.  A year ago, J-son was wearing pants with a 24-inch waist, and they kept sliding down so much you couldn't help admiring his choice in briefs.  Friday, the pants I pulled out of the stockpile had a 28-inch waist, and they fit him just fine.   These boys are growing fast, apparently because we feed them just about every day.  So I buy many sizes of clothes each summer, ready for that growth spurt.  (Growth surge?)

One of N-son's favorite pair of
pants has decorative patches.
Wear and tear.  N-son is particularly hard on his clothes.  The "tear" part of "wear and tear" is literal; we have a large collection of shirts where he's bitten through the wrist part of the cuff (he fidgets a bit sometimes).  J-son has the most amazing holes in the knees of his favorite jeans -- this is largely because he can't bear to part with them long enough for me to patch them, so the holes keep getting bigger.  And "patching" is really a main strategy, here.  I reinforce the cuffs of shirts, and I sew large sturdy patches on knees (as long as I'm allowed to get my hands on the clothes, that is).  Saturday night, during the weekly Prairie Home Companion Observance, I gather up the mending for the week and stitch up whatever I can.

Dirt.  The boys can get really, really dirty.  Here, the ounce of prevention helps a bit.  Because our public school district has a uniform policy, the boys have one set of clothes they wear for school and other sets of clothes they wear to play in.  (Middle School organized sports are great: they've helped us a lot in the idea of changing into sports clothes).  Play clothes come to us for free from a variety of friends, whereas school clothes require us going out to buy them, so the tradeoff is obvious.  In fact, J-son had so many t-shirts and sport shorts in his drawers that he voluntarily decided to get rid of more than half of them when we were cleaning this weekend.

Fashion and personal taste.  Last year, N-son loved turtlenecks.  Because he goes through shirts so quickly (see "wear and tear" and "dirt" above), I had a VERY large collection of these in a variety of sizes, accumulated over the years.   This year, N-son has decided to turn his back (so to speak) on turtlenecks.  As we near the end of winter and his resolve has remained firm, I took Saturday's cleaning spree as an opportunity to thin out my stockpile by getting rid of 17 turtleneck shirts, representing about a $15 investment.  Button-down school shirts from now on.

The Bermuda shorts triangle.  Some clothes just get lost.  Black socks.  Pants.  Underwear.  There are mysteries I will never fully understand.  It is in the realm of this mystery (and to some extent, in fashion and personal taste) that  the boys' financial responsibility really starts to kick in.

The boys have a meager allowance -- close to starvation level if you ask them -- that allows them to purchase luxuries, provided they've accounted for the necessities of life.  The necessities include replacing clothes that their parents have already provided.  Once J-son had to start paying for his replacement briefs, they magically stopped disappearing.  Black socks have likewise lived with us longer, now that they were purchased with money J-son could have used for chips/candy/a fully stocked iPod.  In the category of luxuries, the boys willingly spend their own money on a sixth pair of shoes.  Or a seventh.  Cool.

With one exception only (drat those snow boots), I've spent no money on clothes since September, when yard-sale season died down.  The boys have each purchased a large bag of socks, and one boy who wishes to remain anonymous purchased some good-looking briefs.

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