Friday, June 7, 2013

Clothes sorting day

The end of school has come and gone; the boys are home for the summer.  I've promised them lots of chores during these long, otherwise unstructured days; I figure if I keep my promise, they'll learn a lot; if I don't keep my promise, they won't mind.

Making shorts decisions.
Chores began in earnest yesterday.  Thursday was "Fashion Show Day", a day to sort clothes.  We dug through closets and storage bins and pulled out all their clothes, lugging them all into the dining room.   When I say "all their clothes", I really do mean ALL.

Then I sorted everything into piles by kind of clothing (coats, long-non-school pants, long school pants, etc.).  And then I brought in the boys to try things on and make some hard choices.

Kids' clothes have a way of multiplying; they're like the fluffy little Tribbles on Captain Kirk's ship:  they seem cute and harmless at first, but before you know it, they're everywhere.   The clothes seem to procreate in my son's closets.  Outfits in their dresser drawers start expanding, swelling to the point that drawers can't close all the way, and eventually exploding into scattered piles on the floor.  Piles of shirts and shorts seem to generate themselves spontaneously underfoot, behind the living room couch, in the corner of the dining room.  Even my own carefully tended storage closet seems to grow slowly denser and denser -- a stealth army of shorts and jackets silently occupying territory.
Two overflowing laundry baskets of clothes to give away.

So one major goal of the cleaning is culling the herd of clothing.  I set population limits and strictly enforced them.  For example, each boy got to choose his favorite seven t-shirts and five pairs of shorts to keep in his room.  They got to choose ten more t-shirts and pairs of shorts to store in the basement.  The rest, we donated.  We gave away huge amounts of clothes, some of which are too small, some of which are no longer loved, and many of which are redundant.

The mending basket, with notes to my forgetful self.

Major goal number two is knowing what I have so I can intelligently fill in the gaps during the summer while yard sale season is in full swing.  The boys have more t-shirts than they would need even if they were an entire football team.  And somehow we accidentally acquired/inherited/bred enough school shorts to last them until they are old enough to run for president.  But long-sleeved school shirts?  Those are a rarer beast.  So I'll pick up nice school shirts if I can find them cheap enough, but I'll steer clear of shorts.

For this reason, labeling boxes and bins as I go along is crucial.   Man, do I love labels!  For an absent-minded professor like me, they're like "external memory".  I keep a stack of pre-cycled paper (paper with one side blank, that is) and a dark magic marker to label piles, bins, baskets, and even individual clothes as I go along.  With so many piles, it's just too easy to forget what's what.

 I label individual clothes that need mending.  I label boxes with what's inside them.  And when everything is sorted, I go through the boxes and make counts of what's inside, so I know what kinds and sizes of clothes I need to scout around for.  And I know what NOT to shop for, too (dang, how did we wind up with so many pairs of school shorts?)
Keeping a record of what clothes we have,
and therefore what areas of the wardrobe are running thin.

This, I won't kid myself, is a lot of work.  It took us probably two or three hours, including carrying baskets, trying things on, and cajoling and threats.  We took breaks to meet a friend, and another break for some yummy homemade granola snacks.   But  the work is behind us now and the clean, well-labeled storage area is smiling out at me at last.

The boys have relatively spacious closets and dressers.  The clothes are ready to go forth and multiply once again.

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