I never thought I’d be excited about a dumpster.
We were having some renovations done to the house recently, so it made sense to have one. Rotting window frames went in. Warped shingles went in. Then old, rusty lawn chairs and faded table umbrellas, followed by a recliner we’ve had for 20+ years, thank god. Suddenly, I didn’t recognize our basement because the majority of it was thrown into the dumpster. In just a matter of days, the ugly metal monstrosity sitting in our driveway had restored some order to our home.
The dumpster is gone but now it’s time to tackle another form of excess – clothing.
I try to teach my kids the difference between wanting and needing things, but then I find myself meandering through the racks at Kohl’s, tempted to purchase a cute dress I don’t need. Living simply, however admirable, is hard to do, and particularly hard for teenagers who think that looking your best and following trends is a priority. (I still don’t understand the boys wearing tall black socks).
I enjoy a bargain and I’m happy that I’ve passed this on to my girls. But apparently I’ve passed it on too well. We all have much more than we need.
You know you have a problem when your tween’s drawers and closet are bursting, yet she cannot put together a single outfit for an awards ceremony. Too much of anything is not good, even clothes. Note to self: Don’t offer to help a tween select an outfit one hour before an event – this is a battle a mother can’t win. No matter what adorable getup I suggest, she will find it unacceptable:
tween: That doesn’t fit any more. Why is it in your drawer?
tween: That has a stain on it. It’s in your closet because?
tween: I wear that too often. Who is noticing how often you wear anything?
tween: That looks like something you would wear. Excuse me?
tween: That’s too hot/cold/itchy/ugly… We need help.
It’s definitely time for my family to purge some clothing and to build up our shopping self-restraint muscles. Here is some wisdom my family still needs to adopt:
Less is more. Just as I felt sheer relief when I saw my basement cleared of way too many objects, my daughter would be better off (or at least not feel paralyzed) if she had a lot less of everything. If we all had walk-in closets and could see every article of clothing we owned, it might be possible to wear a different outfit every day for a month or more. There are no walk-ins here. These days, if I look into my older daughter’s room and see laundry baskets, they could be filled with dirty clothes or they could be home to clean clothes that don’t fit in drawers and closets. I refuse to wash a basket full of laundry that smells like Tide detergent. It’s time to weed out and make more space.
Remember the lay-away system. If you were a kid in the ‘70s and ‘80s, your mom may have used the lay-away system of shopping. If you didn’t have the funds to pay for items immediately, the lay-away system held the items so you could come back and purchase them when you had the cash. It certainly was not fun to walk out of a store empty-handed but I now admire my mother’s determination to avoid debt. The other perk to lay-away was that you thought more about your purchases. Today, with store credit perks, it’s so quick and easy to charge now and pay later. But even if you pay off that credit card each month, there remains the issue of accumulating more clothes than are needed (and possibly ending up using laundry baskets for storage).
Donate clothes periodically to Good Will or to friends and family. It feels good to recycle clothes. It feels good to the giver and the receiver. It frees up space.
Do what you love to do. If you are totally engaged in what you’re doing – cooking, jogging, hanging out with friends, reading, cleaning – what you’re wearing matters less. If you have the basics and a reasonable number of fun items in your closet, why not save your money for really special purchases. I try to remember this when a really good department store coupon arrives in the mail and my brain starts wondering how I can best use it. What do I need? Usually I need nothing — not even that cute little dress I had my eye on.
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In a couple of months, my oldest child will leave for college where she will have very little space for her clothes. Right now is a perfect time for her to decide which clothes she truly needs and loves. The rest can find a new home. If her little sister does the same, maybe she will get a few new (recycled) items from her sister.
* Photo: gastonia-roll-off-dumpster-rentals.jpg