UPDATE: This post is 5 years old, so I wrote a quick update below.
“…If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright.”
Matthew 6:22, NWT
I made what may be potentially viewed as a radical decision for a mom. Heretical, even.
Especially for a mom with a larger family.
I Eliminated our Hand me Down/Off Season Clothing Stash
Most moms have one, especially if you have several children. You know, that collection of Rubbermaid containers in the attic or basement full of clothing kids have outgrown, which awaits another kid. Or off season clothing waiting to be used when the weather changes.
The supposed benefits of this practice? a) saving money b) convenience – shop from your stash!
Theoretically, it’s supposed to work.
But like all good ideas, it just doesn’t work for everyone.
Problems I’ve Encountered with the Hand Me Down Clothing Stash:
1) It is clutter
Pure and simple, it’s visual clutter that made me feel anxious every time I went downstairs. It took up way too much space in my basement, which we couldn’t even use for a kid’s rec room because of all the junk.
2) It isn’t simple
My stash actually caused me stress.
There are several reasons for this. For one, my girls could not keep their paws OUT of the clothing in storage. They thought it was great fun to go into the basement, upend a container, and throw stuff around (at least that’s what it looked like!), causing stuff to get dusty and buggy and spiderwebby. They would bring off season clothing upstairs to an already overcluttered bedroom… you get the picture. Nothing I did, discipline-wise, put a stop to it. It was just too tempting.
3) It discourages trust
This probably isn’t true of you, but for ME, having that stash made me wonder if I was really trusting God to take care of my needs. Planning for the future is good, but the stash may have been about fear, lack and limitation in my heart.
4) It felt greedy
Again, for me, having all that unused clothing felt a little greedy. I could have opened a kid’s consignment shop out of my basement!
Saving Ruby’s outgrown baby clothing for another arrival seemed wise, but there are other babies being born who could use it NOW. (And what it the next baby is a boy?) There are other tweenaged girls who could wear Zoe’s like-new jeans NOW. Giving a lot of this stuff away felt good.
Too much of a good thing is still too much.
5) It cost me money
Amazingly, the stash did NOT save me any money! The biggest reason is because I would simply forget what was tucked into those containers. I would forget to check them before shopping. To my chagrin I would spend money (even at thrift store and yard sale prices, it’s still money) and then discover that a child already had several of the item in question in storage. ARGH!
Another issue is that sometimes a kid wouldn’t grow as fast as I thought, so their last year’s clothing would fit just fine.
6) Unused things deteriorate
Clothing that I thought I was wisely saving for a younger sibling, that looked like it was in great condition, would emerge from the tubs with mystery stains that had resurfaced. Shoes would emerge covered in mildew. Yuck.
So a percentage of the clothing would have to be trashed anyway. Even if I spent time doing stain removal, it would have been wiser to just get rid of it in the first place!
Lemme get one thing straight: I despise shopping. I know, I must be missing a girl gene somewhere, but it’s true. If I could afford it, I would get all of my kid’s clothing on eBay and from online retailers.
I thought that the stash would help me avoid shopping, but it really didn’t.
Kid’s needs change, and they don’t always grow the way you think they will. Their tastes and styles also change. (There is also a little thing called Grandparents with deep pockets who just love to buy kid’s clothing!)
(This picture has nothing to do with eliminating the hand me down clothing stash. I just like it.)
Here’s what I did to get rid of the clothing stash:
1) I culled ruthlessly
I called each kid into the basement and had them go through the stash. If it didn’t fit NOW, it was put into a “sell/give/donate” container.
2) I gave it away at a clothing swap
I hosted another clothing swap for my homeschool field trip group. It feels great to give stuff away to people I care about!
3) I had a yard sale
I HATE having yard sales and swore I would never do another. But, I kept it to just one day, and hubby stayed home to help (which is always nice!), and ended up getting the de-cluttering bug and selling a ton of his old junk too!
4) I gave to charity
Tax deductions when both you and hubby are self employed? Yes, please. A women’s shelter emailed me and asked if they could have my unsold merchandise. Their truck picked it up the next day.
5) I threw stuff out
I just plain threw some clothing out. Polyester PJs? I hate ’em and have never purchased them for my kids. They smell bad (polyester holds on to a funky smell) and feel horrible (they don’t breathe, I swear polyester PJs cause nightmares!). Out, out, out. Anything stained or broken or whatever, out.
6) I sold stuff on eBay
Some of the nicest stuff that I knew would sell on eBay got listed last weekend. All the kids except baby were gone to grandparent’s house. So hubby and I tag teamed with Ruby and got a ton of stuff listed on eBay and Craigslist.
The only exception I made? Suits. Caleb’s $50 dress shoes and Sunday suits are saved for Julien. I also kept a few items that the kids would without a doubt use within a year. All that fits into just 4 containers! My basement is almost totally empty and I LOVE that.
Now, when I walk in there, I get a lovely light feeling, instead of a heavy anxious one.
What about you? Do you have a large “in case” or “hand me down” clothing stash in your home? Does it make life easier for you?
** June 2016 update **
I revisited this topic today when I posted a comment on The Frugal Girl’s blog in response to a question from her reader about saving kids’ clothing. Here’s what I wrote in the comments:
Years ago I committed to keeping almost NO kids clothing and have stuck to that with great success. It really depends on the family and how the kids’ ages and genders line up. For example I have:
Boy 18, Boy 15 then Girl 13, Girl 10, then Girl 6, Girl 4 and finally Boy 1.5
Boy #2 could get Boy #1’s hand-me-downs, but my boys wear their clothes until they’re threadbare and only fit for La Poubelle.
Girl #2 could get Girl #1’s hand-me-downs, but the girls have totally different styles and body types. My 10 yo will take the 13 yo’s clothing, but she won’t ever wear it because it just doesn’t look right on her. However, it WILL clog up her dresser causing it to break and making it impossible for her to close the drawers or actually FIND the stuff she does like to wear. I have hence forbidden the 13 yo to give 10 yo clothing without my approval (I can tell at a glance whether she’ll ever wear it).
Girls ages 4 and 6 wear the same size (body types again!) so hand-me-downs are a moot point.
And the baby wears a conglomeration of secondhand stuff given to us by friends and consignment shop/yard sale finds. And after he outgrows it, it’s trashed or resold (because I don’t know anyone with a smaller boy to give it to.)
So for now, saving clothes doesn’t really work in real life.
Saving clothes didn’t actually save me ANY money, it only increased the stress and hassle and clogged up my closets. Of course, every family is different.