September 6, 2012

Weeding Out Elizabeth's Shirt Drawer: A Riveting, Thrills-and-Chills Kind of Post

I needed to go through Elizabeth's shirt drawer. Well, ALL her clothing drawers, but the shirt drawer was most urgent, especially because soon it will be time to put away short sleeves.

It is very tempting to overbuy for her. I have the following excuses prepared:

1. She is my only girl. (I can spin this either way: for the boys, I justify overbuying by saying I'll get so much use out of handmedowns.)

2. She's so EXCITED by new clothes. If I come home from an outing and I say I bought her a new shirt, she is LEAPING AROUND with excitement. It's very gratifying, especially compared to the boys. She likes to help shop for them, and I find her little opinions amusing.

3. She has been in the same size for SO LONG. So each year when the clearances roll around, I buy more extremely inexpensive clothes I can't resist---but it's been three years now, I think, so things have really PILED UP.

4. She DESIGNS each day's outfit. She has specific ideas. I feel motivated to make sure she has all the resources she needs for an all-yellow outfit or an all-stripes outfit, because I find the results so fun.

5. I like to buy things.

So. This is her short-sleeved-shirts-and-tanks drawer, dumped onto her bed:

I started by putting everything in piles, mostly by color because I find it easier to get rid of things if I'm thinking "This child does NOT NEED fifteen pink shirts, so which of them will we keep?" instead of thinking "Should I get rid of this shirt? ...this shirt? ...this shirt?":

There are a few non-color-based piles. The first pile in the back row is sleeveless tops, because those are their own category of shirt type, and because she can't wear them to school, so for both those reasons I want to consider the quantities separately from the other shirts. The second pile in the back row (stripey) is a single shirt I love, which she won't wear; I need to remember to force her to wear it one time and THEN I'll give it up. (She is accustomed to such deals.) Last pile in the back row is a shirt I know she won't wear anymore because it's too short for her, but I want to make sure to put it aside for Niece Handmedown because it used to be a favorite.

Once the piles were established, I went through them one at a time. Here is the pink pile spread out in front of the other shirts. It's kind of a confusing picture, I realize, with an insufficient sense of pile height, but it's what I've got:

FIFTEEN pink shirts. FIFTEEN. And the pink pile wasn't even the tallest pile! (The blue pile was tallest.)

The first thing I noticed was that FIVE of the shirts featured butterflies, so that seemed like a good culling area. We kept one that had an overall pattern of butterflies (as opposed to one big featured butterfly), one that doesn't really look like a butterfly because it's made up of words, and two that feature large butterflies but they go with almost all of her skirts and she preferred one and I preferred the other so we kept both.

...So....we got rid of one shirt. Hm. This is an unpromising start. But I also noticed there was a butterfly shirt in white that was nearly identical to the one I didn't want to get rid of in pink, so I got rid of the white one:

There was also a SECOND butterfly shirt in the whites pile that seemed boring compared to the ones we were keeping, so that one went too. So that's THREE shirts gone, even though it's only one from the pinks.

I got rid of the pink Hello Kitty shirt, because I know she has a bunch of those in various colors and this particular one isn't a favorite. And she never wears the solid pink shirt above it in the photo, so that went too.

I got rid of a pink shirt that has an adorable fake ad for a rollerskating rink on it, because Elizabeth won't wear that kind. WHY WON'T SHE? I love that kind! But she won't. There were more than three of that sort, but here are the three I was saddest to get rid of:

All Lands' End, too. SIGH. It's comforting to think maybe my niece won't have the same objections. And if she does, by then the pain will have faded.

Here's the After picture of the pink pile:

It's down from fifteen to eleven, which is not HUGELY encouraging but eleven IS better than fifteen. It IS better. SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Plus, some of those are unlikely to fit in the spring, and maybe I can do a second run through the pile in a couple of months. We'll call this "the first pass."

Fast-forwarding through the rest of the piles because otherwise this could get even more tedious, here's what I had at the end:

The three piles to the right are all going: the leftmost of the three is Niece Handmedowns; the middle is Too Meh To Save For Niece; the rightmost is unisex Threadless tees Henry can wear. (There were also a few in too poor/stained shape for donation that Paul ripped up for workshop rags before I took the picture.) It doesn't look terribly impressive, especially compared to the Keep Piles (and especially because a lot of those Keep Piles are only two shirts high, but all the eye registers is LOTS OF PILES), but it's twenty-five shirts we're getting rid of. The drawer CLOSES now.

One reason I like the "dump it all out and sort it" technique is that there were quite a few shirts I'd had no idea she had two almost-identical ones. She had the same navy blue polo in XS and S. She had two Peter-Pan-collared light-blue school-uniform-type shirts. She had two green Hello Kitty shirts. For those it was pretty easy to just say "Okay, I will choose ONE."

I also got rid of her kindergarten graduation shirt from a year ago, and her camp shirt from this past summer, both of which appear to be men's size small and go down to her knees like a dress, and also the tie-dye one she made at school that she enjoyed at the time but has never worn since.

I had her sit with me for part of the process, and that was helpful too. There was a very pretty shirt I lightly scolded her for not wearing, and she said, "It looks like a DRESS for a BABY," and I thought, "....It DOES look like a dress for a baby." Toss.

There were also quite a few where, if I'd considered them individually, I would have felt like keeping them---but seeing them against all the GREAT shirts, they were easy to let go.


Anonymous said...

This is a good methodology for culling! I don't think I would have thought to organize them first, as I normally just look at them individually to make the decision.

I am expecting in March so I can't wait until we find out for sure it is a girl (I am pretty's weird but I was pretty certain the last time when it was a boy too). Then I can go through the many, many tubs of baby clothing and sort through which ones are neutral enough to keep or good enough condition to gift to our friends or donate.

StephLove said...

I'm all for drawers that close. It's a ongoing problem here, esp. for the girl child who doesn't even have her own dresser, just a set of stacked clear plastic bins for her clothes, with overflow space in my dresser.

You're brave to cull with her there, though. I always do it when I am completely alone in the house.

Auntie G said...

I actually love posts like this. It's comforting to know that I am not the only mom who overbuys for a variety of completely valid reasons. I too would be sad about the loss of the vintage-y ad shirts; I like those a lot. I have boys and it's even harder to keep from buying basically the same shirts over and over again, because there are far fewer options, as well you know. :)

Nicole said...

Having only boys, I vicariously enjoyed this post so very much. I buy so many clothes for myself that it's probably good we don't have a girl, otherwise we would be in the metaphoric poorhouse.

Her pink shirts are like my black sweaters. Fifteen! But they are so very pretty.

Does she love shoes too? See? This is GOOD that I have boys who really don't care what I buy them - although Jake DID really enjoy the Lego Star Wars shirt I bought him. So there's that. NOT EXCITING.

Also, how fun to save stuff for your niece. I bet she'll totally be into those adorable rollerskating ones.

Shalini said...

I have a deep, untherapized love for getting rid of things, so I hope you do posts like this ALL OF THE TIME.

Bailey said...

My daughter is five, and my little warrior: 48" tall and 60 lbs. We never have a chance to acrue much in one size before she's clearly pushing into the next one. With our foray into school clothes this year, I'm hoping things slow down a little.

We organize her clothes with this ( cubby thing from Target and collapsable fabric bins. The nice thing is, with nine categories it's really separate: long sleeves, short sleeves, pants, shorts, skirts, pajamas, undies, socks, swimming/snow. Just hang dresses, and you're home free!

Swistle said...

Nicole- SHE DOES LOVE SHOES TOO, YES! She has the sparkle flats they sell at Christmas, and she wears them all year in several colors.

Still Playing School said...

Several things:
1. I love this, but then again I just love YOU! We need to go through E's clothes to switch her furniture to the baby's room, so great tips, thanks!
2. This makes me both look forward to and nervous for when E has opinions of her own about clothing.
3. Unisex hand me downs rock. E just got a boy's Star Wars shirt that I'm excited D can wear someday!
4. Having an only girl is both great and sad for clothing weeding!

Kristin H said...

You know what the great thing is about your posts? They're like Seinfeld, in that they seem like they're not about anything all that important, but they're always about something that IS important. Or at least relevant. I LOVE posts like this. Because dealing with the kids' clothes is a HUGE job and it's something I have to deal with -- it's only my job, not my husband's -- and it's not earth-shattering but it IS the sort of thing I have to deal with in everyday life. THAT is what I love about your blog. And also, thank you for reminding me it's about time to pull out the fall clothes.

Swistle said...

Kristin H- This is one of my favorite compliments ever. EVER.

d e v a n said...

haha - I use #1 as my excuse EVERY time I buy clothes. (for any of the children)

M.Amanda said...

I applaud your enthusiasm. After wading through countless bags and boxes of handmedowns from several relatives several times a year for 4 years, it seems like a chore to me now. (And I feel like an ungrateful jerk for feeling like that because FREE CLOTHES. And SUPER CUTE FREE CLOTHES.) I finally got to the point where I only have to figure out what fits her and is season appropriate twice a year, then I went and had a baby boy!

Nearly all of last Saturday was spent packing away too-small 3Ts, sorting big 3Ts that still fit and 4Ts that fit into drawers, and setting aside 4Ts that will fit and be appropriate when it finally gets colder. Then I did something similar with 12M and 18M onesies.

So you know what that means, right? Here comes the growth spurt!

Traveller said...

Nice post. My question is about blogging. Do you start the day thinking "I'm going to organize E's shirts and perhaps I'll blog about it, so I better take pictures along the way"? Or do you just do it, figure out when you are done that it might make a good post and recreate the pictures? Or do you just typically take pictures of everything you do?

Saly said...

I think you might know this about me, but going through and reorganizing drawers as well as changing out clothes for the seasons, is one of my favorite Mom Jobs.

Also, I totally plan on using the twins as an excuse to go overboard on clothing, not that I need another one.

Swistle said...

Traveller- What usually happens is that for several weeks I'm thinking "*groan* I need to do that chore *whine*," so it ends up being on my mind a bit. And almost anything that's on my mind, I start automatically writing it into a post. So then if it seems like it might make a post I'd like to write, I think, "Well, then, maybe I can make myself do the chore by thinking about blogging about it!" And then I think, "Okay, ready to do it! ...Guess I'd better take pictures."

Tommie said...

Oh my goodness, I did this very thing yesterday with my younger daugther's shirt AND pants/shorts/skirts.

My husband has a granddaughter who is a two and a half years younger than our daughter, so I get to send everything her way.

O is on the thin side, so size 4 shorts and capris still fit her (she'll be six in November) but pants have to be a size 5 to be long enough.

I love packing away and sending boxes of clothes off to some other mother (my step-daughter-in-law) to have to deal with. :-)

Daycare Girl said...

Kristin H. is absolutely right about the Seinfeld comment! Yes! That's it!
Also, now I'm thinking about how I need to do this in my kids' closets, and how your system may make it easier. so thank you for that.

velocibadgergirl said...

I have SO MUCH TROUBLE weeding out Nico's clothes. I should bookmark this for an idea of method, though for now I can justify keeping almost everything in case Impending Baby is also a boy. Or a girl who wears a LOT of blue.

Lynnette said...

Yes! It's a blog about nothing! It's a water cooler blog!

As far as not getting rid of very much, just remember the words of one of my favorite people: "Drops IN the bucket! IN!" Then come to my house and go through my kid's clothes.

Mama Bub said...

WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE ROLLER SKATING SHIRT? I have a Hannah and just about lost my mind when I saw that cute shirt.

Bibliomama said...

I love your double-sided justification. Both my kids have always gotten gratifyingly excited about new clothes (bought or made by Grandma) even though one's a boy. We also have the drawers-that-won't-close problem. And the five-pink-butterfly-shirts problem (except usually purple in our case). Eve is nine now, and frighteningly organized - last week SHE went through her closet, tried everything on, gave me the too-small stuff to get rid of and colour-coded everything else. I'm thinking of giving her fifty bucks to do the rest of the house.

Swistle said...

Mama Bub- Niece Pile! Isn't it cute? We bought another for a Hannah in Elizabeth's class, just on a whim!

Joanne said...

I love this so much, it's been so hot here and miserable and I feel like fall is never coming, so I'm afraid to cull my girls' summer clothes. If I put out a long sleeved dress, my three year old will wear it to preschool with tights and a sweater and DIE on the playground, so I can't do it yet. My girls are 4 and 3 and 11 months so I have to keep everything but I'm always dying to organize it better than it is, and this helps! In fact, I'd say it was RIVETING! Ha!

H said...

My daughter is 21 now and I still have a hard time getting her to throw/donate/weed out anything. She claims to have emotional attachments to most of her clothes. So, we keep them until they are ridiculously old or small or whatever, and then she will either agree to save them in her childhood memory box (actually, her "box" is several plastic bins now) OR she will claim that it is my fault that she kept clothes for too long. (For example, I wouldn't buy her new ones...or whatever.) Once, my husband and I did a sneak and throw during which we claimed to be organizing but were really putting things in the trash. (She also keeps things other than clothes, such as a special rock or that one drawing she did in the car.)

I kind of worry she's going to show up on Hoarders one day.

SIL Anna said...


Also the "dress for a BABY" comment is very funny.

Snoopyfan said...

H-You just described my 9 year old to a tee! I can not do things like this when she is home or it ends in tears for us both.

Kami said...

I would have paid you for the pink roller skate one if my daughter wasn't a bit bigger than yours. Her name is Hannah that does say Hannah on it, right? Cute!