Saturday, March 26, 2011

Project Simplify - Week 3 Results

For the past three weeks I have been participating in Simple Mom's Project Simplify, a five week challenge that has us focusing each week and a different hot spot around our home.  This week's hot spot was our children's clothes and toys.  I had every intention of posting my results (so far) of decluttering the kid's belongings last evening, but my body had a different idea and when I lay down for "a few minutes" to let medicine kick in for a big headache I fell asleep for the night instead.  I'm feeling great today and ready to share my results.

While our days are typically pretty full, this week has been busier than usual with several days filled with things like volunteering for the science fair and serving as a chaperone on Princess Wonder's field trip to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (where, not surprisingly, she and the other girls in our group joyfully discovered a fairy house at the base of a large tulip poplar and a smattering of fairy dust on a rock along our path).  As a result, I have not yet gotten to all of the hot spots of children's clothing, toys, and books around my house.  "Not yet" being the operative words here.  With three little ones who I am trying to get involved in cleaning/purging their belongings, I have to be a bit more creative - and intentional - about the time that I carve out for the decluttering process.

So, without further ado, here are the before shots of Enthusiastic Explorer Boy's (E2B) closet and wardrobe drawers.

E2B's closet before cleaning it out.  Did I mention that he loves to build with Legos?  All of the bricks you see pictured here were purchased at yard sales.

The green bin and cardboard box that you see at the top of the closet are filled with off season clothes and clothes for the next year or two that were obtained second hand.  Although you can't see them, there are also two small boxes where I keep shoes (everyday casual, dress, and soccer cleats) that have also been purchased second hand for future wear.  Rather than pay full price for new shoes, I have been able to find high quality shoes for pennies on the dollar that still have years of wear left in them.  The most that I have spent for a pair of shoes at the thrift is the $14.98 I paid for a pair of Dr. Martens boots.  The boots appear never to have been worn and retail for $70 - they will be perfect for hiking in this summer.  While E2B and I were working on his closet yesterday, I pulled out a pair of Keen sandals for him to wear this spring and summer.  I paid $0.98 for them a year or two ago at the thrift as opposed to the $45 I would have had to pay new today.

I seem to have gotten off topic in my enthusiasm for extolling the benefits of thrifting.  Back to decluttering...

As a starting point, I asked E2B to look through his closet and drawers and take out any clothes that either no longer fit, that he didn't particularly care for, or that - even if they fit or he liked them - he didn't really wear.  He came out of his room with absolutely nothing.  I'm sure that a big part of this was due to the fact that he would rather be outside playing with his friends than inside cleaning with me.  Nevertheless, we stuck to it and were able to make good progress.

E2B's pajama drawer.  He is expected to put away his own clothes after they are washed and, as you can see, the concept of putting things away neatly is something we are still working on.  This drawer was very full even without the three pairs of pajamas that were in the laundry.
E2B's shorts drawer.  Other than to put in a couple of pairs of shorts picked up at a consignment sale recently, this drawer hasn't gotten much use for the past five months.

And here are the after pictures:

The top part of E2B's closet.  The bottom portion of the closet still needs to be picked up a bit,  but overall he has his Legos well organized.  After two hours of trying on and organizing his clothes I thought it best to let the kid get outside and play.  Picking up will happen over the weekend, though!

I decided to use the same technique that was so helpful to me in clearing out my own clothing and I had E2B try on everything in his closet and wardrobe.  He wanted to hold onto a number of shirts with sleeves that were definitely on the short side because he "really liked" them.  Rather than keep a closet full of long sleeve shirts that were too short, I told him that he could choose one to keep until this summer but that it was time for the others to be moved on to someone else who could wear them.  Allowing him to keep a favorite shirt, despite the fact that it didn't fit particularly well, along with pulling out other shirts from his bins at the top of the closet that were new to him was enough to make him feel at peace with getting rid of the others.

One thing that I insisted we whittle down because they were sitting on the top shelf of his closet were E2B's sports trophies - he had six of them sitting in there and I told him that we need to limit the number that he keeps to five.  He had a hard time picking the one trophy to get rid of and there were tears involved - because logic doesn't always hold that much sway with adults when it comes to our stuff let alone a seven year old - that made me waver.  On the one hand, I don't want to keep everything that comes into the house nor do I want to cultivate a strong sense of attachment to "stuff" amongst my children.  On the other hand, he is a kid and he is proud of his trophies.  

In his book The 100 Thing Challenge, Dave Bruno ultimately decided that he would not force his children to purge their belongings while he was on a journey to tackle his own consumer behavior.  This is what Dave had to say about reaching this decision after asking his daughters to part with some of their dolls and what came to my mind as I discussed getting rid of a trophy with E2B.  "The truth is that there is no direct correlation between a young girl's loving care for her doll and a grown man's greed for ever more objects of status.  When a child is forced to give away a cherished toy, it is more likely to damage her heart than build up her character.  That is not the same for adults who can learn a good deal about virtue when they restrict their covetousness."  In the end I proposed to E2B that we take one trophy out of his room and if he is still missing it in a week or two he can have it back.  If, on the other hand, he forgets about or decides that he no longer minds not owning the trophy then we will find a new home for it (Running Man actually can use them in his office where they routinely hold a variety of fun events in which winners are given repurposed trophies).

I'm curious to know what techniques others use to help their children purge clothes, toys, and objects like sports trophies.  Any suggestions?

E2B's pajama drawer after giving two pairs of superhero (complete with cape) pajamas to Princess Wonder - one of which she proudly wore last night - and at least six other pairs to a neighbor.  Really, how did we end up with so many pairs?  I think that they must multiply in the dark solitude of that drawer.
E2B's shorts drawer post-purge.  I now know that I don't need to buy any more shorts for this summer - he's set!

E2B's pants drawer after the purge (I didn't take a before photo) - even with an additional pair or two of pants in the laundry it is clear to me that I need to keep my eyes open for some more jeans.

In the end, we were able to pass along a bag of clothes that no longer fit E2B.  Even so, I think that he still has more clothes - especially shirts - in his room than he realistically needs or will wear.  We decided to turn all of the hangers around so that they are hanging backwards and will only turn them around the correct way once something has been worn.  After a few weeks we'll be able to see what is actually being worn and we'll hopefully be able to whittle down what remains even further.

There are two lessons that I took away from working our way through my son's clothes this week and I know that they'll only be reinforced as I tackle the girls' rooms.  The first is that my children have more clothes than they need.  Because I buy the kids their clothes about a year ahead of time through second hand sources, I am able to build up their wardrobes for a particular season before they need them.  The downside to this - the way that I do it, anyway - is that I don't know what I have already purchased and I end up with more of a particular time of item than is necessary.  So the change that I am going to make is that I will begin keeping an inventory of the children's clothing.  That I way I can make a more informed buying decision about a piece of clothing when I come across it in a thrift store, at a consignment sale, or at a yard sale.

The second lesson I learned is that I need to go back and take another look mid-season at the clothes out in the children's closets/wardrobes and those that have been packed away for future wear.  E2B has grown enough since this fall that certain clothes that fit five or six months ago are now too small and other clothes that were packed away because they were too big are now just right.

I'm linking up to Simple Mom's hot spot #3 results post a day late - I look forward to seeing the progress that other folks have made as well.  Come join us!

"Expensive clothes are a waste of money."  ~Meryl Streep


  1. Interesting blog. I read a few of your posts and they are intriguing. I like the quotes at the end of each post. I'm going to go check out that 100 things link now. Kids stuff IS the hardest.

  2. I think I see my kid's ideas about what they need and about what they don't coming from my distaste for clutter. They are slowly but surely learning about how to pinpoint what they really like and what they don't really play with. I never make them give anything up they don't want to, but somehow they are learning that more doesn't equal better. Now this is for my chickadees who are 4&5. Maybe it helps to start early. Maybe it helps to talk about real need. I don't know. I'm ruminating. Great job though!