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Taking Inventory: Back to School Clothes

Inspired by the Back-to-School swaps last weekend, I started to dig, dig, dig through the kids cooler weather clothes.  Tired of being harassed by the requests: "Can you get me some new jeans???  I absolutely need them." ... only to find about 5 pairs of perfectly fine jeans in the closet.  I decided to take inventory.  I sent the kids into their closets to count the number of items they each had (and, that fit well, not too short or small!) of the following: non-jean pants, jeans, short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts, pairs of socks, sweaters, jackets. Only after we've taken a tally have I decided to go out to find some other necessary items for their fall wardrobes.

Only...  I'm not sure where to go.  And, I'm not sure how much of each we need.  Tips or suggestions?  How are you going about gearing up for school?


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I have my kids try on all their clothes twice yearly. Then, I make a list of what's needed. I prefer two whole weeks of clothing in case the laundry gets behind. I look at the flyers to see what's fashionable this year. Is is stripes, baggy jeans, skinny jeans, plaid? I start at the Goodwill and then get a couple of things from "regular" stores.

Oh, and there's one more good back to school swap coming up. I'll be there with bells on!


I have to be honest that I don't think I get the whole back to school clothing thing. My kids are young and boys, so maybe they're not interested in clothes the way others might be or they might become at some point. But, they have clothes for the warm autumn and some jeans for when the weather turns. I buy things over the year as I find them on sale, so they don't have a wardrobe turn over at any point. When things are no longer useable, we replace them. I can't see buying new (to them or new in general) when they aren't needed just because they're going to school. But am I missing out on something by not doing it?

To answer Kim, we definitely feel the change in weather. The kids are looking for thicker sweaters (already!) in the morning and longer pants. So, I spent some time this weekend re-sorting so that I can put pants back on their shelves. We usually put them away in the summer time because they are unused. Our sweaters/fleeces are also not easy to find right now, so we need to unearth them and put them on the hooks for easy grabbing when we run off to school.

For us, it is less of whether the kids are "interested in clothes". They just want to be comfortable. The other day, another chilly morning, one of my kids started crying because she couldn't find two socks that fit her. Her feet were cold. We haven't been wearing socks in the summer, so I do want to be sure we have enough in the drawers.

sw mom: good tip on the 2-weeks worth. That's a good rule of thumb.

Since most of us here are looking to pinch pennies and are not afraid to buy gently-used items for ourselves or our little ones, I highly recommend the Just Between Friends Children's Consignment Sale--it's coming up in a month, so you have plenty of time to check out what fits, what doesn't, and what you truly need. The selection is unbelievable....there were close to 80,000 items to choose from last time including not only clothes, but books, toys, room decor, bikes...you name it, it's there. It's like the largest consignment shop you will ever go to, but they happen only twice a year, fall and spring.

The Fall/Winter 2010 Portland sales event will be Saturday, September 18 (9am-5pm) and Sunday, September 19 (9am-2pm--Many Items Half Off!), at the Portland Expo Center (2060 N. Marine Drive, Portland, OR 97217). Free admission.

If you want the best selection, you can volunteer for a 4-hour shift (or more) and shop before the Sale is open to the public. And, for all those clothes that are too small/short, you can consign them & make money on them. Lot of people buy less than they make on the items they sell. Not bad, eh?

Just Between Friends sales benefit, in part, the Portland Police Bureau‘s Sunshine Division and Washington County Foster Closet.

For more information, go to www.portland.jbfsale.com.

Thanks to Kevin's piece on AM Northwest, I'm trying Land's End now. Funny because I just got on the computer to see if Gap was having any kids clothing sales...I also love the Nordstrom little boy section now that they carry Mini Boden and Hanna...easy to score stuff on the sale rack because of it and I know it will last through two kids. Also love the Just Between Friends and Ever After Resale events.

I’m a professional organizer who works mostly with mamas with young children. In response to those advocating having at least 2 weeks’ worth of clothes, I often see nightmare laundry situations at the homes I serve because the kids have too many clothes. The more clothes a child has, the less need there is to do laundry regularly, so doing the laundry gets put off for a couple of weeks.

By that time, with every child having two weeks’ worth of dirty clothes, you can imagine how big a chore this becomes in washing, drying, sorting, folding and putting it all away. In fact, the clothes often don’t get folded and put away, leading to the “Mom, where’s my ….?” dilemma.

If you want to make your laundry situation more manageable and be able to find any article of clothing, have about a week’s worth of clothing for each child. Do laundry twice a week. Teach your children, maybe when they are about 8, to sort, fold and put away their own clothes.

I have seen over and over how much easier a mom’s life becomes by following those steps!

I am with you on replacing the clothes as they are getting too small or worn out. Also, I have a feeling (thought not confirmed by any research, just a feeling) that retailers expect parents to shop for clothes in late summer and therefore the prices are higher than at other times.

Dear respaced,

Two weeks works for us. I do laundry once a week. I keep two weeks worth of clothes per child because sometimes you get sick and can't get to the laundry . Or sometimes you have to pack for a week of vacation or summer camp. Once you pack, your kid still needs clothes on their body. Doing laundry twice a week would make me nuts.

old navy!

Wow. reSPACEd comment is really making me think about my situation. My daughter has a LOT of clothes, almost all of them hand-me-downs or used. Part of that is growth patterns (she hasn't outgrown clothes very quickly, but we still get things passed to us regularly). Part of that is the final stages of potty training, during which she's gone through four or five pairs of pants/dresses/underwear in a day. Part of it is a preschool program with lots of outside time, thus a very dirty child when she gets home, requring a whole new set of clothes. Part of it is the lure of the adorable $2 dress on a consignment rack.
AndI do laundry almost every day. There is probably never a time in our house that the washing maching doesn't have a load inside. There are only three of us ...
So, this weekend, I'm going to do some major paring down! But can someone tell me what the target number of outfits is, given the above circumstances? (Potty accidents, messy play, etc)

Thanks for the inspiration, the thought of being liberated from constant laundry is REALLY nice.

My preschooler is in a program with a lot of outside play, hence a lot of dirt on clothes. Plus she is whimsical, so the shirt she loved when purchased may be thoroughly rejected (permanently) a few weeks later. Argh. That said, I tend to buy some basic shirts/pants/shorts each season from Hanna Anderssen (on sale) or Gymboree because their clothes hold up VERY well to many, many washings. (And ZOUT is the best for serious stains!) Then for supplementary clothes like dresses, PJs etc. I'll buy consignment or cheaper brands. I tend to buy year-round as needed, but I know right now that last year's pants are too short, and we're headed into pants weather...

Do you remember when exactly Hannah Anderssen has its seasonal sales? I like to visit their outlet in L Oswego but I never know when it is the best time to go there. It is out of the way for me so I don't go often.

My kid is starting kindergarten and I like the "back to school" idea for just a date/time to purge, try things on, see what the kid will or won't wear, etc. I try to do that every season. The swaps and garage sales are great motivators and deadlines. We were lucky to get a great stash of long sleeved stripy shirts from a friend that fit great and will last through the winter. Otherwise I bought new jeans, two polo shirts, underwear, socks, undershirts and long sleeve shirts to go underneath the favorite short sleeves. All at Target or Children's Place Outlet and all on sale. I scored a great winter jacket for him at the uMama sale. Now on the look out for slickers, rain pants, and other misc. outerwear. He probably too many clothes (esp. shirts with something on them), and really likes to wear the same thing over and over (sports outfits and sweats). I do laundry about two times a week for a family of three, with two adults running and at the gym and an active kid.

We are a family of five & I do laundry every week day (I take weekends off). There are 4 of us doing some sort of sport and one messy preschooler. For me it is an easy chore, I throw in a load first thing in the morning, put in dryer when I have a free moment and fold it in the evening while watching tv or getting ready for bed (one or two loads is easy). The mountain of laundry gets overwhelming if I let it go any longer. Since we do laundry so frequently our clothing needs are fewer. My older kids have 3-4 days worth of school uniforms, and a few outfits for weekends. My little guy has 6 changes of clothes. This gives us a little slush if we have to skip a day of laundry.

I love this conversation. I wish I could get away with doing laundry only once or twice a week. We are a family of 5. I run, Dad works out, and the kids include a kindergartener and two preschoolers. I do 1-3 loads a day, depending on whether there are nighttime accidents to clean up after. If I left our clothes longer than two days, I'd be stuck at home an entire day doing laundry. This way, I can get it done in smaller doses. Like the previous poster, it does mean our clothing needs are fewer. Each kid has two pairs of jeans. one pair of nicer pants and 3-4 pairs of leggings/softer pants. Each has lots of shirts, mainly ones that can be layered though. Only 1-2 sweaters. We also have a waterproof jacket for each as well as a lighter fleece.

While mine are still young, I try to save money on clothes by shopping for basics at target, children's place and old navy. I know once they are older, there will be a lot more pressure to have the "right" clothes from the "right" stores. So, I am enjoying the freedom to buy cheap now!

Speaking of old navy, the Gap Friends and Family event starts tomorrow. It's 30% off anything at Gap, Gap Outlet, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Banana outlet. If you want the coupon, email me at skiranch at comcast dot net and I can send it to ya. We get lots of our shopping done at this event each year. It's a great time to stock up on basics like jeans, long sleeve t's and polos. (I have three boys.)

Also, Lands' End, where I buy my sons' terrific, sturdy (and they come in slim!) Climber Pants, is having a sale through August 31. 20% off on certain items (including the Climber Pants) and free shipping if you use the promotion code BOYHOOD, pin # 2114

This brings the Climbers to $20 each. I generally get my kids clothes at consigment stores and swaps, but these pants are my exception. They fit right and can be passed along to my younger son.

Hi Mamas -
I am opening a new business and it's right in line with what we're discussing here. Blue Egg is my" children's clothing & miscellany" shop. I will run it as a
"pop-up shop", usually once a month, in various locations around SE
Portland. Blue Egg is full of children's clothing, books & toys - all
of it either handmade, vintage or highest quality second-hand -
nothing new or mass-produced.

I hope you will join me for blue egg's back-to-school Grand Opening
this Friday, September 3rd, from 5:30-8:30pm at Sellwood Yoga (7970 SE
Milwaukie). If you can RSVP, that would be great (blueeggpdx@me.com), if not, please just
show up. I will have lots of back-to-school basics (jeans, sweaters, dresses, shoes) priced in the $2-10 range.
If you can't make it to the back-to-school event but would like me to put you on
the blue egg e-mail list to find out about future events and specials,
please let me know.

I buy almost all my kids basics from the Cotton Caboodle outlet store in Seattle. Just basic cotton leggings/pants/shirts in great colors. All between 1 and ten bucks. Then I make all the other stuff -pinafores/skirts/pants. With fabric around 10 bucks a yard, it's not really cheaper, but more fun than shopping! I also resale at consignment shops, so we have an on-going credit for shoes and pjs. I do splurge on shoes though. We always have a few pairs of either extra cute or extra sturdy shoes, at $40 a pop.

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