Wear, Don't Tear

by Donna LeSchander

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Clothing Kids Close to Free

Hand-Me-Down How-To's

Kids are tough on clothes. When they're not staining, ripping or scuffing, they are outgrowing them at an impossible rate. Here are some pointers for keeping your children's clothes nicer longer, as well as tips on hand-me-downs, storage and, bargains.

  • Invest in a few indispensables such as good quality stain remover, a small sewing kit and shoe polish. Use the stain remover during every wash, even for moderate smudge marks and stains. Being conscientious about this pays off in newer-looking clothing. Keep the sewing kit near your favorite chair for small jobs (sewing on buttons, repairing torn seams) while watching TV, and revive the lost art of shoe polishing by giving the kid's shoes a once-a-week polish. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.
  • Keep school clothes separate from play clothes. If you have the storage space, designate separate drawers for school and play clothes. It is easy to get lazy about this. But if you train your kids to change clothes as soon as they come home from school, they will be able to wear their nicest clothes to school, church, or other "it's important that you look nice!" places. If they mingle, you will end up with grass stains on expensive jeans and rips in the hems of holiday-worthy dresses.
  • Accept all hand-me-downs, and, if necessary, use that stain remover, sewing kit, and polish to get them back into working order. Try to work out a pattern with friends where everyone passes clothes along at the same time once or twice a year. If you belong to a playgroup or other informal organization for kids, suggest that everyone bring outgrown or unneeded clothing to the group every so often. Just because something is not your child's size now does not mean it will not be in a year or two. And, for the parents of girls, you can always sew a ruffle on the bottom of a dress to make it longer, if it otherwise fits.
  • Savvy moms know to buy at the end of the season for next year. Most parents can make an educated guess at what size their child will be in six months or so. If you shop online, click on the overstock selection of your favorite e-tailer for great deals on off-season merchandise.
  • Buy socks of all the same color, preferably white, because you can bleach them to look like new. When you lose one sock, as everyone invariably does, just save the second sock to the pair. The next time you lose a sock, pair up the remaining ones. This is a real time-saver on those mornings when you are fumbling around looking for socks when everything in the sock drawer always matches. If you have two or more kids, it makes sorting laundry easier, too. Just designate white socks for Sue and blue for John, etc. This works for underwear as well.
  • Speaking of socks, buy good ones. Cheap ones fall apart (where is the bargain if you have to keep replacing clothing?) and good ones really last. Other items that should not be skimped on are shoes, particularly if you want to pass them down to another child, sweaters (cheap ones usually look terrible, and they pill and fall apart as well), and girls' tights (the cheap ones run instantly and shred in the wash). Things that you can skimp on with impunity are raincoats (you can pick these up for about $5, and they keep them just as dry), underwear, and most summer clothing unless you are dead-set on handing them down. Most summer clothes will be played in so vigorously that they will be in tatters by the end of summer anyway.
  • Organize your storage systems! At the end of every season, move clothes that will not fit next year into boxes. For example, at summer's end, decide what clothes may fit the child next year (this will be a small pile). At the same time, go through last year's boxes. Now that it is fall, what clothes will fit my child? What clothes can be passed down to a sibling? Done regularly, this is a great time- and space-saver. It requires a few storage boxes and an extra chest of drawers, but it is worth it. When receiving hand-me-downs, just pop them into the appropriate box if they do not currently fit.
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