I am contemplating nudity.
Not even the fun kind. I’m just considering how much less complicated life would be if I didn’t have to take care of everyone’s clothes.
There’s the daily washing and drying and sorting, the making sure that everyone has clean socks as often as possible.
I can be completely caught up with laundry on Monday, and by Wednesday the house will be overrun again.
And I don’t mean just: “Gee, the laundry hamper sure is getting full! Better get on that!”
It’s more like: “I am afraid to tell the kids to put their dirty socks in the laundry basket, in case there is a dragon living under all those clothes waiting to devour them. Because the pile is big enough to house a dragon and because I have no other idea how it could be so big, that’s why.”
This explains why I have been wearing the same shirt since 2011.
There’s nothing else clean.
The real problem, though, is that the children keep growing. Growing means the clothes stop fitting, and the children cast them out to make room for their newer, bigger things.
I stuff the outgrown things in the back of my closet so I won’t have to figure out what to do with them. There’s an ever-growing pile in there of neatly stacked but too-small tees and shorts and sweatshirts. I will continue to avoid that pile until it threatens to topple and crush us all like fire-roasted tomatoes.
If I pull them out, I have to decide for every single thing:
a) Is this worth saving for the next kid?
b) If not, is it a sentimental keepsake that really ought to be pieced into a quilt?
c) On what planet do I have time and energy to quilt up the old clothes?
d) Maybe it should be traded in at the secondhand store. Or given away?
e) Wait! Are these natural fibers? I could compost it!
Now multiply that times at least a dozen garments and a half a dozen kids and every season of every year.
Now remember why you do not like to do math in your head.
Now come to the conclusion that I was right to begin with, nudity is a very reasonable option.
Especially because buying new clothes in bigger sizes requires that you establish a personal code of conduct before you even start shopping. Do you buy local, fair trade, organic? Soy-based? Homespun? (No.)
I have decision fatigue and it’s not even 10:00am.
When I was a kid, I do not remember clothes being a big deal. You bought them, you wore them, after awhile they magically disappeared, never to be seen again. Did we not save them? (Probably we did not.) Were there none of those complicated internet buy-sell-swap sites? (There were not.)
I think the choices were pretty much Give Away, or Throw Away. I don’t think my mother spent a lot of time squinting at tags, trying to determine whether the worn-out shirt was 100% cotton (because: compostable!), or a cotton-poly blend (in which case: not). She may have been on to something there.
Sometimes I think: we ought to save everything, the next kid will need it someday. And other times I think: we ought to give it all away, someone else needs it now. Sometimes I compromise by giving away all the socks and sweaters and saving the shorts and tee shirts. I just don’t want anyone to be cold.
Other times I stuff everything in the closet.
Your needs or mine, now or later?
It’s the first lesson of kindergarten: Please share! It’s a cornerstone of my faith: Love your neighbor as yourself. And now the laundry has turned into a spiritual dilemma, as laundry is wont to do.
Seeing Evelyn, at six months old, wearing pajamas that Abigail wore, then Owen, then Audrey, then Sadie, then Eli—there’s something charming in that, something secure and comfortable, something that speaks of stability and tradition and endurance.
And yet some neighbor somewhere surely needs little boys’ size 2T sweat pants.
“Mama?” the six-year-old says. “What are we doing with all these clothes on the floor of the closet?”
Well. That is the question, isn’t it.
P.S. – One small thing you really can do with those outgrown clothes. (No, it’s not “make them into a quilt.” Though you can if you want to!)