Clear out

Who decided that boy’s shirts should button up a different way to girl’s shirts and why? I mean, it makes no sense. I am sure that both could cope with fastening to the right or to the left if that was the way it had always been. As it is, I am throwing away school shirts that are still perfectly serviceable because my daughter no longer needs to wear school uniform and my boy’s will not countenance the idea of wearing a girl’s shirt to school. Knowing the environment that they must face there each day I don’t blame them.

My daughter is my first born but I was pregnant with her brother before she was six months old so I was always planning ahead when buying her all the things that a child may need or benefit from. Not for her the pretty, frilly, pink things that shops love to promote for our little princesses. My girl wore onesies in bright, primary colours with cartoon animals or stars on them that could suit a boy or a girl.

As the years passed by my daughter was provided with shorts and t-shirts; tartan trousers and roll necks; easy to wear, pull on clothes that she could manage herself, play freely in, and that could then be passed down to her brothers. Kids grow so fast the outfits could just about be made to last until my third child had outgrown them before being consigned to the recycling box, stretched and stained beyond use by anyone else.

I would gratefully accept hand me downs from my sister’s twin boys and from friend’s children who never seemed to hammer their clothes as mine did. Perhaps they were just bought more to start with so each outfit saw less play. Most of these clothes were designed for boys but looked just fine on my daughter. I made sure that she had a dress or a skirt for parties, but these pretty, girlie clothes always seemed an extravagance and would be disposed of, outgrown well before they had worn out. Sure she looked cute, but tights are not as easy to deal with on an active child as a pair of elasticated shorts or trousers.

My daughter does sometimes comment that I dressed her in some odd looking outfits. This might concern me more if I didn’t have the same view of the clothes that my mother put my sister and I in when we were that age. My mother thought we looked so gorgeous; I look back at the photographs and cringe. My mother was a dressmaker, interested in fashion and liked to knit. To this day I hate hand knit clothes and refused to put my children in any such thing. I fear I offended a few elderly relatives with this hard line attitude.

I still try to get the most out of the clothes that I buy my children, although the days when things could be passed down are long gone. My boys are more or less the same height despite having a two year age difference, but they are very different shapes. They also have their own ideas about what they wish to wear and these differ markedly.

Meanwhile, my daughter has developed a more individual dress style. Her clothes are very much her own, although she will sometimes find something in my wardrobe that she can make use of without asking. I can’t complain too much. I only realised that she had taken a pair of sandals on a school trip to France, that I had bought myself for the summer, when I noticed she was wearing them in the photographs she showed me on her return.

Unlike their casual clothes though, many items of school uniform can be passed around. When a PE kit has been forgotten in a locker, a spare can be pilfered from a brother’s wardrobe; if mother has failed to wash enough shirts as quickly as expected, the name label inside the clean ones available can be ignored.

My daughter took great pleasure in throwing away the very tatty and rather tight, grey, school skirt, that should probably have been replaced six months previously, when she finished her exams in June. All being well she will enter sixth form in September where no uniform is required. In the meantime I have shared her school sweatshirts between her brothers who seem able to shred the sleeves of these garments within months. My daughter has worn hers for two years and they still look in reasonable condition, certainly good enough to act as spares.

But the shirts cannot be shared out. They have been worn for a couple of years so are not sufficiently pristine to pass on to another family; they have been bagged for recycling. I feel so uncomfortable throwing away clothes that have not developed tears or holes or stains that cannot be sorted. It feels so profligate and wasteful, which goes against my nature.

And then, of course, there will be the issue of what my daughter is to wear to school next year. When she is in civvies every day she is going to need a bigger selection of outfits than she currently possesses. My boys are always running out of garments of one sort or another in the holidays because, for most of the year, they only need to be out of uniform at weekends. I can see that an expensive shopping trip is going to have to be endured later this month.

I would happily take my boys along but suspect they will decline the opportunity to supplement their meagre collection of clothes. In their eyes, such shopping trips are unbearably tedious; my daughter likes nothing better than to get me into her sort of clothes shops where she can charm my credit card into action.

I have had a very successful clear out over the past few days. Bins have been filled, the local recycling centre visited and space created in the house and garage. Now I need to make sure that we don’t just fill those spaces up again too quickly. Certain items of outgrown school uniform will need to be replaced, and I don’t expect the house to stay this clean and tidy for long. It would be good though if we could manage to get by with a little bit less than we have just thrown away. I suspect that my children are unlikely to agree.


So many boxes and bins; unwanted items must now be sorted for recycling. 


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