Holly went on a clothes-purging spree Sunday night.
On the one hand, this is better for me than a clothes-buying spree, which is more typical of what she usually does if given the opportunity. On the other, I was a little shocked by how many items ended up in the giveaway pile as she tore through her bureau drawers. When she was done, it appeared to me she’d kept about one-third of what she owns and opted to get rid of the other two-thirds.
I have to admit that I could see the method in her madness. As I’ve bemoaned many times over the past year, both in print and to any listening ear, both of my kids now limit their everyday wardrobes to about three or four different items per season. Holly started third grade wearing the same hoodie every single day and insisting that there was nothing unsanitary about it since she changed the t-shirt underneath daily. Much as I struggled to change that habit, it ended up that Mother Nature came to my aid: once we reached late autumn and it was chillier, Holly started wearing long-sleeved shirts and didn’t like the way the hoodie felt over those shirts, so she gave it up. But that only led to the problem that she was rotating among just three or four favorite long-sleeved shirts, and two or three pairs of pants.
Meanwhile, her bureau drawers were stuffed with other items I hoped she’d eventually be tempted by: colors (such as pink) that she claims not to like anymore; styles (such as straight-legged jeans) she says she finds uncomfortable; dresses that she says are too dressy. “My style is stylish but sloppy,” she informed me. “I don’t like clothes that make me look all neat and put together.”
Oh sure, who would ever want to look neat and put together? Well, me, for one. But as I’ve learned more times than I can possibly count over my twelve and a half years of parenting, our children are different people from us. And considering the genetics, who knew that any daughter of mine could ever hope to have any kind of defined style whatsoever – even one defined as “stylish but sloppy”?
Several of the garments Holly put in the discard pile were old favorites that she accurately recognized she’s begun to outgrow, but others were pretty dresses that she just isn’t interested in wearing. And somehow she’s managed to intuit the same closet-weeding rule that many of us have to tell ourselves over and over again: “If I haven’t worn it in the past year, why do you think I’m suddenly going to decide I like it?” she asked me.
Well, because tastes change as you grow up, and you’re growing up really fast, I wanted to tell her. Sure, that floral sundress from Talbot’s Kids might not appeal to you for right now, but starting in fourth grade, you’re going to have to dress up for the semiannual school concerts, and that dress would be perfect.
But at the same time, dresses for young girls really aren’t that expensive, and it will be fun to pick one out together when that time arrives.
In a way, I’m still conflicted. Two of my friends who heard about Holly’s wardrobe purge were impressed. “That's a good thing! Too many choices and options are what cause stress, so narrow it all down to the necessary basics!” my friend Desa said.
And I know she’s right: Holly is executing on a habit that many of us adults are still trying to develop. It’s true that if she needs something she doesn’t have – a concert dress, a pair of pink tights, a white cotton cardigan – I can buy it for her. At the same time, it’s not a very positive message in terms of conservation of resources to approve of her getting rid of things we might just end up replacing.
But the bottom line is that she’s developing a good habit by learning to cut down. “Gotta love a kid who learns the skill of de-cluttering early on. I'm still working on developing that in myself,” my friend Kathleen observed. So I won’t stand in Holly’s way. This morning, I scheduled a pickup from Big Brother Big Sister, which accepts clothing donations. If her tastes change in the near future, we’ll restock her wardrobe. Until then, we’ll just enjoy the sight of neat, almost bare shelves and closet racks, as Holly continues to wear her three or four favorite seasonal outfits.