Rethinking Clothing

17 Feb

Back in the day, when I was going to Columbia College of Chicago, I met a girl from France named Marie.  She was a couple years older than me, but seemed so much  more worldly and sophisticated (partially because she was French I guess.)  We became friends the day she asked me to explain a word she didn’t understand…it was “tinker”.  Yeah.  We both got a laugh out of that one when I at first couldn’t explain it.  Eventually I said “You know how guys open up the hood of the car and do stuff?”  She got it, lol!

One of the things I noticed about her, that stuck with me, was that she wore almost the same thing every day.  She had a leather jacket, a cashmere scarf, jeans and little half boots that she wore consistently, the shirts only really changing daily.  She always looked fabulous, even in this casual wear.  As someone raised in a society that believed you couldn’t have too many clothes, just too small of closets, I was fascinated enough to say something about how she dressed.  Her response – It’s better to have a few good pieces you love that cost more, than a hoard of inexpensive clothes that you never wear.  In her world, for daily wear, one really fabulous scarf was good enough.

It was eye opening.  I’ve tried to keep this in mind with my own wardrobe.  Last year, I had the one pair of shoes, my beloved black Danskos in the oil puddle finish.  Yes, they were expensive, but I wore them literally daily, and am still using them 18 months later.  I tend to buy one purse a year, again, I might spend a bit more, but I get my money’s worth out of it.

However, I have not paid attention to these rules when buying clothes for the kids.  I somehow got into this “More is More” attitude, especially with the girls.  It doesn’t help that  my girls love clothes too, and are the same size.  And yet, even with all the clothes I bought, we were constantly looking for clean stuff because I was always behind on the laundry.  I went through it all, donated a huge amount of clothing, and got some hold on the laundry issues because of it.  Yes, getting rid of ten big black garbage bags worth of clothes made my life so much easier!  No more was I finding a child dressed in something too small, or washing stuff they tried on then discarded clean.  It was freeing!

However, clothing started to creep back in, at least with the girls.  I bought a fall wardrobe…but then saw some cute shirts elsewhere that I just had to get.  We always seemed short on pants or shirts (never both for some odd reason.)  When we were in the moving process, I went through the clothes as I washed everything, and took the opportunity to sort through clothes again, donating items that were about to be outgrown or we just didn’t love.

I worried, as I packed the suitcases, that we weren’t going to have enough clothing.  I mean, Maura’s a messy girl.  We can go through three outfits in a day, which was part of my reasoning for having as many clothes as I had for her. When the movers offered me a box for clothing to go on the air shipment that’s supposed to arrive earlier than the boat shipment, I packed all I could into it.

Then we got here.  And now I know why my friend Marie had only so many items of clothing.

Doing laundry here in Ireland is different than in the States.  It may seem like the same, but what is different makes it completely different.  In ten days, my thoughts on clothing needs has changed drastically.

In the U.S., laundry was a bit of a no-brainer for me.  Throw it in, wait for the beep, transfer to dryer, throw more stuff in the wash maybe, go about my life, complain about how long the dryer took or having to fold stuff, or how much laundry I had to do while waiting for the dryer to be done.  I had my matching Maytag Neptune set, my extra-large capacity washer and sensor dry dryer.  Somehow, I was always behind on the laundry, despite the fabulous set up.  We were always searching for clean clothes, or having to wash clothes.

The Laundry Room

When we got to Dublin, the house agent showed me the laundry room – the little tiny by American standards washer, the dryer that didn’t actually heat up much, and the drying rack.

Oh dear.

Mind you, the washer’s door can’t even open up all the way, because some builder put a big cabinet in front of it.  Yet that doesn’t affect life too much because the washer is that small.  You don’t have to reach way back to get something – it doesn’t go that far back.

The dryer up top?  Yeah, that’s more for show.  I put a load in, just for giggles, and forty minutes later the clothes were still as damp as before.  Yesterday, I decided to try it out more for fluffing the clothes a bit after I’ve hung them to dry, as crunchy socks aren’t my favorite.  It does a good job fluffing at least!

Because of all this, I found myself doing a load of laundry every day.  Not because I’m some supermom.  It takes almost a day for the clothes to dry on the drying rack – especially if it’s been raining!

It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?  All this work, hanging clothes to dry, more loads to be washed, no dryer!

But it isn’t.  I should be screaming down the street.  Instead, the kids all have clean clothes constantly.  It’s a bit ridiculous – when I had all the conveniences, I was behind.  Now that I don’t have that, I’m more ahead of the game than ever.

The drying rack

It has me thinking completely differently about our clothing needs.  We don’t need a closet full.  Heck, we don’t have closets here! (Calm down, we have built-in wardrobes, which are 100 times better than the closets we had in Michigan.)  And the reality is, the girls usually wear the same things over and over if they can – Miriam with her Yorkie shirts, Maura and her penguin shirts or dresses.  The boys do the same thing.  We’ve been doing great with our suitcase each of clothing.  Because I’m always doing the laundry – except I’m doing less loads a day than I did before.

So in an odd way…even though it’s more work, it’s now less work.

The problem now is…I’ve got like 47,000 boxes of clothing still coming to me by boat.  Plus one by air.  I’m going to have to weed through all that when it arrives, and decide once again what we really actually need.  Some local charity shop is about to get a very large donation methinks!

A view within the washer....


6 Responses to “Rethinking Clothing”

  1. chrissy February 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    This is a great post… and its really got me thinking about our clothes. I would love to hear more details about exactly how many clothing items you have for each kid and yourself too. We can never seem to find socks, even with all the laundry I do!

    Anyway, thank you for the post- I was thinking of you last night as we literally herded our cat who had escaped, back into the house.

    • phoebz4 February 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      When shopping, I’d try for 7 outfits plus dress clothes…so 7 tops, 7 bottoms…but then somehow, I end up with either too much or not enough. Usually too much with the girls, and not enough with the boys (who are constantly growing, so what fit last week may not this week.) Then we have the huge basket of socks, all unmatched. I made the mistake of thinking I could swap out new socks for old socks, throwing away all the old socks…except the kids got into the new socks before I could stop them, so I ended up making the problem worse! We’ll see what happens once everything gets here.

  2. Cathy A. February 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Hmm…I wear the same one or two pair of shoes, jacket, jeans and a few different shirts, too. But I don’t look chic and polished!
    I do agree that we don’t need as many clothes as we think. I didn’t realize a laundry room was “standard” to so many in the US, but more and more I see that. I always thought of it as a luxury.

    • phoebz4 February 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      Cathy – when I was packing for vacation one time, I laid out all my clothes…and realized I had a really bland wardrobe. Old Navy v-neck tops and Old Navy jeans. I’ve now spiced that up by adding camisoles to go under the v-necks…they’re from Old Navy as well, lol! I’m far from chic and polished myself. Honestly, the closet I’ll ever get to chic would be Shabby Chic 😉

      As for laundry rooms – growing up, the “laundry room” was the basement. As an adult, I’ve had different versions – basement, closet, utility room…I disliked the laundry closet the most because there was no place to put a pile, but at the same time, you had no place to put piles! lol!

  3. Leon Holmes February 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    You are gaining a lot of wisdom!!!! and freedom!!! I am very impressed. I may look at my closet too…


  1. And the changes have begun « Herding Cats - March 7, 2011

    […] between that and my newfound clothing realizations, I’ve been thinking about every purchase.  My favorite scarf, that I knitted myself, broke. […]

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