On Wednesday last week we went to town for a big shop. By big I mean a monster, all day, get everything at once, type of shop (which to be fair, is the main type of shop we do). If you’ve been following a long for a while you might know that I occasionally get my ranty pants out about the ethics of shopping and consumerism (see here and here, and here too for some examples). So I thought that I would write about how I try to clothe my kids as ethically as possible. For us this means not wasting resources by buying lots of unnecessary clothes, trying to source clothing from local businesses, and buying (where possible) clothes that are manufactured ethically.
We also avoid buying short, tight, revealing clothing for any of the kids (that is a whole other post some time).
Add to that, we are a family on a budget. While we are prepared to pay a little more for quality, we don’t have unlimited money for clothing, so here is how we buy clothing as ethically and cheaply as possible:
Be realistic about how many clothes the kids need.
A few years back, I went through Meg’s drawer and she had 23 long sleeved t shirts. Some still had tags on them. Between my mother, mother-in-law, and I each picking up a few when they were ‘on special’ they had accumulated. Needless to say I culled immediately.
Kids don’t really need that many outfits, particularly once they go to school. It’s so easy to get carried away by all the cute (or cheap) out fits in the shops. Being realistic about how many outfits they need for your lifestyle is important. For example, here on the farm we need a few outfits that can get dirty, but only one or two dresses or skirts.
At the same time make life easy for yourself by having enough of the items that get used so that you don’t have to wash too often. Toby has 14 pairs of long pants for winter, which seems crazy, until you know that his pants get wet in the grass during winter, so most days he goes through two or three pairs. Suddenly 14 pairs isn’t so excessive. The girls don’t have nearly that many.
Use hand me downs – We are fortunate to have several friends whose daughters are older than us, so we get given bags of clothes from time to time. While some of the clothes don’t really suit our kids, there are always some good items in amongst the bags. I tend to go through the bags as soon as we are given them, and then store what we will use, and then donate what is left over. Quite often there is nothing wrong with them other than they are too wide for my kids (who are bean poles), or Hannah doesn’t like the look of them.
Of course, once Hannah has outgrown clothing, I put anything still good away for Meg to wear when she gets big enough. Clothes which are too small for Meg go to my niece.
Buy second hand where possible
We find that particularly for paddock clothes (ie old clothes that can get damaged) Op shops are perfect. Of course some op shops are better than others, but by finding a couple which are good, you can save a fortune, avoid the waste of new unnecessary clothes, and support a charity.
We have found several op shops that carry a lot of quality second hand kids clothes. Last year I got seven pairs of brand name shorts for Toby for $1 each. Some looked still new. The same shorts were $30 each in the store.
Buy quality over quantity.
Of course there are some things I will not buy from Op shops. Shoes, Underwear and pyjamas are some which spring to mind. And there are often times when we can’t find what we need at Op shops. I rarely find girls leggings.
In this case we buy new clothing. I am always concious that we buy quality clothing that will last. Although the initial cost might be slightly more, the clothing generally lasts longer, which means I don’t need to buy more. This saves money in the long run, and wastes less resources.
Store clothes for the future when you see them (but don’t go crazy).
Buying used clothing is always a bit hit and miss. I keep a box each of boys and girls clothing in the top of the cupboard. When I see something good that might fit my kids in a years time, I buy it, and then store it in the box. When I go through the kids clothing (which I do in late March and September each year) I go to the boxes and get out clothes that might be useful for them to try on. It means that when it comes to clothes shopping, I already have a bit put away.
I would love to know what your priorities are when buying kids clothing. Do you buy from Op Shops?