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Teach Your Children Well - Clothes

Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:

Thanks to you, the toy story in our house has had a happy ending. We have established on-going Giving Times and an end-of-day pick up. However, now the clothing clutter is more apparent. Clothing litters every chair, couch, bed, and floor. Clean and dirty items co-mingle.

How can I save the environment of our home ?


Green with Angst

Dear Green:

Our own closets and dressers are jammed packed. Most of us wear only 20% of the clothing we own. Reasons vary: it no longer fits or never fit; it is not comfortable; it is out-of-style.

Young children grow so fast that it seems their pants grow shorter daily. Purchase of young peoples’ clothing takes place more frequently at yard sales, thrift shops and on-line when the child is not present, so fit is more haphazard. Teens often choose clothing influenced by their peers or fashion that changes weekly.

As adults, we have a hard time keeping our own closets cleaned out and dresser drawers organized. It is equally difficult for young persons, especially if no one has taught them. School begins now.

Lesson 1: Sort

Set a specific day and time for a Closet Cleanout. Based on the age of the child/ren and the size of the closet, you may need several sessions.

First, remove non-clothing items such as sports equipment, empty boxes, old toys and find another home for them. Next, select a category of clothing to try on i.e. shirts, pants, shoes, dresses. Try on all clothing to determine what still fits and what to retain.

Once the contents of the closet have been sorted, you are ready to tackle the dresser. Again, set up a specific day and time to review the contents of each dresser drawer. Check socks for holes; underwear for size and wear; shirts and shorts for fit. Make sure the elastic in the pj’s has not stretched out.

All clothing that is outgrown or no longer worn can be donated. Worn out clothing or items that need repair should be recycled or discarded.

Take a break. Reward your child and yourself for completing the sorting stage.

Lesson 2: Store/storage

Children can learn to hang up and distinguish between dirty and clean clothing. However, we have to provide age appropriate storage and expectations to insure they are able to successfully complete the tasks.

Clean Clothing:

In order for anyone to put away their clothing, there must be adequate storage, adequate time, and clear expectations.

With assistance, very young children can put away their clothing into dresser drawers. Label each drawer with a picture and word. When you bring the clean laundry to their room, help them sort it into categories (you can fold it first). They then place each sorted pile into the appropriate drawer.

Hanging poles for young children should be placed in the lower 1/3 of their closet. It is often easier for children to hang items on hooks instead of hangers. You may remove the pole and replace it with hooks until your child is older. You can maintain jackets, pants and dresses on hangers on the top pole.

As children grow and the quantity of clothing increases, they may find it more difficult to manage their possessions. Dresser drawers don’t open and close easily. Clothing is packed in so tightly that it is difficult to know exactly what is there. You may want to install a closet organizing system for your older child to replace dresser drawers.

The organized closet should have shelves, hanging poles, pull out bins. All clothing should be visible easily retrieved.

Divide the closet into areas for ‘clothing for school’ and ‘clothing for play/sports.’ Label accordingly. This system not only expedites getting dressed, but makes it easier to put away clothing.

Dirty clothing:

Determining which clothing is clean and which is dirty is not difficult as long as you designate a place for each.

Put a hamper wherever your child undresses. For older children, purchase 3 hampers or baskets and label: whites, darks, permanent press/delicates. Insist that their clothing is sorted prior to washing. By the time they are teenagers, they should be washing their own clothing.

Once clothing is washed and dried, you can teach young children to match socks or locate specific items and learn to fold them. The clothing is placed on their bed or a specific chair in their room. They then put the clothing away (with some help.)

Older children and other adults in the home can both fold and store their clothing. Clean clothing is put into a basket with their name on it. They retrieve their basket and take it to their room. Putting it away is their responsibility.

Lesson 3: System

Keeping up with closet clothing clutter is not easy. At a minimum, schedule seasonal closet and dresser clean outs. You will have the information you need to purchase school/play clothes, attend yard and thrift shop sales and provide ideas for gifts to your relatives.

Place a donate box in everyone’s closet or in a central location into which outgrown but useable clothing is placed for donation throughout the year.

If the system breaks down, start again. Learning to maintain possessions and clothing is an ongoing process. As a parent, you will always be “ teaching” your children skills they will need to be a self sufficient adult. So, teach your children well.