Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cinderella's Sisters

Cinderella's Sisters or This Shoe Doesn't Fit

I have too many clothes. From what I understand, this is true of most Americans. There is a massive industry in the United States to help us sort, organize, and store our clothing, shoes, and other items. I'm not expecting too much trouble shopping my closet for the forseeable future.

Unfortunately, there is a member of our household who won't be able to shop his closet for more than about three months. This is the kid who literally grows overnight, and once abandoned a pair of shoes almost the day we bought them because they were too small. I personally fit those shoes to his feet, and there was well more than a thumb space of room between his big toe and the front of the shoe. Let's face it: kids are going to grow whether we like it—or can afford it – or not.

The silver lining to this cloud is that just as you will soon be getting rid of all those jeans, sweatshirts, and shoes currently hanging neatly from the closet rod and lined up perfectly by the door (yes, I am dreaming, but I get to do that when I write!), somebody with a child larger than your own will also be emptying out their kid's closet as well. Now here's the tricky part: how do get your hands on those clothes?

Free Options:
  • Ask around – It's likely that you already know someone ready and willing to pass kids clothing on. If you are actively looking for someone to pass clothing on to, you'll probably come across a couple of parents with kids larger than your own who'll say “What a great idea! I need to do the same thing.” That's your chance to say “Let me know when you do because I'd be interested.” Voila. New clothes for your kid, easy schmeezy pumpkin easy.
  • Organize or attend a clothes swap – I personally love clothes swaps. I've been to them for both adults and for kids and they are a blast. There are some great guides on the web on how to organize a clothes swap so I won't repeat all the steps here. They're a great activity for any group because they're so budget and earth friendly. Generally clothes swaps operate on a bring one, take one principle – for every item that you put into the pool, you get to take one out. They're a great way for you to find a home for the smaller items you're passing on at the same time that you are getting new items in just the right size.
  • – Freecycle (sounds like recycle) is one of the neatest ideas I've ever heard of. If you have something that needs out of your house you list it on freecycle in much the same way you would post a classified ad. Others read your ad via email or on their website and respond directly to you. In some cases the items are picked up the very same day, generally it's gone in less than 3 days. The nice thing is that this works both ways – if you need something, you can post a WANTED ad on the website. This tends to work best for individual items, not for an entire closet worth of goods, although I have occasionally seen people giving away giant bags of clothing at a time.
So let's say you tried all of these and you're still not getting enough clothing for the kid, or you're not staying ahead of her growth spurts. There are some other options out there that beat heading out to Kohl's at 8:00 at night to pay full price for a pair of shoes.

Cheap Options
  • Garage Sales – generally held in the summer months, these can be hit or miss. When you hit the right sale, though, you can hit it big. Be sure to read the ads in your local paper, on craigslist and in any local classified papers to find the sales, and have a map and a driving plan before you leave the house. If you find a jackpot sale with just the right sizes, consider asking the person holding the sale if they would be willing to contact you directly next time they are cleaning out closets. Have an index card or a piece of paper with your contact information and the sizes you're in the market for ready to give to them.
  • Thrift Stores – I love thrift stores. Usually more expensive than garage sales, the chief benefit to thrift stores is that they are available on a more convenient schedule, which means I don't have to pick between soccer and garage saling on Saturday morning. Many thrift stores are operated by charitable agencies and are not out to make a profit, which means that the clothing is at a very low price. There are exceptions though, so you may have to look around. A quick google search with “Thrift Store, MyTown, State” should give you your local options. Stores vary, too. We lived in one town with multiple branches of the Salvation Army. One location mostly had furniture and larger items, another focused on adult clothing and the third had the largest selection of kid's clothing. I made a point of stopping by the branch that had kid's clothing on a regular basis just to see what was in. Five to ten minutes every two weeks or so was more than enough time to keep ahead of a growing kid. The best part? That location charged $1 per item of kid's clothing. Nice, right?
  • – Craigslist is an online classified service. People can list what they are selling and then you can contact the person directly. A lot of time people will either post photos or are willing to send you photos of the items they are selling. Personally I've never used Craigslist to buy and sell kids clothing because I've always been able to find what I needed from a friend or at a thrift store. You also have the option to post what you are looking for.
  • –An auction site, eBay is a great place to look for really nice items and specialty items. If you have a wedding coming up and need a kid's tuxedo, I'd look on eBay first. Similarly, if your child grew out of those $60 wrestling shoes and you need a new pair, eBay is the place to look. People will also sell lots of clothing (multiple items on one batch), sometimes at prices as low or lower than garage sales. Keep in mind that you are paying shipping, which can eat into any of your savings.
  • Retail Store Sales – Let's face it, sometimes you want to buy things new. A good store sale can help you out with this. Now, I'm not talking about the “Sale” that goes on right before school starts, I'm talking about the deep down clearance rack closeouts that go on before the school sales and the change of seasons. These require an act of faith and some storage space, but you can easily find items marked down 75% or more in July and in late January/early February. Be very very careful with these. Buying that ultimate goose down parka two sizes larger than your child is now will not help you any if the child grows three sizes between now and next winter. I like to browse these sales every year to see what is available. I will generally pick up seasonless items such as shoes and pants in larger sizes, but I tend to stay away from sweaters and shirts because it's harder to know what size our son will be when that season rolls around.
In the end, keep in mind that sooner or later you're going to hear your child quote Cinderella's sisters: “This shoe doesn't fit” and the cycle will start all over again.

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