My youngest daughter is about to turn seven months old, and she is pretty cute. Her smile, which is never more than a couple of seconds away, lights up any room and most family members and friends have dubbed her “the happiest baby they’ve ever met.”
In other words, she’s perfect, and I count the minutes until the end of the day when I can be with her and her sister once again.
Recently I found my fatherly adoration and attraction to be near her extended to the threshold of her bedroom door and no further.
To cross over into her lavender room brought up deep anxieties that I have kept at bay for a couple of years now thanks to the minimalist lifestyle we try our best to adhere to in our young family.
The reason? The unbelievable number of hand me downs, family heirlooms, gifts and cheap fast fashion clothing that had accumulated beyond belief in this tiny’s person’s dresser and closet.
Each time I would open her drawers and clothes and shoes would burst out, I’d be reminded of that famous, albeit perhaps untrue folklore of Ernest Hemingway’s shortest novel ever written.
The story goes, Hemingway made a bet that he could write a novel in only six words and what he came up with are three very loaded with subtext sentences: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”
In a nutshell, the story alludes to a family purchasing a pair of shoes for an expectant baby with much anticipation and joy only to lose the child in some way and the shoes never being worn thus a personal tragedy.
A tragic story for the 1920s when a child would only have one pair of shoes, and they would have such significance that maybe those shoes would even be bronzed at some point.
Fast forward to 2018 and my seven-month-old has 18 pairs of shoes. Eighteen pairs of shoes.
And just so we’re clear, she’s amazing but not so amazing that she can already walk and thus would wear through a pair of shoes.
It’s mind-boggling to consider that such a tiny baby would need so many pairs of shoes but it’s also fairly easy to do the math on how we got here:
– Two baby showers thrown by fashion-forward friends for our first daughter created a surplus she was born into.
– Two additional baby showers by those same fashion-forward friends for our second doubled that number.
– Four bins of hand me downs from another friend with shoes and clothes still with the tags on them.
– Trips to Carter’s, Target and Old Navy where we picked up a few pairs of our own for no more than $5 each.
And, as you can guess, there are more outfits than our tiny Imelda Marcos could ever match with all of her fancy footwear.
Fortunately/unfortunately, our baby having days are over so we can’t correct this course of waste that will undoubtedly end up in a landfill for ourselves, but we have found ways to help our friends who are conscious of the impact our children’s clothes have on our world and have recommended these steps to many:
Rule of three
In our house, our kids have three pairs of shoes. One pair of comfy play shoes, one pair of crocs for the hot NC summer and one pair of what our eldest daughter refers to as her “sparkles” which are dress shoes for church and other nice occasions.
Stick to reality
Babies cannot walk and thus do not need shoes. Socks are fine. If you want to get a pair of booties or mocs, that’s OK, but you only need one pair.
We emphasize clothes that are going to have extended shelf wear. There is nothing better than going through my eldest daughter’s clothes that she has outgrown and found that while she has worn them a lot, there is still a lot of life left in them for her sister’s use. Brands like Primary, Hannah Anderson, Everlane and, our personal favorite, Mollusk Surf Shop make outstanding kids clothes.
Say ‘No, Thank You’
Friends and relatives love you and your baby. They want to throw you showers and spoil the heck out of your little one. That’s OK and so welcome, but, at the same time, it isn’t rude to direct their giving to things you need like diapers, wipes, bibs (SO MANY BIBS!) or to go in together and buy you one of the many expensive car seats you’ll need.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather your gift be returned and the family receives credit for something they need OR would you instead wish it be shoved into a drawer until their kid outgrows it, they take it to Goodwill, or it ends up in a landfill? I think most would go with the former so you shouldn’t feel bad using that gift receipt.
Institute a port of entry for hand me downs
The vicious giant Tupperware bin of kids clothes cycle is like a chain letter you receive. People can’t wait to foist all of those space takers onto you and out of their attics once and for all. Be on the same page with your spouse and talk it over before you let something so huge into your house with both of you agreeing to take it or not. Yes, it can be a real cost-saver to have all of those outfits but not at the expense of your sanity and well crafted minimalist space.