Kids are expensive. No one can argue that. But they can also be tough on the environment, especially with how fast they go through clothes.
There are a few things you can do so that your kids’ clothing needs don’t overwhelm your budget too much as you take the environment into consideration.
1. Go used.
In my family we do a lot of hand me downs. This is easiest with infants and toddlers, of course, since at those ages the kids don’t care too much about what they wear.
But hand me downs get more challenging as kids get older. For one thing, kids tend to stain or otherwise damage clothing more as they get older. More challenging is that a sense of fashion often begins to develop.
Fancier dresses are particularly easy to find used for little girls. My daughter has rarely had a brand new holiday dress, but you wouldn’t know it to look at them. Many holiday outfits get worn once or twice by a child before they are outgrown, so the selection in resale shops can be quite attractive.
When hand me downs aren’t sufficient, thrift and resale shops can help fill in the gaps. These are still great sources for used clothing, and sometimes even clothes that have never been worn. You can even find things that are currently in style or have the right brand names when that’s an issue. Or just talk to the kids about why brand really shouldn’t matter, whichever suits your parenting style.
And of course, any clothes that are still in wearable condition you should hand down or send to the thrift shop when your kids are done with them.
2. Set aside play clothes.
My kids can be really, really hard on their clothes. So are most kids. What can really help is to pick some clothes that are quite simply going to be ruined. These are the clothes the kids can do messy art projects in, play in the dirt or otherwise play rough.
3. Master the art of stain fighting.
I’ve written before on removing stains. I think all parents have to deal with this one. No matter how carefully you try to protect the good clothes, stains happen. Kids are often just messy creatures.
There are of course the usual stain fighters available at the grocery store, but there are many more natural products you can use as well. You can buy products at natural food stores that do a fair job of stain removal, or look in the kitchen cabinets.
A product I like to use is Simple Green. It’s available at many grocery or Target-type department stores. It’s nontoxic and biodegradable, so meets a lot of my standards for a good cleaning product.
Liquid dish soap does fairly well on a lot of stains, for example. You can combine it with baking soda to make a paste and have it sit for a while if you need a little extra power, but for most of my daughter’s clothes, I just do a presoak in the kitchen sink with dish soap and water. It helps give the dirtier clothes a fair shot at coming clean.
Sunlight can also fade a lot of stains. This is great to know if you already have a clothesline.
White vinegar is also good for many stains. Many people also use it with their detergent in the washing machine. The scent fades away as the clothes dry.
For many stains, the key is to make sure that you catch them before the first time through the wash, and most especially before any time in the dryer. Heat can set the stains.
4. Buy organic if the budget allows.
Considering the cost of most organic clothes, this really won’t work for every family. But it’s worth mentioning. Besides, I figure that using used clothes means your clothes are pretty green right there.
5. Think about how many outfits the kids really need.
I’ve struggled with this one often enough myself. A lot of the problem relates to underestimating how many outfits grandparents will give as gifts. These things add up so fast. I’ve learned to really limit how much I buy in advance of need.
Your kids’ clothes closet may not be the first place you think to look as you work towards a more environmentally friendly life, but it’s a great place to work on making a difference. Some of the greener options even save money, which is near and dear to many a parent’s heart.