by Tammy Harrison
As a home-based
working mom, I have chosen to sacrifice any career plans I
envisioned in power suits, before having children, for a sweats and
pink fuzzy slipper existence. I work full time for both my family
and my businesses and often find myself wondering how my kids can be
so irresponsible as to rip a hole in their new jeans the day after
we bought them. Or run through a mud puddle with the $30 tennis
shoes that Grandma sent. Or even wear three sets of clothes in one
day and send them down the laundry chute after only wearing them for
an hour? I decided I didn't necessarily want to take all of the fun
out of being a kid so I began looking in other directions for an
answer to the insanity.
With a little ingenuity, I formed a clothing cooperative in my
neighborhood and with my church community. I didn't quit buying our
children clothes but I did quit spending so much money on cheaply
constructed attire that got worn for a month and then was ready for
the rag pile.
The first thing I did was to make a list of my needs, as follows:
My next step was to
approach people who had children older or larger than my own to see
if they were interested in forming a clothing exchange. We all
agreed that we would not purchase inferior products and we would
each allocate a clothing allowance every six months to replenish our
closets. Once the ground rules were established, the cooperative was
off and running.
We get together for a clothing swap and play group session once a
month. All of my baby clothes go to the next in line and I receive
an array of replacements from the baby down the street. We have a
large used clothing store in town and once every six months it is my
turn to walk the aisles and pick up clothes that any child in our
cooperative can wear. That way, each of us adds inventory to our
coffers. Usually, the members of the cooperative try to purchase
good used clothing for the oldest or largest members of the
group-whereby ensuring a hand-me-down in the near future!
In addition to just swapping clothes during our monthly
get-together, we also take the time to process our worn out tatters
and by cutting them up for use in braided rag rugs, cleaning bags
and quilts. When we have enough scraps to make a rug or a quilt, we
make it and give it to a member of our cooperative.
The only problem I've encountered is that my daughter is next in
line to a little boy who likes to climb trees! Sometimes we find
that none of the clothes he has outgrown are suitable for another
child to wear. When that happens repeatedly over a period of time,
we have to remind the boy's mother that in order to belong to the
cooperative she has to pass on quality clothes. If her son ruins the
clothes then she is responsible for extra replacements beyond the
once every six month shopping spree.
Clothing cooperatives have salvaged me from near
kids-clothes-induced-poverty and have given my children variety and
good clothes to wear. It has also strengthened my relationship in my
community and given me a nice warm quilt and also rug to wipe my
shoes on when I come in the door!
Tammy Harrison is a wife, mother two four children and a passionate
quilter. You can visit her website at
BOMquilts.com or read her blog at
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