The Life Cycle of a Shirt

 Posted by on June 13, 2012  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Jun 132012

I know this seems like a funny title for a post, but stay with me…

Last week, after finding some very nice button-down shirts for my husband at a garage sale, he and I went through his existing shirt supply. We estimated how many shirts he needed for a typical work week, and then he tried on each one, including the ones we just purchased, and kept the ones he liked best. He kept some of the more worn shirts for shop/yard work, and the rest went into the donate/discard pile. While we were doing this, I joked that I should write a blog post called “The Life Cycle of a Shirt.” I was just kidding, but as we discussed it, we realized that our handling of his shirts illustrates an important frugal concept:

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

This little saying is often touted by those who lived through the Great Depression, but in our current economy, we would all do well to remember it, and the way we buy clothing is a good example. We don’t often do without, but we also rarely run to a store to buy new clothes. We try our very best to make do with what we have until garage sale season comes around, because the vast majority of our clothing (with the exception of socks and undergarments), is purchased at garage sales. We typically pay 25 cents – $1 per item (more for coats and dresses – see my guidelines).

Some cute fall clothing for DJ – all found at one garage sale

Some people have disdain for used clothing, but we certainly don’t. We find quality, name-brand clothing for a tiny fraction of the retail price, so to us, it just makes good sense. Everything is laundered and dried in a hot dryer before it’s worn – it’s really no different than store-bought clothing, which may be tried on by who knows how many people before you buy it and take it home.

When the clothing is worn out or outgrown, we do one of two things:

1) If it’s in good condition, we take it to a consignment store. If they accept it, we often earn back at least what we paid for it, and often more. If they don’t accept it (they’re quite picky), we try to find someone who can use it, because we’ve certainly benefited from hand-me-downs since having children, and it’s nice to pay it forward. If no one needs it, we donate it to Goodwill, Aid to Women, or another worthy charity, or save it for our next garage sale.

2) If it’s not in good condition, some of it becomes work clothing. My husband and I do most of our yard work, gardening, landscaping, home repairs, and remodeling ourselves, and he also does all of our auto repairs, so we always need clothes that can be ripped or stained without worry.

If we aren’t in need of work clothing, the clothes get delegated to the shop rag bin….but first we cut off and save the buttons for our button jar. These buttons are used to replace lost buttons on clothing, and also for crafts. I’ve also been known to save the back pockets of worn-out jeans – they make cute purses for little kids.

The shop rags are used for oil changes, paint drop cloths, grubby cleaning jobs, etc. You may have noticed in yesterday’s post that my husband was finishing trim on top of a piece of purple cloth – it was one of my old nursing gowns.

Many people (like my Grandma) keep scraps of old clothing to make quilts, but since I’m useless at sewing, I’m happy to delegate mine to the rag bin. We’re still getting every last bit of useful life from our clothing purchases, while saving money, and conserving resources too. I feel good about that.