100 Pairs of Panties

My kid owns more than 100 pairs of panties.

More than.

Like, 109 or 120 or 2,300 or something.

We sorted clothes for the start of school, an annual chore I mentally schedule for July and accomplish no later than oh-crap-it’s-September, when I noticed one kid’s panty pile growing to mountainous proportions. Curious, I started counting pairs, tossing them one at a time into an old, broken Ivar’s clam chowder box.

I stopped counting at 100 because the chowder box was full.

At one hundred.

One hundred pairs of panties, folks. For just the one little tush.

I decorated my front porch with a few dozen this morning because I’m too cheap to decorate with pumpkins while the prices are still high, and also so, you know, you could witness a bit of the insanity.

Honestly, with that many unders, if my kid changed them every day she could go 3 months without needing to do laundry.

Three months. Probably longer.

Every once in a while, the ridiculousness of managing clothing for a family of seven smacks me in the face with a giant chowder box of panties, and I wonder how did this happen?

Of course I know.

My kid has a big sister. The big sister has friends. And they all hand their clothes down to the littler kid.  As they should. (And whew!) Fortunately for our family of trillions, we live in the Pacific Northwest where repurposed everything, rabid frugality and the extra-sanitary cycle on my energy-efficient washer are considered heroically green rather than grody.

But the chowder box is making me wonder. What does the Western world do with all its leftover, wearable underwear? I mean, other than the thousands of people who give them to me. You can’t give unders to Goodwill, can you? Can you? And if not, then what? Make a quilt? Window sconces? Oven mitts?

Friends, I need somebody to let me in on your undie-management secret. STAT. ‘Cause I’m beginning to seriously consider opening a handmade scrunchy business on Etsy. I’ve got supplies that’ll last years. 

……….

P.S. A mom friend from SoCal who has, you know, standards recently asked me what I thought: “Hand-me-down shoes, yes or no?”

I didn’t understand the question.

What is this “or no?” I thought. This should read as a statement: “Hand-me-down shoes: YES.”

It took me a few minutes.

So. You see why I need your help, yes or no? (You see why I need your help: YES.)

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
33 comments
  1. I think hand me downs are fine. When I was growing up, hand me downs were in every family. If you don’t know who to hand them down to, I know families in the area that are not afraid of hand me downs (send them my way). Panties are harder to come by becuase most people don’t think of passing them on.

  2. I think it is fine to hand me down undies – I used some hand me down diapers (cloth). However, I do not think I will be saving many of my 4 yr olds undies for his brother because the boy has issues…I mean sometimes I just throw away the underwear (& I cloth diaper).

    I do not hand down shoes (unless they are just sandals) because like Trighap said not wearing good shoes can cause other foot, leg and back issues. I have bought a couple of pairs at resale shops due to traveling to San Antonio and forgetting shoes 🙂 We bought sandals and fake crocs (they looked like sharks – had to have them). That being said we do not have a plethora of shoes (granted we have a boy so it makes a difference) and we wear out our shoes…no one would want them.

    The baby does have his cousins hand me down shoes because he can’t walk yet but is required to wear shoes at day care 🙂

  3. lol. My kid has 5 pairs but he too could go 3 months without doing laundry. Different sort of underwear situation!

    1. I have a matching kid! Perhaps they should never be in the same room. 😉

  4. I guess I misread this, but I thought you wanted ideas for repurposing many of these undies. I thought, you could cut them into rags for cleaning, cut them up and let the kids sew with them, let them get creative with it – create things. The scrunchie idea works too! Who’s gonna know they used to be undies? It’s just cloth. I don’t know much about plaster but I think it uses strips of cloth so you could let the kids make plaster molds of things. I think all you do is goop gluey strips of cloth together and let it dry.

    1. LOVE the plaster idea… that is AWESOME. I wonder what we could sculpt from panties? I feel some Pinterestable Christmas gift activities comin’ on.

  5. Okay, my husband (who is related to yours) will not let me hand down the underwear from even one boy to the other. He says a boy should have something sacred… 😉
    However, I recently participated in a women’s closet clothing swap (seriously, it’s like shopping for free with 20 friends, if you’ve never done it you should!) and I took all of my old VS underwear that I will never fit into again. No, I didn’t take the stained ones and yes, most of them were gone by the end of the night. Win win!

  6. so i am late to this discussion but here in my world we fall into the used underwear and shoe camp. I would love to say that it is because we are very noble and saving the earth by re-using but really it is the other ”green” reason – to save money. Since we are receiving the hand-me-downs from cousins, it doesn’t seem weird. Not sure that I would actually buy used underwear because there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of money to be saved. (I do have to purchase some especially for the youngest as the clothes have been through 4 boys by that time. :)*) We are careful with shoes to make sure that they have not been worn in a funny way but the dress shoes are never worn enough to really make a difference!

  7. I see nothing wrong with it. My friend sends them my daughter and when my girls are done I send the “good” ones to my niece to use. By then they usually are no longer wearable. I wish my girls had as many undies as your girls do. My youngest seems to like to change hers a lot through out the day. So tired of doing laundry.

    And as far as shoes, of course you hand those down too. 🙂 Maybe that’s because I live in the NW too and we recycle everything. Love all the consignment sales around here!

  8. My church has an amazing man who works in the inner city helping homeless kids and adults. He came and spoke to our church one day and said: “Do you not think homeless people need underwear? Do you not think they would wear your hand-me-down undies? What do they care. They don’t have any, they don’t care that you used them. Wash them, put them in a bag and bring them to me.” So, that’s what my family does and I recruit undies from all my families and neighbors, too. Otis (this incredible man) makes announcements on facebook when people bring him undies because he is so excited!! So, find a homeless shelter in your area or a abused woman’s shelter. They will be super happy to take your used undies!

  9. I agree with the above regarding shoes. We have never handed down shoes because your foot forms to the inside-unless the shoes are in new-condition. Sometimes you buy shoes and when you get them home they don’t feel right and don’t end up getting worn.

  10. Hmm. I vote that the child can cut them up for making stuffed animal clothes out of them. Or their own hair scrunchies as long as they promise not to tell anyone they’re actually wearing undies on their head. Okay, that would take the fun out of it – let them tell.

  11. whilst you’re on the subject of pants it seems a good time to plug this charity…

    http://www.smallsforall.org/

  12. I am with you, Beth on this one. When friends offer me clothes, I often say yes before they finish asking. My son’s underwear drawer is full of previously owned undies, (although, the frugal side of me is almost ashamed to admit I would never buy used ones from strangers, i.e. Goodwill, etc. Shoes-yes) After he’s finished with them, they are generally finished for realz, stemming from a particularly nasty side effect of food allergies of which we’ve recently been made aware (the allergies, not the nasty side effect – we have known about that for a looooong time!) Anyway, a dash of PineSol in a hot water wash, and we’re good to go.

  13. My cousin just got a job at Goodwill, and yes, they accept underwear, but are somewhat picky about which ones they resell.

    Not sure I could do it though… It would totally ruin our tradition of giving new underwear to our kids for Christmas!! 😉

  14. Being the only boy in the family, I never received any hand me down underwear. I admit not being able to be comfortable with that idea during the 5 minutes I’ve been reading this post. So I will just keep my vote to myself on this one. BUT…

    The shoes. If the hand me down shoes are sent down the line because the original wearer simply grows bigger, then there’s a chance it’s fine. However, shoes are important for the body, especially a growing body, so care is needed. Be sure the shoes have full soles, with no significant wear (side to side, front to back, etc.). Also that the leather part fully supports the foot. I never had hand me down shoes (as well), but I have in the past (and as recent as a few months ago) worn shoes to the breaking point, and have experienced altered walking, foot pain, etc. So, put me down as a STRONG “no” to recycling shoes, unless they are in good condition.

    Last, Kate from above comments, awesome that you give your gal “boy underwear” for the cartoon printing of “traditionally boys themed” things. And it’s so incredibly disgusting how they have anything non-utilitarian for children that age. There shouldn’t be anything like that until they’re 18. Blah.

  15. While it doesn’t work for underwear, your post did remind me of a great place to donate bras that don’t fit anymore. http://Www.freethegirls.org takes the bras we can no longer fill in or stay in and then ships them to women in other countries who have been rescued from human trafficking. These women then sell them to make a living. Can you imagine? Your old bras can help human trafficking victims make a living and rebuild their lives. I went up a bra size when I had a baby…and then ended up smaller than I started. That injustice is being used to get justice for others. So, that helps ease the pain a bit.

    P.s. I have no qualms about putting my kids in hand-me-down underwear, but I couldn’t do it myself.

    1. I’m going to bookmark that one. I’m forever buying bras that felt great when I tried them on, but didn’t do it for me all day. I’ve always wanted a place to send them 🙂

      I have 3 boys aged 3-9. I have no problem handing down undies among them, but don’t think I’d accept somebody else’s handed down undies. Don’t know why…

      I also loved the comment of handing down outgrown VS undies to oldest daughter. I have some favorites that are a decode old I will never be able to wear again in a box just because they are pretty and I can’t bear to throw them out.

  16. Better off to say “Oooo! Gross!” just to be on the safe side and then go about our normal business making good use of it. There are some people for whom it’s a hard line they don’t cross. Like sharing a toothbrush. Or picking noses. But often it’s just bravado.

    We don’t usually own up to what we do when we realize we are out of undies either. Is it a re-use, inside-out or commando? Just like a current book series no one wants to own up to reading let alone enjoying. You know… the one that’s SOLD over 40 million copies, and believe me it’s not being read for it’s lyrical prose… and pretty much everyone I know who has read it, read a BORROWED copy AND goes on to read all three in the trilogy. But no, we don’t do that, and if we do, we certainly don’t like it 😉

    I went from “my kids won’t wear hand-me-down undies or PJs” to “any pair of clean clothing, or dirtied-by-the-same-wearer clothing will do” somewhere between: one child, piss-pots of money, adequate sleep; and three kids in 22 months, an economic depression and too many people dying.

    I’m with ya Beth. Why do we let our kids where other people’s undies, and why, oh why, is it so hard to just throw them away?

  17. used undies A-OK! so are shoes. [what is WRONG with this country? we have too much money here, that’s what. we are soooo wasteful, but don’t get me started…]

    so far in his 2.5-yr-old life, my older son has not had a single pair of new shoes, unless you count the baby shoes that were a gift (which he wore like, maybe 1 time). and nearly all of their clothes have come craigslist and some from friends.

    heck, we’ve bought used *cloth diapers* for our kids and you KNOW what goes into those, so older-kid undies are totally sterile by comparison… 😉

    besides, people! that *shirt* you bought at the goodwill could have been vomited on for all you know, but you don’t care, DO YOU, because you wash it anyway! that’s what a washer is FOR! 🙂

  18. I love this one!

    My third daughter has a plethora of underwear (but not 100…yet!), but I also throw away ones that are no longer good. So, girl #1 had no issues, and her stuff all passed down easily (hot water rocks, folks!). Kid #2 likes to scratch herself in the backside, so some of her undies end up with holes right at the seam. Underwear is not precious enough to fix, so out it went! Girls #2 & 3 both had issues with training for (ahem) solid waste, and because I had _so_much_ underwear, I took to throwing out anything that did not come clean (and in the middle of our very poopy period, just throwing them out as they were taken off).

    This is why I do not own 100 pairs of underwear for any of my daughters.

    My older son has not been given any hand-me-down undies from any of my friends (although he has received many other things), so I just buy him new undies every time he changes sizes.

    I recently handed down some Vicky’s Secret undies to my eldest… There’s really no hope of _me_ ever wearing them again (this decade), and she needed undies in the right size, so I just went ahead and did it… If I ever _return_ to that size (10-15 more pounds to go!), then dang it, _I_ deserve _new_ underwear! ;-D

    1. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot!

      I have the same hand-me-down system at my house, the one with the intention to do it in July, followed by the oh-crap! moment when the weather turns in mid-September and the kids only have shorts…

      And here is a delightful family story to put things into perspective:

      My aunt thought that touching _dirty_ underwear was disgusting, something that she would not deign to do. So when she went away to college, she started stuffing her used undies into a bag. Whenever she ran out, she would _buy_more_ of them. After 3 months of school, she went home for Thanksgiving, and took the sack with her, and proceeded to _make_her_mother_ wash them, because while she personally was above touching her own dirty undies, apparently she did not see anything wrong with making her mother touch someone else’s very _old_ pile of dirty undies. (Okay, so my aunt is known for being a bit selfish…although I am pleased to report that she did eventually learn how to wash her own without dying of cooties.)

      So long as the underwear mountain is caused by accident, and no one feels above washing their own, you should be good to go!

  19. See, Beth, we don’t have that problem at our house. We have a dog. So laundry goes like this: The kid wears her clothes. The kid throws her clothes on the floor. The dog snarfs through the laundry on the floor in search of his second favorite treat (his first favorite treat he obtains from the cat box). The dog chews big holes in his second favorite treat. So I guess underwear are disposable now – wear once, feed to the dog, throw away, buy new. The kid did learn to be choosy about which clothes she throws on the floor. Apparently, favorite jeans and favorite jean shorts have the same appeal as underwear. After the dog ate about 3 of her favorite pairs, she learned not to throw THOSE on the floor! Maybe you need a dog???

  20. I’m gonna say “nay” on the undies. My daughter wears hand-me-down everything else, but new undies. Undies don’t break the bank, and I’m pretty particular about her undies anyway (the current bikini cut/low midriff/give a tiny kid a wedgie style with hearts and cherries just chaps my ass – she’s two, not twenty-two). She either wears boy undies (’cause you just can’t get dinos or robots in the girl underwear section and the girl loves her dinos and robots) or the girl undies that are cut like shorts.

  21. I dont have issues with hand me down anything as long as its still wearable. I’ve bought my kid undies at garage sales. I’ve seen under garments at the thrift store but never bought any. I know some people get grossed out but hey you wash them anyways so why not? Now with a crazy dog who steals things out of the laundry I am hearing rumbles of my kid needing some new ones… then again I am the one who buys white socks & never bothers to match them up- grab 2 & go…

    1. Mary – I buy colored and print socks and never match them. My nearly 15 y.o. daughter is the modern day Punky Brewster. Since she started picked out her own clothes (around age 8 or so because I’m a control freak), she has not worn matched socks except for one day. Seriously. I used to match them, and she would unmatch them so she could wear 2 different socks, so I gave up and just give her the clean socks in a big pile to put away.

  22. Okay, so I’m totally going gonna do this anonymously so it doesn’t come back to bite me in the butt. Get it? Bite me in the butt? I totally didn’t intend that but I digress.

    I was the middle of three girl cousins and the underwear just made its way down the line. After all, we were hardy Midwestern stock of a certain ethnicity know for its thriftiness.

    But my favorite pair, to this day, was a pink pair emblazened with a giant red heart on the front. kermit and ms. piggy sat on opposite sides of the heart, talking to each other on the phone. The phone cords (I’m totally dating myself here) were tangled in a way that spelled out the words “make a love connection.” I was seven. And even at seven I knew that something was inherently wrong about those undies (plus, they were bikini style). But they were free, so I wore them for a year until they were ready to pass down to my other cousin. Oh, the cousinhood of the travelling undies…

    Now don’t get me started on shoes…

    (As a side note, I’d like to give a shout out to my cousin…the initial owner of those undies! She’s an adoptive mom and totally reads your blog. Also, one time she dressed up in a can-can outfit–complete with fishnets–and stood outside our house waving at traffic and yelling “save the statue [of liberty].” That’s the power of the travelling undies.)

    1. Oooh! Oooh. I got another one!

      I married into a family of all boys (I know! I am a saint!). There is a picture of them at the coast…as young adults….and they’re all wearing the same type of boxers (having removed their jeans to go run into the waves). I asked Mr. Anonymous about this at one point and he said that, even in college, his family (boys and father) did not draw a distinction between their undies. Just took the first clean pair they could find and went with it. I still think of that every time. we do laundry. Because, of course, 15 years later and we still have several pairs of those cheap see-through-when-wet boxers (luckily that photo was taken from behind)

    2. Amen on the undies! I am the oldest, but not tallest of many girl cousins. So, clothes, shoes AND undies circled all of the time! And, as adults, it still does : ) We’re a big Italian family and that’s how we roll. My niece is just potty training and has the undies that her two older girl cousins (my girls) started with. She thinks it’s cool because her big cousins wore them and my girls think it is funny that they wore such little undies. It’s all good!

  23. 2 reasons why hand-me-down undies are ok:

    1.) As many undies as a person has, they are likely to only wear the ones they like, the same ones over and over again and the rest stay in the drawer until they are outgrown. So the ones handed down are still basically new.

    2.) Because the same ones are worn time and again and the rest are kept in new condition, the favored undies aren’t likely to be handed down but rather will be thrown away.

    Of course, my kids always had new undies……but it worked for my sister who’s kids are younger.

  24. Hmm. I’d say “no” to the hand-me-down-undies, mostly because with everything else handed down, I always felt that a kid should at least have her own UNDERWEAR, never-before-worn-by-anyone-else. And because one of my kids tended to sort of, um… mess up the underwear (and no extra-sanitary cycle on the washer could fix that), I got to the point when I gave myself permission to THROW-AWAY said undies that were beyond-mess-repair (aka so poopy that I did not even want to touch them let alone try to get the gunk out of them).

    So, no hand-me-down-undies for me. Because I would not have DARED hand down any of our undies to anyone else.

  25. I love that you used the word STAT! It made me feel like I needed to respond right away and clearly, by the pic, I did. 100 pairs??? I personally love the no laundry for 3 months idea but I really feel like some creative soul could turn them into a themed christmas tree. Layer a few together and they may make good winter hats. Oh wait, would they make good beer coozies?
    I’m getting twitchy with the need to come TRAF your house (trash, recycle, act, file).

    1. PLEASE come traf my house?!!!

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