How Many Kid’s Clothes Are Too Many? A Photo Blog

A big part of what drives me forward with muka kids is trying to address in a meaningful but positive way the impact that our clothing use has on the environment. I was kind of surprised when I looked into it in an earlier blog how much a family’s annual clothing allocation contributes to CO2 emissions, water use and landfill: it is 1.5 tonnes of CO2, 200 cubic meters of water and 70kg of waste per year….that is a lot for something that seems as benign as clothing.

So in developing the model of business for muka kids I was pretty focussed on how we could keep clothes in use for longer, and reduce the amount we produce and buy. What occurred to me while I was thinking about this was that my own kids seem to have quite a lot of clothes (many of them used, ‘gifted’, passed on etc). Yet they only seem to wear a few, and these are either

1) their favourite and kind of foul/torn/too small items or

2) really good quality clothes that are well designed, attractive and fit for purpose that can be worn and washed multiple times in a week (did I hear someone say laundry drudgeon?).

So then I wondered how many of those ‘other’ clothes do they actually have? I had a sneaking suspicion it was a lot because there is a looming and terrifying presence in our attic space that I try not to dwell upon too often…

Once I started counting I was a little alarmed (and even a little embarrassed).

Here are the results of my little challenge. What it really brought into focus was being smarter about my kid’s clothing. While I thought I was saving money by buying or obtaining a greater number of cheaper (and often poorer quality) or badly designed new and used clothes, in reality the total spend is a lot more with this approach than if I just restricted my buying to key, quality, really usable (new or used) items – which pretty much turns out to be what gets worn by the kids mainly.

So I dare you to undertake a similar exercise next time you are doing a dreaded ‘sort through’!  It will probably surprise you.

12-18 months

18-3 years


3-4 years

4-5 years

Grand Total for two children under five: 420 items (note I did not count underwear, socks and shoes).

Estimated ‘usable, quality’ items: 120-150 items.

Interesting, I thought.

Jess Berentson-Shaw founded the social enterprise muka kids’ to connect consumers, designers and garment workers across the world, and empower them to make the clothing industry a sustainable one. Muka kids has a marketplace to trade preloved organic, ethical & sustainable clothing. Through its partnerships with accredited brands it also helps make new sustainable clothing more affordable. Sales on the marketplace fund a micro finance scheme for women cotton farmers in India trying to pull themselves out of poverty.

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