Why going through old baby clothes leaves you flooded with emotion



Sitting in the middle of a pile of onesies and baby singlets and tiny little leggings, Evelyn Lewin is close to tears. Here, she shares why going through baby clothes is never straightforward...

Despite having three children, I’ve never gone through old baby clothes. That is, sort through my baby clothes with the intention of giving them away. You see, after my first baby, I hoped there would be a second. After my second, I still longed for a third. But now, after my third, I’m, well, in a new place. I can’t say with certainty that I’m ‘done’ having babies. In my heart of hearts, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that. Each squishy newborn I see sets my mind racing with possibilities. But for now, there is no planned baby in my horizon.

What I do have is a wardrobe full of baby clothes. Baby clothes that I try to forget about, but whose presence heaves and sighs each time I catch a glimpse of them. I’ve been putting this task off for ages, but I know it’s time for me to tackle that pile. So here I am, wading amongst onesies, flooded with emotions.

It could be really easy. I could just totally Kondo the living daylights out of the pile. After all, they’re all clothes that don’t fit my children anymore, ergo I have no need for them. Baby clothes, be gone – and all that.

But, my heart. My heart can’t toss aside this pile of memories so quickly. So I sift through them slowly, item by item. And as I do, memories pop up. There’s that red singlet my oldest wore that sun-drenched day in our backyard. And there’s the pink dress my youngest wore on her first birthday. Over here are the itty bitty trackie pants I used to pull on over my son’s chubby little legs… The memories start coming hard and fast and I’m sucked in, completely helpless to their lure.

I wonder why these pieces of material mean so much to me. I’m not really a ‘clothes’ person, and yet these clothes are taking me to the brink of tears. And then I realise, it’s the tactile nature of these items. I can pick them up. I can hold them in the air and marvel at how tiny that blue long-sleeved T-shirt is, and remember how big it was on my baby the first time she wore it.

So many of our memories are visual. We take photos and smile at the images of our babies. Or we keep aural memories, videos that ring with the medicinal laughter of small children. But we can’t keep the ‘touch’ of our babies. We can’t run our fingers over our newborn’s cheeks once they’ve grown. We can’t capture the feeling of a hug delivered by sticky hands and squishy bodies. There’s so little about baby and toddler-hood that we can physically hold on to. So, feeling these clothes and their weight (or lack of it), is like holding on to an aspect of my children’s baby days.

It takes me ages, this sorting through of baby clothes. While I know I should donate more clothes, I can’t bring myself to give away everything. But I’m okay with that. The pile I put back in the cupboard is, at least, measurably smaller. For the first time, I’m not holding on to baby clothes because another one of my babies may get good use from them. Instead, I’m keeping them to remember the babies that once did.

Words: Evelyn Lewin | Photograph: Grace Alyssa Kyo


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