The Tricky Politics Of Hand-Me-Down Children’s Clothes

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hand-me-downsI was the youngest of seven cousins. I know a little something about hand-me-down clothes. As a child, there were times when I had 10 different pairs of jeans that were all two inches short at the ankles and one inch wide at the waist. (I was the stickiest stick-girl to ever live.) I knew what it was like to receive an aunt’s favorite shirt that I thought was hideous and try to grin politely before “losing it” in my closet. Before I had kids, I thought I knew all about hand-me-downs and the issues that go with them. Then I had a baby. I quickly learned that the politics of gently-used clothes goes far beyond fashion and fit.

Suddenly, I was thrust into the world of who gets clothing from whom, what you save for yourself, and the ever-present question of payment. Let me tell you, it’s all a little overwhelming. I had no preparation when my daughter started outgrowing her newborn clothing approximately three weeks after she came home. Then a friend of a friend was having a girl and I was suddenly forced to talk to an eager soon-to-be mom who thought my infant’s wardrobe was just ripe for the picking.

Well I decided to put together a few of the key things moms should consider before they open themselves up to the world of hand-me-downs. Before you give or accept, think long and hard about the type of commitment you’re making. Of course, there are all types of hand-me-downs, from toys to furniture, but I’m going to focus on clothes because it seems to be the most thriving trade market among new moms. So here are the basics

To give or not to give. It’s the single largest question. Are you ready to say goodbye to your little one’s clothes? Some people immediately throw their out-grown clothes in tubs and send them off to sisters and friends and long-lost relatives who happen to have a child exactly a year younger than their’s. Others want to hang on to those clothes, cherish them. Personally, I save a handful of my favorites from each size and then start the supply chain to a good friend of mine. I could save them for future kids, but I love buying baby clothes and don’t want to deny myself that excitement should we be lucky enough to have another child.

Obviously, if you’re considering having more kids, you’ll probably want to hang on to the majority of your clothes. They might be useful again a couple years from now. There will be detractors who say, “You’ll probably have the opposite sex and they’ll probably be born during an opposite season.” Blah blah blah. Don’t let someone guilt you into gifting away clothes you paid for. My sister waited until she had her second child before she opened the floodgates of gifting. It made sense to hang on to all those adorable and well-preserved little clothes she worked so hard to keep tidy.

There is one warning I want to send out. Once you’ve decided to start donating those clothes to friends and family, it’s hard to stop. People except that every season, they’ll have a load of new-to-them clothes for their child to choose from. Breaking the cycle takes even more politicking than just refusing to begin anything at all.

(Photo: urfin/Shutterstock)

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