Learn to Make the Best Use of Hand-Me-Down Baby Clothes
I love hand-me-down baby clothes. Wrapped up in a bit of nostalgia, previously worn clothing & essentials are economy at its finest.
If you plan on having more than 1 child, it's inevitable that you'll have to consider what to do with all the outgrown clothes, shoes, coats, and essentials.
Not only are hand-me-down clothes a cost-saving and environmentally-friendly practice, but they connect younger and older siblings and ensure that each special piece of clothing brings you memories for years longer.
With the right spin, kiddos even love "hammy-downs." They get to wear the piece of clothing they've seen their cool big sibling rock for years! We all remember the jeans handed down from older brothers, the holiday outfits inherited from high school-aged older cousins, and the items we passed down to younger siblings ourselves.
Though hand-me-downs work for most families, storing clothes can be a hassle when it's not done properly. Ten years and four kids later, I've become a master of hand-me-downs with a method focused on saving the essentials and not loads of unnecessary extras.
My method for managing hand me downs
- Sort and store articles of clothing by size & gender, not season. This ensures you don't have to search through tons of t-shirts, sweaters, or other old clothes, to find a specific pair of shoes you want to gift to a friend's younger children.
- Only save a certain number of each item type per size (6 tees, 4 leggings, 3 blankets, etc.). It's likely you'll be adding new clothes with each child, and too many clothes equals too much laundry.
- Donate or sell clothes that your child never wore, were uncomfortable, or fit funky.
- Save only the best quality essentials! Unless you are specifically saving for play clothes, do not save clothes that are overly worn, stained, etc.
- Store clothes in large plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids. I love to throw in a few lavender sachets to keep the bugs away and keep clothing smelling fresh. I've found it best to store clothing away from the closet as it's too tempting to dig back in, which ultimately creates an even bigger mess. Make sure your long-term storage is sufficiently dry (no mold!).
- Get in the rhythm of sorting before every season. For me, this is 2x a year: early spring for spring/summer and early fall for fall/winter. Storing what I want to keep, pulling out what is needed next, selling what is still good, and donating the rest. I then take note of who needs what for the season in order to fill in any wardrobe gaps.
- Make sure that everything you save for later is clean, folded, and in good order so your collection of hand-me-downs can last years in storage.
- When buying new clothing for my children, I choose quality over quantity. This doesn't necessarily mean expensive - isn't it just the worst when fancy brand name clothes wash up horribly? Clothing made of quality fabrics that wash up well are the ones to stick with.
- The less you buy & have, the less laundry you'll do, and the less you have to store, go through, and re-sort! I know it's easy to overstuff our children's closets, but it's ok to become an essentialist.
Hand Down Heirlooms, Not just Clothing
As you consider what to save and what to keep, remember that it's not just clothing that can be passed down to younger siblings - or younger generations. Quality items like bedroom essentials and wooden toys can withstand multiple years of use and still bring joy to future kiddos. When you buy something for the first time, consider choosing a well-crafted option that can last longer, so years down the road you’ll be able to give a family member a gift with deep, meaningful, roots.
What to do When Handing Down Items is Not an Option
Here are some ideas of what to do when your child outgrows an item, but you are not able to, or don’t want to, hand them down.
I also have an ongoing keepsake box for each child. Saving special pieces of clothing, items gifted by family members, or things that distinctly remind you of your child at a certain moment in time are perfect additions to a keepsake box.
For me, this has been my boys' pajamas - albeit worn out, I'll snip off a square to keep. I've also kept my oldest son's messy shirt he wore to toddler art class and all my boys' lamb booties. Having only 1 daughter, her keepsake box has grown a bit large, but so be it! You'll be glad you kept these items later, so much wrapped up in this short bit of time when our babes are young.
Donating, selling, and giving:
If you have articles of clothing and essentials from older siblings that are no longer needed, consider your options.
- Give. I have blessed many expectant families with baby clothes outgrown by my own kiddos, essentials, and gear. Being generous is a good seed to sow and always welcomed.
- Donate. Donate to a local thrift shop or other meaningful organization. For me, these are usually the items I know I will not be able to sell.
- Sell online. I have had great success selling (and buying!) second-hand on eBay, Kidizen and ThreadUP. My favorite is Kidizen.
- Sell local. Consignment shops take all the work out of it and are a great community option to find and sell your second-hand kids' clothes.
With a method in place, keeping all the hand-me-down clothing and essentials organized is simple, and you'll find joy "shopping" for the next season in your well-stored collection.