Your Guide to Hand Me Down Clothing Etiquette

What should I do with hand me down clothes?
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Hand me down clothing is an incredible blessing. I grew up getting hand me downs from cousins and family friends and it was like a treasure hunt every time my mom walked in with a new bag. I loved finding new to me items and stocking my closet for another season.

As a mom of five, I totally get why my mom hunted down hand me downs for us. Clothing can be incredibly expensive! Yes, there are awesome deals out there and yes, we make use of the thrift store, but even using my bargain hunting skills it can still cost a pretty penny to keep the kids in decent clothing. I’m not even talking name brands and the most up to date fashions - I’m just talking about clothing without stains or holes!

We’ve been incredibly blessed by friends and family members that have offered us clothing over the years. It’s one of the many ways we’ve seen God provide for our needs, especially during our leanest years. But occasionally we get overloaded and the clothing we are given simply takes over.

Other posts you may enjoy:

What is proper hand-me-down ETIQUETTE?

What to do with hand me down clothing

Thank the person for blessing your family

Whether you end up keeping all the clothing or just a few items, the person that is giving you the clothing is offering a very kind blessing to your family. I’m always humbled when someone chooses my family over selling the clothing or donating to a thrift store.

Thank God for the provision for your family

God provides in the most amazing ways sometimes. We’ve seen God stretch our money when it doesn’t seem possible. We’ve seen Him provide through neighbors gardens. We’ve seen Him provide over and over for us and hand me down clothing is just one of those ways. Thank Him for the kindness of friends or family and for working through them to provide for you.

Sort through the clothing

As much as the frugal person in me wants to keep everything, I’ve learned that discernment is needed for all hand me downs. As much as I appreciate the hand me downs, sometimes there are items that aren’t in great condition, wrong sizes for the seasons, or that don’t mesh with your family’s style. We don’t do a whole lot of clothing with titles and labels like “princess” or “trouble maker” on them. I just set these aside in a separate pile.

If it isn’t going to get used by your family, don’t let it clutter up your drawers and closets. Not everything you are given will be a fit for your family - both in size and style! Be honest about what your kids will actually wear. If you never go fancy places, it’s probably not worth keeping the mini suit. If you have a more stylish kid, keeping sweatpants that will sit in a drawer until they are outgrown isn’t a good use of a blessing.

Stop letting hand me downs cause guilt or clutter with these tips

Keep what you want, pass on the rest

Once you know what you want to keep, you need to deal with the items you don’t want to keep. I suggest checking with the person you received the hand-me-downs from to make sure they are okay with you passing them on to another person or donating them elsewhere.

Occasionally the person is simply loaning out the items - this happens most often with baby clothing - and is expecting them back. In this case you need to decide if it’s worth keeping track of the items. A simple conversation with the person can help you figure out how this situation can be handled.

Other times they may have additional families in mind. Once you have chosen your items they want to pass what’s left on to another friend.

I love having the opportunity to turn one blessing into another so I try as much as I can to pass on clothing to friends. You could always check with several and see if you can put together a mini swap and donate any leftovers to a shelter or thrift store. Keep the blessings going!

Have a designated place to keep extra clothing

We have large plastic totes to keep clothing for the next size or for opposite seasons. We only rotate clothing twice each year (before summer and before winter) because otherwise it becomes overwhelming. The only items that we really choose to store in the off season are shorts and heavier clothing/outerwear. Our kids keep a few pairs of pants and long sleeved tees in their drawers year round because even in July we can have a cool day or we want those items for trekking through the woods.

After choosing what you want, make sure you actually have space to store the items! The new to you items will quickly become clutter if you set them on a shelf or add them to drawers if they aren’t the right sizes or season. Asking your kid to take off the adorable yet seasonally inappropriate item is fine one time, but after six or ten times you will probably start questioning your sanity and organization choices 😉

We keep the younger kids clothes (sizes 5 and 6 currently) stored in one tote and clothes for the the other kids (sizes 7-14) in a second tote. Each time we get new hand me downs I sort through it to make sure I don’t end up with 80 size 10 tees and nothing for the others. I label the bins with sizes on basic labels but now that I’m typing this out it would be a great idea to add an inventory to the top or on my phone so I know exactly what I’m in need of! Now I know my next project 😁

It’s okay to say no

Finally, it’s okay to say no! There are times when a friend offers but we are stocked up on that particular size or season of clothing. Again, thank the person for thinking of your family but that you are all set for now. You can always check to see if they have something you are in need of, or to let you know the next time they have hand-me-downs.

It’s not rude or unkind to set boundaries on what you let into your home. The hand-me-downs should be a blessing, not a burden!

Does your family receive or give hand-me-downs? How do you handle them?

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Katie McGowen

I've got a passion for encouraging women to really love the life they have - crazy schedules, messy floors, toddler tantrums, and sloppy kisses. I want to inspire you to choose joy during the highs and during the lows. I want you to love the chaos but also find a way to manage it so you don't lose your beautiful mind in the process.