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Sunday, September 26, 2010

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“To give is to receive” - Hand me down clothing etiquette

I don’t know about you, but I am never much for Spring Cleaning, but when fall is near, I love to clean and get organized. Not just the house, but literally closets, pantries, drawers, you name it. I also prepare the children’s clothing for consignment and handing down to other younger children/families that will be ever so grateful for a few new things. As I prepared my items to give away, I located from the attic some clothing that was passed along to my son and it got me thinking…..”Is there Hand me Down Etiquette?” If not, I think it is time we put some general guidelines around it. I have a friend that passes along her son’s wear, and I will say that she has it down. Here are some thoughts based on how I receive, and now in turn give:

Ask Permission:
Be sure to ask permission of the parent as to whether they would like any gently used items. Some people just aren’t into receiving used clothing. Ask first, otherwise if you just show up with a bag of clothing, it could make for an uncomfortable situation.

Be Fussy
Ask yourself, if this item still fit my child, would I ask them to wear it in public? If the answer is no, then recycle it elsewhere. Your friends and family will be grateful for your “donation”, but not if it is covered in stains, holes and pilling. Over the years the consignment shops have always suggested to review the clothing under a bright light, good advice even for hand me downs.

It is all in the presentation, and be sure the items are clean. Sometimes people may turn away gently used clothing when it arrives in a crumpled plastic bag. Psychologically it sends a message of “this is no good for us, but maybe it is ok for you”. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think you need to go out and purchase a new container or anything, just be mindful of how you package the clothing, even if you choose to present it in a plastic bag. My friend recycles large paper shopping bags to pass along her items and sometimes even throws a freshly scented dryer sheet.

If you are the recipient –
Send or call with a note of thanks. You may even choose to send a gift card to a children’s clothing store as a thank you. That same friend most likely will pass along any purchases to your child again in the future. Remember, that large bag of clothing you just received probably cost more than $150-$200.

And for all of you Cloth Diapering, you can also follow a few simple rules when handing down your gently used diapers:
  • Treat them with the best care during use, Never use bleach!
  • Wash fairly often so they don't mildew and stains can be easily removed
  • Close all snaps, tabs, Velcro, etc. so they don't stick to other diapers in the wash.
You might be thinking, if I am giving someone free clothes, why should it matter how I prepare them? Well, in my opinion it all comes down to respect and pride. If you take a few minutes to care for the items you are donating, your heart will be that fuller when the recipient receives- and the thanks will be even greater.

Do you have any tips when putting together and/or receiving hand me downs?

By Kelly- aka “The Cloth Diaper Whisperer”


Jill said...

Sort by ACTUAL size, not what the tag says. Some brands (Gerber) seem to shrink a lot more. We had 6-9 month tshirts we washed at 3 months that didn't even really end up fitting for maybe 1 or 2 weeks. They just ran small or whatever. If you can, scribble on the label or maybe masking tape that says (fits 0-3 months) if you're passing it down and let the person know that they're in there and marked. When I put clothing back, I sort it by not only size but weight and appx. fit. For example, some pj outfits lasted longer than others, so they went into a separate bag-inside-container that says '6 month pjs--larger fit' or something like that, so I know they will fit at 6 months, but wore past that, too.

One of my friends sent us a big batch of clothes to BORROW when our girl was born. She labeled the inside tags with her daughter's initial with a laundry marker. This is important if say you are having several kids, want to help someone out, but also want the clothes back. We said we'd take photos but just ended up putting what was wearable back inside the same box it came in every time it was washed instead of putting it in drawers. If you are the lender, maybe you should photograph it yourselves, and of course never give away a prized anything you'd be afraid to lose, like a Christening outfit or something like that. My friend sent way more than we could ever use, but since ours was a 'surprise' -aka didn't find out the sex, it was nice to have a few pinks to throw in with the massive amount of neutrals we got at the baby shower.

ps laundry markers are not in the laundry section of a discount store, but are back with crafts by canvas bags and such. I labeled the tags of some of my diapers with color names (ie rumparooz yellow, sage, purple etc) not only to keep the newer inserts with the newer diapers, but to make it easier for my husband to stuff them.

StephanieU said...

I think asking if someone wants things is the first step. If you have lots of things to give away and most are in good condition, I don't think it is a big deal if one or two items have stain (that you forgot about, etc). I know I have received a few, and I just save them either for doing crafts or trashed them. When we are done having kids, I hope to pass on things too.

Mrs.Smitty said...

Agreed! I've gotten a lot of great stuff from helpful family members and family friends, but once in awhile you get a bag of junk that has you honestly wondering what the giver was thinking! I am gracious in all situations however, I figure it's easier to smile and thank now, weed through everything later. And heck, since my daughter has a wardrobe filled with 75% gently used items (hand-me-downs and consignment shop finds alike...) and the rest is great steal clearance items, I guess I can't be too choosy lol.

Cheryl said...

and i would add my unwritten rule:

if it was given to me and it still in good shape, i give it to someone else, pass it along.

i don't store it in the attic, in the 'just in case we have another' bin. (however if i have another child who i know will use soon i do hang on it).


i don't consign it. i consign the clothes i buy and i regift the clothes people have passed down to me to someone else.

Julie said...

Try to take into account the receiver's taste in clothing. My friends and family all know for a fact I can't stand clothing plastered in planes, trains, cars, and sports for my baby boy. I'm not sure why they think it doesn't matter when they're giving me second-hand clothing, but hey, my taste in clothes doesn't change based on the manner in which it's acquired. I LOVE getting used clothing, don't get me wrong. I just wish people would think a little bit before deciding who to give what, you know?

Going Green with Noah said...

I'm your newest follower!

Can't wait to become part of this CD Family :)


d.o.wife said...

I JUST had this issue!

I got back my bassinet and carseat....*sigh*....

The bassinet was luckily able to be saved, the carseat was not. The recipients did not care about how they took care of these items at all. I think it's terribly rude.

To the recipients: please take care of someone elses items!

Brandi said...

I think it's funny that you said not to put the items in plastic bags! I used to place mine in nicer bags for that same reason.

I try to group items into outfits when I pass things on. Occasionally, my daughters will outgrow tights or a shirt that goes with a particular skirt before they outgrow the skirt itself. So I hold the shirt and tights out until the skirt is ready to be passed on, too, so that I hand down a complete outfit. I know when people pass clothes to me, the ones I love the most are the ones that come with a matching item to easily create an outfit.

@ Julie - I have the same tastes in little boy clothing, so I completely understand. I have received many hand me downs that I just passed on because I just didn't like them.

@ Cheryl - completely agree. If it was passed down to me, then I pass it on to someone else when I am done with it.

Alycia said...

All great points!

One should also be mindful of the season. If it's the middle of winter and your cleaning out your child's 6-9m summer clothes, don't give those clothes to your friend with the 7 month old. What is she going to do with them now, plus they'll be too small by the time they can wear them. Seems like common sense but its happened to me, more than once!

The most important point made is ASK. DH isn't big on receiving used stuff and no matter how many times I tell my mother this everytime she comes over she brings over bags of tag sale or consignment store stuff. I feel bad that she wastes her money, but most of the stuff we usually can't use either. But what can I say to my mom that I haven't already, you know?

Kara - Wife, Momma, Doula said...

I LOVE giving are receiving hand-me downs. LOVE, LOVE it! We are a big recycling family as it is so this is right up our ally. It is important to give your hand me downs to an appreciative family...It's a two way street.

My SIL and I pass clothes back and forth. When my boys are done with their clothes, they go to her youngest son. When her youngest daughter is done with her clothes, they go to my youngest daughter. When I get clothes that are too big for my daughter, they go to her daughter to wear in the meantime. :)

Amanda said...

I must agree with the rule of consigning someone else's hand-me-downs; you didn't pay for them, so why earn money for them. :)

I was given a stash of hand-me-downs in the not-so-best condition. I picked through and tried to wash and sun-bleach what I could. The family had said to donate what I didn't want to a friend or church. Needless to say I was very choosy what I passed onto my friend!

We have also been very fortunate to receive baby gear on loan (ie Bumbo, swing, infant seat, etc) and do take extra special care of it- I couldn't stand to get something back that was stained, torn, ruined. I always take extra special care of my own belongings. Treat it right in the first place and you won't have to waste money later repairing or replacing! :)

Laundry Lady said...

My daughter received quite a few hand-me-downs and I used most of them. But I found that anything that was to be returned I barely ended up using, whether equipment or clothing. I was so afraid of messing it up. I think it is very hard to give something to someone and expect it to be returned in the same condition, especially when it's being used for a baby. I take good care of my daughter's things, because I want them to last through multiple children. But trying to preserve something that isn't yours so that it can be returned in pristine condition, isn't always realistic. I had a massive spit-up baby. My daughter spit up on everything we owned. Trying to keep her from messing up the "Family Christening Dress" was so traumatic I almost decided not to use it. Unless you are passing things back and forth between close friends and family who understand that the occasional stain is just part of childhood, then just give things for keeps. It will make it much less stressful for the receiver.

hannah said...

I also wash clothes after pulling them out of storage. You may put them away clean, but spots have a way of appearing after they've set for awhile.

Meredith said...

Wow- I couldn't agree with Cheryl more. If something is handed down to you and has useful life remaining- please please please continue the giving!