Over the past ten years, I have edited and organized hundreds of homes, and I have formulated quite a few theories about hand-me-downs and how to handle them. Here are my thoughts in no particular order:
It’s Ok to Say No
Remember, you are the gatekeeper of your home which means it is your responsibility to organize, clean and maintain anything that enters it. Before you accept a bag full of hand-me-downs from a well-intended friend or family member, ask yourself if you actually want them to become your responsibility. My policy is to only accept items I would actually go out and buy and bring into my home on purpose. Otherwise, a gracious “thank you for thinking of me but we’re all stocked up” will do the trick.
Keep Them In The Mix
The most common phenomenon I see when it comes to hand-me-downs is missing the window when they can actually be used or worn. Even when items are well organized and stored in labeled boxes, time passes, and unless you are shopping from your basement or attic, it’s far too easy to completely forget about them. My advice? Keep only a small amount of “grow into” toys or clothing that can be stored in a prominent spot in your child’s closet or dresser so they don’t get buried or forgotten.
No Accounting For Taste
Another common challenge is that children have different taste, styles, and personal preferences. One daughter may love frilly dresses, but her younger sister may be more comfortable in athletic wear. Getting dressed is a form of self-expression and hand-me-downs you’ve stored for years may be instantly rejected by your little ones. Be honest about who your kids are and what their preferences are. Then keep and store only what you feel confident they’ll wear, use, and enjoy. Donate the rest.
Overall, the best advice I have is to both accept and store a very well edited collection of hand-me-downs and store what you keep in a prominent place in your home. If you have more “grow into” items than you can comfortably store or manage, pass on the excess to your local charity and start fresh.
Images: Vivian Johnson Photography