Hand-me-downs have long been the bane of younger sisters and brothers. Parents, however, have held a much higher opinion of hand-me-down clothing. It has, for some, meant the difference between eating and eating well. There is no denying that handing down clothing for re-use by others is an extremely wise and frugal way to get more mileage from clothing.
Hand-me-down clothing has been a great blessing to many generations of us. In times of old, people only owned a few sets of clothing. Often each one was designated for a specific purpose-weekly work or Sunday “go to meeting” outfits. Even with so few articles of clothing, people took care of what they owned, washing and mending carefully with long term wear expected. They also took care of their clothing so each item could eventually become a hand-me-down. Today, our closets are often bulging with clothing that would be perfectly wearable by someone else.
Whether you are a brand new parent or a seasoned one, learning a few ways of planning for hand-me-downs can maximize the benefits of this excellent resource for clothing.
Perhaps the very first thing one must do to develop a “hand-me-down attitude” is to consider this eventuality when purchasing clothing. Purchasing “cheap” clothing in the name of frugality is not always the better choice over purchasing quality clothing with long term, future use in mind. Cheap clothing has its place. Purchasing an expensive, high quality t-shirt for a young boy may satisfy the current fashion trend, but at the end of the summer it will be just as stained and hole-y as the low price, discount store brand. For most young boys, the destination of their t-shirts is often Mama’s rag pile rather than a hand-me-down! Some of the members of the mission teams at our church purchase second-hand or good thrift store clothing to bring on their foreign mission trips and leave the clothing with the residents of the village where they minister. It is a blessing to the villagers and leaves room for souvenirs and other purchases on the return trip.
Therefore, when purchasing clothing, consider how the item will be used. Spending a little more on jeans that will hold up through more than one child or dressier clothing with hand-me-downs in mind can be beneficial. T-shirts, socks, swimwear, etc., should be purchased with the first wearer in mind. Monogramming clothing may limit hand-me-down recipients.
Care of Clothing
The care of the clothing will have a direct impact on hand-me-downs. One should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for optimum care of clothing. Following these guidelines can prevent excess fade, shrinkage and wear. Dirty clothing should be handled promptly. Treating stains promptly will eliminate most permanent stains. Mending items as soon as an imperfection is discovered is much easier than a larger repair later. Hanging and folding clothes properly will lengthen the wear of hand-me-downs. Hanging and folding clothes promptly also avoids the necessity for ironing, which, over time, can cause wear on clothing, as can starching. Proper care can increase the amount of future hand-me-downs available.
Once clothing has been outgrown, how it is stored makes an important impact on hand-me-downs. Clothing should be carefully inspected for stains to clean and damage to be repaired. Clothing should have a final washing, thorough drying and final inspection before being carefully folded for storage. There are many storage options available, from plastic, vacuum-style bags to boxes to plastic storage containers. I have personally found the 40-gallon, stackable plastic storage bins to be a convenient and practical storage option for hand-me-downs. In our older home, storage is at a premium. These containers can be stacked efficiently or covered with a thin piece of plywood and a piece of fabric to make an end table or night stand. Hand-me-down clothing should be carefully layered in, with a couple of cedar blocks wrapped in a cloth rag (to prevent possible staining) added to ward off bugs. Layering the clothing in tissue paper is an additional protection you may wish to employ. Cardboard boxes are prone to moisture, insect and rodent intrusion.
Organizing hand-me-downs makes them much easier to use. There is nothing worse than to discover a box full of hand-me-down clothing a season or two after your child could have worn it! Placing similar clothing or similar sizes in each box are a couple of ideas. Most important, however, is to label the outside of the container with pertinent information like sizes, types, appropriate season and date packed. Boxes can even be stored in the bedroom of the child who is next up to wear the hand-me downs.
Finally, if you have no one to give hand-me-downs to, consider a friend, family member or co-worker who may need them. Consider swapping hand-me-downs with other families with children. Encourage the recipient of your hand-me-downs to pass them on to someone else when they are finished with them. Perhaps you could donate them to an organization that distributes the hand-me-downs to victims of natural disasters or shelters. You may be able to place them in a consignment shop for a little monetary return.
Well cared for hand-me-down clothing can bless many people, including yourself.