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The Hard Thing About Hand-Me-Down Clothes

By emily |

Three years ago when I gave birth to my son, a very generous friend gave me a few bins of boy clothes her kids had outgrown that I could now use.

The clothes were given to me under the assumption that she didn’t want them back, and when I was done with them, just to box them up for donation.

My son wore them, and I kept the clothes because I didn’t know if I was done having kids yet. Good thing I kept them, because now Paul is in need of a fall wardrobe.

This weekend I pulled out the bin of size 12 month boy cloths, prepping Paul’s wardrobe for cooler weather ahead. And while I’m forever grateful to have the bin, I have a dirty little secret to admit:

I really hate all the clothes, and I cringe thinking about dressing Paul in these hand-me-down.

But the thing is, I feel he has to wear these clothes, because I know it’s wasteful to buy new, when you already have something that works, even if it is totally worn out and ugly.

You see, these clothes are old. Gage is almost 3, and they were handed down from a family that also had two boys, the oldest of which is 8 years old. Even my friend admitted that “oh, most of these clothes were given to me by my sister-in-law a few years back”. This mean, baby Paul would be the at least the 4th kid to wear these clothes.

And while I’m grateful for the free hand-me-downs, the styles are just not my taste at all. For instance, the tops have logos and graphics I would never dress my kids in.

So what’s a girl to do? Buy new clothes for Paul just because I don’t like the unfashionable choices we already own? Or get off my high horse, be thankful for what’s been given to me, and dress Paul is the freebies.

I think I know what the right answer is, sigh.

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About emily



Emily Elling is a corporate interior designer and freelance writer. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and four unintentionally hilarious children. Emily also blogs at her personal blog, DesignHER Momma. Read bio and latest posts → Read emily's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “The Hard Thing About Hand-Me-Down Clothes

  1. Bethany says:

    I had the same thing with my boys. I did have to give some the boot because I just couldn’t put them in them. Otherwise I expanded my acceptability range. I also bought clothes for when we had events and stuff I wanted then to look nice for.

  2. LaurenT says:

    Are you kidding? Donate them!! Dressing our babies is sometimes the highlight of the day and if you don’t like the style, give them away to someone that will! Then go on craigslist or a consignment shop like once upon a child and find gently used clothes that you like! Or shop the sales at old navy, target, walmart etc. You definitely should NOT feel bad about not using them!

  3. Anna says:

    Ha! I am experiencing the same thing. I swear, I was handed down enough clothes to dress five babies, and I have precisely one. Here is what I did: donated the items I completely disliked, kept the rest, and then purchased just a few things I really, really like so I can once in a while have the joy of dressing him in something that is completely me.

  4. AliaAtreidesBr says:

    I wouldn’t use it. It’s not like they are new clothes that were never used, or a precious gift – I would feel bad donating something like that without using. However, they seem to have been put to good use many times… no reason to feel guilty. Maybe you could keep neutral pieces, like plain paints or something, and just give up the rest. That’s what I would do.

  5. Jen says:

    Yes – consignment sales are the best! My little guy’s wardrobe is about 50% hand-me-downs (a mix from our friend’s son who is just 3 months older and my nephew who is 2 years older), 25% consignment sale finds, and 25% new. We use the hand-me-downs as almost all of the basics (white onesies, pants/shorts, PJs) and then once we add in consignment store bys I don’t feel quite so badly spending a little more on new items!

  6. Paulina says:

    Well, there is a compromise. Keep the few items you do like or that are acceptable for layering underneath and get rid of the rest. I get lots of hand-me-downs for my daughter and have found that if I don’t like a shirt or outfit, it just sits in her dresser drawer taking up space. There is always a better (cuter) option instead and the ugly stuff just sits there until she grows out of it.

  7. Kim Q says:

    Why should you feel pressured to dress your child in clothes you do not like? It doesn’t matter whether you got them as hand me downs or as a gift from a relative- if they do not suit you and your child, donate them on to someone/somewhere else. Then there is no reason to feel bad that you are not using them.

  8. Reese says:

    I agree with some previous commenters. I didn’t have many hand-me-downs with my son, but I’ve had so many for my daughter. We took 6 or more boxes to Goodwill last week, what we kept was maybe one or two boxes worth. A lot of it just wasn’t our style and there was just soooo much! At least I know that someone else will get them and money goes to charity.

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