It’s that special time of year, the one that everyone looks forward to… well, at least I do. Bringing out big boxes from our storage closet, opening the lid, emptying the content and looking at everything is a long afternoon walk down memory lane.
Each and every item has a story and the older it gets, the longer its history. No, I am not talking about holiday decorations, although the feelings attached to these things are just as strong. I am talking about our kids’ clothes. We have boxes upon boxes of hand-me-down children’s clothes. Some of them are like new, only worn a time or two, while others are showing signs of being passed from boy to boy over the past decade.
I grab the onesie with the big blue whale. I hold it up in the air. It’s sliced up the back – from when Jordan was in the hospital as an infant and the only way to “dress” him was to drape clothes over his body. The memories flood over me – from the hospital smell to the beeping medical alarms. Jacob’s size 3T rainbow plaid shorts from the phase where he insisted on wearing these “old man shorts” EVERY DAY for three (long) months. Jansen’s flannel dinosaur PJs that are thoroughly worn out. He wore them daily for over a month after we brought home his baby brother. (It was his silent protest to no longer being the baby.) All these clothes – all the memories. I quickly shake off the nostalgia and start sorting the clothes.
I tell my friends that having four boys is not four times as expensive as having one boy. One of the main reasons for this, is the system I have implemented for our hand-me-down kids’ clothes. When clothes are handed down properly they can last through several kids and save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.
Over the years I have developed a system for rotating the boys’ clothes, and done in such a fashion that “poor little Jonah” isn’t stuck wearing stained and tattered clothes. On the contrary, he is a well-dressed little boy with more clothes than he can ever wear! Follow my advice to get more milage out of your hand-me-downs!
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10 Steps to Getting The Most Out of Your Hand-me-downs:
All four of our boys are tall for their age, so I always find that they are wearing a size larger than their age, at least. I rotate the clothes in their closets at least once a year, more if they have had a growth spurt. (Editor’s note: we live in South Florida, so we only have clothes for one season: summer!)
- When the boys start to outgrow a size I pack EVERYTHING away in that particular size. Of course there are always items that they could continue to wear, but my reason for keeping everything in the same size together is two-fold:
- It makes for easier storage and organization. (Example: Everything in size 5 fits into one or two bins, instead of having to search the bins with size 4 or 6 for all the clothes).
- Storing the clothes before they are worn to shreds ensures that the next boy in line has nice clothes to wear.
- Store old clothes in large 30 quart plastic bins.
- Keep the bins inside the house, if possible. We used to store our bins in the garage, but some of it got ruined by the heat and humidity.
- I save ALL the clothes, regardless of the condition.
- Wash and dry everything before storing.
- Remove all stains.
- Put dryer sheets in the storage bins to preserve the freshness.
- Store the clothes by size, limiting each bin to only hold one or two sizes at a time.
- Clearly mark the outside of the bin with write-on labels. I write on the end and along the side of each bin, as well as writing the information on a piece of paper that goes inside.
- Create a bin for each of the following categories:
- Sentimental items: baby’s first outfit, special blankets and any other “firsts” or once-in-a-lifetime memories you wish to preserve.
- Shoes and hats. (I save these two items in one bin, not sorted by size).
- One bin per size.
After a good growth spurt, when you struggle to pull the shirts over his head and the pants are way too short, it is time to pull out the next size of clothes.
- Wash all the clothes.
- Sort the new size into the following categories:
- Stained/ damaged: get rid of ASAP.
- Donate/ give away: pass on to a friend or give to charity.
- Sell: on eBay, consignment or Facebook groups
- Save: store in the “sentimental bin” before it is worn by the next kid. (Check out what we did with some of our most sentimental baby clothes.)
- Wear: hang in his closet for immediate use.
Quick tips to optimize your children’s wardrobe for hand-me-downs:
- Dressing the kids in identical outfits is all fun and games – until it comes time to hand down the clothes. All of a sudden your child will wear the fuzzy penguin christmas vest for the next 5 Christmases because you have them in every size!
- Instead of MATCHING, aim for coordinating outfits among the siblings! Trust me on this, I have three pair of dinosaur PJs to prove my point!
- Get smart when you label clothes for school and daycare! I mark our kids’ clothes with their first initial and last name – which are the same for all four boys!
- Little baby brother isn’t stuck with hand-me-downs listing every single brother who owned the jacket before him.
- I have stocked up on the Tag Mates tag-sized labels from Mabel’s Labels. These tags are durable; they don’t budge after years of wear, wash and machine drying – so label their clothes to last through all the siblings.
- Babies and older children wear their clothes out differently. Here are some things to watch for with each stage:
- Newborn – 12 months: the adorable outfits are barely used with very little wear.
- 12 months – 2T: the babies start to do more, so now you have food stains, and a little more wear.
- 3T – 5T: watch out for toddlers on the move! Now there is increased wear, stains from food and crafts – they are just overall rougher on their clothes.
- 6 and older: the big kids tend to have wear and tear on the knees of their pants. There may be “sensory damage” on sleeves and necklines, from biting and sucking. Clothes are worn longer as they grow in spurts.
A few of my hand-me-down kids’ clothes supplies:
I LOVE Mabel’s Labels. They are durable, cute and personalized.
These storage bins will last you through an entire childhood:
Stack & Pull Box, Clear
If your child is in daycare or school you need these labels! It’s a must!
Go ahead and get started with your hand-me-down system today. It will pay off for years to come. When done right, you will still be able to sell the best kept outfits after the last baby has outgrown them.
Did you wear hand-me-downs as a child? Do you think that has shaped your view of passing down clothes from one sibling to the next?