labels for organizing hand me downsI’ve always been a bit of a frugal fannie… keeping (and eating) leftovers a few days past their prime, squeezing every last bit out of the toothpaste tube and collecting coupons and discount offers like it’s a sport (one of the few I’m actually good at!).  It should come as no surprise then, that I am quite handy with hand-me-downs.

I saved our firstborn’s clothes for our second and even though #1 was a boy and #2 was a girl, she wore his pajamas, snow pants and other gender-neutral essentials.  When we found out that #3 was going to be triplets, my hand-me-down instinct kicked into high gear and that’s where it’s been ever since.  Here’s how I handle the bins, bags, and boxes that keep our clan of five covered, clothed and warm.

  • Ask.  Yep, you heard me.  Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, cousins and playground pals if they want to swap, share or hand things down.  Many moms will offer but if they don’t, don’t hesitate to ask.  Most people are thrilled to see their tiny favorites worn again by someone else’s little tot and even gladder to see bigger ticket items like highchairs and cribs get “recycled” by people they know.
  • Sort.  I have a good friend—several in fact – who routinely drop off a bag or two of clothes for our clan.  I am grateful for all of it.  But I can’t keep ALL of it.  My daughter just won’t wear frilly dresses (which I’ve finally come to accept!) and thrifty l as I am, I’m not sending my kids to school in torn t.shirts or putting them to bed in stained pajamas (unless they actually created that tear or stain in which case, it’s fine!).  As a general rule, I go through items as they come in and put the “keepers” in clear labeled bins (BOYS 5T SUMMER or  GIRLS SIZE 7 WINTER or COATS/BOOTS – a catch all for seasonal items) and put the “gifts that keep on giving” into a bag for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who I then call to schedule a pick up.
  • Store.  With a house that’s over a hundred years old, closet space is minimal while basement dampness isn’t.  What’s a gal to do?  Put shelves in the basement, run a dehumidifier always, label with care, and put a moisture-wicking packet in each and every bin.  It works, I swear. Oh, and two ideas for labeling — try these adorable free downloadables from ButtonedUp or invest in a label maker and let your inner Type A shine.
  • Just say no.  There will come a point when you may realize, as I recently have, that there can be too much of a good thing.  Remember all those people you asked?  Well, they do too.  Which is lovely.  But there is just no way I will ever need eight pairs of size 5T snow pants or boots.  So, there’s come a time when you may have to just say no.  Don’t be afraid to – I can assure you there’s a mom down the block who would be happy to just say yes!

Last but not least, enjoy… and occasionally splurge!  You know how those cute catalogs arrive in your mailbox each spring and fall?  The ones featuring happy smiling kids with the latest swimwear or snow suits?  Well, they put me in a panic.  “Crap!” I think as I do the mental math on how much it will cost to buy five new bathing suits (and swim shirts to cover their fair skin) or winter coats, boots and gloves times five.  Then I pause, sigh, and head downstairs to the hand me down bins.  More often than not, everything I need is in them.  And if it’s not, well, it feels great to open up one of those catalogs and get everyone something new. With all the money we’ve saved over the years, we deserve it.  They deserve it.  And when they’ve outgrown it, I will be more than happy to hand it down!