50 Comments

  1. Absolutely never ever feel guilt for accepting a hand me down. I know whenever I purge, I would way prefer to give the item to someone I actually know who will use and appreciate it than just goodwill et al. Because you’ve been to those places I’m sure, you know how unbelievably packed with stuff every single one always is. I promise you Penny, any family in need can still find second hand things for themselves. You are also blessing the giver by letting them know how much you appreciate the item, caring for it, and using it regularly.

  2. I too would probably feel some guilt for buying second-hand if I didn’t know that most charity shops are bursting at the seams with people’s cast-offs. A majority of what gets donated actually tends to be shipped overseas – flooding developing economies with cheap clothes and deflating their own local textile market.

    If your friends and family want to gift you their secondhand items, love them until HP doesn’t need them anymore and then give them to another child who can use them. In my opinion, that’s the best way to utilize an item to it’s fullest potential!

    • That’s part of why I’m still so determined to make Poshmark work. I read something about how much Goodwill has to throw out, and it really gave me pause!

  3. I have heard this argument before (the “don’t take hand me downs/shop at thrift stores if you make more than $X”), but it strikes me a preposterous. Between wanting to be a mindful consumer, a good steward to the earth, and a good example to my son that we don’t always need “new & shiny”, I find no guilt in buying or receiving used items 😉 Sure, it helps that hand-me-downs are free and thrift stores are deeply discounted and my wallet appreciates it, but that is not my primary driver for shopping/accepting used items.

    • Honestly, seeing how relieved and happy people are when we accept things has been hugely motivational for me. And now that we have so much stuff of our own, I get it!

  4. Lizzy

    As the above comments noted, there’d are more than enough second hand items to go around, especially clothing and baby items!

    • It really is amazing to see how much STUFF people have hanging around from having kids. Full basements and attics used to puzzle me before. People are so incredibly generous that I really get it now.

  5. I think hand me downs are the best. We have the money to buy new, but sometimes I wonder if our world can handle the glut of plastic and clothe we create. I look it as an environmental issue.

    • That’s true, Little Miss Fire! I suppose I should think of it as gift giving. I do in the sense that we make sure to really show our gratitude, but I bet it does make the givers feel good. Thanks for the new perspective.

  6. Not only are hand-me-downs acceptable, accepting them is absolutely the right thing to do. In some cases, folks might not be able to make ends meet and have their kids’ needs met as well. My brother has 12 kids, and it is hard to imagine they could have made it without gently used clothing and toys finding their way into their home.

    • Gosh, I know! That’s where I struggle, Oldster. The fact that we get so many hand-me-downs and someone WITH 12 KIDS might not is why I feel so guilty sometimes. Like maybe we should pass more along right away instead of letting him wear them or play with them first.

  7. You have nothing to feel guilty about. I was going to suggest you donate the items after you no longer need them, but it seems you found your way to that conclusion on your own. Hand-me-downs are a good thing for the giver, the receiver, future receivers, and the environment. Don’t let your guilt take away from that.

    • Thanks, Gary! I am definitely trying to focus on the gratitude more than the guilt. Plus, I try to remind myself that we do quite a bit of giving as best as we can, too.

  8. Buckeyecub

    I love being able to give items we don’t need to physical people rather then charity. I know that the item will get used or passed on to someone else rather than sit in a warehouse. If items are missing pieces I won’t donate but I would give to someone who doesn’t care about missing piece.

    • It’s so funny that you say that! The toy my son is playing with in the photo is missing the phone. At first, I thought about putting it out on our curb. Then, I thought about ordering a replacement. Then, I realized he’s 8 months old and couldn’t care less. Everything else is functional, and he actually figured out how to push the button that the phone would trigger anyway. A long way to say the missing piece doesn’t matter at all!

      But I’m with you on not donating broken things to charity.

      • By the way, that toy in the photo is like the BEST TOY EVER. It was my daughter’s favorite toy for probably 6 months. She still plays with it on occasion.

        My best friend has a daughter 15mo older than mine. I got two giant tubs of the most amazing hand-me-downs from her recently. When my daughter outgrows a size, I return them to my friend (along with anything we may have bought or been gifted). If she can’t use them again, I know she can pass them along to another family and they can enjoy many more lifetimes of use.

  9. kddomingue

    I frequent a Goodwill store near my home which has a second store on site called the $1.49 a Pound store. The $1.49 a Pound store is my go to place for finding nice linen, 100% cotton and silk stuff to turn into quilts and aprons. It happens to be attached to the warehouse which is huge. The warehouse is stacked to the rafters with huge bundles of clothing, bed linens, curtains and draperies. There are all kinds of household goods/baby stuff waiting to be put out or sent elsewhere. And there are Goodwill trucks coming in EVERY DAY to drop off more stuff. There is no shortage of “stuff”…..take my word for it.

    Our circle of friends and family have passed things down to each other for decades now and the youngest adult generation is carrying on that tradition. If there’s no one in our immediate circle who needs or could use the item then we branch out into friends of friends, co-workers who might know of someone in need. We’ve been known to leave things at the side of the road with a sign that says “FREE: needs a good home” and have watched as people have jumped out of their car or truck to pick up the item with a big smile on their faces…..and they have generally been people who have appeared to not have the resources to even afford to go to Goodwill. And you might ask why we don’t do that with everything. Good question. If we did that with everything then our immediate circle of friends and family would be purchasing new items instead of using hand-me-downs, right? We are a rampant consumerist culture. We don’t care to be a contributing factor to that culture.

    The hubs and I were greatly influenced by our grandparents who were raising their families during the Great Depression. Their philosophy was use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. They also taught us that charity begins at home and, like a rock thrown into a still pond, creates a ripple effect that spreads out way beyond where the rock hit the water.

    Guilt over accepting or passing on hand-me-downs? Nope, none at all.

    • I’m always so relieved when you comment! I know there is wisdom waiting for me. You’re absolutely right that being willing to accept hand me downs AND pass them along helps break the consumerist culture tendencies.

      • kddomingue

        Now you’ve gone and made me blush!

        I think I’m always a little taken aback that hand-me-downs are sometimes perceived as charity. I’ve always seen it as passing things along…..sometimes you get things, sometimes you give things. And it just makes more sense than throwing away perfectly good or serviceable items when they can still be used by someone. And, as you mentioned, accepting hand-me-downs frees up dollars that can be put toward a college fund, savings, more dollars to St. Judes or another charity that needs money rather than toys or clothing……plus you can hand down the hand-me-downs to someone else when you’re done with them thus extending their life cycle and freeing up dollars for someone else to do the same. And the cherry on top is the invaluable example that you’re modeling for HP……who, by the way, is adorable!

  10. Having been on both the receiving and the giving end of hand-me-downs, I can feel no guilt whatsoever. People (including me!) are so relieved to give their kids’ outgrown/unused stuff a home other than the landfill.

    I think I would feel a bit guilty if I turned around and resold stuff instead of using it. But I don’t, I hand things down to someone else. Today I stuck two children’s books, two leotards, tights, and ballet slippers in the mailbox of one of my colleagues with a daughter a couple years younger than my youngest. It is nice to have them out of the house! And way more satisfying than taking them to goodwill (and way less effort than having a garage sale).

    • Garage sales make me shudder! I don’t foresee selling anything we’ve been gifted, so that’s one ethical dilemma that we’ve managed to dodge.

  11. Oh gosh, I’ve never once felt bad about hand me downs. 🙂 If anything, I think they’re a great way to extend the life of usable items, no matter who you give them to. Sure, donating to charity is a fantastic way to help out. But I like knowing who is receiving the item; there’s something about knowing that it’ll be loved that makes it easier to part with possessions.

    • One of my friend’s kid is having a really hard time parting with things. We send lots of photos and video of HP with the items, and they say that actually really helps. And it must…because we keep getting more stuff!

  12. My family grew up finding stuff on the street because we really did need that stuff and we were in need. Today, this thought probably grazed my mind once and I pushed it out. There’s zero chance anyone think we need hand me downs now but I think of it like “Help me, mommy’s gonna toss me out. I want a home!” Lol! Plus if we don’t find a use for it, we find some way to give it away anyway. We don’t take anything we definitely don’t need and that’s a big way to combat that feeling.

    • I think that’s exactly it, Lily. We could have taken a lot more of the “curb alert” toys, but we wanted to not clutter up our own house AND leave items for others. That’s always why I try to really think hard about how many things HP can really wear or play with. Some of the items get passed along right away. And that does seem to help the feeling. I needed your insight, friend!

  13. I would not feel any guilt at all. I read somewhere that most of what goodwill or salvation army goes straight to landfill, after passing through their process of being filtered out. Only a small percentage is sold in stores and a very little makes to the poor countries of the world. After reading that, I am so selective about what I donate to Goodwill/Salvation Army. Everything else goes in the dumpster.

    Your are helping your neighbor, yourself, and the environment. No need to worry about it. Thst stuff probably would have never made it to poor, ‘more deserving’ people anyway.

    • I have read some horror stories about Goodwill as well. It seems like people use them as a dumpster, which makes me super sad. I can’t even imagine having to sort through all of that! Thanks for the vote of confidence. It does seem like the right choice environmentally. I just never want to be greedy!

  14. I love used things for many reason- a big one is the environmental factor. I’ve sworn off fast fashion and unethical clothing, so I buy new US made or shop used- which I always prefer. The other benefit is that if you find a used item in good shape, it’s probably of good quality, as it already survived one bout of ownership. And nothing beats a good curb find 🙂

    • That’s where I am now. I haven’t shopped for myself in years except to replace a few odd things (I have so much stuff, I could probably skip shopping until I die…how embarrassing). But I was really stymied with the organic cotton versus regular for my son, and that’s how all of this really came about. DUH! From an environmental standpoint, it seems like a no-brainer (and yet it’s so contrary to our culture!).

    • kddomingue

      That’s one reason I like old furniture. If it’s in good shape after 50, 60, 70 years of use them it’s probably good for another decade or two, lol! We have hand-me-down furniture dating back to the 50s and a few pieces that I’ve picked up over the years dating back to the early 40s. Not fine antiques mind you, just stuff that the average person could afford back in those decades. And we scored the iron bed that my husband’s grandfather was born in (which makes it well over 100 years old) because nobody else wanted to take the time to go see what bed frame my husband’s aunt wanted out of the way. Nobody thought she was talking about THAT bed frame!

  15. “…[W]e also handwrite snail mail thank you cards.”

    I always knew you were a kick-ass person.

    And, no, you shouldn’t feel guilty about HP’s hand-me-downs. But I understand your misgivings. There are people who could really use the bounty you have received. If it’s any consolation, Mrs. G and I donated some stuff to Goodwill a few weeks ago. The receiving area looked like the final scenes from Citizen Kane and Raiders of the Lost Ark. In other words, America has enough hand-me-downs to take care of both the comfortable and the downtrodden. Cheers.

    P.S. HP is cute as hell.

  16. I LOVE hand-me-downs!!! I have been extremely fortunate to have friends who have passed on tons of clothes to me that I then wear for years. A thought of guilt about it had never even crossed my mind, and I don’t think it’s something to feel guilty about at all. It’s a win-win-win (for you, the other person, and the environment).

  17. Thoughtful post. I think it’s valuable to appreciate the benefit of being able to receive hand-me-downs. There are people without those connections.

    I don’t think I’ve ever felt guilty, but I do go out of my way to make donations to charities that benefit children. And when I donate items I’m done with, I do so mindfully, choosing a charity where the items are most likely to go to those in need in my community (hint: not Goodwill).

    I’ve also tried not to hang onto to more than I’ll reasonably need, passing things on to other friends, our church nursery, or aforementioned charities. One friend called me the “queen of hand-me-downs” because I’ve been willing to redistribute lots of baby things that she (and I) didn’t need, to people who had the right age/gender of children.

  18. We love our hand me downs! My younger kids have mostly used clothes and probably half of their “new” toys the past year. Clothing is a huge source of pollution all across the consumer cycle. Reducing our new clothes has been a major step for us towards both frugality and reducing our footprint. We get most of ours from our Buy Nothing group which has a fabulous community of givers.

    • That is awesome to know, Jennifer! I haven’t even really needed to reach out to our Buy Nothing group (I have posted some things that we were decluttering, though). People have that much stuff that they seek us out! You are definitely right about the carbon footprint.

  19. Carolyn

    Today you may be accepting the hand me downs and making good use of them, in a year when your child outgrows those hand me downs as well as other clothes you bought or received as birthday or Christmas will need to go. I clean out my children’s drawers and closet each spring and fall. What the older can’t wear, I will save for the younger. What he has outgrown I bag up and let friends know what sizes are available. I am extremely thankful when I get rid of the three bags of clothes and a couple boxes of toys, it is less clutter in the closet and drawers. I assure you we are extremely thankful when you help us clear items we’re no longer using. Don’t feel guilty, we appreciate you.

  20. As someone who loves to repurpose items, I wish more people would accept hand-me-downs or used items and keep things out of the landfills. I even like the idea of ‘sharing’ items that are only used once or twice a year. Maybe we all don’t need every tool in our own private box.

  21. My philosophy is freely receive, freely give. I’ve received hundreds (thousands?) of dollars worth of free stuff in my life (mostly since having kids). If I don’t use it right away, I give it to someone who will. After my kids are done with something, I give it away. I always have boxes of things to give away, yet I always have more to give.

  22. Joy

    When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money so hand me downs and garage sales were the norm. So I never felt guilty receiving hand me downs when our wee one was born 3 years ago. Kids grow out of items within years (or months), and hand me downs make both the donor and receiver lives easier. The donor makes space and the receiver gets new items that didn’t cost them anything.

    Almost everything we received for our wee one has since been passed on to others. Some went to my sister who has had a new child recently and the rest went to a friend who lost all her first child’s clothes and such in a house fire but had another child after that. It was such a relief to get all of those items out of the house. No guilt here at all.

  23. We received a lot of hand-me-downs, and I was torn about it at first. There were a lot of things that we couldn’t or wouldn’t use, and I sold them at consignment sales. This seemed questionable to me, because I was profiting off of someone else’s generosity. But my friend was not willing to do the work to get the clothes up to the standards of the consignment sales, and I was. and she didn’t care. NOw, I no longer have time to worry about making money off of our used stuff, so I pass it along to people with younger kids than mine if it’s still usable. The biggest downside of primarily using hand me downs and secondhand stuff, to me, is that it limits my capacity to be generous to others, because often after my kids, used clothing is no longer in good enough condition to share.

  24. If it makes you feel better, Goodwill pays most of their employees with disabilities below minimum wage. The information about why this abhorrent practice is legal, at the moment, is at https://www.dol.gov/whd/workerswithdisabilities/.

    People will have more than they need and you are being kind to take a headache away from them. I don’t think you’ll ever be greedy and wouldn’t interfere with actual poor folks acquiring things they need.

  25. Claire

    I share your moral dilemma. Most of the furniture in our house is thrifted or a hand me down, and I too can’t help but wonder if someone who is financially worse off shouldn’t have profited from it instead of me. However, you and the people commenting make valid points: most people won’t go out of their way to find a new home for their stuff. So it’s you or the landfill. That’s a no-brainer. I also really like the fact that you thank people and show them how their things are being lovingly used (or misused by a toddler!); as well as your point about giving money to charities.

    • I’m glad it’s not just me, Claire. I try to be really mindful with how we use things, and then I make sure to pass them along. The guilt is still there, but that’s kind of my nature, too.

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