Hand-Me-Downs are a Lifesaver for Our Family



Hand-me-downs have been a lifesaver for our big family. With now 10 kids we LIVE off of hand-me-downs, no exaggeration! We are really lucky to have a large circle of friends and neighbors that pass on their kids’ clothing, toys, sports equipment, baby gear… the list goes on. In addition to saving money, I love that we are recycling items. Below are some of our favorite types of hand-me-downs to receive as well as some suggested guidelines for the giver and the receiver.

As I was writing this post I was trying to remember when we first started receiving hand-me-downs. I realized that it began with one of our wedding gifts. I had a great aunt that gifted us a used 1970’s era KitchenAid hand mixer. At the time my husband and I laughed about it– my great aunt was known to be exceptionally thrifty and gifted my other cousins hand me down wedding gifts too. It turns out the laugh was on us!  The hand mixer is one of our most used and longest lasting appliances.

Here are some of our favorite items to receive (non-clothing and shoes–which we also LOVE!)

  • Sports/Outdoor Gear – All of our kids’ bikes, tennis racquets, lacrosse sticks, and starter cleats have come from friends. Kids grow so quickly that some kids may only use a set of cleats for one season!
  • Toys – Around October, I will have friends contact me with what toys they are done with and we will often use them as recycled Christmas gifts for our little kids.
  • Snow and rain gear are other items we love to receive.
  • Maternity clothes – My friends and I have been passing maternity clothes back and forth for years. You only wear them for a short period of time, yet they cost the same or more than regular clothes.
  • Baby gear – We thought our family was complete after our last baby was born and we gave away all of our baby gear. With a bonus baby now here, our friends have passed along infant car seats, strollers, and bassinets to us.

Over the years I have learned some lessons about receiving/giving hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors, here are some suggested guidelines.

5 Suggested Guidelines for the Giver:

  1. If you want an item returned, make sure to let the recipient know.
  2. Don’t pass on anything you would be sad that it wasn’t returned in it’s original condition.
  3. Know generally what size(s), or age range(s) of toys are contained in the giveaway pile. It’s easier for the recipient to know whether they can use it. 
  4. Check items to make sure they are in good condition – not stained or broken.
  5. Check to see if the recipient wants the items before offloading them.

6 Suggested Guidelines for the Receiver:

  1. With hand-me-down kid clothes, size up from your child’s current size (ie get 4T/5T clothes for your 3-year old).
  2. In addition to saying thank you, check with the giver to see if they want any items returned once you are done with them.
  3. Hand-me-down clothes often come in bins or bags. Take the whole bag and donate any items you’re not going to use yourself (or pass the items onto another friend). 
  4. It’s okay to say ‘no thank you’ to items. If it is something that you do not need or want, let the person know so they can pass it on to someone else.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for hand-me-downs, if there are items that you need, reach out to your mom network and see if anyone has those items are are ready to pass them on.
  6. Be a good steward; when you are done with items, pass them on to someone else so the cycle of giving continues.

Hand-me-downs have been a lifesaver for us. Our friends and neighbors have told us they love that their items are getting a second life. Do you use hand-me-downs? What have been your favorite/most used items you have received?

If you are looking for places to donate items in the DMV, check out our Guide to Favorite DC Area Thrift Stores and Donation Centers

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Jane was born and raised in Wilmington, DE. She met her husband 20 years ago and settled in Fairfax, VA in 2004. Jane is an only child turned big family mom of 10 kids ages 15 to newborn. They are the family next door just supersized. Jane considers herself an expert in free and low cost family friendly activities in Fairfax County and DC. Jane has battled Hypermesis Gravidarum (HG) in 7 pregnancies and Postpartum Depression last year, she is an advocate for awareness and support of HG and PPD moms. Likes: a good cup of Earl Grey tea, working out or walking with friends, exploring new parks and activities with her family, and reading travel websites. Follow Jane on IG at @10busybeesfamily or FB at @10busybees.


  1. What’s also good is finding networks to locate free hand me downs. Church ladies groups, neighborhood parent email lists and workplace (if a big enough workplace) notice boards have been resources I’ve used.

  2. Sometimes it’s hard for me to just get rid of things! I am way more likely to part with things I know are going to a good home!

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