Logistics:  Managing the Hand-Me-Downs

If you’re fortunate, you’ll tie in with a network of folks who are able to pass along outgrown clothing, thus helping to keep those costs under control.  That also means that there’s going to be clothing that’s stored away and has to be periodically sorted both by size and seasonality and that task is something that I do twice each year when the weather starts turning cold or warm.  It does raise the occasional question of whether there’s actually too much clothing to keep in the house.

We’re fortunate in that we have two boys and are physically/emotionally close to another family with two boys and there’s been a flow of clothing through the years.  They also have a daughter, but she and our daughter are similar enough in size and age that we really haven’t been able to process hand-me-downs for the girl.  So what’s the logistical process for sorting and  handling the flow of clothing?

  1. Start with the youngest child and cull through the clothing, either throwing out or passing along what he or she can clearly no longer wear.  It took me a while to finally visualize a pipeline between one kid and the next one and realizing that if there wasn’t room for the clothing being passed down, I’d wind up with a stack – or pile – of clothes with no room for storage.
  2. You can visually size up what’s obviously too small and move that to a separate pile for later processing.  What’s obviously wearable for the colder or warmer weather is separated and yet another stack is composed of what the child actually has to try on.  My experience has been that it’s best to just pull the child for one stack of try-ons instead of constantly asking him or her to come away from the activity and creating resentment.
  3. Pay attention to the condition of the clothing.  I’ve kept and patched jeans that are ripped but I then have to be careful that those are the pants that are worn for Saturday play instead of making it to school. 
  4. Since kids don’t grow at a constant rate, expect that not everything is going to be the exactly right length.  Pants might be a bit short or long and depending on how much and what is available, might have to be worn until they are either unacceptably short or are finally the right length.  The same goes for shirts. 
  5. In dealing with shirts, this process gives you the opportunity to cull what’s acceptable in terms of language.  Many ‘tweeners and teens today wear shirts with messages and there are many parents who simply say nothing about the message.  Our stance has been that shirts with messages are fine for play but not school and even then, the message can contain no offensive language.  A case in point is the farting dog shirt that simply wound up in the trash.
  6. You might have to decide how much is too much.  A year ago, our eldest boy had eight pairs of jeans that fit simultaneously, but does a boy need eight pair of jeans?  In our case, I held several pair back for the younger boy.
  7. The offsetting question is whether the child has any other clothing besides jeans and play clothing?  I don’t know of any families where the girls don’t have some dresses or more formal clothing, but boys can be so rough and tumble that it’s easy to forget that they do need to have more formal clothing, even if it’s simply khakis and one or two dress shirts.  In our case, each of the boys has one or two pair of dress pants and a pair of khakis, along with some ties and decent sweaters.
  8. The final question is where you want the old clothing to go.  Is there another family that can use the clothing?  Do you have a favorite charity?  In our case, there’s a bag of kids and adult clothing that will go to the school district, which is organizing a free clothing give-away within the next several days.



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