I am one of those mums that absolutely loves handing my kid stuff over to other mums. Two of my close friends have children about 18 months younger than my own, which is the perfect age difference for handing down bags of gently used, still stylish clothing from my 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son to their 4-and-a-half-year-old and 18-month-old.
It's a mutually beneficial relationship. I'm regularly inspired to clean out my kids' closets, and I feel better about splurging on those Patagonia swim shorts and Crewcuts dresses, knowing they're going to have a second life with other kids I love. My friends save loads of money on kids' clothes and have been known to thank me generously. (One of these friends is an amazing photographer, and she offers up free photo sessions for my family; another occasionally sends me gift cards to my favourite local Mexican restaurant. Bring on the skinny margaritas!)
If you can find a long-term hand-me-down situation that works for everyone, mum life is good, but more often, hand-me-downs come sporadically and in bits and pieces, a trickier concept to navigate, especially if you're on the receiving end. Follow these six etiquette guidelines, however, and you're sure to keep getting the good stuff . . . the good kid stuff, that is.
- Don't take what you won't use. We've all met a mum who can't wait to unload her kids' clothing the minute they've outgrown each item, but if you don't think your own kids will wear whatever she's offering, don't feel bad saying so, giving her the opportunity to find someone else who could use it. If she just won't take no for an answer, don't feel guilty dropping off that stuff at Goodwill.
- Don't be grabby. Unless you're dealing with your best friend or a close relative (or a friend who's complaining to you about how she needs to get rid of a ton of kid clothes), asking for another mom's hand-me-downs is pretty much a no-no. If she's already earmarked them for someone else or wants to keep them for her own future children, you put her in an awkward position. Instead, wait for her to offer.
- Don't forget to express appreciation in proportion to what you took. A single item is worthy of a quick thank you text. A bag deserves a handwritten note or a bottle of wine. If you really hit the jackpot with hundreds of dollars of awesome gear for your little one, consider sending your friend a nice gift or gift card. She'll appreciate the gesture, and even after the cost of said gift, you still saved money.
- Don't forget to ask if they want big items back. If you are handed down something large, like a stroller, crib, or baby swing, it's considerate to ask your friend if she'd like the item back after you're done. Even if she won't need it for her own kids, she might have a relative or another friend who could use it.
- Don't ask for something you aren't going to end up taking. Recently a very close friend, pregnant with her third child, asked me for my son's crib when we were done with it. I said yes, then had to say no when a relative made the same request. The relative bought her own crib for her now 2-month-old son, after which my friend told me she no longer needed my crib, which is still sitting in my basement months after her initial request. Sure, things change, but if you ask for a big-ticket item, you should try to retrieve it or let it go within a reasonable time frame, understanding that there might be others in line.
- Don't expect an ongoing hand-me-down situation unless it has been discussed. Maybe a buddy gave you all her 3-6 month clothes, then found out her sister-in-law was expecting. Or maybe her mother reminded her/guilted her into passing down everything to a distant cousin instead. In general, just because you get one set of hand-me-downs doesn't guarantee you'll get more. Be grateful for what you do receive and understand that circumstances change and she gets to decide what to do with her future kid loot.