Declutter your wardrobe with these easy steps.
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Virginia Wells

Managing Hand-Me-Downs and gifted clothes

“Hand-me-downs”, or the secondhand clothes gifted from other people, might be welcome but they can also pile up. I certainly have a love hate relationship with them! 

When we receive a bag of clothes, whether it is for ourselves or our children, it can be a bit tricky to decide what to do with them. It is especially tricky if this is the first time you’ve received this kind of gift. In this post I will give you some tips for managing them. 

Bear in mind too that, although in this instance I’m talking about clothing, you can put the principles I am going to talk about in play for pretty much any items that you receive from other people.  

What have you done in the past? 

If you have received hand-me-downs before, you might want to ask yourself what you’ve done with them. How much of what you kept actually sat around in the cupboard unused? Did you end up buying items regardless of what you already had secondhand? How much time did you take to review them and decide what to do with them? Did it cause you heartache or eat away at your time more than it was worth? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love hand-me-downs. In our family, most of my daughter’s clothes and quite a few for my husband and I, have come from other people. I rely on hand-me-downs for Imogen from our Buy Nothing group, cousins, friends and the like. We are big believers in reusing items and, a lot of the time, kids’ clothes particularly don’t get a lot of wear before the kids’ grow out of them. 

However, if bags of hand-me-downs cause you too much stress or just end up as clutter, think about whether you actually want to accept them. 

How to ‘process’ a bag of hand-me-downs  

Okay, so what do you if you do accept the gift of hand-me-downs? 

Process it ASAP 

My first tip is to try and process what’s in the bag as soon as you can. Look through it within a day or two rather than putting it off for long while. 

Working with ‘current size’ clothes 

If the bag contains the size that you or your child are currently wearing it can be quite a quick job. Anything that you know you won’t use can go straight back in the bag, label the bag ‘donations’ (make it clear so you don’t ever have to go through that bag again) and put it in your car to hand on to the next person or the charity shop. Make a note in your diary to get rid of that bag as soon as you can. 

Anything you decide you want to keep, put away immediately. You might want to try the reverse hanger trick to see if you do actually wear those items over the next few months. This trick is particularly useful for those items you were not sure about. More on that next. 

What to do with ‘maybe’ items 

What about the things you’re not sure about immediately? There are a couple of things you can do. Trying them on will help you decide. You can do this straight away, if you have time and your child is cooperative. Or put them in a particular spot to try when you’re getting dressed. If you put it on and immediately take it off, it is probably safe to put it in the donations bag. 

You could also use the reverse hanger trick for the ‘maybe’ items. Put them on hangers but put the hanger in the wardrobe backwards. If you wear it, turn the hanger around. Anything left hanging ‘backwards’ in a few months time, you can safely give away. 

Working with clothes that don’t currently fit 

If you’re processing items that are not the size you’re currently wearing, the process is a little different. These might be clothes you child will grow into or that you’ll fit into when your body changes, such as during pregnancy. You need a different way to consider these pieces and you’ll need a way to store them. 

Have a plan 

It can be good to have an idea of how many of each type of thing you’ll need in each size. Another way to think about it is to know how much space do you have for each size? You might limit yourself to one plastic tub for example. 

Also, understand what you or your child likes to wear. If your child doesn’t like dresses, then don’t keep dresses for example. Keeping things in the hope that they will wear what you want them to wear is exactly what creates clutter, chaos and stress. 

Sort and store 

This plan will help you decide what to keep and what not to keep when you work through a bag of hand-me-downs. So, go through those bags and pull out what’s really going to be used and loved. Pass the rest on to somebody else who’ll use them. 

Take the items you’ve decided to keep and, ideally, put them away immediately into labelled tubs so they are easy to find when you are ready for them. 

If you haven’t yet set up a system for storing clothes, I have a couple of blog posts that will help – one for adult clothes and one for kids’ clothes. Essentially, though, here’s a quick rundown… 

Decide on your storage space. I recommend keeping these items out of your ‘prime real estate’ (in this case your wardrobe) and perhaps keep them in plastic crates in the garage, for example. (If you’ve worked hard and actually have space in your wardrobe – pop them up high on a shelf or down low on the floor (in the crates). Just be mindful of safety in regards to getting them back down!

Sort the items into sizes and put them into the crate or bag in the reverse order of use. For example, your growing child will need Size 4, then Size 5, then Size 6. So Size 6 will go at the bottom, then the 5s and then the 4s. Depending on your space allowance, you might have a separate box or bag for each size. Whatever your solution, label it clearly with what it contains so that it is easy for you when the time comes to use them. If you are likely to forget you have them, put a reminder in your phone in 6-12 months time to get them out of the storage. Noting down where you’ve put them away might help you too!

Bonus tip for kids’ clothes 

One extra little step I do, which you might like to try is keep a list of the size and items you’re storing away, on your phone or a notebook. For example: 

Size 6

  • 4 long sleeve tops
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 jumper 

Add to the list as you collect things and then, when your child is getting close to wearing that size, or it’s the change of season, you know what you still need to get. (Via your Buy Nothing group or purchase). 

I hope you find these tips for hand-me-downs helpful. Do you have any others? I’d love to hear them. Share them with the WellSorted Facebook group

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