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Get a Handle on Hand-Me-Downs

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Some kids love to wear their big brother or sister's outgrown clothes; others pooh-pooh the idea, but there's no question that passing clothes along from sibling to sibling saves you time and money. Granted it's fun to go clothes shopping (well, without the younger children in tow anyway) and there's nothing quite like that new-clothes smell, but buying gently used clothes -- from a consignment shop, thrift store, or neighborhood Goodwill -- is a wallet-friendly and environmentally responsible option, which also helps support charitable organizations and young families like yours. If you have a kid who puts his nose in the air about used clothes, keep in mind that he might be objecting to wearing a certain sibling's clothing but might be happy with hand-me-downs from other family members (and used clothes from consignment stores come with price tags so who can tell the difference?).

Kids grow so fast that it feels like the fancy outfit from Ralph Lauren you just splurged on is too small before the season is even over. What to do? A little organization, some storage boxes, and some bins in the closet are all you need to handle hand-me-downs. Here's how:

The Closet Cha Cha
Do this dance once a season (or more often if it suits your fancy) and purge the clothes that are too small or your kid never wears. To avoid tears and confusion, you may want to do this with your child, but be sure to explain beforehand that he has to agree to part with all the clothes that are too small. Then you can decide where the item will go.

If the item is ripped or stained, cut it in strips and use as a kitchen rag; keep a scrap of it for that quilt you're going to make (once the kids are in college); or throw it away. If it's too big for the next kid, put it in a storage box marked with the size and season of the clothes (for example, Boys' Winter Wear, 2-3T). Under-the-bed storage is a good place for this stuff.

If you don't want to keep the item, it's too gender-specific for the next child but still in good shape, or you're sure you're not having any more children, put it in a box for Goodwill or a consignment shop. Keep this box in the car, so next time you're in the neighborhood, you can drop the stuff off. If you donate to charity, remember to ask for a receipt -- your donation may be tax-deductible. If the clothes are really special (like that party dress with matching bloomers that Grandma bought your daughter, and had her name embroidered on it), put them in your child's hope chest.

Future Finery
If relatives send you clothes that are too big or you happen upon a great close-out sale, keep these clothes in a separate box or bin labeled by gender, season, and size for your child to use in the future.

Buy Smart
When you buy new, buy quality clothes that are made to last, preferably from companies that guarantee their products (companies like Hannah Anderson and L.L. Bean have a lifetime guarantee policy and will replace clothing that does not wear well). Choose gender-neutral styles and colors (light green anyone?) so the next child in line can easily wear it as well.


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