One of the ways that large families can stretch the household budget and save money on clothing is by maximizing hand-me-downs! Especially if you know a few tips on how to take great care of kids clothing so that the items still look nice by the time they make it into the 4th little person’s closet! Over the years I’ve become a master at making the most of hand-me-downs- and here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
1. Make It Easy for Kids to Keep Their Clothing Folded and Organized
If your kids are putting away their tees and shorts into over-stuffed drawers- the items themselves are taking a beating as they get pushed and pulled into place in the drawer. Things are getting wrinkled and stretched out- and this system makes it harder to rotate through what your child owns- so chances are, the same items are getting worn over and over again with other items on the bottom of the pile never seeing the light of day.
We find it much easier to use open closet shelving to hold most of the kids folded clothes rather than dresser drawers. Kids can see what they own, and can rotate through the entire pile more easily, and are more likely to put away their folded laundry in a neat and organized way which is kinder and gentler to the clothing. So yes- the way you store your clothing makes a big difference in how long it lasts!
2. Pack Away Off Season Clothing and “Clothing to Grow Into”
If you want to keep future items in good shape- it’s best to just take them out of the mix! Twice a year I spend some time with each child in his or her closet to sort through their wardrobes- putting away off-season clothing, removing items from their closet that no longer fit them, and going through the bin of clothing to grow into so we can add in the items that will now fit. I also make a list of items each child needs to get them through that season- because even with hand-me-downs, kids will still need some new items!
In fact, I kind of have a rule at my house that no child should wear a hand-me-down outfits on his or her birthday or for school pictures!
3. Make Smart Purchases
If you want it to last- you need to buy quality items. Do I spend a lot of money on clothing? Heck no! I buy name brand merchandise only when it is on sale for a significant discount, and I stock up on basics like solid colored tees and khaki shorts, jeans, and sweat pants when I can. I find that better made items (GAP, American Eagle, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger,) all hold up very well- lasting down to my 3rd or 4th wearer. Items that I purchase at Target, and Kohl’s will last a season or two- but rarely make it past the 2nd child.
However, some items are destined to be worn by one wearer and are therefore meant to purchased as inexpensively as possible- socks come to mind for sure. But also sweatpants for my boys. They cannot get through one winter without getting holes in the knees- so those never make it to the guy in line!
4. Wash Them Well
Treat stains immediately- or better yet- teach your kids how to do it! I keep stain pre-treater right on the shelf above the washing machine and my kids know that if they have spilled/dripped food or managed to slide right into a mud puddle at school- that this item does not go into their hamper. It should be placed on top of the washing machine so it can be stain treated right away.
5. Not Everything Should Be Handed Down
There are definitely things that are just not destined to be handed down. Underwear and socks come to mind for sure. But I also “tread lightly” when it comes to shoes. If a pair of shoes is an everyday pair of sneakers and a child grows out of them- those are rarely handed down unless for some reason they are in perfect condition. Shoes worn daily take on the footbed shape of the wearer and that makes them uncomfortable for anyone else. But dress shoes only worn a few times, snow boots, my girl’s fashion sandals only worn a few times are all perfectly fine to be worn later by a younger sib.