On Simplifying: No More Hand Me Down Clothing Stash!

“…If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright.”

Matthew 6:22, NWT


I made what may be potentially viewed as a radical decision for a mom. Heretical, even.

Especially for a mom with a larger family.

I Eliminated our Hand me Down/Off Season Clothing Stash

Most moms have one, especially if you have several children. You know, that collection of Rubbermaid containers in the attic or basement full of clothing kids have outgrown, which awaits another kid. Or off season clothing waiting to be used when the weather changes.

The supposed benefits of this practice? a) saving money b) convenience – shop from your stash!

Theoretically, it’s supposed to work.

But like all good ideas, it just doesn’t work for everyone.

Problems I’ve Encountered with the Hand Me Down Clothing Stash:

1) It is clutter

Pure and simple, it’s visual clutter that made me feel anxious every time I went downstairs. It took up way too much space in my basement, which we couldn’t even use for a kid’s rec room because of all the junk.

2) It isn’t simple

My stash actually caused me stress.

There are several reasons for this. For one, my girls could not keep their paws OUT of the clothing in storage. They thought it was great fun to go into the basement, upend a container, and throw stuff around (at least that’s what it looked like!), causing stuff to get dusty and buggy and spiderwebby. They would bring off season clothing upstairs to an already overcluttered bedroom… you get the picture. Nothing I did, discipline-wise, put a stop to it. It was just too tempting.

3) It discourages trust

This probably isn’t true of you, but for ME, having that stash made me wonder if I was really trusting God to take care of my needs. Planning for the future is good, but the stash may have been about fear, lack and limitation in my heart.

4) It felt greedy

Again, for me, having all that unused clothing felt a little greedy. I could have opened a kid’s consignment shop out of my basement!

Saving Ruby’s outgrown baby clothing for another arrival seemed wise, but there are other babies being born who could use it NOW. (And what it the next baby is a boy?) There are other tweenaged girls who could wear Zoe’s like-new jeans NOW. Giving a lot of this stuff away felt good.

Too much of a good thing is still too much.

5) It cost me money

Amazingly, the stash did NOT save me any money! The biggest reason is because I would simply forget what was tucked into those containers. I would forget to check them before shopping. To my chagrin I would spend money (even at thrift store and yard sale prices, it’s still money) and then discover that a child already had several of the item in question in storage. ARGH!

Another issue is that sometimes a kid wouldn’t grow as fast as I thought, so their last year’s clothing would fit just fine.

6) Unused things deteriorate

Clothing that I thought I was wisely saving for a younger sibling, that looked like it was in great condition, would emerge from the tubs with mystery stains that had resurfaced. Shoes would emerge covered in mildew. Yuck.

So a percentage of the clothing would have to be trashed anyway. Even if I spent time doing stain removal, it would have been wiser to just get rid of it in the first place!

Lemme get one thing straight: I despise shopping. I know, I must be missing a girl gene somewhere, but it’s true. If I could afford it, I would get all of my kid’s clothing on eBay and from online retailers.

I thought that the stash would help me avoid shopping, but it really didn’t.

Kid’s needs change, and they don’t always grow the way you think they will. Their tastes and styles also change. (There is also a little thing called Grandparents with deep pockets who just love to buy kid’s clothing!)


(This picture has nothing to do with eliminating the hand me down clothing stash. I just like it.)

Here’s what I did to get rid of the clothing stash:

1) I culled ruthlessly

I called each kid into the basement and had them go through the stash. If it didn’t fit NOW, it was put into a “sell/give/donate” container.

2) I gave it away at a clothing swap

I hosted another clothing swap for my homeschool field trip group. It feels great to give stuff away to people I care about!

3) I had a yard sale

I HATE having yard sales and swore I would never do another. But, I kept it to just one day, and hubby stayed home to help (which is always nice!), and ended up getting the de-cluttering bug and selling a ton of his old junk too!

4) I gave to charity

Tax deductions when both you and hubby are self employed? Yes, please. A women’s shelter emailed me and asked if they could have my unsold merchandise. Their truck picked it up the next day.

5) I threw stuff out

I just plain threw some clothing out. Polyester PJs? I hate ‘em and have never purchased them for my kids. They smell bad (polyester holds on to a funky smell) and feel horrible (they don’t breathe, I swear polyester PJs cause nightmares!). Out, out, out. Anything stained or broken or whatever, out.

6) I sold stuff on eBay

Some of the nicest stuff that I knew would sell on eBay got listed last weekend. All the kids except baby were gone to grandparent’s house. So hubby and I tag teamed with Ruby and got a ton of stuff listed on eBay and Craigslist.

The only exception I made? Suits. Caleb’s $50 dress shoes and Sunday suits are saved for Julien. I also kept a few items that the kids would without a doubt use within a year. All that fits into just 4 containers! My basement is almost totally empty and I LOVE that.

Now, when I walk in there, I get a lovely light feeling, instead of a heavy anxious one.

What about you? Do you have a large “in case” or “hand me down” clothing stash in your home? Does it make life easier for you?




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18 Responses to On Simplifying: No More Hand Me Down Clothing Stash!

  1. Kim says:

    I too am guilty of keeping large stashed of clothes for my kids too grow in to, but, like you, I forget what I have most of the time. Right now most of my stash is baby/toddler clothes. I have it all over my bedroom. My closet is stacked to the ceiling with boxes, and under my bed is ridiculous. I am attempting to go through it all now, but it is a daunting task. Congratulations on getting yours cleaned out!

  2. esper says:

    What I gave up is TV. About a year ago now.

  3. The only “in case” clothes I have are for the baby. He’s in 18 months now and I have 2t, in one tote, on a shelf in my closet.

    Not even talking about stashes, but my kids had too much clothes that fit them now! We just moved into a smaller place (we lost a room plus more square footage) so I decided to use this chance to downsize. I don’t like the idea of having stuff in storage so every few weeks I go through what we have and do something with it. I have a bag of items to give away and a box of clothes to take to the consignment store. Our consignment stores are so fully that they only allow you to give so many pieces a month. I need to branch out to other stores I know.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I have one big tub of my older’s boys clothes for my younger boy to wear someday so it is not enough to make it a burden to keep. But when I get more than that tub can hold I look through it and get rid of my the most worn pieces. We keep all clothes, regardless of season, in our closets so that we don’t have to store them. I HATE having tubs of clothing in the garage or basement where spiders lurk and we don’t have room anywhere else.

  5. Clover says:

    I was your comment on The Happiest Mom and was intrigued! I’m in the midst of the clothing shuffle right now. My kids are 7 (girl), 6 (boy), 3 (girl), and 1 (boy). So if I want to save things from one kid to the next, it has to be stored for several years. While I am very ruthless about what I save for the next kid, I don’t see myself not keeping any stash. Some things, like plain colored turtlenecks, all four of my kids can wear. I do hate that mysterious-stain syndrome, but it usually is a small percentage. While I do have to buy some clothes for the second in line, I really do save a lot of money but not having to come up with a wardrobe from scratch, especially since my kids are extremely skinny and it’s hard to find the slimfit or adjustable waists in the clothes I want for them. Very interesting point of view, I may have to mull this over more!

  6. Judy says:

    I’m in the midst of doing a similar clean-out. I’ve been saving clothes for 3 years, and although I’m 99% sure we’re one-and-done, that 1% of uncertainty has made me hold onto clothes. And seeing those bins and bags of clothes just sit there makes me feel claustrophobic. We have a cousin with an almost 1 year old that can certainly use clothes, so that’s where it’s going.

    I do stock up on clothes to grow into, and go through them when seasons change so I’m not surprised. We have enough 3T to last, and some 4T in the wings, but beyond that we’ll have to see what we can find.

  7. You have totally inspired me to get rid of my stuff!!! We are planning a yard sale, but I need to seriously get this crap out of my house and out of my life… thanks for sharing your story… It made me see that I was making life harder for myself now and in the future.

  8. carrie says:

    I’m so glad it was helpful! I knew I wasn’t alone in my thinking on this. :-)

  9. carrie says:

    If I find a really great deal on something that’s just too good to pass up, I will go ahead and grab it, as long as I know for certain it will be used within a few months. :)

  10. carrie says:

    The more I thought about this post, it began to sink in just WHY it doesn’t work for me. Similar to your kid’s lineup, mine are Boy/Girl/Boy/Girl/Girl.. then a space of 5 years until Baby. That means that clothing has to sit too long before it can be used by another kid. If I had two or three of one gender in a row, or kids that are one year apart, it might work for me. :)

  11. carrie says:

    I so agree Tiffany! Down with Tubs! LOL. I love that we can actually use our basement now. We may even put something soft on the floor and turn it into a rec room.

  12. carrie says:

    Wow- that’s crazy about the consignment shops. I guess it’s good for the buyer though, you have lots of inventory!

  13. I have only one child and friends have given us hand me downs. As soon as they don’t fit, off they go to the Op shop (known as Thrift stores in your neck of the woods). I do, however, have what I call an archival bag of clothing & shoes. Some special items that I look at and they remind me of Charlotte’s baby yrs. They bring a big smile to my face and every so often we both go through them and it’s a lovely experience. Charlotte is now 6 yrs. Good for you being so ‘brutal’ Carrie. You will feel much lighter, I’m sure.

  14. Suzanne Holt says:

    We did more of a switch around. When one kid outgrew their clothes, we gave them away right away and eventually someone would pass their hand me downs down to us. But as the kids get older and their individual tastes differ, hand me downs don’t work out so much anymore.

    Radically reducing the use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning.

  15. carrie says:

    “But as the kids get older and their individual tastes differ, hand me downs don’t work out so much anymore.” – Exactly. Often when I saved an older kid’s clothing, the younger child wouldn’t like it. Another issue to add to the list above ;)

  16. Renee says:

    Yes, I have a big stash. It first developed because my husband and I were about to adopt and a friend said her sister who was also adopting had to have everything ready for the child– a crib, a toddler bed, everything. My husband was in grad school and all our money was going towards saving for the adoption, so I freaked out and got a ton of free clothes on craigslist, both for a boy and a girl as well as a crib and a ton of other baby stuff that I thought I would need for the home study. Turns out those things aren’t required before you have the child placed with you. However, I held on to the stuff because we truly didn’t have extra the money to buy much, and it became a way for me to cope with infertility and plan for a child.
    My son is now 2, and I did appreciate not having to go shopping because I had a ton of super cute clothes already. However, I have culled down everything to my favorites, and now any time a friend gets pregnant, I invite her over to go through my stash (I still have tubs of girl clothes too). I honestly haven’t thought about just donating them all, as we are preparing to adopt again. I guess I could. I have a great community here where I do not think I would want for clothes because people freely give away clothes their children have grown out of.

  17. Sarah says:

    I only shop new children’s clothes for undershirts and socks. My toddler is about to potty-train, and we’ll add undies to that list. Everything else is garage sale shopping or an occasional gift from friends or relatives. My infant garments are gender-neutral, and will be used for this next one due in a month, and all of their external garments will be either hand-me-downs, garage sales, or hand-made.

  18. Coco says:

    I came across your blog today and have been reading posts off and on this afternoon, this one caught my eye and just made me smile. I am going through a major cleaning spree, and trying to downsize and minimizing our belongings and children’s clothing is one thing that has been on my mind. We havd a 4 yr old boy and 2 yr old girl and another girl on the way and I have SO many boxes of baby clothing that I need to go through. People gave us clothing and it just piled up, now it is time to go through it and keep only the items I truly like and am willing to clothe my children in! Thank you for the inspiration!

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