Why I Love Hand-Me-Downs

A big part of the No Buy, No Cry philosophy is, for the stuff that we do need to acquire, to try to buy it second-hand, or receive it as a hand-me-down. There are so many reasons that I love second-hand stuff.

  1. Giving a second life to a product means that I’m using something that did not require any new resources to be used to create it or transport it to me. No new trees were cut down, plastics manufactured, or fuel consumed to bring this product to me. Of course, resources were used in the original creation of the product, but giving it a life beyond the original owner is like gravy, as they say.
  2. Using second-hand furniture improves the air quality in our home above what it would be with a new piece of furniture. A piece of used furniture has likely outgased most of its harmful chemicals already.
  3. Receiving a hand-me-down from friends or family gives special meaning to an item. When I place our daughter in her bassinet for the first time, I’ll know that it’s the same bassinet that her cousin Jacob slept in for the first months of his life.
  4. Buying gently-used items from my local children’s consignment shop keeps money in my community, instead of sending it to a big-box chain. The local shop makes money, and the family who previously owned the item makes money.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, buying or receiving used items costs less than buying new. By some estimates, it costs $11,000 for all the baby gear that you will need in just the first year of your baby’s life. By buying and receiving used items, I can save money, and then choose to spend it on things that really matter to me, like high-quality child care.

I’ve been telling anyone who asks that I would be happy to take whatever hand-me-downs they would like to pass on or loan. What has been surprising to me is that, before I say this, some people feel that they need to tiptoe around the issue of hand-me-downs, as if I might be offended by the offer. They’ll say things like, “We have a stroller/crib/car seat if you want it, but if you don’t we totally understand.” I think that some people think that I want to buy brand new things for our baby, or that I don’t want to miss out on the fun of doing all that shopping. But once I tell people about my No Buy, No Cry philosophy, they understand and even applaud it (figuratively speaking, that is).

Now, it’s not true that I will not take any hand-me-down that someone wants to give. I’m still selective about what I acquire, even when it’s free. At this point, given our small apartment and upcoming move, I’m only taking those things that I know for sure that we will need in the first few months. In the future, if an item is offered that I don’t want, or don’t think that we’ll need, I will turn it down politely, while letting the donor know how much I appreciate the offer.

One note about safety: In my reading and researching, I have been advised numerous times not to buy a used car seat that is more than 5 years old (some say 3 years old), because the materials can deteriorate, and because safety improvements are made continuously. I have also read advice against buying a car seat in a consignment shop, because you can not be assured that the seat was never in an accident. A car seat that has been in a car accident should be replaced right away, and there is not always visible evidence of the accident. So, I had decided that a car seat would be one of the few things that I would choose to buy new.
Then, the day after I chose the brand and model, a friend told me that she would be happy to give me her son’s car seat, which happened to be a fancier version of the same brand and model that I had chosen. My friend’s son just turned one year old, so I know that it’s still within the 3-5 year safety range. And because it’s a friend whom I trust implicitly, I know that the car seat has never been in a car accident.

So far, here is the baby booty that we have received:

  • Bassinet and crib
  • Maclaren buggy
  • Car seat, extra base, and stroller frame
  • Motorized infant swing
  • Infant tub
  • Bottle drying rack
  • An overhead thing that you put on the floor that the baby can lay under and play with the things that dangle from it.
  • Countless books on pregnancy and infant care
  • Maternity clothes

No Buy, No Cry,
~ Jennifer


4 Responses to “Why I Love Hand-Me-Downs”

  1. Courtenay Says:

    In my years as a social worker, I also learned the value of gently-used items, and the proof that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

    So I totally support your initiative to reuse, not only for its benefit to the environment, but for the gift it gives to the giver (who surely feels relief in not throwing something out!!!).

    Ultimately, you will receive the greatest gift just by being open to the possibilities. I believe you will continue to be surprised by the wealth this state of mind brings, whether in the form of a great car seat (yes, I’ve heard the same warnings as you, but this one sounds like a total find!) or the positive energy that comes from the love that touched the items in the past (as in Jacob’s bassinet).

    The good keeps going ’round and ’round!

  2. eileen Says:

    I am a big fan of creating a “second life” to many of the gently worn items that are grown out of so quickly during pregnancy and during the baby’s first few months! I only recently have completed understood the old ad campaign “if they could just stay little ’till their Carters wear out”… Jen, please add Bouncy Seat and gender neutral baby clothes to you list of booty.

  3. Diane Says:

    Amen! We found that (even with twins) there is so very little “equipment” you really need. Good luck with your pursuit of simplicity. I’ll enjoy staying posted on your blog!

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Baby items are almost always “gently used” because they grow out of things SO fast! Everything we used with the girls was used with the exception of items we got at our baby showers. I bought a lot of things on ebay and craigslist, and received some items from friends. The first time I met my neighbor, shortly after moving in, she brought over two baby swings, a bouncy seat, bassinet, and exersaucer! You know how much money all that would have cost new??? I’ve tried to keep the good karma going and “paying it forward” with the free items I’ve received that saved me tons of money.

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