You may not think that a pastrami sandwich and a bag of hand-me-down clothes have much in common. But oh, think again…
I recently polled my Facebook peeps for blog topics, and Amber and Ali had the same dilemma: hand-me-down clothes. Here’s what they said:
Ali: I’m very thankful for the hand-me-downs, but they add to my laundry problem.
Amber: It is hard to say no to those trying to give you their items. After all, they are free and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.
Let me just start by saying that I LOVE hand-me-downs, both as a giver and receiver. They reduce textile waste and save money, two things this minimalist mama is all about.
But… (and this is a BIG BUT… hehe…):
Like anything, hand-me-downs can become a burden if we can’t use them.
That’s why I think the best way to deal with hand-me-downs is to imagine they are a pastrami sandwich. Hang with me.
Imagine that you are sitting next to your colleague Bob in the break room. Bob opens up his lunch, sighs, and says, “This pastrami’s gonna give me gas. You want it?”
At this point you have a few options:
OPTION 1: Take the sandwich… because you love it.
If you love pastrami, you just scored a free sandwich! This is like when your friend gives you those size 3 cleats for your son who is just about to start soccer. Rock on!
This is the best case scenario and it follows my general rule: only keep hand-me-downs you would have purchased yourself. Would you have picked out those cleats or that Easter dress or those jeans and paid for them with your own money? If yes, keep those items with joy cuz you just saved yo’self some sweet cash.
However, this rule does not address the hurt feelings that can occur when we don’t want or can’t use someone’s hand-me-downs, so let me introduce you to Options 2-5.
OPTION 2: Take the sandwich… to preserve the air.
Maybe you don’t love pastrami, but Bob’s desk is right next to yours and you fear the, ah, repercussions you will face all afternoon if you allow Bob to eat it. So you take it, excuse yourself, and quietly find the sandwich a new home.
In hand-me-downs world, this is when you accept that sundress from your sister-in-law (who believes it is just the cutest!), put your daughter in it long enough to snap a pic to send to your SIL, then pass the dress along to someone else.
You’re going to see your SIL at every family function from here to kingdom come, so you need to preserve the air with her, and if seeing a picture of your daughter in a sundress will do that, for the love of family harmony, just do it.
OPTION 3: Take the sandwich… so Bob can let go.
You can tell that Bob is sweating his sandwich dilemma. He can’t give the sandwich to just ANYONE. It needs a good home. And your stomach fits the bill. So you take the sandwich, tell him “thank you,” then quietly pass it along.
This is similar to preserving the air, but the motivation is different. You’re taking the sandwich because you care about Bob and you want to help him let go.
This is when your sentimental cousin decides she is done having babies and gives you 10 bags of baby clothes, because she simply cannot drop them off at Goodwill. She is struggling with the end of the baby years, and she needs to pass this part of her past along to a good home.
So you say thanks, because you love her, and you sort through the bags–keeping only what you would have purchased yourself–and quietly donate the rest for her.
In this way, you add lots of good to the world by helping her to let go of the past so can enjoy the awesomeness of the present. Yay for that!
OPTION 4: Decline the sandwich… with grace.
There’s no harm in telling Bob that you don’t care for pastrami, but hey, if he ever needs to offload a turkey sandwich, you’d be all about it.
My friend Mackenzie did this once. I used to give her all my daughter’s hand-me-downs, until she told me that our girls were growing closer in size and she couldn’t use them. So I found someone with a smaller girl to give my hand-me-downs to. Simple. Honest. No feelings hurt.
I hope this post helps you get a handle on your hand-me-downs. And your pastrami sandwiches.
To your peace of mind,
PS I’d love to answer one of your burning questions about minimalism or decluttering, so…
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