I’ll Take Your Hand-Me-Downs, but I Won’t Give You Mine

I’m wearing a hand-me-down right now as I’m writing this post. I’m wearing a mustard yellow, knit duster sweater by a friend who said it was “too big for her”. While I wasn’t thrilled with the knowledge that she wanted to upcycle her fat clothes to me, at the same time… it was a super cute, comfortable sweater so whatever. I took it gladly and wear it happily, even though I think it makes me look like a tube of polenta.

If you look closely in the picture at the top of this post, notice the jeans. My friend’s jeans are rolled up and nicely pegged, per the style, while mine are… blousy and pleated looking. Yes, those were hand-me-downs I tried to morph into style. Such is the life of a kid who wears hand-me-downs. Eternally creative.


I’m not complaining. I’ll take hand-me-downs gladly any time. As a pastor’s kid, we got hand-me-downs by the station wagon-load when I was growing up. It was like Christmas in July to get garbage bags filled with clothing to rummage through. While most of it was grossly outdated and, well, gross, I could sew and adjust, nip and tuck things here and there to at least stay a few years behind the fads, as opposed to whole decades behind- ala those pegged pants.

See this picture of the ginger kid? It’s me at Easter. I was about 13 years old, wearing a pale pink dress. I’ve always avoided pale pink with the knowledge that pale pink blends almost perfectly with my skin tone and makes me look like a dead body, but alas, it was a hand-me-down and I wanted to wear a new dress. It was all I had.

To this day we get hand-me-downs. In fact, we just got a bag of clothes from a friend for Emmeline and it felt just the same for her- like Christmas. She excitedly tore through the bag and held everything up, exclaiming how cute it was, and trying it on. Even Adelaide slipped on a bathing suit over her clothes and wore it proudly around the house for most of the day. It was joyous. See them? Aww. Happy Hand-Me-Down Day!


And yet, no one will ever know that joy from me. I don’t do hand-me-downs.

It has been my secret shame. I am the perpetual receiver, but it’s the one area in life I refuse to pay it forward. Want to know why?

Because my kids wear their clothing. I mean it- they wear them while living life to the fullest and their clothes, once they outgrow them, reflect a life well lived. How parents preserve their kids’ clothing in a condition good enough to give to another person without shame, I will never know.

Actually, every time I open a bag of fabulous, generous clothing from someone, I marvel at how clean they are. I marvel like you’d marvel at a beautiful piece of artwork, or a feat of engineering. How do they do that?!

Of course, I have managed to salvage a few fancy coats and charming, monogrammed onesies here and there for posterity’s sake, but overall… nope. We Purdys live in our clothes.

See these costumes? Hand-me-downs- we just got them a few days ago from a mother whose kids probably sat in them and… I don’t know, had a tea party? Perfect, like-new condition. And oh boy, are they going to be loved to the death at my house. They will used for fighting epic battles, worn while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Popsicles and slept in (let’s just be honest), if history is any indicator.


While I’m not too proud to receive hand-me-downs (I love it, in fact, because it feeds into my love of all things second-hand- recycled, reused and repurposed), I am way too proud to give hand-me-downs to you. You don’t deserve the headache of sorting through them only to find orange stains on the collars or marker colors on the bottoms of the pants– and they are there.

I care about my reputation way too much to let you see that I cannot keep my kids’ clothing in giveaway condition. But- we all have our cross to bear. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your generous, thoughtful hand-me-downs. We love them, and love you even more; aaaaand after we’ve had them for a while, we’ll give them a proper burial…