The Hand-Me-Down Club Rule 1: you do not talk about the Hand-Me-Down Club. Rule 2: you DO NOT talk about the Hand-Me-Down Club. Before I had kids, I had no idea that the HMD Club was so prevalent. I didn’t even know it existed, so the rules must stick well. Of course I remember as a kid getting second-hand stuff from friends or cousins, but I never knew of it going on before I was about 10 years old. Obviously I just don’t remember, and I can’t recollect the first bags of clothes I received being my initiation into the club if you will. Once having my own kids, I didn’t join for a while as my daughter was the first baby amongst my generation of family and friends. It may not have been until I was pregnant with my second – a boy – that I realised I would never have to buy a stitch of clothing for him and any subsequent kids. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.
One of my friends from Mother’s Group and I have the highest rotation I would have to say. Her boy clothes came to me, and my girl clothes went to her. Now that she has moved out of the city, I don’t see her as much, but when we do get together, one of us always has a bag for the other – either new-old clothes or stuff to return. Since having my third, she gave them all back to me to keep. My friend is one of at least half a dozen people from all parts of my mum life who have also joined the ranks of the HMD club.
It makes perfect sense to share in this way, after all the kids can only fit into their duds for a short period of time and so some things hardly get worn at all. Unless of course you are my third kid who manages to destroy things with the greatest of ease. My daughter loves the days when she gets her big bags of pretty pink fashion from a friend who has two girls, so it’s a double hit in one go. The frills, the excitement, and the expressions of “oh that’s a-dor-a-ble”, I think I can safely say she is a fan of the Club. Many I know scour the charity shops and find some great pieces, a bargain for usually only a dollar a pop. There exists a range of second-hand kids stuff shops, and an opportunity to give it a clever name like Roundabout and Wear it Again Sam.
It takes a certain kind of organisational skill to keep track of the various bundles and bags of clothes. Mine are clearly labelled and sorted, but it wasn’t always like that. After a recent clear out I found a whole bunch of what was too big clothes that had to go straight into the give away pile. I have filled large chunks of my kid’s wardrobes with bags marked by gender and age, as well as roof space, blanket boxes and chests. It’s a logistical nightmare but it is so necessary for me in my practical sense to make use of what is available, as it can be so frustrating having ‘special’ clothes that the kids only ever wear once or twice. Then there are those particular pieces that are used to their entire usability. I remember my daughter wearing a polka-dot party dress that was so big for her she tripped over it for a while, but refused to give up on it. She wore that dress until the zip at the back was tight. Mum – 1, fancy clothes – 0. Unfortunately the score hasn’t stayed in my favour.
I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. My youngest has just turned two, and we have no immediate plans for another pregnancy so now it’s my turn to pay it forward completely. I have been holding onto my baby things for a while, the purpose of which I wasn’t sure until my best friend recently fell pregnant. So I happily gave to her everything – cot and all – I had lying around and man did it feel good. Did I give her everything? Well, no, I am still holding onto the most precious items to keep in my family, I can’t help myself. There are some things that I can’t bear the thought of leaving my extended presence.
You know what would make a funny compilation of photos is all the various kids in the same clothes, from beginning to end some clothes would span seven years and several occupants. A great idea, but who has time for that? I’m too busy sorting clothes.
Emma Eastman 2013