I am really fortunate to have a number of friends with young boys who have been very generous in giving me hand-me-downs for Brandon. One good friend (who has two boys) gave me everything she had ever had for her boys up to about the 18mo. size before Brandon was born. It amounted to three huge Rubbermaid bins full of clothes. I was able to use quite a bit of the clothes, though on occasion there were some really cute pieces that he didn't get to wear, because they were the right size in the wrong season. I still kept them, because maybe we'll have another one born smaller or at a different time of year - you never know!
Other friends have mostly given me much smaller amounts of clothes, but in being more selective, those few items tend to be even more useful for Brandon. I've actually thought about asking my friends to let me go through their things before they take them to the consignment stores and I'll pay them for what I can use for Brandon. It's a win-win proposition; I pay less than I would at the consignment shop and they get more than they would from the consigning, though maybe it has some drawbacks that I'm not aware of.
Today, I got a message from someone I'd say is more of an acquaintance. We see each other mostly in passing and generally not often. She indicated that she was going to be taking some clothes to Goodwill tonight that she couldn't sell at the consignment shops and I could come over this afternoon and look through them to see if I want anything. While I appreciate the thought, I was also a little bothered by the message. I might be laid off, but I do have things on my plate and I can't necessarily just drop everything and go look through clothes on the off chance that something will be useful. And what if they aren't?
I'm the type of person that if I'm being "gifted" something, I don't ever like to express dislike, even if I hate it; I try to be as diplomatic as possible so that I'm honest without being brutal. But what if these clothes aren't something I'd ever want for Brandon? My only true escape route would be to say they aren't the right size for him and I have no idea from the message what size or season they are.
I guess if I were planning to give away clothes that I wasn't going to consign, I'd offer all of them and leave it up to the recipient to sort and discard, as they feel necessary, any items they don't want. Mind you, that doesn't make it more appealing to me either, because I have spent many, many hours going through all the clothes we were given because it just took a very long time to go through that volume of clothes and stay on top of it so that he didn't outgrow things before we used them. After all the time I spent sorting and organizing clothes Brandon had never worn, I decided it's actually much easier to buy my own clothes for Brandon and I do usually buy them from consignment stores.
Second-hand children's clothes are wonderful, because every piece you can use saves you money, but it's also a lot of work and can be potentially awkward. I've had more than one mom offer to loan Brandon a particular item of clothing because they know he can use it and it won't get too much wear, but they aren't ready to part with it. I honestly love that honesty and appreciate their willingness to let him use that piece so much more; we take extra care with those items to ensure they are returned in good condition.
Other awkward moments come when you're offered a piece of clothing that you really don't like or want and how do you diplomatically express that? My most recent awkward moment was being offered the leftovers being sent to Goodwill. Perhaps it's unreasonable of me, or simply related to us being only acquaintances, but it rubbed me the wrong way when I read that. I'm over it now and I won't hold it against her. The thing is, she may not have meant it in a negative way and I totally get that - we ALL say things that are unintentionally awkward for others. I'm truly giving the benefit of the doubt on this.
But it doesn't make me want to drop what I'm doing and run to her house to look through clothes today!