I once heard on the radio that in France, giving second hand items to another child is seen as an act of love because it symbolizes that the item had been previously loved and cared for. I couldn’t find any evidence of this tradition, but I like this way of looking at hand-me-downs. It’s all about perception! More often, the perception of ‘new is better and more thoughtful’ and ‘used is worse and less thoughtful’, prevails. This has led to a culture of wanting, buying and acquiring new, producing more and eventually, more waste in the atmosphere and in landfills.
When my son was born, we were very fortunate to have had a large portion of our baby items (clothes, crib, stroller) handed down to us from friends who had finished having kids. I thought that it was very thoughtful of them to pass on so many of their baby items to us, and it was a win-win-win situation: we got the items, my friends cleared up their space and the environment was spared a little. Many of these items were incredibly useful, but only used for a couple months (sometimes even only for a few weeks), since the baby quickly outgrew them. I realized the value in getting second hand items after having a baby. I really like Bumbleberry Kids in Leslieville for gently used baby items. The majority of the items in the store look as good as new and the store itself is clean, bright, trendy and beautiful–anyone walking in would not be able to distinguish it from any other baby store that sells new items. There are also many other second hand stores in Toronto, and ones like Value Village, also donate a portion of their revenue to local charities.
It’s quite easy to promote a positive culture of reusing: organize a clothing swap or a book swap, always keep a bag in your house that serves as a donation bag that you habitually fill with good items that you don’t really need, throw a ‘used and loved’ birthday party ( where you ask for gently used gifts), encourage your kids to craft things using boxes, wrappers and materials found around the home, or visit a thrift shop or buy/sell second-hand online. You will serve as a model for others when you engage in these types of activities. I am working on incorporating more of this into my life…but don’t get me wrong, I still like to buy new things too, and once in a while that’s ok. 😉
I now see that if something is gently used and useful, getting it passed along is a good thing–it means that someone else was being thoughtful and environmentally responsible and the item came from a place of love.