This post is in honor of my sister who has been a great example and enabler of recycling/reusing children's clothes and toys.
When I (Betsy) got pregnant with my first child, I didn't register (nor did I with my twins). My friends couldn't understand why not. Well, the answer was simple: we didn't need very much stuff. Why not? Because we were given a boatload of hand-me-downs: walker, stroller/carseat, pac-n-play, crib, changing table, rocker/glider with ottoman, clothes, toys, etc.
Well, we must just have had really generous friends, right? That is true in part. However, those items came from many different sources, including my in-laws (my children have all slept on my husband's crib and been changed on his old changing table!) and my sister, who loaned us some stuff in between her own children needing it.
If you're expecting a child and/or already have young children at home, consider some of the following strategies for reducing, reusing, and recycling your children's stuff. Remember, your young children, especially, won't know the difference between brand new and used. Your older children can benefit from having parents who refuse to run out and buy the latest, greatest whatever and instead choose to get it (usually in the same condition) a little later from someone else. Keep toys and baby gear to a minimum (which is hard to do, I know--even a few toys seem like a lot when they're scattered across the floor).
- Consignment sales (these are becoming more and more abundant; consign your old stuff and buy the next batch/season's worth of stuff for your children; I have gotten some amazing deals on some beautiful clothes this way!)
- Trade (we trade back and forth with some of our neighbors all the time; our children are all stair stepped in age, so when one child is through with a toy or item of clothing, it gets passed to the next one in line--and sometimes back to the original family when their next child is old enough. This has worked so well that this past winter, one neighbor and I actually just swapped winter wardrobes. My daughter wore her older daughter's last winter things, and her younger daughter wore my daughter's last winter things.)
- Borrow (we've borrowed my sister's walker, for instance, and are about to give it back!)
- Hand-me-downs (this can work for everything from a cherished, hand made Easter dress to a pac-n-play to junky play clothes; these are things you don't intend to get back/don't have to give back to the giver)
- Online Used/Consignment (Craigslist and ebay are two models of this; I got my boys an entire matching wardrobe for spring/summer off of 2 craigslist postings this year!)