What are Hand-Me-Downs?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Hand-me-downs are used items that are passed from one individual to another. The main function of a hand-me-down is to obtain a longer duration of use from the item. Hand-me-downs can be just about anything useful that is passed on to another person, from clothing to furniture and appliances.

Sofas are common pieces of hand-me-down furniture.
Sofas are common pieces of hand-me-down furniture.

The practice of passing clothing from an original owner to a new owner is common in many families. One example is with baby clothes. As the baby grows, many items of clothing that fit very well a short time ago are still in excellent condition. Rather than discarding the articles of clothing, they are passed on to a relative who will be able to utilize the items for a period of time. Assuming the baby clothes are maintained, they may make the rounds several times before it is necessary to discard them.

Many of the clothes of one sibling will likely be passed down to a younger sibling.
Many of the clothes of one sibling will likely be passed down to a younger sibling.

Along with baby clothes, it is not unusual for articles of clothing to be passed from an older sibling to a younger one. Everything from jeans to formal dresses and suits may pass from an older teenager to a younger child in the home. This usually occurs as the older child outgrows the clothing, or when an older item is replaced with a new one. The older clothing, when still in wearable condition, becomes the property of a younger child.

Hand-me-downs generally do not cross over the gender gap.
Hand-me-downs generally do not cross over the gender gap.

Secondhand clothing is not the only form of hand-me-downs. Furniture is another example. It is not unusual for families to pass along used furniture to a young person who is moving into his or her first apartment. Basic furniture, such as a dining table and chairs, sofa, and a bed are common hand-me-downs that help to allow a young person to begin adulthood without the need to spend a lot of money on new furniture.

Essentially, hand-me-downs can be anything that is previously owned and intentionally passed on to another individual. Along with clothing and furniture, secondhand items such as kitchen appliances, computers, and stereo equipment are commonly passed on to people who can put the items to good use. There is a good chance that most people have at least one secondhand item in their home that was intentionally provided by a loved one. This means that hand-me-downs are sometimes not only thrifty ways to meet needs, but may also be a means of conveying good memories from one individual to another.

A younger brother may receive his older sibling's clothing.
A younger brother may receive his older sibling's clothing.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I think hand-me downs are a fine, practical tradition as long as the younger children get new items as well as the ones passed down. Every one deserves new clothes once in a while.


Hand-me-down is very common among mediocre types of families. It equally improves affection with each others.


This tradition is really very eco-friendly and saving oriented. Every individual goes through this.


Hand-me-downs... I could write a book on this subject! My sisters have both kept me in them practically my whole life!

While they both married and had good jobs, I moved from my mom's, struggled out of a divorce, and they automatically were there, with not only their "slightly worn clothing," but furniture, microwaves, tv's, household furnishings, etc.

I think we all had gotten into the practice of this early on, as we grew up lower middle class, not having much left over for clothes. My mom sewed a lot, but we very often received bags of "hand-me-downs" from my cousins! We went to garage sales galore!

To this day, I box up my clothing (I usually have more than I can possibly wear!) and find someone, like myself, who just doesn't make enough to go out and buy the nicest clothes. I'm so glad I have the same taste as my sister's -- though there were times when we didn't!

I feel like I get "Christmas" several times a year and it's especially nice to be able to pass on clothes to others. I can't imagine how much money they have saved me over a lifetime.

I never could have afforded to buy such classy-looking clothes.


if you sold your old furniture to someone, then what does it mean?


I think passing on clothes is a great idea. I did that with my children and a jacket that the first one wore the youngest wore - good clothing lasts!

Post your comments
Forgot password?