Shifting the culture of “gifts”

This is a strange post for me to write because thrifting, DIY-ing and repurposing have become so routine for my family it is hard to think back to how it started. I wanted to reflect on it though, because every time I go to give a gift to someone I automatically FEEL like I need to buy something new. And if it’s not new from a store, then new from an artisan or crafter. There is a very short list of people I would feel comfortable gifting something second hand to and I think consumerism has designed it to be this way. As a society we hold unwritten rules and expectations for everything. Gift giving is no exception.

My family started a tradition a few years ago of giving thrifted items, and what began as a silly Christmas Eve tradition has morphed into our entire Christmas gifting experience. There is one rule: must be second hand or homemade.I wrote a lengthy post about it here if you’d like to check it out. Anyways, even with my family as open as they are to the idea of second hand and homemade gifts, had to construct a set of rules in order for it to be totally acceptable. And still last year there were family members who broke the rules and bought from the store in addition to the thrifted items because they felt their gifts were somehow not “good enough”. But the thing is, we don’t really need more. And we certainly don’t need NEW of most things. Pictured below are few of the awesome gifts we received at Christmas and they are just as valuable to us having come from a different home first.

Christmas time isn’t the only time for gifts though. And since having a child I’ve learned any time is a good time. Giving kids gifts seems to be engrained in our society. Before I had kids I too wanted to buy things for my friend’s kids. And of course I felt those things needed to be shiny and new with tags. But for myself and my daughter I am so unbelievable happy and grateful when someone gives us something used. It feels so much less wasteful. New to us prevents us from adding to the consumerism waste cycle and gives something a new home that would have otherwise gone to landfill.

So after some thought, I think I know why second hand gifts are the new norm for my daughter. I have made it ABUNDANTLY clear how much I value it. Also my family is very supportive, of course. But it all comes back to me and how I talk about and purchase things for my daughter. And when I think back to that short list of people I would feel comfortable enough gifting something second hand to, its because they have made it clear they appreciate it too! So, if you are someone who would be totally cool with your child having a used book, or hand-me down rain jacket but you don’t know how to communicate that to all the well meaning gifters in your life, you are not alone. I thought about what I have done to encourage second hand gifts for my daughter and here some of the ways I explicitly did so:

  • Buy Used- it sounds obvious but I have bought very few new things for my daughter, Any time she needs something I try to find it on a local buy and sell site or thrift shop first. New is the last place if I can’t find it elsewhere. Almost everything we bought before she was born was used (baby bouncer, travel crib, sleep sacks, etc).
  • Invite family to come thrifting with you- I have gone thrifting or to swap meets with many family members. We enjoy “shopping” and picking out new to us baby items. We all save money and help the planet too. WIN WIN. **Side note: I have gone thrifting with friends, and those same friends have gifted me second hand items because they are amazing. But also I am assuming because they knew I would appreciate it.
  • Partake in a Hand-me Down cycle- if someone offers you hand-me downs, take them! And then when your child outgrows them pass on the love to someone else. Before my daughter was born my husband’s co-workers gave us hampers of 0-6 month clothes. We didn’t need to buy anything. As she began outgrowing them I passed them onto a new friend who has since been sending me her hand-me downs, which I then send back to her. Many kids have worn these clothes and they are still so cute and have plenty of life. Also, because everyone knows I have a hand me down system going, my daughter receives very few new clothes!
  • TALK TALK TALK- Another silly one but before my daughter was born I talked a lot about the things I had thrifted for her. I also talked about the amazing things Earth Mama Clarrissa had passed onto us. I told everyone who would listen about how excited I was and grateful to have been given them. Some of these items included (blankets, crib sheets, diaper pail and reusable cloth bags, nursing pillow, play mat, and tons of clothes).
  • Explicitly ASK for used- For my daughter’s first birthday we asked for a new or used book signed by the person instead of a card. Most of what she got was new books but she did get a few used. When family members asked what she may need or want I made sure to mention we would love it used and that I had seen it on the buy and sell site.

I’m so grateful that second hand gifts have become a norm since the birth of my daughter. I frequently hear family members say things like “we’ll have to check the buy & sell or thrift shop for one” instead of “let’s head out to this store and see if there’s a doll/book/etc”. If someone does buy her something new it’s preceded with an apologetic “I know I’m not supposed to buy her new things… but I couldn’t resist”. Which makes me so happy because we have a serious over consumption problem and I want to avoid adding to it as much as possible. It’s even spilled over into travel, when we have gone on trips my grandparents have gone to local second hand shops to get a stroller and highchair for our stay. My in-laws also built her a playhouse entirely out of recycled building material which deserves its entire own blog post and pinterest page. Pictured below are a few of the awesome gifts she’s received “just because” and where they came from!

A Sneak peak at the playhouse made from recycled materials. (Blog post to come)

Do you find it difficult to give gifts that aren’t brand new? Do you have any tips on gifting used?

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