Ups and downs of a hand-me-down lifestyle


Last week the kids found this vintage scooter put out by someone in our street for rubbish collection. It needs new tyres before they can ride it but it’s got some funky details eg. a little mirror and horn on the handlebars, a tyre pump, and a cute satchel on the rear.

If anyone has any good advice on restoring this thing or knows if it’s worth anything substantial as it is, (in which case I might not let the kids have free reign of it) I’d love it if you left me a message in the comments or via the email contact form.

It got me thinking, that in nearly 15 years of marriage, collecting five children along the way, we’ve got by pretty well with the help of other people’s cast-offs. We can afford to buy new things when we need to, but have always preferred to go the second-hand route and happily accept donations of things. I have no qualms about rescuing things like scooters or even a box of crockery once, from piles that someone’s left out on the kerb for the tip. Some of our friends and the local op-shops have always done well out of us too, as I pass great things onto them after my regular decluttering sessions.

My husband and I are still using in our bedroom the tallboy that a neighbour gave us when he was moving out of the apartment block we lived in as newly-weds. We stored our clothes in cardboard boxes before that. The tallboy needs replacing now – but it’s kept our clothes out of boxes for all these years, plus however long the guy had it before us, so it’s more than earned its keep. Our daughters’ beds – similarly donated. Along with a cot, bassinette, toys, sofas, bookcases, garden pots, a fridge and fancy kitchen appliances, exercise gear, an X-box, laptops, bikes and scooters, clothing, shoes, beauty products and more. Except for the cot and bassinette they’re all things we received for free as hand-me-downs which we’re still using today. (And the X-box, which broke several months ago and we’ve just replaced with a new one.)

Partly we live this way out of principle – I grew up in a working class family and it just feels vain to me to be spending huge slabs of money on things like beautiful furniture or clothing for ourselves if there’s no real need. Partly it’s been out of a desire to live a more community-oriented and less consumer-oriented life. But it’s come from sheer necessity too, definitely. Things can be expensive, and our resources are finite.

Sometimes it’s been slightly painful to spend time I felt I couldn’t afford wading through bags of things friends or family have donated to us. Occasionally I will get a fit of wanting to buy new stuff, and sometimes we do (the X-box). But all these hand-me-downs have saved us many thousands of dollars over the years, and more importantly lots of stress over not being able to make ends meet. I suppose if we were super-conscientious about the environment or very poor we could always save more money or be less wasteful,  but being relatively eco-friendly like this is just a part of the way we do things around here.

As our kids get older though, it’s already apparent that we’re not going to get away with a hand-me-down lifestyle to the same degree that we could when we only had kids under 10. Thankfully, new books are still cheap or free, especially if you go the e-book route and use a library. It doesn’t cost much to keep me happy at least!


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