When you see water dripping from the kitchen ceiling, what do you do?  You run upstairs and immediately turn off the bathroom tap.  You don’t start scooping water, you’ll first stop more water from coming in.  If you want to make progress on your decluttering journey, you are going to have to stop the influx.  More stuff must leave your home than is coming in.  That’s basic math, right?  And part of that means stopping the ‘stuff delivery service’ aka hand-me-downs.  

“I don’t want to be rude, they mean well” – I hear you say.  I know.  But I also know that if you are on the rocky road of getting all the excess out, well-meaning people can make the road much rockier.  I also know that you can decline hand-me-downs without guilt and without coming across as ungrateful.

That’s why today I want to talk you through how you can tactfully decline and avoid hand-me-downs from coming into your home.

Let’s jump in.


Where are your donors coming from

Sometimes people give you things without even realising that they are placing a burden on you.  They might come from a place where they love to receive hand-me-downs, so they spread the love by passing them on to you too. They think they are doing you a favour unless you tell them otherwise.  Wouldn’t you be horrified if you were unintentionally placing a massive burden on somebody else?  Especially if you thought you were doing something nice for them.  It is not fair on the giver, is it?     

Often people come from a place of emotional attachments to their stuff themselves.  Handing it to someone they know makes it easier to let go.  Seeing their things getting a new lease of life helps them to part with their things.  As much as you would love to make it easier for them to let go, you have to focus on letting go yourself.  It is not harsh or ungrateful, it is just being honest. 

You can decline in a way that is kind and gracious.  So drop the guilt and let’s talk strategy.


This is how you are going to do it

Like any change you want to make in life.  It is always better to think ahead and have a plan in place.  No more fake smiles and twitchy eyes as you stretch your arm out and slowly open your clenched fist to take yet another oversized bag of stuff.  Here’s your plan.

# 1

Identify the hand-me-downers in your life and have a pro-active chat.  This is easier when it’s done without a big bag between the two of you.  Do it proactively.  Be open and vulnerable.  Share your decluttering journey and why you are more intentional about things coming into your home.  Tell them about clutter’s negative impact on you and your family and why you have decided to stop things coming in for now.  You might be surprised how well people will receive that.  If they care for you, surely they would want to support and help you with whatever struggle it is you want to overcome.  Some vulnerability and honesty will go a long way.

# 2

If you don’t feel comfortable offering a backstage pass to your inner thoughts, you could just gently and graciously decline by saying;

“That’s so kind of you to think of us, but we have everything we need at the moment.”

You could offer an alternative (only if you know of one – but be careful not to make your problem someone else’s). 

“I know the school is taking children’s book donations at the moment.  They might love this box of books”

Having thought about how you will communicate and what you’ll say will prevent having to think of ways to escape in the heat of the moment.

# 3

Or agree with your donor that you will go through it and take what is useful and donate the rest.  With this agreement in place, you will have an exit strategy in place without feeling guilty.    


How can you make hand-me-downs work for you?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love getting hand-me-downs and it has saved us as a family so much money.  Would I have loved receiving hand-me-downs if my home was cluttered and causing me stress and anxiety?  No.

Hand-me-downs must be channelled intentionally.  One way of benefiting from hand-me-downs but not being overwhelmed by them is to set a limit.  For example, when it comes to children’s clothes, I keep one tub per child for clothes they still have to grow into.  When the tub is full, I don’t accept more hand-me-downs.  The tub said ‘no’.  However, if you are in the thick of decluttering, I’d only focus my energy on letting go and not put strategies in place for managing hand-me-downs coming in.  You can do that later when the stuff mountains are under control.


Take charge of hand-me-downs without guilt.  You are not being ungrateful.  Gracious honesty and having a plan of action can go a long way for you to make progress with decluttering.

People may unknowingly burden you with hand-me-downs, thinking they’re doing you a favour.  It’s crucial to communicate your decluttering journey graciously. Whether opening up about your intentions or gently declining offers, having a proactive strategy, ensures you don’t always swim against the clutter tide and continue to make progress in your decluttering journey.

P.S If you feel like you are constantly battling with clutter in your home, this guide might help.  It gives you five quick and easy ways you can start doing today to get your home more decluttered and organised over time.  You can download it here!