The business of bringing up children is filled with stuff. Tiny baby socks, bouncy chairs, high chairs, ride-on toys, jackets, mittens, soccer cleats, backpacks, dress shoes, bicycles, skates, and lots and lots of clothing, much of which is hardly worn before its outgrown. No wonder so many of us love to give and receive hand-me downs. Most mothers do not, however, love to come home to a bag full of heinous junk sitting on the front step, with or without a note that says, “A few things I thought you could use! Enjoy!” A bag of stained children’s t-shirts and underwear is, of course, not a gift at all but another item on a to do list. (Sort contents: rag bag, trash, charity.) What’s a well mannered mother to do about an over-zealous giver of questionable goods? Initially, she must accept graciously and dispose of the contents. If the “gifts” keep coming, she could try to deflect future deposits with a phone call or email saying something like, “Thank you so much for all your hand-me-downs. Our closets are absolutely stuffed full of great clothes. We just have so much now, I couldn’t in good conscience take any more hand-me-downs. Can I help you find somewhere else to take your next bunch?” Or she could continue with the status quo (accept, dispose, repeat, accept, dispose, repeat), satisfied that she has not passed the buck, or in this case, bag of junk, on to some unsuspecting mother.

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