How to organize and create a secondhand baby registry

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With the inevitable changes Millennials are going through right now as a bulk of us are in our 30's, it's quite relevant to talk about babies. Whether you're having your own baby (or babies) or your friends or family members are creating their own offspring, it's probably a topic that's on your mind more this decade than the last.


If I had to guess, the profit in baby industry is pretty darn high in America. Besides fashion, weight loss, beauty, and weddings, there are so many products for babies and new parents that it's sort of unbelievable.

If you're not quite ready to go completely minimal with your impending bundle of joy, you might consider accepting secondhand baby gifts instead of having your loved ones buy you brand new items.

In this article I'll dive a little deeper into what a secondhand baby shower is, why you might want to consider secondhand gifts, and how to organize and register for your secondhand baby shower. (Or, if you're lucky enough to have doting future aunties and grandmoms to help you, you can forward this article to them so they can organize everything and help you register!)

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How to organize and create a secondhand baby registry | Hello Brio

What is a secondhand baby registry?

Babies are everywhere. I could insert some sort of crazy statistic about how many babies are born within a 5 mile radius of you every minute, but I don't care to report exact numbers. If you don't live as a hermit in the woods (not that there's anything wrong with that), chances are you see babies everywhere you go.

What does this inadvertently mean? It means that baby stuff is everywhere as well. If you could imagine it, every new baby has a floating price tag over their head which would total the amount of new gear spent on him or her. Between furniture, clothing, feeding, entertaining, diapering, and who-knows-what-else, new babies can cost the community it enters several thousand dollars.

Not only do new babies cost a ton of money—but the gear they require, especially for first-time parents, usually piles up fast. And when these items get outgrown—if they aren't passed down to their siblings or other family members—usually end up at the donation center (or even worse, in the landfill).

Long story short, a secondhand baby shower can help rescue these items and repurpose them for your baby.

Secondhand items may include things that:

  • Were in your garage for nearly a decade

  • Were in your neighbor's basement for several years

  • Your friends are ready to chuck out the window because of their rapidly growing children

  • You purchase at a donation center

  • You swap with a neighborhood parent group on Facebook

  • You find on Craigslist or a similar site

  • You find on the curb (and clean up or restore lovingly)

Instead of going to the modern-day equivalent of the late Babies R Us to register for items for your baby shower with a scanner gun in your hand (what is that, Amazon? Target? whatever), you can create a wishlist or a registry that includes items you know you'll need based on a suggested baby registry list you find online (or through the wisdom of your experienced friends and family).

Things to consider when registering for a secondhand baby shower

Sure, it'd be easy to rapid-fire add things to a list for things you'd accept secondhand. However, who knows what you'll end up with if you just ask for a crib-blanket-mobile-stackofburpcloths. There are several things to consider and specify when registering for items, depending on your lifestyle and preferences.

Think about requirements for hand-me-down gifts you want to receive

If you have terrible allergies, it may be best to create a blanket statement saying "secondhand items must come from a smoke-free and pet-free home".

If you have limited space, you might want to mention that you only want items that are on your registry—nothing else.

Clothing choices can be very subjective. If you want your newborn to dress a certain way, you might list requirements like, "please no licensed characters," or "gender-neutral colors only." If this isn't your first rodeo, you might request something like, "zippered pajamas only" (because snaps are torture). If you want to open the doors for secondhand clothes others may choose to ignore, you could specify "light stains ok" (because let's face it, your kid is gonna get all sorts of weird bodily fluids all over his or her clothes during the first wear).

For furniture and decor items, you could provide some photos or a color scheme of the look you're going for. Registering for a modern nursery? Ask that your guests, if they choose to tackle the item, to try to find a crib that doesn't have fancy wood accents. For these items, it may also mean that you need to ask that furniture items are from the past few years so you avoid the risk of a receiving a crib from the 80's where it's unsafe for your baby. Do your research and be specific.

Do your research to find local thrifting solutions for your guests

Just because you're a thrift-store loving chick doesn't mean your guests know the first thing about secondhand or how on earth to use the internet to find free stuff.

Do your research and come up with a quick guide for your guests that will help them along their way. You could try to find reliable Facebook groups, local secondhand stores, and other mommy groups in their area.

Give your guests a healthy-sized list of options so "shopping" is easier. You could even start with the list of types of secondhand items I started above.

Give your guests more time

Finding the perfect secondhand item is going to be a lot more difficult than going on Amazon and adding your pre-selected item to a cart.

I'm not the boss of you, but it may even be worthwhile to create your baby registry around 18 weeks, and give your future guests an early heads up that you'll want to explore the secondhand option.

Think about other budget-y things

Depending on the reasons you are choosing to do a secondhand baby shower, you may even want to come up with a monetary cap for each item. If you're very sensitive to your friends' and family's budget, and you give them enough time, you could even specify that "items acquired for free are strongly encouraged." If your guests interpret this as “stealing shit from other babies,” then that's on them.

If you have a cohort that likes the idea of your hipster secondhand baby shower but still wants to shower you with tons of money because that's what they believe in, then perhaps you can set up a fund for your wee one. Whether it's a 529 (college fund), a savings account, or requesting bonds, the choice is yours. This may seem like an impersonal solution, but think about how cool it'd be if you're a baby and as soon as you gain true life consciousness, you realize you have some serious money in de bank.

But what about stuff that has to be new?

If you're all crunchy and are psyched about keeping gently used baby items out of the landfill, but you really want that special stroller or that brand new electric breast pump or that special owl sock that will alert you immediately if your baby's heart rate drops in the middle of the night, that's totally fine. I'm not here to judge you. (In fact, where do you think I got these ideas?)

You can still register for these items. Your secondhand baby shower doesn't have to be secondhand-or-bust. You can choose to do a registry that is a mix of brand new and secondhand items.

If you still want to be mindful of your guests' budget, you might want to do some thinking beforehand and think about a group of people who might want to chip in to buy you that $500 stroller. You or your shower organizer can help delegate special items like this.

How to organize your secondhand baby registry using Baby-sit

I'm obviously not the first one to come up with this idea for a secondhand baby shower. But I might've come up with a good solution for keeping the list prettier and more automated than I've seen in solutions online.

Sure, you could have your shower organizer do an Google Sheets spreadsheet that can be shared with your guests. But this can become messy quickly, and it's not the most intuitive solution.

You can also have your shower organizer request specific items from certain people. But that may completely zap the fun out of the gift selection process for your guests.

Babylist secondhand baby registry details and notes

Babylist may be the best option! Babylist, traditionally, is an online registry that allows you to add items from anywhere on the web (so you're not restricted to just registering at one online retailer). You can also add "favors" to your list, like a home cooked meal or overnight help.

I emailed Babylist and they got back to me and showed me how to customize these "favors" so the line items would work for secondhand items. You can easily swap out the image, add lots of details, and add your desired secondhand items to your list!

To do this on Babylist, add any random favor to your list. From there, find the new item and click edit. You can add a custom photo, description, and URL if applicable.

Secondhand baby registry item: Crib mattress protector
Secondhand baby registry: noise machine for babies

Because Babylist was built for future parents receiving gifts, it also has applicable features like adding your partner as a contributor, and having your ship-to information in the registry.

Give a secondhand baby registry and baby shower a try

Whether this is your first baby, your seventh baby, you want a minimalist baby, or you want your baby to have all-the-things (just secondhand), give a secondhand baby shower—or sprinkle—a try. Even a blended list of new items and secondhand items will help the environment and your guests' wallets. And who knows—maybe your guests will discover a newfound passion for thrifting and swapping!

Have you participated or done a secondhand baby shower? I'd love to hear your tips below. Also, don't hesitate to ask questions about this (probably unpopular) venture.

Cover photo by Nynne Schrøder