Getting rid of my kiddo’s stuffed animals and plush toys was rough.
Especially my daughter’s favorite stuffies.
She wasn’t very old before we realized that stuffed animals were usually the first thing that she would grab at stores. She would toddle around with her new favorite stuffed toy, ready to give it a new home and more than a little love. There was Pengi from Kohl’s and Squeaky from Big Bend, and the triplet unicorns collected over the years, and…
You get it.
Way Too Many & No Where to Go
Despite the fact that it was not a good idea, I was never good at saying no to the stuffed animals. I loved seeing how sweet my kids were to these soft toys. Oh, and did I mention that there was never a good place or an adequate storage area for this teddy bear or those beanie babies?
However, eventually these sweet things took over my child’s bedroom. They would get stuck between the bed and the wall or end up on random shelves in her closet or they would find their way into our room and hang out on our bed. Finally I got sick of finding these toys everywhere. And the last thing my daughter wanted to do was clean her room, yet again; at this point there was even a good chance that she didn’t even know if any of her old toys were missing.
But she wasn’t quite ready to give her stuffed animals away herself. I would have quietly passed some along so those animals could get a second life, but I wasn’t sure which animal donations would result in tears and heartbreak.
So I grabbed a big plastic bag and threw some of her less precious stuffed animals in there. It wasn’t a long-term solution, but it culled down the collection to a semi-realistic number. I ended up moving that bag a few times over the next year or two. Eventually, my daughter saw the bag, glanced through it, smiled at some of her forgotten friends, and then moved on without taking any of them out.
Let me tell you, that was a bittersweet moment. (Sniff, sniff.)
Finding Stuffed Animal Recycling Centers
I thought the tough part was done. Until I researched places that take gently used toys–many of them that looked like new products–and realized that it’s (very) tough finding a place that takes used stuffed animals.
Of course I knew that I could simply take them to a thrift store. But I was pretty attached to these things. The thought of them ending up at flea markets or in some dusty attic new to cheap decorative items and old plastic toys and their random plastic parts.
The minimalist in me felt some embarrassment. I knew that we had too many stuffed animals and I knew it was time for our old friends to find a new home and a new “life”. But I wanted them to go someplace I felt good about: a women’s shelter, a local children’s hospital, or the Ronald McDonald House.
Most of the stuffed animals were in really good condition. But the places I contacted only accepted new toys so I was out of luck.
But then I finally stumbled upon the perfect solution.
The Best Option for Stuffed Animal Toy Donations
This website lists both local charities and similar organizations around the country that are accepting donations for less fortunate children. You can choose which organization you want to donate to and then read about the easy steps you need to follow in order to prepare the animals. (Don’t worry; this basically involves using a mild cleaning solution, drying on the gentle cycle, or using a damp cloth and soap. Again, all the instructions are here.)
For example, we donated our stuffed animals to an orphanage that was listed. My grandfather was a passenger on an orphan train from New York so this orphanage was a good fit. Another option was driving the animals to a location that needed donations. Although it was only about 45 minutes away, we really wanted to donate to the orphanage.
All we had to do was follow easy washing instructions. After washing the animals in an hypoallergenic laundry detergent (same thing we used for our clothing) and dried them throughly, we set them up for a picture. The person who runs this organization likes to keep track of the number of stuffed animals that are donated. Plus, a few pictures was the easiest way to capture a big part of my daughter’s childhood.
The good news is that I simply had to pack them up in boxes and send them off. The bad news is that I had to pay for shipping, and it was quite a bit for the number of animals were were sending. However, I was okay with that since I felt good about where the stuffed animals were going.
This option was the easiest way I found to send the stuffed animals somewhere they would be used and–hopefully–loved.
I feel good about where we sent them. But, I’ll be honest; getting rid of these stuffed animals was right up there with getting rid of my kids’ baby items. Tough. Really tough. There are so manny memories wrapped up with the twin baby unicorns or the family of rainbow cheetah and even the officially named Stuffies that both my kids used to play with together.
No doubt I’m glad we passed them on because I don’t like to have things that are just collecting dust.
And my daughter was clearly okay with letting them go.
And we kept her childhood favorites.
I know that the really difficult part of this is not letting go of the stuffed animals but knowing that that time in my daughter’s life–and my own as a parent–is now in the past. So yes, letting go of the physical items was tough because it also represented something bigger than a stuffed dog. Getting rid of things are usually a life lesson. Some more than others.
This was the best option I found. If you want another option, you can try local organizations in your area such as fire departments, the local police station, religious organizations, or social services.