Happy Earth Day! Today marks the one day every Spring when we pay extra attention to being green and making sure our lifestyles are in-line with reducing, reusing and recycling. Usually when these buzzwords are thrown around, our minds immediately go to the things we toss into our garbage cans and recycling bins daily-- food containers, tissues, or banana peels.
When I was little, I was a fiend for collecting stuffed animals. Yes, I was young at the height of the Beanie Baby craze, but I like to think my passion for plush stretched beyond that of a normal kid. I took my animals seriously and rescued neglected toys whenever I possibly could. With lots of siblings and thirty-something cousins that lived within driving distance, often a new buddy could be found if I knew which forgotten corners of the basement to search.
I can remember needing my sister to help me shut the doors of the cedar armoire where I kept all of my pets because it was so over-crowded with my stuff. As I entered my "tween" years, though, my mom helped me to slowly get rid of all of the old toys until I was left with my one most beloved stuffed dog (who still sits on my shelf at home!). With so many toys accumulated through the years, my mom was able to teach me a lot about responsibly getting rid of old things.
Here are some of the tips that have stuck with me into adulthood. Put them to use when you find yourself Spring Cleaning this year, and remember that getting rid of old things should still be done with as much environmental friendliness as possible!
1. Think first about ways to repurpose your toys. That might mean passing them on to a friend with young kids, or creating some artwork with old things! You can find plenty of tutorials for these sorts of things online!
2. Remember: getting rid of toys can feel sad for some kids, so involve them in the process! If my collection was getting out of hand, my mom would give me a shopping bag, telling me I had to fill it up with toys. I got to choose which ones got the boot, which always made the process easier!
3. It might also be a chance to teach about entrepreneurial skills. If I wanted a new toy, my mom would encourage me to sell some of my old things. I wan't allowed to have my own garage sale nor was the internet an option at the time, but I would get involved with my church's White Elephant sales. It always took a long time to make a buck, which taught me a lot about the value of a dollar! Plus, it meant the toy could find another life and not go straight to a landfill.
4. Know where you can or cannot donate. My mom was a teacher, so I always suggested that she take my old toys to her school for the kids there to play with, which is when I learned that donating stuffed toys was iffy territory. They're tough to clean, so schools and some thrift stores won't accept them as donations, or they'll only accept donations of toys that have been "gently used." Call ahead before you try and make a donation!
5. Stretch out its life if you can. When we couldn't donate a toy, find another use for it, or sell it a, I could sometimes be convinced to turn an old stuffed animal into a toy for my golden retriever, or sometimes my mom used a toy that was on its last legs as a dusting rag. She'd always tear it to bits, getting as much use out of the item as she could!
6. Find a rule. Part of what allowed me to part from stuffed animals is that my mom came up with systems that helped me understand that I could part with many of them. She would give me a box to pack up the old toys, then, we would write the date on the box and store it in my closet. I could dip into my store if I remembered something in there that I wanted to retrieve, but otherwise, any toys left in there after one year would be recycled or donated.
7. Last, if parting with beloved toys proves to be tough on your little ones, think about memorializing beloved old buddies with a tool like Artkive. Designed to help parents remember pieces of artwork brought home by their kids, the app can also serve as a paperless catalog of old things you want to remember!
If you have any helpful tips for reusing or recycling old toys, let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to come visit us for Fluff, the story of lost toys, at the New Vic from April 26 - May 4! The show will give you and your family a glimpse of the quirky lives toys can lead when they're lost and then found again!