The first year I broached the idea of giving some of their toys away, my kids looked at me like I had three heads. My first approach was nonchalance: “Well, you guys haven’t really played with these things for a while, they’re just sitting in the toy box/playroom/(fill in your abandoned toy area here.)” Well suddenly, those long forgotten toys became precious. They dug them out. As if capital counsel for a death-row inmate, they launched their defense and pleas for pardon. I was no match for them.
It was then I realized there were only two approaches:
1. Sneak the old toys out when they weren’t around
2. Appeal to their heart and conscience
The idea of “stealing” their old toys when they weren’t looking made me feel kinda Grinch-y, so I opted for #2. Here’s what worked for my guys:
“Somewhere out there is a friend just like you. He is 5 years old, just like you. He has brown hair and blue eyes just like you, and he loves superheroes too. But he doesn’t have his own room, he doesn’t even have a home. He doesn’t know if he’ll have breakfast today, or even if he will find someplace warm to sleep. He doesn’t have a Buzz or a Woody, not even a Spider-man. Somewhere your friend is very sad. Now imagine if you filled a box with some toys that you don’t play with so much anymore. Then the big truck will come and bring the box to the sad boy. Imagine how happy your friend will be when he opens that box to find….” If it works, you should now hear your child shout “Superman!! A robot! Race cars!”or something like that. If not, try again, and lay it on THICK.
Now that your kids are ready to part with their goods, you need a place to put them. Large garbage bags will suffice, but boxes work better. You can usually get some at your Supermarket or save the ones that come with the holiday shipments of NEW stuff. Here’s some tips to make it go smoothly:
1. Give each child their own box/bag lest one sees something that belongs to the other and decides they really have to have it.
2. Give them time to decide which toys they are ready to part with. It is common to find my hallway littered with toys in limbo- but set a deadline. Two days is plenty, any longer and they might start having second thoughts.
3. Sort through the toys to make sure nothing is broken/dirty or precious (i.e. that handmade doll that grandma made is “boring” right now but will be cherished when they’re older) If there are stuffed animals, pop them in the wash to make sure they are dust/germ free.
4. Tape up the boxes / tie up the bags and LABEL them. Now get them out of sight- out of mind.
Phew. Mission accomplished. Now what the heck do you do with them? Believe it or not many charities today only accept new toys, such as The Salvation Army. But there are still great organizations that will accept used ones.
Here is the BEST resource I have found to find a local organization to pick up your used toys, as well as other items such as clothes, books and furniture:
http://www.donationtown.org/ Here you can enter your zipcode, and they will provide a list of charities in your area that will pick up your stuff.
If you want to work directly with a charity or person in need, here’s some good places to try:
Your local Ronald McDonald House (not the restaurant!!) Find one here: http://rmhc.org/who-we-are/chapter-search/
Local women’s shelters or homeless shelters. Many times the church or synagogue in your area will point you in the right direction, or you can search here: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/
Freecycle is a place where people give stuff away and ask for things they need. You might just make someone’s holiday that much brighter. Find a local group here: http://www.freecycle.org/
If you want to make sure you can write off your donation, here is a list of approved organizations, as well as guidelines from the IRS: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html
If you are the one in need, as so many of us are this year, you can always try selling your wares on Ebay!
Now go on, empty those closets and toy bins, and fill your heart with the joy of giving.