Reader Kay submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’m trying to figure out what to do about all my old plush toys stored in *mumble mumble* cardboard boxes in the *mumble mumble* basement. I know the Unclutterer idea of taking pictures of sentimental objects before taking the next step; what I don’t know is what the next step should *be*. I doubt that Goodwill wants them; I don’t want to pass them on to young relatives — I’m not convinced they’re still healthy. Is there another option I’m overlooking?
You can have them steam cleaned, which will kill viruses, mold, dust mites, and other creepy crawlies. If you know someone who works in a hotel, the enormous steamers they have there will definitely do the trick. Otherwise, check with your local dry cleaners, who may have one in their facilities. They’re giant machines, a lot like dryers, that blast the contents with heated steam while tumbling things around to make sure all surfaces are affected.
Once this is done, you could pass them along to your young relatives without worry.
However, if these are elderly stuffed animals, they may not survive the cleaning process. For the more delicate ones, the trash may be your best option.
Actually, unless your young relatives are clamoring to take the stuffed animals off your hands, I suggest throwing all of them in the trash. Even though you once loved them, there is no guarantee your nieces and nephews will enjoy playing with a worn-out toy. So instead of dealing with your clutter, you’ll just be passing the responsibility of getting rid of it along to someone else.
Peter Walsh, in his book It’s All Too Much, makes a point about donating worn-out clothing to charity that applies equally to your stuffed-animal situation:
Goodwill receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Ultimately, they use less than half of the clothes they get. Clothing is cheap, and the cost of sorting, cleaning, storing, and transporting the clothes is higher than their value. If you wouldn’t give an article to a family member, it’s probably not good enough for charity. Sure, it’s great to get the tax deduction and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste money buying the clothes, but if you’re truly charitable, be sensitive to the needs of the organization. Charities aren’t dumping grounds for your trash.
If throwing them in the trash brings you to tears, contact a local professional puppet group. Maybe they could reuse the pelts? However, I think this is one of those situations where these items belong in the trash.
Thank you, Kay, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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