Thursday, May 8, 2008

Randy Pausch Teaches Us about Decluttering

man with giant stuffed plush bear on his shoulders, a prize won at a state fair

You've got pancreatic cancer - and a collection of huge stuffed animals won at carnival games. Winning stuffed animals was one of your childhood dreams, but childhood is long gone and now they are leaking styrofoam beads - not good when you have an 18-month-old. What do you do with them?

If you're Randy Pausch, you give them away. Here's an excerpt from his book, The Last Lecture - talking about something he did during his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon.
I don't need these trophies anymore. And although I know my wife loved the stuffed bear I'd hung in her office when we were courting, three children later, she doesn't want an army of them cluttering up our new house. ...

I knew that if I kept the stuffed animals, someday Jai [his wife] would be calling Goodwill and saying, "Take them away!" ... or worse, feeling she couldn't! ...

And so once they were lined up on stage, I announced: "Anybody who would like a piece of me at the end of this, feel free to come up and take a bear. First come, first served."

[photo by smcgee / Sarah - not a picture of Randy Pausch]


ejpk said...

I love this idea. I had never heard of Randy Pausch, but he seemed like a pretty amazing guy. I'm looking forward to watching and learning from him.

My comment/question is regarding the stuffed animal issue. I donate everything that I think would be usable to a local shelter/soup kitchen network. I don't feel the need to sell my kids' used party shoes for $3 on E-bay...I'd rather give them away to someone who needs them. However, most shelters and donation sites do not accept used stuffed animals. Aside from some animal shelters, I cannot find any place to accept these items, and they are a constant source of clutter for me. I don't want to throw them away but they end up in bags in my basement (hidden from my kids!) while I search in vain for a recipient (which then becomes a waste of my time and space). Does anyone have a suggestion about this?

(Incidentally, the one time I did find a solution was when a friend's daughter was traveling to South America and volunteering in a children's hospital. She asked for donations of small toys, so I washed all of our smaller stuffed animals in hot water, bagged and boxed them up, and shipped them off. This was a great way ro reduce clutter AND make me feel like I did something worthwhile, but it is not an ongoing solution.)

Jeri Dansky said...

ejpk, I don't know where you live, but here are a few ideas.

1. You can always try your local Freecycle.

2. Project night night want stuffed animals smaller than 18 inches in new or in like-new condition

3. The Toys to Iraq effort might still be going on. I haven't seen an update since this post last August, so you probably want to check before sending anything off.

4. There's also SAFE - Stuffed Animals for Emergencies.

ejpk said...

Jeri, thank you so much for your input and suggestions. I had never heard of these organizations (as I am in NY, and none of these groups are based here), but I will be making a box to ship out very soon! I am so happy to know that the items don't have to be trashed. By the way, the Toys to Iraq effort is no longer in effect. Thanks for keeping us updated and constantly giving us ideas for our homes and within ourselves!

Jeri Dansky said...

Glad to help, ejpk - and thanks for the update on Toys to Iraq.

Here's one more organization (also not in New York) that is glad to take anyone's plush toys: Mushy Mates.

Jeri Dansky said...

ejpk, I've also seen suggestions to give them to police departments, who can use them when they need to remove a child from a home, or when they find a lost child.

In a similar vein, fire departments might want them for those situation when there's a fire and a child is involved.

Another suggestion I've seen is to give them to animal shelters - if you don't mind a dog playing with the toy!

Of course, you'd want to check with your local police department, fire department or animal shelter to be sure they did indeed want the stuffed animals.