Since I have 9-month-old twins who are growing like weeds, keeping them fed and clothed can be quite costly. I have been given pre-loved clothes and toys, bought new and used, have paid it forward in giving to others and have consigned and donated as well.

I’ve recently had an eye-opening experience in the world of donating goods that has left a scar on my soul. I took some of my used baby clothes to an establishment that shall remain anonymous, however, I have been a patron of theirs many times. This time they directed me to the back dock where after unloading, I saw a little tiny stuffed polar bear on the pavement next to a contractor sized dumpster. I picked up the little plushie, locked with his sweet, soulful eyes and handed him to the attendant and said, “this little guy fell off”. She, without haste, chucked him into the dumpster and said, “his time is up, he has no more love to give”, like the evilest villain to have ever been portrayed in a Disney movie. I was in absolute shock, got in my car and sobbed as I drove away. I went back twice like a manic mom-zombie begging to dumpster dive for the polar bear but I was told “No,” was made fun of, and left before they called the police. My mistake was not saving him when I had the chance.

Now, it may seem like a trivial little stuffed animal to you and I could have easily purchased one of the many insides, but to me, it was about unnecessary waste. I haven’t figured out how yet, but I will do something bigger with this experience other than putting this tale in print. To start:

When donating, please read and know the policies of the place of accepting the donations. If your donations end up in a dumpster, it doesn’t do any good for anyone. In general, organizations cannot sell stained, overly soiled, broken, or recalled items. A little due diligence on your part will give the most. Besides, the folks that have to sort through the bags of donations don’t want to come across your soiled undies, it’s ok to toss them.

Stuffed animals CAN be sanitized and donated. Use your Google machine to find out how. There are several ways and several organizations that will take them.

If your clothing donations are not clean, they will likely end up in a landfill. Either spot cleans them or repurposes them in another way. For example, old tee shirts make great dust rags, blankets and towels can go to animal rescues and there is a huge population of crafters that will turn your moth-eaten sweater into pillows, wine bags or other skus on Esty.

Use Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace or other online listing boards to give things away to individuals or groups. It may take a few more steps for you, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Be creative in offering your unwanted goods if they are not able to be accepted by your favorite charity.

I thought I was an educated player in paying it forward, but with a little bit of extra time on my part could have probably kept a lot of things out of the landfill. I know now and I vow to that little Polar bear that I will honor his life and love.