Please Stop Giving Me Poop Stained Clothes and Broken Toys


I’m a little surprised this even has to be said. Color me shocked the first time I opened a bag of generously given baby clothes to find clothes covered in…matter. Not fresh, of course, but something that had once adorned a child’s shirt (or pants) like organic tie-dye. I considered that maybe this is the fate of all baby clothes, and being a new mother, I just needed to adjust my expectations.

Over time, I have learned that, yes, this does happen to some clothes, but not all of them. And not every outfit deserves a second chance.

Before the hate begins, let me explain that my husband and I have been very poor. We once lived off my public school teacher salary while paying for my husband’s grad school tuition out of pocket with no student loans. Even though we are in a better position now, I still buy 80% of my kids’ clothes from consignment stores. I’m not even talking about fancy, once-a-year consignment sales. I mean the chain resale stores where people take clothes they originally bought for $3.88. I am no stranger to second-hand kids clothes. Stretched necks, pilling fabric, and fading logos are our life. 

When people freely give us used clothing, it is a day of celebration.

We celebrate the beautiful hand-me-down gowns just as much as the worn clothes perfect for the playground. Truly, we understand the value of a gift. But there is a dark side to clothing donations. One I didn’t see coming when we had our first child — the “HAZMAT” donations. 

The least vomit-inducing examples I could find of clothes actually given to us.

I have come home to trash bags on my front porch full of baby clothing. Sometimes no name attached. Usually from people I barely know — my grandmother’s neighbor, my dad’s mechanic, etc. I have received onesies with that telltale yellow-brown stain spreading up the back. Shirts with large holes right in the middle of the chest. Burp cloths covered in stains that I suspect did not come from a spill on the table. I once found a crib sheet with unmistakable nose bleed stains. I’m shuddering just thinking about it again.

It doesn’t stop at clothes. We have been given bath toys filled with mold and WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE. A 24-piece puzzle with six pieces missing. A water gun with no trigger. At this point, I can only assume you are cleaning trash out of your house and placing the burden of disposal on me.

Did you know donation-dependent charities have guidelines on the condition of items? It’s to protect the dignity of all people. No one, not even the poorest of the poor, deserves poop-stained clothes. Second-hand clothing is an absolute gift, and every child deserves something clean and sanitary. Let’s think for a moment about the message we send when we donate obviously stained clothing to the needy.

Next time you are cleaning out closets and making a stack of things to give away, let me suggest you consider these guidelines:

  • No clothing stained with bodily fluids.

  • No sheets/blankets stained with bodily fluids.

  • No holes in indecent places.

  • No toys that don’t work.

  • No toys filled with mold because they sat in your bathtub for a year.

  • No toys filled with mold because they sat in your backyard for a year.

These items are now trash. I know you’re thinking, “But these were special to me!” Yes, they were. The sentimentalism is the hardest to overcome. But remember they are not sentimental to anyone else. If you can’t bring yourself to throw them away, have your husband do it when you’re not looking, or re-purpose the usable fabric. ONE exception: if you invite someone to look through these items, and they WILLINGLY take it. Just please don’t dump them on a front porch then ding-dong-ditch.

Now that I’m four years into having children, I acknowledge that clothes get disgusting. Bodily fluids become a part of every day life and are easy to overlook when coming from your own child. But I also know that there are plenty of outfits we have outgrown without stain or blemish.

Never stop giving. Never stop donating. Let’s just be a little pickier. Let your gift truly be a gift, not a burden.


  1. Stained clothes can be recycled into rags at places like salvation army. So it’s fine to take them there to donate. Other places also do that, but salvation army is the only one I remember for sure.

  2. Love this and I shared it on my timeline. I’ve seen people do this and it’s awful. We are supposed to give our best. BTW, what is the name of your Etsy shop?

    • Thank you! It really flies in the face of charitable giving if you are just cleaning out junk you don’t want anymore. My Etsy shop is Caroline Rose Boutique. 🙂

  3. I think if you are shopping Goodwill or Salvation Army, you can simply pass up the ones you don’t see fit to your specifications. However, if they get ‘dumped’ on your porch as you say; then perhaps just place a sign on your porch saying you are no longer accepting donations for your family. Otherwise, sift through what’s been given and dispose of what you don’t want. No need to be picky. Instead be grateful for the treasures you are able to use and simply say thank you.

    Just the perspective of a giver and receiver of hand me downs.

    • I love hand-me-downs, both in pristine and play condition. But the last thing an exhausted new mom needs is to have to sift through clothing that is completely unusable because the “gifter” didn’t take the time to do that beforehand. I like your idea of a sign. Or perhaps a suggestion that hand-me-downs be delivered either before or well after a new baby is born.

  4. My family went through a fire that destroyed almost everything we owned. We were a large family, and needed everything. Yes, we were absolutely grateful anytime anyone gave us donations. However, we did receive “donations” of bags of smashed and moldy Christmas ornaments, clothing torn and stained beyond repair, and every kind of broken electronic imaginable. My mom and I would just look at each other and wonder how anyone could think that we were in need of actual trash? Sometimes one man’s trash should not become another man’s trash. (This was about 14 years ago.)

    • Oh I’m so sorry you had to go through that! What a tragedy. I agree with you. Charitable giving and spring cleaning should not be synonymous. Don’t place additional burdens on those already burdened with tragedy.

  5. I am very picky about what I donate, partly because I also shop at places I donate (Goodwill, Abilities Unlimited, etc) – and I know how picky *I* am about what I purchase. My rule is not to donate anything that I would not myself buy.

    However, I will acknowledge that sometimes I take my tween’s word for it on the condition of the items he is donating. So if a broken toy, ripped shirt, or holey shoe finds its way into the mix, mea culpa. I remind him of the rules for donating (i.e. “Do not donate anything broken, missing pieces, stained, or torn – it must be nice enough that Mom would buy it.”), and then trust that he is capable of following those rules. In future, I will change that polcy to “Trust – but verify” and look through his donation box before hauling it away to Goodwill or AmVets or any other charity thrift.


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