Guest Author - Emily Wilska
For many of us, the end of the year and the holidays that come along with it mean that new things come into our lives--and, of course, our homes. Taking the opportunity to declutter in December is a great way to make room for gifts we'll receive and to let go of things we no longer need, want, or use. It's also a great way of gathering things to donate to charities, many of which serve more clients than usual around the holidays and thus have a greater need for donations.
Here are four ways to share the generosity of the season with those in need, and to put your unneeded items to good use.
Donate coats and jackets
Warm outerwear is something most of us take for granted, but for many, a coat or jacket is a precious commodity. This winter, clear out your closets and donate outerwear you or your family members have outgrown or no longer need to One Warm Coat, which works with agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada to get jackets (as well as sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, and mittens) to those who need them. Visit the One Warm Coat website for information on donating to a coat drive near you, or on organizing your own drive.
Donate other clothing
Don't stop with outerwear: there are plenty of agencies that need donations of other types of clothing and shoes this season. Local shelters for women, children, and the homeless often accept clean, gently worn clothing, which they pass along directly to the clients they serve. Organizations like Dress for Success, A Miner Miracle, and Wardrobe for Opportunity provide clothing, coaching, and placement assistance to low-income job seekers; all three groups accept donations of career wear (suits, slacks, jackets, skirts, ties, and the like) and shoes.
Food banks and meal programs serve clients throughout the year, but their needs are often most acute during the winter (from November through March). Donations of non-perishable foods (such as canned, jarred, and dried items) allow these programs to keep their clients fed. Take a look through your pantry and put together a donation bag for a local food program. Be sure the items you include aren't expired or damaged, and consider adding a few much-needed foods (like peanut butter and juices). Visit Google's food bank directory for Canada or the United States to find an agency near you.
The need for toys and other kid-friendly items rises dramatically during the holidays. Most toy donation programs, such as Toys for Tots, request new toys. If your kids have toys they haven't used that are still in their original packaging, encourage them to pass the toys along to children in need.
It's also worth researching local agencies to find one that will accept nearly new or gently used toys, books, and other items that appeal to kids. Get your children involved in sorting through their things to find items to donate, reminding them that while they're likely to receive new goodies during the holidays, many less fortunate children won't. To make sure the items you donate are in usable condition, follow the guidelines in the article listed in Related Links below.
Take time before the end of the year to look through your home for things you don't need that could be put to use right away by others. You'll keep clutter at bay and, more importantly, will make a positive impact on someone else's life this season.