The change of seasons is a natural time to shuffle through the closets and cupboards, replacing tee shirts with sweaters and pastel plates for the candy cane stripes. With growing kids it is also the right time to evaluate sizing and bring out boxes of hand-me-downs to swap with the too-small threads in the drawers. Getting into the stuff in our homes also usually has me naturally making piles of “things to keep” and “things to get rid of.” These last few weeks, as I’ve done some sorting and organizing, I’ve been inspired by a new pile: “things I’m glad to give.”We all tend to hang onto things we should let go of. Sometimes they are emotional, but often they are actual things that could just as easily go in a Glad bag and head to the donation center as back in the closet, and we hesitate out of fear. We ask ourselves if we will ever need this thing again. What will happen if we let it go and then suddenly decide we love it? We haven’t seen it or thought of it in over a year, and don’t even really like it and it actually doesn’t fit anymore, and we definitely wouldn’t buy it again if we saw it in a store today…but if we get rid of it, then we won’t have it anymore. And that can be scary. It’s especially scary if we feel any sort of lack in our lives, and hanging onto things– whatever they are– gives the comfort of at least having something.
Organizing and simplifying our lives seems to be a hot topic right now, as evidenced by the viral KonMari book and system. Marie Kondo, author of the popular Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up book asks if things “spark joy” when deciding whether or not to keep them.
When organizing, I used to ask myself these three questions:
“Do I LOVE it?”, which is similar to Marie’s prompt.
“Do I use it often?”, qualified further to at least once in the past year that I can remember.
“Is it an heirloom?”one of the very few items that I want to keep not for myself, but for my kids and their kids.
As I’ve been organizing a bit these last few weeks, I have added a question that makes a real difference in how I view my possessions. I started asking “Could this bring joy to someone else?”
Somehow, in flipping the scenario to not be about what I want and need for comfort in my life, but about what someone else might want or need, all of that extra stuff around feels like gifts that can bless the lives of others. I start to lose the fear of not having everything I want by recognizing that I have such an abundance in my life, I am happy for the chance to share. I see my seldom-noticed items as things that I’m not on the fence about parting with–maybe because they were expensive or I assign them a more valuable status–but see them as things that I’m glad to give away to be found by whomever needs them next. Also, I’ve begun to see the things I do keep with gratitude. I have so much!
Acquiring and maintaining a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity has been a key principle to finding happiness and contentment in my life. Dave and I try hard to focus on what we have rather than what we lack, and feel surrounded and supported by our many blessings. In a favorite talk I heard last year, this quote stood out clearly, “There is no end to what the world has to offer, so it is critical that we learn to recognize when we have enough.” Abundance as an attitude means recognizing that we will always have enough, and living in gratitude.
My perspective has also been broadened by listening to Bea Johnson talk about her Zero Waste Lifestyle on The Lively Show podcast. Something that stood out as she shared her story was how donating unused items supported the secondhand market for those who both need and choose to buy secondhand and used goods. Not only does choosing to give things away lighten our loads and create space in our lives, it also can sustain and bless the lives of others.
Seeing with fresh eyes and a new perspective has added joy to the process of sorting and bagging. Sentimental items like my kids clothes– especially handmade– feel like fun treasures to send off to someone new. Toys that my kids don’t use will bring happiness to other kids, and the parents who find them tucked on the thrift store shelves.
I tend to also look at clothing not as clothing, but as fabric. That idea causes me to hoard baskets and boxes of unused clothes in case I happen to someday need that exact print to make into something new. I love the theory of reuse and refashion, but the reality is that I seldom actually remember to dig through my refashion bins when I’m making a new project, and the ready made clothing will do someone else much more good on their bodies than it does me in my boxes.
I’ve gathered five bags to donate this week, and after I coordinate my schedule with Dave’s to attack his closet, I imagine we’ll have a couple more. Not just full of things we don’t want anymore, but of items that we’re glad to give.
I love the Glad to Give campaign launched by Glad bags to support people us in our organizing and donation efforts, and was happy to partner with them in creating this post. It was the phrase “Glad to Give” that made such an impact on how I think about donation, and I appreciate the way Glad not only offers help finding local charities but also arranges a pick up of the items.
Look around your own life and home. What are you glad to give?