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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

A Green Home: Clean Out (and Donate) at Christmas

Jaci KennisonJaclyn Kennison is a freelance writer living and playing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owns and manages an art gallery and event venue between fits of shopping and redecorating.  

Christmas is a time of giving, a time of receiving and a time of throwing away. It seems no matter how hard we try, there are boxes and boxes of excess and trash that eventually end up in our landfills. Merry Christmas, Mother Earth!

It seems our homes (and probably garages) fill up with a lot of extra stuff, too. The decorations that were destroyed in the roar of holiday excitement, the gifts you didn’t really want, and all the stuff that has been replaced by the gifts you really did want. Of course, the plan is always to clean out the garage in the spring and take all these things to your favorite local charity or secondhand store. Too often though our lives get busy, our spring fills up and turns into summer, and before we know it, we have three years' worth of donation boxes pushing the cars out of our garage.

The solution? Donate these things before the big holiday.

Oxfam donation posters 
Donating clothes, CDs and other household items will make space in your home and help you share with those less fortunate. Photos By net_efekt/Courtesy Flickr. 

I learned this lesson living in a tiny downtown apartment. When I first moved in, I had almost no furniture, very few clothes and a single skillet for cooking eggs. I could shop until my heart’s content and pile it all in easily. The day quickly came when I had no more room, and I was forced to start cleaning out. In a space this small, and with a garage sale problem like mine, I found myself cleaning out a lot. At first it was frustrating and I dreamed of a bigger place. Gradually, though, I came to enjoy the ritual and made a rule for myself; giving has to come before (or with, in certain circumstances) the getting. I keep myself from filling closets full of “donate” items by dropping them off every time I shop. When I bring home new (to me) clothes, I force myself to go through my closet and find as many items as I can to donate.

Apply this principal to the holiday season and it becomes even more relevant—and powerful. Not only does giving away a bunch of your old stuff before the holidays prevent spring-clean pile-up, it also creates space for new items to come into your home. Passing this lesson on to children also teaches them to give before they receive—not after they’ve already got the hot new toy they’ve been wanting. Additionally, when finances are tight around the holidays, you might be able to bring in a little extra cash consigning some of your larger items or high-quality clothing. If you donate most of your items, you are also providing more for those in need, when they need it most.

I realize this suggestion is asking you to add another line to your to-do list at a time of year when there is already more list than paper. I’m sticking by my challenge though, because I think it will do us all some good to make space for the new things that will be coming into our lives throughout the next year, share with those less fortunate, and remind ourselves that the real—and most special—gifts of the season are those we give to others.