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A post-holiday purge extends the season of philanthropy

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines, psychology journals and professional sourcebooks. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girl...

Declutter, downsize and donate

Holiday decorations are being stored, a chaotic house returning to order, and resolutions being made for a new year. You may also notice that your child’s toy collection has multiplied.

January is a great time to donate some of the excess and involve your child in post-holiday charity.

Many families engage in charitable giving and acts of kindness during the holidays. January, a month of fresh starts and resolutions, offers a great opportunity to continue the philanthropic momentum into the new year while simultaneously organizing your home.

Make it a family event

A post-holiday toy purge is certainly not a new concept, however many parents donate old and outgrown toys without their child’s participation. Some even make it a clandestine operation to avoid a child’s protest or upset. Experts suggest otherwise.

Author Peter Walsh cautions against giving a child’s possessions away without his or her knowledge as it could potentially result in feelings of loss or resentment at their lack of input. Furthermore, if the goal is to involve your child in philanthropy it is important to make the time and effort to create a “teachable moment.”

Allowing a child to be an active part of the toy donation roundup, even if he or she expresses sad or conflicted emotions, is actually a valuable lesson in creating charitable hearts. The difficulty children have parting with possessions helps them experience the personal sacrifices that accompany service and charity. Philanthropy always involves giving something up — whether it be your time, your money or your things. The important lesson is that the feeling of reward is always worth the sacrifice.

Here are some tips to a successful post-holiday toy purge that will streamline the toy clutter and allow your child to participate in an act of charity.

Get children involved and excited

Tell your child what you are going to do together and block off ample time to do it. Be strategic and schedule it before the “new toy honeymoon period” wears off. If your child becomes easily distressed at parting with their items, talk about it for a few days prior to the project. Focus on not the “loss” of items but on the children in need who will be receiving them. Phrase things as “giving to others” rather than “getting rid of.” Remind them of all the fun new things they have and how it is important to make space for them.

Take inventory and sort

Go through the various rooms in the house and assess each toy, book, stuffed animal and game. What haven’t they played with in a while? Are there toys there that are no longer developmentally appropriate? Make four piles — toys to donate, toys of sentimentality, toys that are broken and damaged and an “unsure” pile. Appropriately discard the broken toys (remove batteries prior) and box the gently-used toys for donation. Keep the sentimental toys and store the “unsure” toys in a box labeled with the date. If your child hasn’t requested those items in two months from that date, donate the box.

Choose a charity and donate

Many local organizations accept gently-used children’s items such as shelters, hospitals, churches, police departments, daycares, Head Start programs and doctor’s offices. Public libraries accept books in good condition. Remember, take your child along when you drop off the donations.

Pick-up services are also available. A good resource is Donation Town, a nationwide, free toy donation pick-up service in which your toys go to a local charity of your choice.

Taking the time to purge unused and outgrown toys will result in less clutter and full hearts.

More about charity and kids

Get your kids off the couch and involved in charity work
Make philanthropy part of your kids' lives
Teaching kids about charity

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