Chicagoans don’t need to wait for spring cleaning time to come around. With months of cold, inhospitable weather, there’s plenty of time to fit in a January purge beforehand. After the abundance of the holidays and the resolutions of the New Year, this is the perfect time to clear out the old.
I enjoy this enforced home time to reassess what our family has and needs, and to get organized. However, while clearing out can seem like a great idea when you start, it can quickly become overwhelming. To prevent being left with heaps of random objects and fraught family members, I implement these steps to keep the project under control — and even enjoyable.
Involve the whole family. I use these purges as an opportunity to speak to my children about giving. This is the perfect opportunity to highlight how lucky we are and to emphasize the positive qualities of generosity and empathy. Ensuring all members of the household have a say in what is donated and where, there is ownership and a willingness to participate.
Set aside some time. Find a time to embark upon your purge when you’re not going to be rushed. Fitting something in between appointments is asking for trouble. Things do not always go to plan and your younger helpers might not work as quickly as you’d like. Allocating a longer stretch on the calendar keeps everyone relaxed. Then if you have some time to spare, you can reward your team with a well-earned snack.
Gather bags and boxes. When you’ve set a date, the next step is to ensure that you have enough bags and boxes to sort unwanted items into. Especially now that stores aren’t giving out bags so readily, these may not be on hand. You don’t want to be left with piles of stuff that you need to deal with later.
Assign tasks. Determine which areas to be purged can involve children and which might be best dealt with alone. Clothes could be an easy one to enlist help with. Little ones can understand the concept of giving away pieces that don’t fit. Toys you might have to sort through yourself, to avoid emotional outbursts.
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Divide your donations. As you go, divide things into separate bags or boxes depending upon type. Having all books together, toys together and clothes together makes it easier to donate things to the right place. You don’t want to have to re-sort later.
Determine where to donate. Think ahead about where you want to send your chosen items, and be sure to check that they’re accepting donations. Some places only take seasonal items or are already heavily stocked in certain areas. Another crucial thing to keep in mind is drop-off hours. Loading up your chosen items, and be sure to check that they’re accepting donations. Some places only take seasonal items or are already heavily stocked in certain areas. Another crucial thing to keep in mind is drop-off hours. Loading up your car to find that your preferred destination is closed is a waste of precious time.
I keep a list of resources to donate to. The schools and church we belong to have donation drives throughout the calendar year, so we store items specifically for those. We also know which charities take clothing, toys and books, and which places we can make year-round donations to when we’re ready. Resale stores can provide another outlet for higher-end items. Then there are of course resources where you can post and sell items online. For the more creative, organizing a swap social for friends can be fun and a great bonding opportunity, too. As they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!