Over the past ten to fifteen years my husband and I have donated thousands of dollars to support scholarships at the university where we first met. I’m very passionate about education and I hope that our money will help students seek higher education without the burdens of loans.
The funny thing about donating is that once you provide an organization with money they are always reaching out their hands for you to donate more. The first year we provided a sizable gift we were called during four different fundraisers and sent endless envelopes requesting donations in the mail.
Since my son arrived and I decided to stay home we’ve donated much less to charities. Interestingly enough as we’ve dropped back on our contributions we’ve received fewer calls.
I sometimes feel bad that we aren’t contributing as much as we used to, but I also recognize we gave a significant percentage of our take home income in the past.
Does anyone else feel guilty when they don’t provide to charities? If you contribute, what percentage of your income do you contribute and which charities do you support these days?
Over the years I’ve written a lot about purging clothing and other unwanted items from my home. Although I’m primarily a minimalist I still struggle to get rid of sentimental belongings like my son’s baby clothes and toys. Usually my clutter-free mentality wins out over my more emotional side. I tend to convince myself, (and rightfully so), that removing unnecessary and unused stuff frees emotional and physical space for my family to live. With that in mind I’m usually able to bag stuff up and carry it off to the local donation center and truth be told once it’s gone I rarely if ever think about it again.
This weekend as I was cleaning out a downstairs closet I came across four duvet covers that were never used. Each blanket was a beautiful pastel color either turquoise, purple, pink or yellow. I bought them from a Linens-N-Things clearance bin over seven years ago! The original price was over $100, but I believe I bought them for either $19.99 or $29.99 a piece. At the time I couldn’t resist the bargain.
I’ll be honest. When I bought them I thought they were just small blankets. They were used as store displays and weren’t in their original packaging. When I got them home and discovered that they were duvet covers I should have returned them immediately to the store, but back then I bought things because they seemed like good bargains and kept them because I was sure I could buy duvet inserts or find some other use for them.
I placed them in a closet with every intention of using them, but the years passed and they continued to sit unused and abandoned. A year or so ago I found them in that closet and took them out of their wrapping determined to find a use for them. Yesterday when I found them staring back at me I decided it was finally time for them to go.
I was gathering items for our location donation center and pulled out a large trash bag to hold everything we intended to deliver. I opened the bag with one hand and held the blankets in the other. Even after seven years I had a hard time donating them. I couldn’t believe I wasted somewhere between $80 and $120 on them. I found myself asking, “Shouldn’t I keep them? Can’t I find a use for them? Won’t I use them?”
I considered using them for other purposes. Maybe cutting them up and making something out of them. In retrospect I could have made some really awesome pillows out of them, but I rarely sew, I’m not very good at it, so I don’t know how well they would have turned out anyway. It almost seemed a shame to cut them up. It seemed like someone should use them for their intended purpose before taking scissors to them. After holding those blankets out for a minute or two and contemplating my options I ultimately decided that someone else would probably make better use of them.
But I’ll be honest. It was difficult to throw those duvet covers into that bag. I hated the very notion of getting rid of something I spent good money on and never even used.
Do you struggle to get rid of things you’ve never used? Do you try to convince yourself that one day you’ll wear them or find a use for them?
Tell me I am not alone.
On Christmas Eve my husband and I placed $50 grocery store gift cards into holiday cards, loaded my son into the back of our car and drove to two nearby fire stations to deliver them. At both stations we were welcomed in by friendly volunteer firemen who were elated to receive an unexpected Christmas gift.
My son is too young now to understand the value of our gifts, but I believe we may have found a new Christmas tradition. As he gets older we can explain that these men and women volunteer their time to keep us safe. In light of all of the negative things in the world I want my son to know that there is a lot of good on this earth. The fact that people are willing to step into burning buildings to protect total strangers has always astounded me. I want my son to remember that in light of troubled times there are everyday heroes who walk among us.
Of all the Christmas gifts I purchased and wrapped this year, these gifts cards were by far my favorite. Isn’t it funny how a gift to a stranger meant more to me than all the gifts I wrapped for loved ones? It’s not that I don’t love my family. I definitely do. It’s just that this gift seemed extra special, because it was so unexpected by the people who received it.
I would like to continue this tradition for years to come. While we will probably provide a gift for the firehouses each year I would also like to think of other unexpected ways to give. As my son gets older I hope that he can join in on the fun. Maybe we can pay for groceries for someone in line or provide an extra large tip to a friendly waiter or waitress. Maybe he’ll want to provide a gift for his school bus driver or for the woman who reads stories at the library. The key is to spread a little holiday joy for someone who isn’t expecting it.
Have you ever provided a gift to someone who wasn’t expecting it? If so, what did you give?
This week I decided to take a stab at the plastic containers full of baby clothes and toys in my basement. My original intent was to donate most of my son’s stuff to a local charity. Although I’m pretty sure my husband and I will try for a second child it seemed kind of silly to hold on to everything. After all, we don’t know if the child will be the same gender or born at the same time of year.
So I started the great dig on Friday. Only moments into the first box I realized this was going to be a lot harder then I ever imagined. I started with my son’s earliest items, the clothes and blankets he wore during his very first days on this earth.
Of course, I wanted to keep the onesie and blanket we brought him home in. Then there was the little hat a friend knitted and the swaddle blanket we dressed him in on his first day. “Okay, okay,” I thought, “those were no brainers. Now let’s find some things to donate.” The problem is that every little outfit brought memories flooding back to me. Every little terry cloth sleeper, every blanket, every little onesie made me smile. I can’t believe how much my son has grown in a year and every time I pulled an item out of the box I stared in disbelief at how little he once was.
A friend of ours is expecting a baby in April. So I dug through the boxes and found a few sleepers and onesies that were super cute, but no where near favorites of mine. I found enough items to fill a large gift bag.
My husband’s cousin is visiting this week and their son is a few months younger then my son but much smaller in size. I bundled up a few items that might fit him. Again they are super cute, but not really favorites of mine. Some of them were actually hand-me-downs from a former coworker of mine and a bunch of the items were never worn by my son.
I didn’t get rid of nearly as much stuff as I expected. Despite the fact that I’ve taken thousands of photographs of my son in these clothes I couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of them just yet. I’m not normally sentimental about stuff, but it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy process.
I did decide to donate a bunch of holiday related clothing. Friends and family provided us with lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas gear that is really too cute to sit inside a box waiting for our next child.
I also pulled out everything that I didn’t absolutely love. My son was given a lot of clothes from friends and family and then received a ton of hand-me-downs. If I felt a special affection for an item I kept it, if I didn’t think much about or thought it was cute, but not ridiculously adorable, then I donated it. All in all I ended up with three grocery bags full of baby clothes sized newborn to twelve months.
I managed to cram all of the remaining baby clothes into one large plastic container. I also kept a smaller container with sleep related items like baby blankets and sleep sacks. It still seems like quite a lot of stuff, but my heart isn’t ready to pass it on to another family just yet.
We have a small space between the front and screen door at the front of our home. Whenever charities call and ask for donations I pile up all of the items in this tiny little space, sometimes three or four boxes tall so they’ll be kept out of the elements and no one will take them in the night. Sure someone could open my screen door and take them, but we’d hear the door open and I figured most people wouldn’t do that.
Well today I’m donating a coffee table in addition to lots of books, housewares and clothes, so I piled up the items and placed them on the table just below the front steps of our house.
I took six boxes and bags of items outside and then went into the house to get my son ready for the day. When I came back downstairs I saw a car out in the street in front of our house and a woman walking to her car with two of the bags.
Now she was not a walking to a broken-down, dilapidated car. This was a large silver SUV that looked relatively new and in good condition. The woman didn’t knock and she didn’t ask if the items were for donation or sale, she just took them and ran off. In fact, she took all four boxes and bags of clothing, which means she made at least three trips up to my door to retrieve them.
The way the items were placed on the table, they actually looked more like we were moving or planning a yard sale. They certainly didn’t look like they were piled up for donation.
The craziest thing to me is that they were placed just at the bottom of our front steps which is at least twenty five steps from the street. We live in a single, detached home, so there are no other houses near us and you would have to go out of your way to walk up to our door. Also, nothing about this pile looked like I intended to give it away. It was neatly piled and organized, so it was clear this wasn’t an eviction of any type and there was no sign saying ‘free for the taking.’
Given the fact that this woman had the nerve to walk all the way up to my house to take these items I can only assume she needs them. At least I hope she does.
Luckily I intended to give them to charity anyway, so I suppose they have just found a home sooner than later. I say “luckily”, because if we were planning a yard sale we’d now have nothing but the table and a box of books and hangers left to sell.
Do you tip more in certain situations than others?
This past week I went to the salon in search of a new hair cut. I haven’t had my hair trimmed in quite some time and for some reason I really love to get it cut when I’m on vacation.
So I searched for shops in the phone book and settled on a salon that was just down the street from our vacation home. When I arrived a very lovely stylist came over to greet me. She led me over to her chair and I immediately took a liking to her.
We started talking about ex-boyfriends and she began to share small snippets of her life. It turns out that she was only a few years older than I am. She had children early in life and went through a series of bad relationships with very bad men. We chatted as she shampooed and trimmed my hair.
For the most part she talked and I listened. I spoke up from time to time, but her life story was really interesting and I enjoyed listening to her. As she was cutting my hair I began to feel very grateful for my life and the situations and circumstances that have led to my current place in the world.
I could tell this woman’s life hadn’t been easy and as I paid my bill I considered her circumstances and then left her a rather large tip. She did a great job on my hair, but under normal circumstances I certainly wouldn’t have tipped so much.
In fact, if any other person had cut my hair that afternoon I probably would not have left as much money, but her story really touched my heart and I really wanted her to have it. I guess you could call it a sympathy tip. Whatever you call it I was happy to give her the money.
I picked up seven games from Toys-R-Us today including Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Memory, Cooties, Don’t Break the Ice and Don’t Spill the Beans for $3.99 each. For spending $25 on Hasbro games I immediately received back a $10 gift card that is valid through December. I also mailed off a rebate for $2 on each game, for a total of $14. After subtracting the rebate and gift card from the total I spent only $3.93 on all seven games. I plan to donate three or four of the games to Toys-for-Tots. The rest will be shipped down to our beach house for renters to enjoy.
Each time you redeem a coupon from the November 2nd P&G coupon booklet, Proctor and Gamble will donate one meal to a person in need. Proctor and Gamble has partnered with Feeding America, formerly known as America’s Second Harvest. Feeding America, “provides assistance to more than 25 million people in need, secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products, and supports feeding programs at approximately 63,000 local charitable agencies.”
According to the Give a Meal website:
- 36 million Americans are food insecure, hungry or at risk of hunger
- According to the USDA, 13.3 million children live in households that suffer from hunger or live on the edge of hunger
- One in four people in a soup-kitchen line is a child
If you aren’t planning on using all of your coupons, perhaps you can share them with a friend, family or neighbor who might redeem them. Spread the word and help P&G provide meals to those in need.