Summertime can be a difficult balance for families between relaxation and activities. Most kids are resistant to doing work in favor of having fun, but boredom can quickly set in. And most parents want their kids to be somewhat productive in the summer, yet still enjoy the freedom of a long break.
One way to avoid these conflict pileups is to actually make some piles. Summer is an excellent time for family members to clean out some possessions that have lost their use or value and pile them up for re-purpose or donations. This is an opportunity to encourage a sense of community, volunteerism, and environmental awareness for everyone involved.
Beginning any project can be difficult, so it’s important to set goals and a timeline. Parents and kids can research community organizations, and which donated items they are seeking. For example, some police departments accept donations of gently used stuffed animals to give to children in high-stress situations. Other rescue groups may encourage donations of household goods or clothing.
Families can choose one or more “categories” of belongings to donate as a means and goal of community support, gather items to give, and then set a donation day to deliver and celebrate. This can be the start of a summer tradition of contribution and awareness of how much “stuff” people acquire that isn’t highly valued or used.
Getting rid of possessions may be challenging for people of all ages. Little ones may not understand the idea of donating to those less fortunate. Adolescents may be reluctant to give away their things, especially if they feel attached to them. Even adults can be overwhelmed with sentimentality or the idea that they “might need it later.”
This type of summer clean-out is a learning process for everyone. It’s important to start small and keep in mind the ripple effect of contribution. One way to make the tough decision of what to donate easier is to assign a “value” system. For each category of items, family members can assign a numerical value that reflects importance, necessity, or sentimentality. If the number value of an item is high, then it stays. If the number value of an item is low, then it goes.
For example, if a family wishes to clear out some board games for donation, they can take each game and value it with a number. If a game is played often and brings back fond memories, the number value would be high, and the game would stay. However, if a game has been outgrown and is rarely played with, the number value would be low, and the game could be passed on to another family rather than just taking up space in the home environment.
Hopefully, most family members will feel internal reward for giving to others and creating more breathing space in the home. However, like the value system for donations, it’s also important to have a tangible reward that everyone can remember and enjoy. This reward could be going out for pizza or ice cream on donation day, or even creating a small scrapbook page to mark the clean-out tradition. Family members could write their thoughts in a shared notebook about the experience of working together, helping the community, and reducing unneeded or unwanted possessions.
Recording and commemorating the summer clean-out will create memories that may last longer than most possessions, and hopefully inspire future community contributions and volunteerism.