How to Reduce Clutter, Prevent Lego-Related Food Injuries and Make a Better World

Maybe you’re the world’s most organized person. Maybe your house is always clean, the laundry is always done, and the children’s toys are in labelled compartments, neatly stored in their rooms.

Or maybe your house looks a little more like mine with a healthy sprinkling of LEGO, books and miscellaneous art projects on almost every surface. I love Christmas, but there is a part of me that looks with unspeakable dread at the piles of toys knowing that more ‘stuff’ has just landed into my home.  The feeling is compounded with one birthday in the fall and the second in late winter! It would be easy to shake my fist at the toy companies, but the problem is that I’m partly responsible, too.  I can’t blame all the stuff on the grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, I also like to shop for them and spoil them on birthdays and holidays.

But sometimes, countless gifts aren’t the best way to show love. Instead of excitement, kids can quickly get overwhelmed by too many choices, bouncing from one gift to the next until they’re sitting in the middle of a pile of toys saying, “I’m bored!”

While it’s amazing and fun to celebrate each other at birthdays (and we should), do we need to celebrate with more stuff?

In October 2017 I launched WISH & GIVE —a different way to celebrate (and save your feet from stepping on discarded toys)!  Each event supports a local charity or non-profit.  It’s not only for children’s parties but grown-up parties too.

By using WISH & GIVE for birthday parties, children still receive a gift, but guests are asked to contribute towards one bigger, more meaningful, gift and to give a donation to charity on the child’s behalf. Imagine this: Instead of your child opening yet another stuffy that will collect dust one day, your child gets something they actually wanted, and they get to feel good about giving back.

What you support is completely up to you! I’d encourage you to sit down together to choose a charity or non-profit to support. You search by postal code to find a charity near you. It’s a great way to discover the amazing things happening right in your backyard. All 86,000+ charities in Canada are on the site and any non-profit can be added (just contact me at info@wishandgive.ca).

By refocusing celebrations, starting with young children, we will raise a generation of thoughtful, caring individuals who are just as concerned about the world around them as they are their own wellbeing.  I’m seeing the fruits of this with the kids who have already used WISH & GIVE for their birthday.

So here is to less stuff (and foot injuries and clutter) and more giving!

Why Do You Volunteer?

Why do you volunteer?

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This quote is on a flip chart in the entrance to my kid’s school, it’s not only cooperation month with the Toronto District School Board, but it’s also National Volunteer Week. This week has me reflecting on what volunteering means to me and to those around me.

Monday, all the parents at my kid’s school, got a desperate plea via email for help with pizza day on Wednesday.  I checked my calendar and finally had that exact 2-hour time slot free, so I responded that I could help.   I showed up for the first time and was amazed at the sheer number of parents who pull off this special day every month for our school.  There were at least 15 of us!  And everyone was busy!

I asked the other parents why the volunteer, not just at the school, but in general.  I’m always impressed with the sheer number of hours some people devote to volunteering from coaching their kids teams to leading a school activity such as pizza day.

Here are some of the amazing reasons why people volunteer:

To say thank you.

Because the lead volunteer asked!

Because people need help.

I love my kids and like seeing them at school.

Volunteering makes me feel good about myself.

To give back to the community.

To get out of the house.

To lead by example.

You shouldn’t always get paid for what you do.

To help out before I start full time work in a couple of weeks.

Why not help if you can?

I love this! Such diverse reasons why others are inspired to give back.

Volunteering plays a huge role in my life. 

I am currently on the board of a food bank in downtown Toronto which is 99% volunteer run.  We rely on volunteers to come 5 days a week to help their fellow citizens access food and meals.  These volunteers inspire me.  They are often clients themselves, on some form of government assistance, yet devote their time to helping others.  One gentleman who has volunteered there for 4 years told me this:

“I come here for the community and the conversation.  It’s a place to belong. Since I am on government assistance, FYFB gives me purpose and a rhythm to my week.”

How do you give back to your community? 

It doesn’t always have to be a huge time commitment to volunteer. Many charities are not set up to host volunteers.  There are other ways to support charities, nonprofits and schools in your community.  Donating food next time you are at the grocery store (look for the Daily Bread yellow bins near the front door) is a quick way to give back.  Or shoveling someone else’s sidewalk. Doing something at your office such as joining a committee or organizing a fundraiser with your co-workers.

Giving financially is also very much needed in the charity and non-profit sector, and sometimes even more appreciated than gifts of time.  I often hear people feeling guilty for not being able to do more volunteer hours.  I try to reassure them that giving financially is sometimes even more important that giving your time.  We all have different roles to play in society.  And that is what makes Canada a great place to live!

Simple Ways You Can Volunteer

It’s National Volunteer Week, so it is a good week to reflect on what volunteering means in your life.  Does it mean spending a whole day with a charity or traveling overseas to ‘lend a hand’?  Not necessarily.  There are lots of other ways to get involved in your community that are helpful to charities and nonprofits and don’t necessarily require a ton of your time.

Small things can make a difference right in your own community. Here are a few ways you can give back:

  1. Help With a Kids Sports Team

Most, if not all, kid sports teams are volunteer led.  Can you coach, arrange the snack list, send out communications to the team?  There are lots of roles within a team or the head office to offer your time and talents.

  1. Help in Your Kids School

There are countless ways parents can help at school, next time you get the desperate email pleas, try to say yes.  Often this only requires an hour or so at a time.  And your kids will love it!

  1. Focus on Your Neighbourhood

Look for ways you can offer your time to help others right on your own street or neighbourhood.  Is it helping someone garden, shovel snow, rake leaves, take out the trash?  Small acts of kindness go a long way for both parties involved.

  1. Focus on Your Office

What team or committee at work can you join?  There are ways to give back right at work, from the health and safety committees to organizing sports teams or fundraising events.   Often food banks or other places will host corporate volunteer days.

  1. Join a Board

There are over 160,000 charities and nonprofits in Canada who need board members with all kinds of skills.  Charity Village or Board Match can help connect your skills with the right board.

  1. Donate Financially

Often charities and nonprofits appreciate financial donations over gifts of your time.  Not every charity is set up to host volunteers.  Think about how you can financially support a local organization.

  1. Fundraise With Your Next Birthday

Use Wish and Give (www.wishandgive.ca) to fundraise for a local charity or nonprofit through your next birthday.  It’s great for kids too, and an easy way to teach them about helping others.

Do All the Good You Can

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox