10 Charitable Alternatives to Gift-Giving

My first serious boyfriend and I had an unusual Christmas tradition during the time we were together. Each year, instead of buying each other gifts, we’d pick out one of the stuffed toys from the World Wildlife Federation Store to purchase, each one symbolizing the adoption of an endangered species in the wild. Even though it was a small gesture it felt good knowing that we were spending the money on a good cause rather than purchasing more stuff for our home.

Because it’s all stuff, really, and it’s not really Christmas if we can’t find it in our hearts to spread the spirit of giving to all of the people, plants and animals in need. Please consider donating to any of these worthwhile causes, not because any of these charities know me or asked me to say that (because they did not) but because it will make your heart grow three times larger.*

  1. Show your love and spread awareness by sending out Christmas cards from one of the many of the sets that are available for purchase from a variety of charities around this time of year. These gorgeous cards from the David Suzuki Foundation promote the importance of bio-diversity and would make the perfect gift for any gardener. Mouth and Foot Painting Artists also offer a wide variety of cards (and more!) and are recognized worldwide for their amazing skills.
  2. If it’s an actual gift that you’re looking for, consider shopping at a site that supports female artisans. Check out these colorful handcrafted baskets and delightful stuffed animals made by Ugandan women as part of the organization Children of Hope Uganda.
  3. The Filipino artisans who sell their gorgeous shell ornaments on the World Vision website were able to do so with a micro-loan they’ve received through the organization. Your purchase not only helps to build their business, but also enables them to continue to develop the necessary skills and experience they need to pay back their loans.
  4. Around this time of year, many big brands introduce special edition products, the profits of which (or a portion thereof) are donated to a particular charity. Some of these charitable gifts are available year-round: check out David’s Tea Me to We Tea, Lush Cosmetics’ Charity Pot and IKEA’s SAGOSKATT cuddly toys.
  5. Some brands exercise their philanthropy year-round, so why not take the opportunity to make your purchase count? Brands like TOMS, Philosophy and Bloom and Give will make a charitable donation on your behalf each time you make a purchase. (The Body Shop is running a similar campaign this holiday season- each purchase made during the months of November and December will help their Bio-Bridges program help reforestation efforts in several countries across the globe.)
  6. If you’ve lost a loved one during the past year, why not take this opportunity to make a charitable donation to their favorite cause in their name? Or consider a memory gift offered by organizations such as A Living Tribute, which plants a tree in memory of your loved one that also helps restore Canada’s forests. (Check out the The Arbor Day Foundation if you live in the U.S.)
  7. There’s a growing trend to give experiences instead of gifts at Christmas, so why not do something worthwhile with your time together and volunteer for a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? Organizations like volunteermatch.org will help eager volunteers find local charities that could use the extra hands.
  8. Don’t feel like making a donation but still interested in creating awareness? The American Red Cross offers a vast array of first aid and emergency supplies on their online store, as well as apparel, accessories and training kits.
  9. Want to make a donation but don’t know where to start? Search the Charity Navigator to learn more about your local charities, and see how they scored on financial heath and accountability. Similarly, Givewell.org will search its database for charities to determine which ones need your help the most.
  10. Or just give a gift to someone else and feel good about knowing where your money is going: organizations such as UNICEF and Charity Seeds offer “gifts” tailored to promote literacy, education, better healthcare and emergency preparedness such as water purification tablets, vegetable seeds, or backpacks for schools. If you’re low on funds, grab a few friends and get them to donate all their unused toiletries to give to women’s shelters across the world via The Shoebox Project.

*I made an effort to try and include charities, organizations, products and brands with my international audience in mind. However, several of the links I’ve provided have been based on my particular location (Canada). I apologize in advance for the detective work you might have to do in the event that you aren’t redirected to the appropriate site when you click on the link.

Happy giving!

B

There are so many worthy causes out there and I’m sure this post does not begin to cover them all. If I’ve left out something that’s important to you, or has a made a difference in your life please let me know at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I’ll try to incorporate all your suggestions into an updated post.

Or maybe you’ve got some more awesome ideas for products and companies that give back so you can feel better about your gift-giving this holiday season. Leave a comment below with your recommendations!

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Build a Better Business Wardrobe

One of my friends literally had a job opportunity fall into her lap last week that was an improvement over her previous position in so many ways: better work environment, more responsibility, and a pay raise. (Cha-ching!)

Talking over drinks she confided she was worried more than anything about what she was going to wear to her new workplace. It’s a struggle to find clothes that suit her body-type already; trying to add more professional pieces to her wardrobe while on a budget made it an even bigger challenge than usual. “I don’t want to buy a bunch of new stuff just to wear to work,” she complained.

It made me think about my own wardrobe journey, from the time when I had an overflowing closet (working at a clothing store didn’t help), to the time where I learned to let go of things I was holding onto just because I didn’t love myself. Even now I’m not totally satisfied with my clothing collection, so we ended up having a lot to commiserate about.

The capsule wardrobe is a concept that I’ve been contemplating for sometime now ever since I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The idea is to pair down your wardrobe down to 33 key pieces (minus things like underwear, socks, workout clothes, etc.) that can mix and match with ease. (Although according to this article, most of us are doing it wrong.) The term was originally coined by London fashion boutique owner Susie Faux and has now become popularized through sites such as Project 333, which has a detailed explanation of the whole concept and a step-by-step guide on how to implement it into your own life. There’s even a psychological theory behind it- decision fatigue– which brought more attention to public figures such as Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg for their “uniform dressing”.

Unless you want to spend hours down the Google rabbit hole, I suggest not searching capsule wardrobe examples. (Besides, I did most of the work for you here on Pinterest.)  A lot of it is in the strategy- this breakdown really helped me to visualize how it might look if I tried to design one of my own.

After ransacking some ideas from here and here, my friend and I came up with a few work outfits using the clothes already in her closet- we just stuck to a neutral palette, incorporated some subtle patterns and shots of color, and brainstormed ways to layer pieces for the chillier months to come.

Honestly, most of us just want to get up and go to work with as little hassle as possible. Cutting down on her clothing choices, and leaving her only with outfits that were coordinated and classy is making her leave for work a more confident woman every morning. Creating a capsule wardrobe isn’t really for the faint of heart- it does take time and effort- but for someone looking to create a better business wardrobe it seemed totally worth the effort.

And as for me? Well, I might have gotten a little inspired too. Let’s just say that we all know what I’m going to be doing this weekend, and it’s probably going to have something to do with my closet.

Have you experimented with a capsule wardrobe in your life? Did it make a difference on how you dressed for work? Let us know what worked for you (or if it didn’t!) or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I could use your advice too!

Or, hey- maybe you’re totally not into this capsule wardrobe thing anyway. This article makes a good argument for how our obsession to minimize our closets is taking away our personality and sense of style. Is she right? You be the judge!

 

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

At least, for some people it is. (Remember those commercials?) Back-to-school season is a mixed bag of emotions- for students, parents and teachers alike. It also doesn’t help that coincides with the arrival of fall, which officially marks the end of summer fun.

I used to love back-to-school time, not only because I was a stationery nerd, but it always somehow felt like a fresh start. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in school now but the feeling has never really left me, this idea that fall can also be a season of change and opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m already starting to dread the end of summer (and I don’t even go to school, man). But let’s take this time to look at the positive side of going back-to-school and use it as a tool to meet your goals, break bad habits, or even boost yourself self-esteem. Maybe you just want to learn how to survive school. Here are some of the ways I think I can help:

Get Organized:

Pick the perfect planner to manage your tasks.

Use this if you want to manage your whole life.

Work Smarter:

3 rules for a successful study routine.

Never hand in late assignments again.

Take control of your lists.

Manage overwhelming tasks.

Quick and dirty tips to help your productivity all around.

Improve Your Time Management:

Stop being late to class. But if you are running late, read this.

How to play catch up.

When you’re definitely not a morning person.

Squeeze more reading into your routine.

Understand and Conquer Procrastination:

Ways to make procrastination work for you.

The whys behind your procrastination habit.

The procrastination solution (or at least, some of them).

Take Care of Yourself:

We know you’re busy, but you gotta make your health a priority.

Ways to take care of your brain.

Reasons why you need to sleep (as if you needed them, right?)

Burnout is real. Don’t let it happen to you.

Find your motivation to get your groove back.

Get Through Your Day:

For when you’re having a breakdown.

For when you’re barely functional.

For when you’re struggling with your mental health.

We all have blips. Me too. We’ll get through it together.

Do you have any solutions or advice for students going back to school? Maybe you can offer the perspective of a parent or a teacher. Leave a comment below and share with the class, or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I may include your tips in a future post!