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.

Reclaim Your Home From the Holidays!

kbb-holiday-mess

Cleaning up after the holidays is the worst. Not only is cleaning kind of a chore (har har), but you’re also coming down from that holiday high and finding yourself staring down at the long, dark tunnel of the winter months with absolutely nothing to look forward to until the spring.

I’m kind of a buzz-kill, aren’t I?

The Swedes have it down pat, though, when it comes to holiday clean-up: a whole other holiday known as Julgransplungering, or literally “the plundering of the Christmas tree”. It’s kind of a holiday unto itself that usually occurs the twentieth or so day after Christmas. There’s food, and singing, and one last dance around the tree (yup, just like a maypole) to mark the end of the holiday. I always regarded it as the “final hurrah” of the Christmas season before it’s back to the reality of winter.

If it’s something you’re into, I highly recommend conducting your own modern adaptation. Mine usually involves a glass of wine and one last listen of all my Christmas playlists as I take down all of my decorations. It’s not quite like dancing around a tree, although I may or may not do a happy dance after my apartment is looking clean and back to normal.

The time of year is another great opportunity to review your greeting card list (Don’t have one? Want one? Click here to learn more on how to assemble your own) and make note of any changes in address, or personal information. I always try to update my list to include anyone who’s given me a card during the past season. Hopefully there are no deletions on your list!

I’ve got a Christmas budget, too (read all about that here), so after the holidays I go through my receipts and make notes on how much I spent, saved, and of course, what I ended up buying. Sometimes I’ll come up with new ideas for gifts after the exchange has occurred so I’ll note those too, along with my purchasing information like sizes, color preferences, etc. It sounds like a pain but it really helps me with my shopping the next time the holidays roll around!

Every season I find that my decorations and other holiday fare grows exponentially in comparison to the amount of storage I have allotted for these items. Taking the time to put everything neatly away allows me to discard any unwanted items, and gives me a chance to make notes about repairs. (I chat a little more about storing holiday décor here.)

Dealing with the aftermath of the holiday season is not necessarily a party. (Although the Swedes have made it so.) But the act of cleaning up and organizing everything afterwards has become almost a ritual of closure for me. It’s a way of embracing the calm and restoring order after a busy and often anxiety-inducing time. I also find it clears the air and gives me a sense of renewal and purpose for the year ahead.

The final act of the Christmas tree plundering when I was younger involved a procession with the tree out of the door and to the yard, where we’d toss it onto the ground in a grand finale. Although I never actually threw the tree itself I found the whole thing kind of satisfying. There’s no tree-throwing in my version now as an adult, but there’s still something to be said for engaging in the ritual- it leaves you with that same sense of completion.

KBwB-BFlower-50I’m so happy to have spent another holiday season with you and excited to start a brand new year on the blog. What are some of your end-of-holiday rituals? Have you ever plundered a Christmas tree? (Have you ever plundered anything?) Tell me all about it below or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

I love talking about the holidays so if you’re still feeling that holiday fever, you can read more about the most wonderful time of the year here. Interested in cleaning up and getting over with? I write lots about organizing your household and your life here and here.