New Holiday Traditions: Ideas for Donating as a Family

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(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)

‘Tis the season for coat collections, holiday gift drives, and charitable giving, and this year I’m trying to coordinate my own periodic decluttering with the efforts of local organizations. It’s nice to make space for the new, and nicer still to get kids involved in donations, identifying things they no longer use that other children can enjoy.

My family is tackling some of our biggest accumulators and finding plenty of enthusiastic takers, eager to distribute our donations. We plan on making this an annual pre-Thanksgiving tradition. Here are a few things we are clearing out and passing along:


We have loads of books that our kids have outgrown, and a few different channels for redistributing them. To rehome a small haul immediately, locate a Little Free Library and deposit a few titles. Find organizations like Bernie’s Book Bank, which collects and distributes books to at-risk children throughout the Chicagoland area; Bernie’s also provides a great service opportunity, as young kids can sort, sticker, and bag books at the warehouse.


Overwhelmed by birthday and holiday gifts, I have a tendency to stash unopened gifts in a closet, and my kids often age out of those gifts before we even get to them. Toys for Tots is a great destination for new, unopened toys. Find takers for gently used toys with a quick search on Donation Town, or contact area schools and daycare centers for their wish lists.


Here in the Midwest, the weather has everyone bracing for a long and very cold winter. Houses of worship and schools are coordinating coat drives. It’s satisfying to get some bulk out of your closets and gratifying to know that the coats will keep someone warm instead of gathering dust.


Many schools and food pantries put together self care baskets for recipients in need. Find out about these efforts and gather unopened toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturizer, soap, lip balm, and tissues for donation.

With social media, it’s easier than ever to find out what different organizations need and how to get your items to them. Many will coordinate donation pick ups. Check out school and nonprofit websites, or just ask on Facebook if anyone is collecting for a holiday drive.

Getting the whole family involved is a great way to promote social mindedness, the spirit of the season, and a sense of generosity and grounding. Clearing out that which no longer serves the family also fosters healthy attitudes towards stuff and organization.