Spring cleaning – a centuries’ long tradition welcoming warmer weather and longer spans of daylight – has morphed into slang for a major cleaning or organizing project applicable at any time of year. So whether you are tackling a deep clean in the living room, or organizing the heck out of your child’s Lego collection, it can be said you are spring cleaning!
As we’re approaching the holidays, a time when we create wonderful memories with our own family, we have discussed with Grace and Julia the reality that not every family has the means to give gifts during this season. So my girls decided that we should inject some spring time into the upcoming holiday season and clean their rooms and donate toys and clothes with lots of life left in them to those who need them
When it came to their hefty stuffed animal collection, however, there was a bit of resistance. Grace and Julia have collected mountains of stuffed animals over the years. Each of these gently loved toys held special meaning for them. While the girls struggled at letting them go, the thought of a helping a child in need made the cleaning project go smoother.
I came across an organization that repurposes those stuffed animals to help those who are facing a traumatic experience. The Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (S.A.F.E) organization, a nonprofit which has a local chapter here in on the Eastside, collects and redistributes gently used stuffed animals for children in emergency situations. The cleaned toys are given to local police and fire departments, homeless shelters, church organizations and nonprofits benefitting children, who then give the toys to kids in need of some comfort during stressful situations.
Once we read about how our wonderful stuffed animal friends could really help kids in need, Grace and Julia became excited about sharing their stuffed toy collections. It was so important to my girls that the animals not be sold (even if the proceeds went to something charitable). The thought that their stuffed animals could make an impact on a child during a scary emergency situation made all the difference. As we packed up our bags we reminisced, laughing and talking about where each came from. We took pictures of the super special animals to cherish our memories of them. I have to tell you, it was a joyful, freeing experience for both Grace and Julia.
When we finished our cleaning tasks, we contacted our local chapter volunteer, "Beverly C" in Redmond, and she responded immediately with her address and instructions. When we dropped our bags off, the girls and I promptly received a wonderful email from Beverly thanking us for our donation. The whole experience was easy to implement and gave my girls the meaning they needed to let go of those special items to make space in their bedrooms. Both my girls and I recommended S.A.F.E to a number of our friends, who have since decided to make their own donations.
If you are facing a similar situation with your kids, because they do not want to let their stuffed animals go, sit down at the computer together and read about S.A.F.E. They have even put together a video to watch that explains how volunteers sort, clean and distribute the stuffed animals. The minute your children can picture being in a situation where it would be comforting to have a soft furry friend to hug, this cleaning chore becomes a win as opposed to a loss.
Another opportunity to do some major pre-holiday cleaning is right around the corner, and it will greatly benefit those in the Seattle area who cannot afford a bicycle. My office, Windermere Mercer Island, will be hosting a bike drive in our parking lot on Sunday, December 12th. We’re partnering with Bike Works, a local nonprofit that keeps bikes, bike parts and bike accessories out of the landfills while teaching youth and adults how to repair and maintain bicycles. With Bike Works kids can learn how to refurbish bikes and in the process earn their own bicycles through community service. Part of that community service involves repairing bikes to their prime working conditions for other children, who otherwise would not be able to afford a bike.
If you have bikes and bike parts, please bring them to my office located at 2737 77th Ave SE on Mercer Island during our bike drive on December 6th. Volunteers from Bike Works will be on hand from 12-3pm to collect the bikes and parts, to take back to their facility in Columbia City. The bikes that have seen better days will have all the usable parts removed from them and the rest of the bike responsibly recycled. Bikes in good condition will be given tune ups and refurbished to prime condition. They will be either given to low income youth through the UGottaGetABike and Kid Bike-O-Rama programs, to low income adults in need of a commuting bike through the Bikes-For-All, or sold at an affordable price at the BikeWorks bike shop. All proceeds from sales at the bike shop are used to support all the programs offered by Bike Works including sliding scale summer camps, Earn-A-Bike after school classes, adult repair classes and twice-a-month open shop time.
It feels so good to enter the holiday season with a clean, clutter free home – especially when you know the items you no longer need can be of great help to someone else. I’d love to hear from you about other local organizations that could benefit from our holiday inspired “spring” cleaning. Please share in the comment section!