It’s no secret that we’re a small downsizing business. We are committed to our work because of how important we think it is, rather than how much money it makes us. But, what I never realized is that the donations and connections we’ve made to give back to people who really need it has given us more than we ever could’ve imagined in return, in the shape of gratitude.
One of the things I knew I wanted to do as soon as we started assisting clients in clearing out their estates was to give as many items as possible a second life: meaning, only trash things when absolutely necessary. You know the phrase: “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure." Well, we’ve had enough donation dispersal experience to know that this is indeed true.
I’ll never forget discovering early on in our donation deliveries, the amount of people who rely out of necessity on second-hand items to furnish their homes and clothe their families. Though, some people simply choose too, and there is zero judgment here either way. We live for hand-me-downs!
On one occasion we were dropping off golf bags at St. Vincent de Paul’s in 2019, and, as we were walking up to the loading dock, a homeless woman walked directly up to us and said “may I have that bag on wheels? That would really help me out because I’m moving nightly.” Absolutely, I thought and we gave it to her right away. If you really consider this, essentially we were giving her a place to store ALL of her belongings… her home on wheels.
This exchange struck a chord with me. It was a moment to reflect on how grateful I am for what we have as a family, but also to recognize how many more people need this kind of help. I know this gets into an entire can of worms with regard to the world of poverty and homelessness. But, I’m the type of person that needs to process these BIG problems in small, fathomable pieces. So, I started to consider, where can I make a little bit more of a difference in our local community? What dots could I help connect?
My wheels started turning. What people or organizations did I need to meet in order to help my clients’ things make an immediate difference in others’ lives? I knew my clients would love knowing where their things were going. They are always eager to hear stories about how they are directly impacting folks-in-need locally with their seemingly simple donations. In an estate dispersal, clients are prioritizing items to keep because they won’t have enough room for everything. So, what they’re selecting to donate isn’t typically in bad shape – they just don’t need it or have room for it in their new home. I just had to figure out where the donations could create really meaningful moments in other people’s lives. I wanted to be a willing and enthusiastic middle-man in the process; the messenger, if you will.
(Let’s Rewind.) While I was trying to figure this out, we lived in a neighborhood where one home had a large number of foster children. I remember driving past the house and thinking to myself: “What happens to those sweet kiddos when they turn eighteen?” In truth, we had gotten to know a handful of them and interacted daily when my sons and I were playing soccer in the front yard or racing bikes up and down our street. But, I quickly started to feel sad for these kids, who at eighteen would likely age out of foster care and be on their own. I finally decided to approach my neighbor and ask. (I come from a life of privilege, one that I’m incredibly grateful for, and had zero knowledge of the foster system.) I had no idea that youth are “emancipated” meaning they age out of foster care - on their 18th birthday. On my eighteen birthday – I was heading to Cedar Point with some of my college freshman besties without a worry in the world! I digress. The point is - these youth, these children, are required to be brave and expected to step out into the world completely on their own immediately following their eighteenth birthday. So, I shared my idea with my generous neighbor about connecting used furnishings from my clients with youth aging out of the foster care system. She knew IMMEDIATELY who we should work with and connected us to Fostering Further, an organization that, among other good things, supports young adults who are aging out of foster care.
One simple conversation was all it took to help me figure out one way to begin connecting the dots between my clients and those in need.
Fast forward to the present. In 2020 alone, we furnished five apartments for youth who have only had the clothes on their back on “emancipation day.” This work is magical. These kids are amazing. I LOVE making this happen. Often on delivery day I can barely keep it together. They are so thankful and their faces beam as we load up their apartments. Typically, they are sleeping on an air mattress with a blanket provided by their social worker, and then we come in and fill the space up with necessities – a couch, chair, table, dishes, cookware, bedding, bedroom set, dresser, desk, end tables, lamps, a TV and entertainment stand and anything else that we are able to coordinate with our current clients and my growing list of generous friends and community members. And, I have to say, this type of donation delivery feeds my soul. Once we furnish the apartment and jump back in the truck, Luke looks at me and I can’t help but weep. We get to be little messenger angels passing along the generosity of so many people and client families we get to know. It’s good stuff.
Why am I sharing all of this?
The point is – finding local places to donate your clothing or furniture items can be soup for the soul. Yes, of course you can deliver to a national organization such as Goodwill. But, making this connection with Fostering Further has made our work even more meaningful for not only us, but our clients! It has also made a huge difference in their ability to pass things on. They like knowing that their stuff won’t be sold and will be used immediately as opposed to sitting in the back of a warehouse before eventually being sold (or thrown away). Here is a list of organizations that we’ve used over the last 100+ senior downsizes. (And if you’re not local to central Ohio, there may be something similar in your neck of the woods! It’s definitely worth taking the time to look.)
As our clients have discovered, it's a lot easier to “let things go” when you realize that there are folks right in your community whose lives will be impacted tremendously from the generosity of donating your second-hand goods.
In the spirit of the gift-giving holidays and setting intentions for your new year, may finding an organization nearby that you care deeply about make your downsizing efforts a little bit easier.
Inspired to make your downsize a blessing to others, but not sure how to start sorting things into the “keep” and “donate” piles? We’ve already released two videos from our 3-part downsizing mini-series. Both contain a wealth of tips on how to tackle your closets and basement. Click the link below to sign up for Video 2: Basements, and we’ll also send you the link for the Closets video. And, you’ll automatically receive video #3 as soon as its ready!