Holiday Challenge: Give Back as a Family

With the holidays in full swing, many of us have already experienced the range of emotions that seem to accompany the season. For some, the holidays can be a joyous time. For others, they can be a stressful or sad time. And still others, a mix of the two. The holidays have a strange way of bringing on a hodgepodge of emotions.

They also have an interesting way of sending us into extremes. We often eat too much, drink too much and purchase too much. At times, it can feel like the holidays are simply meant for consumption and the meaning of the season gets lost.

Many of us fall into this consumption trap. It’s almost impossible to avoid; Every TV, print and online advertisement paints the perfect picture of what December should be. We are bombarded with images of happy families wearing beautiful new clothing while opening beautiful new gifts. And we are told (and start to believe) that Happiness = Having.  

These messages often create feelings of inadequacy and negative self-talk for adults and kids alike... I need that. I want that. I don’t have enough. I don’t do enough fun stuff. And often, I am not enough.  

And while I do love giving thoughtful gifts to my loved ones (and receiving them too), I’m tired of seeing these messages affect friends, family and more importantly children.  

So starting last December, I decided to do something about it...

The Holiday Challenge

The holiday challenge is simple really. It’s about shifting our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have and what we can give to others.

While there are a lot of different ways to do this, I made this challenge all about stuff.

Because we are constantly told that we need more the month of December, I wanted to flip the mindset. Many of us actually have a lot of stuff. More stuff than we realize and more stuff than we know what to do with. The average American home has 300,000 items in it!

You can think of the holiday challenge as house wide, family involved decluttering (if you’ve read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” then you may be ready to “KonMari” the whole house).*

Whatever the case, the challenge is all about taking time throughout the month to really go through the items you have in your home as a family.

You may be thinking that December is not an ideal time for this challenge, but I beg to differ. In some ways, now is the perfect time to do this as a family.

The holiday challenge will:

  • Help to remind kids and adults how much they already have. Going through all your stuff tends to have that effect on you.

  • Spark conversations about gratitude and giving to those who are less fortunate.

  • Declutter the house. This is an added perk!

  • Curb your desire to purchase. When you spend so much time going through all that you have, it reminds you that you don’t necessarily need more.

  • Give children an opportunity to know what true giving feels like. Children going through their items and deciding what they will give away (with or without the help of an adult) is a powerful process. The effort and time it takes them to do this results in the feeling of true giving.

As part of my coaching services, I help families declutter and create learning spaces in their homes. I also guide parents on which toys, books and activities are appropriate for their child’s best development. To learn more about this service, please contact me. 

Tips for the Holiday Challenge

Below, I share some tips to help you through the process, as well as guidance on how to do the challenge as a family. For a how-to guide on decluttering your home, check out Marie Kondo’s book.*

  • There is no set expectation on the challenge. You should decide what it will look like in your home as a family. You can take part in the challenge in a small way or in a big way.

  • You’ll want to make sure to have the whole family involved and not declutter your children’s (or partner’s) items when they aren’t around. This will not end well nor is it fair to do.

  • Make sure to set developmentally appropriate expectations for each child. You’ll also want to take each child’s personality into consideration. For some children, you will need to choose 5 toys at a time and ask which toy they would like to donate to a younger child. Some children may resist the whole process but be able to help you donate your items or household items. While other children will be able to help you throughout the whole process.

  • Think of small ways that you can get the kids involved. This could be by helping bag the items, carrying them to the car and taking them to the donation center with you. This may be by helping you choose a donation center or charity to take the items to. This may be by having them choose 1 item every day that they would like to donate. Remember that it all starts with what we model to children.  

  • To make it fun, you can set goals to reach as a family like donating 40 books, 30 toys, 10 shoes, etc. Get the kids involved in tallying up the counts each week. This also promotes conversations about how many families you are helping.

  • Create space during these moments to share memories about items that you have enjoyed over the years as a family before letting them go.  You can use this as a way to help your little ones understand how these items will create happy moments or memories for other families.

In regard to the practicalities of the process…

  • Some categories to go through are toys, clothes, shoes, coats, stuffed animals and books.  

  • Get rid of toys that have broken parts or missing parts that can’t be fixed or replaced.  

  • Wash stuffed animals that are safe to wash before donating them.

  • Make sure that puzzles and games with pieces are contained in a box or zip lock bag before packing them.

  • Check the packing guidelines of the charity/charities you are donating to. Do they ask you to place items in boxes. vs bags? Do they ask that you categorize items?

So I invite you to join me this month in the holiday challenge! I’d love to hear how it goes for your family.

Also, stay tuned for next week’s post on gift giving this holiday season. We are going to talk all things not things.

Keep well,


*This post contains affiliate links.

As part of my coaching services, I help families declutter and create learning spaces in their homes. I also guide parents on which toys, books and activities are appropriate for their child’s best development. To learn more about this service, please contact me.