a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Nov, 2013

Do you want to raise charitable children? Here’s one thing you can do right now.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you|parenting

Clean out their closets.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and although there are many things we can do to raise charitable children (most notably, by demonstrating acts of charity) I think the simple act of cleaning out a closet is one of the easiest ways to show our kids what it means to be charitable. And as an added bonus, we get a cleaner closet out of the deal. It’s a win win!

If your closets are anything like ours they are probably overflowing with stuff. We really only insist upon a thorough closet cleaning twice a year; once in August before we go back to school, and once in the Spring as we move into the summer. During these closet-cleaning sessions I get the girls to try on clothes and put aside the ones that don’t fit for charity. (Pro tip: I use my extra reusable grocery bags for this purpose, which I seem to pick up every time I go to a conference or special event nowadays.)

Here’s my current pile:

Raising charitable children, one bag at a time

While we’re standing in front of the closets amid piles of clothes I find myself wondering how many jeans/sweaters/t-shirts a kid really needs to get by. (Answer: not many.) And while we’re there I’ll see a toy that hasn’t been played with in a while and add it to the bag. (When the kids were small I used to do this while they weren’t looking, but now that they’re older I try to involve them in the process.)

And while we’re sorting, we’re talking about life, and money, and charity, and what it might be like not to own a fancy party dress…  and hopefully though these conversations they start to understand that their small actions can be immensely helpful, and even life changing for someone in need.

This is why I’m adding one more “closet clean up day” to the mix – now, in November – because that’s when people shop for Christmas gifts and things that can fill up the space under the tree. You may not think that people buy second-hand clothes for Christmas, but they do. Think about it. Where would you go to find fun Christmas sweaters, party dresses, dress pants, and winter gear if you couldn’t afford to buy them new?

I am issuing a challenge to all you Fishies. Will you (and your kids of course!) pledge to fill up a bag and donate it to a charity who could use it? 

  1. 1) Pick a closet, and sort out the gently used items for charity.
  2. 2) Do you have a scale handy? (Even a bathroom scale will do.) If so, weigh the bag.
  3. 3) Come back and leave a comment telling me (a) how much it weighs and (b) where you’re going to donate it, but please make sure it happens before December 24.

I’ll keep a running total and we’ll see how much stuff we can clear out before Christmas. Who’d like to join me?


– 10 lbs (and that’s just MY closet – we still have more closets to go!)
– 30 lbs (HollyStar)
– 70 (Jenn)
– 20 lbs (Sarah)
– 10 lbs (Ksey)
– 8 lbs (Julie Harrison)

9 Responses to "Do you want to raise charitable children? Here’s one thing you can do right now."

1 | Jenn

November 20th, 2013 at 10:23 pm


Does it count if we already have a few bags ready to go? We can definitely weight them before we drop them off.

2 | HollyStar

November 21st, 2013 at 9:51 am


*Just* dropped off a vanload at St. V de P yesterday. Shoes, boots, extra winter gear, dress up clothes, and tons of sweaters. 30 lbs. would be a safe estimate. (I don’t keep a scale in the house).

3 | andrea tomkins

November 21st, 2013 at 10:14 am


Jenn – Certainly! Let me know how much they weigh when you have a sec.

HollyStar – Yay! I’m adding your info to the tally!

4 | Juile

November 21st, 2013 at 10:29 am


For a long time I had a “one gift in, one item out” policy. Meant before Christmas kids had to go through all their toys and create a donate pile on their own – this would ensure they could open and play with all their new stuff! Also do it around birthdays.
And I clean our closets twice a year – didn’t weigh it but just donated 4 garbage bags worth of clothes and winter gear. Next time I’ll weigh it!

5 | Sarah

November 21st, 2013 at 4:44 pm


I just dropped off two garbage bags full from my closet (say 20 lbs ish?) at the Salvation Army last week. I’m in the midst of going through my younger daughter’s closet, but those items tend to go to younger cousins.

6 | Ksey

November 21st, 2013 at 9:08 pm


A 10 lb bag of clothes to Churchill Alternative’s Helping Families initiative!

7 | jenn

November 23rd, 2013 at 9:49 am


WOW! That was alot of stuff. Just over 70 lbs sent to St. Vincents.

8 | andrea tomkins

November 25th, 2013 at 11:30 am


Great stuff guys! Thank you!

9 | Jen Hughes

November 26th, 2013 at 6:33 pm


Gosh, I feel like I do this so often. I didn’t see this post in time to weigh my donation today, but it was a very heavy garbage bag, plus another large cloth shopping bag full. I also have an overflowing bin of outdoor gear from our recent mudroom clean-out that is waiting to be donated. I’d guess in total it all comes to over 100 lbs. Wow!

I always take it to the local charity shop here in Carleton Place, called the Good as New. One hundred per cent of their proceeds go to the local women’s shelter, and the store (open regular store hours all week) is completely volunteer-run.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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