Make the holidays about the experience, not the stuff!


The holidays always seem to fly by, as many people are occupied with shopping, cooking, baking and travelling. A lot of time is spent planning and completing tasks to enjoy the holidays, but many of us end up not enjoying the holidays because of this. Make this holiday season one that you will actually enjoy by eliminating some of the tasks that normally add a lot of stress.

One of the biggest costs of stress during this time is gift giving – a lot of time (and money) is spent buying gifts, sometimes for many people! Instead, talk with your family, friends, and co-workers and come up with an alternate gift giving solution that everyone can participate in.

For example, consider doing a draw for “Secret Santa” and set a dollar limit that works for every person’s budget. While this may not be the best option for children, this idea works great for adults. There are even apps available that will randomly match people (like this one) that will make sure no one draws their own name, and even lets people upload a list of possible gift ideas. Hosting a “Secret Santa” gift exchange will save everyone money and time, as they won’t have to go and buy as many gifts as they normally would.

Alternatively, you could host a gift exchange where everyone buys one generic present, and people can exchange or steal gifts until everyone has one item. Not only does it also save you from buying more gifts, it’s also a fun activity to enjoy with family and friends. With less time spent shopping, wrapping presents, and delivering gifts, you will be able to spend more time experiencing the holiday season.

While giving and receiving gifts is fun, they are not as valuable as spending time with family and friends. Careful planning and shopping in advance may help reduce some of your stress, but you’ll be even more relaxed when you can completely eliminate one of the many tasks you plan to do this month. The holidays should be about the experience, not just the gifts or items that you give and receive!

Junk or not junk? Know the difference before you donate!


Decluttering is a major part of any organization project – but once you’ve sorted through your items and decided on what to keep, what do you do with the rest of it? How can you tell what items are junk, and what items can be donated?

More often than not, people donate their used items to charities (especially during the holiday season), but the items they donate are actually junk. When this happens, volunteers and charity organizers have to sort through and dispose of these items, which is a waste of time and very limited resources. Before you bring over a box of items to donate, make sure you remove anything that is broken, torn, rusted, or no longer works. Ask yourself what made you decide to get rid of it in the first place – is it just because you have grown out of it or grown out of love with it? Or is it because it is in disrepair or bad condition? If it’s the latter, it probably means that the item should be tossed.

There are organizations that will accept donations of items that are not in good condition, but make sure that you look up the donation guidelines before bringing anything that is old and worn. For example, Clothing of a Cause has old clothing drop-off bins at most landfills, where the clothing is sold to international recycling companies and repurposed in a variety of ways. However, most charities are looking for items that will be given to people in need. If the items aren’t good enough for you, they probably aren’t good enough for someone else either.

However, there are some items that can break and be repaired, like most furniture, appliances, and even some clothing. With a small investment of time or money, you can breathe new life into items that can be reused or donated to organizations who can find a meaningful new home for them. This will take extra time and effort, so make sure that you are willing to put in the extra work before you decide to repair something.

Not only do you need to consider if it is junk or not, but you also want to make sure that any items that have multiple parts or pieces are kept together. For example, some toys have multiple pieces that should be grouped together or put into one bag. Some items won’t work unless all the pieces are used, and it won’t do any good for charities to receive an item that doesn’t function properly.

Everyone wants to be able to help others and prevent more items from going into a landfill. However, there are some items that cannot be reused or repaired, and should not be donated to a charity. When this happens, more time and work has to be undertaken by the charity to sort through the items. It might help to think of the item this way: would you pay money for this? If not, that probably means the item belongs in the garbage bin, not the donation box. Before you donate, make sure your items are worth donating.

It's time to give back!


With the holiday season fast approaching, there are many places and opportunities for people to give back to the community through various charitable organizations around the city. There is no greater feeling than knowing you have been able to help someone in need. Whether you decide to undertake a project on your own or with your family and friends, volunteering is a great way to give back to the community in a fun and rewarding way.

If you’re racking your brain for group gift ideas, or are dreading the thought of planning/attending another holiday party, consider starting a new tradition this year, and volunteering with friends and family. This way, you can give back to a great cause and spend time with the people you love. If a volunteer project isn’t a possibility this year, consider asking for financial donations to a charity of your choice, or hold a holiday event and collect non-perishable items for a food bank. There are many worthy organizations in Calgary that can use your help and support!

Recently, the team at Calm Order, together with friends and other volunteers, helped Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary to set up their new offices and homes. Servants Anonymous is a non-profit organization in Calgary that provides programs and support for women who have either experienced or are at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking.

Calm Order and the volunteers sorted through furniture and other household items that were stored in the organization’s former facility and housing suites, packed up the remaining items, and unpacked them in their new location. This project was assisted by Just Junk, who also generously gathered household items that were donated to the new homes, and helped clear the old and worn items.

For Calgary residents, there are many projects and programs that are undertaken during the holiday season. However, keep in mind that many of these organizations operate throughout the entire year, and are always in need of any time or support you can offer.

The Calgary Food Bank, Calgary Meals on Wheels, The Mustard Seed, and Inn from the Cold all offer volunteer programs that individuals and groups can participate in during the holiday season (and the rest of the year). For a more extensive list of volunteer opportunities around Calgary, go here.