Add New Meaning to This Year’s Spring Cleaning!
Getting ready for Spring Cleaning again? Here are some of the things found around my home and office over the last year:
- Ill-fitting clothes
- Clothes needing repairs (will never get to them)
- Single socks and gloves (partners walked off?)
- Paper/cardstock – all weights, colors, and sizes
- Leftover wood from various project
- Extra ceramic tiles from home remodeling
- Old furniture (already replaced with new)
- Working home/office accessories, not in use
- non-expired overstocked canned/boxed foods
- Old blankets, towels, and sheets
- Plastic grocery bags
- Decorative holiday tins
- Stickers and stamps
- Beads from broken necklaces
- Yards and scraps of miscellaneous fabric
- Full and partial skeins of yarn
What are you finding in your home or office and what can you do with what you find?
If you are a “do-it-yourself-er” or feeling creative, try upcycling!
Create useable products/objects from waste and unwanted items or adapt existing things in various ways to add value. Take fabric or clothes from your repair bin and upcycle the fabric. Use it to cut out patterns, update worn shirts with contrasting fabric collars and cuff facings. Sew baby clothes and safe cuddly toys for kids. Make pull toys for dogs and catnip chasers for cats. Create tote-bags or back-packs for school-age kids to carry books, personal belongings, and art supplies.
There are so many ways we can benefit others.
How about donating handmade blankets? “Granny Squares” can be knit or crochet from yarn. Fabric patchwork squares can be cut from leftover fabrics or clothes in the same, or different, shapes and sizes.
After individual squares are done, lay them out on the table or floor to experiment with alternating patterns and colors. When satisfied with the design, secure the individual squares/shapes together by stitching or crocheting. (Simple “how to’s” are available on internet videos and in sewing pattern books among other places.) Now donate the finished product!
A Number of Organizations have Upcycling Projects
Project Linus, a national nonprofit helping children in need, has local chapters in North Carolina and accepts home-made blanket donations. Raleigh’s Project Linus includes creation size and fabric criterion along with some patterns to use. They even have groups of volunteers that create together (see “events”).
Warm Up America
Warm Up America is also a national nonprofit that distributes handmade quilts and blankets all over the country through partnerships with other organizations and groups. See their Facebook page for various projects they’re donating to, groups working together to craft blankets, shawls, baby hats, and all kinds of things.
Special needs clients
Alzheimer’s patients and individuals with significant levels of autism or medically caused functional deficits, even normal babies, toddlers, and children may benefit from sensory blankets (also called “fidget quilts”), aprons, mittens, or sensory/busy boards. Use up any number of objects like loose beads, fabric pieces, yarns, leftover zippers and buckles, anything with texture, and some things with movement.
I spoke to one of my local senior health centers and the Dementia Alliance of NC for advice. They concurred the best way to serve the needs of an Alzheimer’s patient is “meeting them where they are” (functionally). Contact your local assisted living center activities department or nursing staff to ask if there is a patient/resident who might benefit from an object like this and the best way to customize your creation for that patient.
My senior center contact suggested the most flexible item would be a small sensory blanket about the size of a TV tray, which could be used by a bedridden, wheelchair-ridden, or more mobile patient. Consider similar customization for other special needs clients and children (based on age and function). See some examples and instructions on various internet sites including Pinterest.
Use your papers, craft scrapes, poetic abilities, and kindness along with your artistic tendencies to create cheer-up cards for seniors, kids, welcome homes, get well soon, our military service people overseas, and even here at home. See this current project through ActivateGood.org about creating greetings for senior citizens at Assisted Living Centers. Scrapbooking.com also has a list of various national organizations that accept and distribute handmade greeting cards.
A list of some other organizations that accept handmade blankets and other handmade items can be found through the Craft Industry Alliance and in other articles. Some of these organizations have local chapters or teams, and others accept and distribute donations where needed from their national home office.
A couple of years ago, Activate Good led a school project where kids helped upcycle plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn. After cutting the bags into circular strips, the strips were looped together and secured end-to-end to create a long rope of plastic yarn (“PLARN”).
Rolled into balls to use for crocheting, “plarn”, can be used for many things while protecting the environment. Find “plarn” video instructions and ideas (like crocheted bedrolls for the homeless) through easy internet searches. Have you ever seen a tote made of “plarn”? Here’s a photo of one purchased from a crafter a few years ago.
Recycle by Donation* or head a Donation Drive
Many of us have gotten into the habit of donating items from spring cleaning by dropping our boxes and bags at one donation center. Some organizations will pick up mixed donations from our porches or curbs. Many items received in a donation center are resold in stores managed by the organization. This “recycling” method benefits both shoppers looking for bargains and the organization itself, along with those that the organization serves. In addition, your item donations keep them out of landfills.
A well-known example of the donation center/store idea is Goodwill Foundation, which helps people who need jobs earn income while learning work skills through employment in these resale outlets. Aside from locations that accept most everything at once, many organizations maintain a list of more specific needs – a “wish-list” of items that most benefit that organization’s mission.
- Animal rescues and shelters, like Saving Grace, need old towels and blankets in the shelter. They also send supplies home with temporary foster “parents” who care for new puppies and kittens until ready for adoption to a permanent home.
- Your gently used furniture, appliances, and building materials can be donated to some Habitat for Humanity ReStores. (Check with your local ReStore for what they will accept. Each store is different.)
- The Green Chair Project offers a choice of essential home furnishing for families and individuals in Wake County transitioning from homelessness, crisis, or disaster.
- Dress for Success accepts women’s clothes that give women the confidence to enter or return to the workplace. The Women’s Center of Raleigh needs gently used undergarments – and currently casual Spring clothing for the women in transition they serve.
- Note in the Pocket accepts donations of kids’ clothes. They help impoverished and homeless schoolchildren in Wake County avoid limitations in their educational and social development by providing appropriate clothes for school.
- Step Up Ministry supports those who want to work and has supplied business outfits and suits to build confidence in men going through their employment training workshops through GG’s Closet.*
- Art supplies and useable scraps might be donated to The Scrap Exchange. These “scraps” save teachers money on art project supplies, and “upcycle” what might otherwise end up in a land-fill into art!
- Kramden Institute accepts computer donations. (See specifics and limitations.)
*Since Covid-19 began in March of 2020, many people have been “Spring Cleaning” all year! Be mindful that some donation centers are becoming overloaded with supplies. Please check with your favorite charity for updated needs and wish lists before packing up your donation for pick-up or drop-off. Most organizations maintain current “wish lists” or donation lists on their websites.
“Recycle” or “Upcycle” as a volunteer
- Use your building skills by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Construct homes by joining or creating a project team or event. Assist by volunteering in a Habitat ReStore. Have your company become a build partner.
- Like to paint, garden, fix things? Many projects pop up to beautify buildings, schools, and housing. Sometimes there’s even a call to create a mural (inside or outside).
- Passage Home supports breaking the cycle of poverty and create self-sufficiency for individuals and families in Wake County and has opportunities to participate this way as a volunteer.
- Sort and package “recycled” donations for a variety of local organizations like The Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC.
- Activate Good has some other specific opportunities to volunteer sorting donations.
- Lead an art project to serve the community with your kids, Girl/Boy Scouts, workgroup, or your favorite organization.
Community need is greater than ever. Nonprofit organizations are still trying to fulfill their missions.
Volunteer through your favorite nonprofit. Not sure where to start? Search a variety of volunteer opportunities to match your unique skills, artistic tendencies, and desire to help at ActivateGood.org. (You can search by interest, location, and keywords.) There are volunteer opportunities (both remote and in-person) for just about everyone.
Visit the websites of your favorite organizations to view their direct volunteer opportunities. Read about the Covid-19 measures that help to keep everyone safe. (Note: Some organizations have suspended in-person volunteering for now.)
Most of all, remember that monetary donations are also always welcomed to fund your favorite organization’s operations and special projects. All of your in-kind and financial donations, along with your volunteer hours, help to sustain and implement that organization’s mission to serve our community.
Add new meaning to this year’s Spring cleaning by donating your goods, services, and money towards helping those less fortunate in our community. (Enjoy exploring these wonderful ways to participate while you’re at it!)