Simplifying The Holidays: Giving

power-of-giving.jpgI first met the lovely Isabel Kallman of Alpha Mom at the inaugural Pampers mom blogger meeting in Cincinnati and have since adored being in her company at every turn (most notably while interviewing Salma Hayek, talking all things blogging, and while wearing paper bags on our heads). Isabel is a smart entrepreneur, a kind friend, and always is thinking towards personal improvement, community building, and outreach to those in need. Fittingly, for the fourth in my Simplifying the Holidays guest blog series – Isabel shares easy ideas for reconnecting with the spirit of the holidays through giving.

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From Isabel:

It feels better to give than receive.

And yet, our kids haven’t figured that out. It’s our responsibility to help them understand that adage.

I always remember the episode of Friends where Phoebe is struggling with whether to become a surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law. Phoebe’s mom steps in to help her in the decision-making process by giving her a puppy to care for for a week or so, with the caveat that Phoebe must give back the puppy soon after. Right about when a sad Phoebe is about to return the puppy, her brother falls in love with it and Phoebes spontaneously decides to gift it to him. She declares that as hard as it may be, it feels better to make another person happy with a treasured gift. (Of course, the requisite punch line is that the puppy wasn’t hers -- but her mother’s -- to give away.)

You get the point.

Developmentally, young children are selfish. It’s just who they are. As parents, we need to help them learn firsthand about the gift of giving and the joy it brings to others. And to oneself.

As adults, we too, often forget -- especially in the craziness of shopping and wish lists.

Here are some things you can do by yourself, and with your children, to donate your time, goods, and services during the holidays, hopefully to reconnect with -- as cliché as it may sound -- the spirit of the holidays.

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1. Begin the holiday season on Thanksgiving Day, not Black Friday. Thanksgiving is perhaps the best day of the year to model charitable giving. Local schools, shelters, and houses of worship throughout the country are already organized to feed the needy. We all are busy, but taking time out of your day to feed the less fortunate is a priceless gift you can give to your family and others.

2. Online shopping can help you give without costing you a cent. Ever heard of or These sites connect shoppers, retailers, and charitable organizations. There you can holiday shop your favorite retailers (like, almost all of them) and assign a percentage of your purchases to be donated in your name to your favorite charities. This is all without having to pay extra for your purchase. You pay the retail price of the goods, but the retailer pays the referral fee to the charity. Huzzah!

3. Donate your earned points. That is, the shopping points you earn and accumulate through your credit card companies and the frequent flier miles earned through the airlines. See, your loyalty is valuable.

4. Remember those not at home for the holidays. The holidays are associated with home and family. But as you know, for many that is not their current reality. Perhaps pay special attention to charitable organizations focusing on the military (e.g., Adopt a US Soldier) and hospitalized children (e.g., Toys for Tots).

5. Clean out your closet ahead of the season. You’re going to need the extra space to hide gifts and store new ones, right? So, kill two birds with one stone and clean out your closet and take your gently-used goods to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

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Isabel Kallman is the founder and chief cook at Alpha Mom, a lifestyle parenting and marketing research company. She loves stilettos, comfort food, and reading books with her 6-year-old son. You can follow Alpha Mom on Twitter at @alphamom.

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Image credit: Power of Giving