Simplifying and Being Intentional with Giving, Fundraisers, and Donations

Gifts I recommend - a nice wallet - kids - teens - adults

With the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge overtaking everyone’s newsfeed, and school starting along with the fundraising requests that come home in backpacks, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about how we look at giving, donations, and fundraisers.  This fits right in with our series on ‘we’re not minimalists, we just don’t like over complicating life‘ series that we’re doing right now.

First, let’s look at giving. Giving is a wonderful experience for everyone, no matter how little time or money you have. It’s fulfilling, and is as beneficial for the giver as much if not more than those receiving.  I LOVE giving. It’s one of my favorite things about having a less stressful life – I feel like I’m in a better position to give freely.

I struggle and have had to think through giving often, though.  It’s a balance between seeing how much is needed and how much poverty there is in so much of the world.  People don’t have access to clean water, education, or basic medical care and here I just spent more than I would like to admit at Costco yesterday on things that we could quite easily do without or make do with less expensive alternatives.

If I’m not careful, I will spend too much time in my head trying to sort out the ethics of this, feeling guilty that I’m not doing more, or not making a decision and therefore not doing anything at all.

To keep my bleeding-heartness in check and avoid analysis paralysis, I went ahead and made some simple ‘ground rules’ that I’m comfortable with and prevent me from giving to a point that it’s at the expense of my family.  This is what our family does right now. I’m in absolutely no position to judge what other families do – this is just what works for us, and in case you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with donation requests you might find this helpful for simplifying.

  • Monthly giving – we sponsor children through Compassion International. They have a very good reputation for being good stewards with the donations they receive, and it feels more involved for our family because we get letters and pictures of the children we are helping, and we get to write them. There are lots of lessons to be learned here for my children and they seriously love getting the mail!
  • Weekly giving – we give to our local church.  I give the children money to put in the offering buckets.  I do watch how the church stewards their money (hold your tomatoes – if you feel called to give 10% no matter what, I’m not judging that, I’m just sharing what we do) and I will give more to a church that I feel is using their money for helping people more than they are for buildings, decorations, and social events.
  • People who ask for money (in parking lots, etc) – I give cash without judgement, as long as I’m not struggling financially myself (ie – if I just came out of Costco having purchased things beyond the basic necessities I am not struggling). Not a lot, but if I have a $5 in my center console (where I keep loose bills) I’ll give it.  I don’t feel it’s my job to know or judge what they will do with it.  I think it’s beneficial for my children to see me give freely.
  • People I personally know that are struggling due to accident, illness, job loss, house fire, etc.  - I”ll give as much as I can. People have been extraordinarily giving and generous to me in times like this, and I do what I can to pay it forward.  I prefer to give this way rather than through a charity that has overhead.

And then what I personally don’t give to, and what I do instead

  • I don’t give to big fundraising organizations with high overhead like the ALS groups, breast cancer groups, or charity walks.  Instead I will contribute more to Compassion, which I feel drawn to contribute to. Having a go-to charity prevents me from feeling pressured to contribute to every charity that shows up on Facebook.
  • I don’t participate in school fundraisers unless I was going to buy something anyway (I occasionally buy magazines, that’s it though).  Instead I offer to pick up any needed supplies the next time I’m at Target for my children’s classrooms. I also send in twice the amount of money requested for most school field trips to help cover kids who’s parents can’t afford it right now (often teachers will pay these field trip fees out of pocket to help the family save face)
  • I don’t provide free childcare for the neighborhood. Because I work from home with a flexible schedule, some families will think that I have free time to watch their children.  I have a child with special needs who gets stressed from too much stimulation, so I keep our house calm.  I do offer to take neighborhood kids to the park to give their parents a break when it’s a convenient time for me and my daughter is in the mood to be social.

Do you have ground rules for giving? What has worked for you?


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Keeping Children From Feeling Deprived When You Own Less – the importance of adding back in good things

Minimalism without feeling deprived - health home and happiness

How do you keep your kids from feeling deprived when you’re still happy with your Wii while other families have moved onto the next 3 generations of gaming consoles?

Or when the kids find out that other families take trips to the mall on a regular basis while your family might venture in once or twice a year?
When we remove something from our life, whether it’s consumerism, junk food, or entertainment that our family doesn’t feel is appropriate, our family is less likely to feel deprived if we also add in something enriching, nourishing, and wholesome that the family can enjoy instead. I only have elementary-aged children, so I haven’t come across issues associated with teens, but even at these ages my children are keenly aware of what other families have that we don’t.

I have never sat my children down and explained my whole owning-less philosophy with them, but I do take the opportunities that present themselves to talk about how our family does things.

Avoid over explaining


While explaining I try to avoid three main things: I avoid making them think that we’re poor, I avoid judging how others live their lives, and I avoid using the word ‘fair’.

I tend to point out my own human limitations- I really do struggle with keeping things organized, so we own less because it helps me to be a better mom and our family to run more smoothly.

I choose to budget (see more here) in a way that eliminates most of the money-related stress so we are able to replace, fix, and purchase the things that we actually do need.

And I want my children to be in a habit of feeling content (I tell them this) with what they have because they will be happier this way.
I have a strong belief that God placed these children under my care for a reason, so I assume that since I feel fairly strongly about avoiding consumerism, they will not be harmed by being different in this way, so I’m able to explain and proceed with confidence, which seems to help the kids adjust.

And then we get to the adding back in part

Because we enjoy simple day hikes with just a backpack full of water, snacks, and fleece coats in case it storms, we’re able to go out with just 30 minutes of notice when we find that our day is free. Without all the planning and stuff-organizing involved with more elaborate outings with a boat, camper, horses, or ATVs, we’re able to get out and do things much more often.
The smaller the house we have, the simpler it is to clean. The less clothes we own, the faster we can catch up on laundry. With a clean and organized kitchen, we’re able to cook together as a family many times a week, and we feel better because we eat home-cooked food more often.

The more time spent on one activity, the more fun it becomes.

I buy my kids bikes – they ride them every day and have enjoyed the increased skill that comes with daily practice.  When we were in Arizona we swam in the apartment pool every afternoon, I was even known as ‘that mom who always takes her kids to the pool’, and my kids gained confidence and learned how to play together in the water, something more valuable and much less costly than months of swimming lessons would be.


When we don’t add back in, or build a sense of belonging, our kids feel deprived

Sometimes we accidentally get over focused on what we want to avoid (too much media! electronic toys! over consumption! junk food!) and we forget to add back in the good stuff.

It’s actually more simple to do the adding back than you might think – it doesn’t mean that everything has to be nonstop fun, fun, fun, stopping to read a story, give a smile, color together in the afternoon, or a trip to the hardware store to buy a box of roofing nails and an uninterrupted afternoon to pound them into scrap lumber goes a long way to making kids feel blessed by your lifestyle.

Our family likes road trips.

Actually, I like road trips and I desire my children to learn to be content in the car and experience what the part of the country within reasonable driving distance has to offer. We’ve had some trips where I just gave up and drove through the night to minimize awake time in the car, but each trip I’ve seen growth in the children’s ability to get along in the back seat (well, let’s be honest, I have 3 rows, so they’re separated when needed), less trying to get away with things that they know wouldn’t fly at home just because we’re away, and more of an ability to entertain themselves while confined to the car for hours of time.

They’ve also started to realize how neat it is when they find out a friend just got back from the Grand Canyon, and hey, they’ve been there too!

Home and Happiness

Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Check out these new books on how to get a clean and organized home in 30-90 days by my friend Rachel here!


Look for more posts this month on how and why to own less:

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