Giving is good for the soul. We learn this from ancient wisdom, modern research about giving and charity, and from our personal experiences with giving. Combine this with the growing research about the value of decluttering and simplifying our lives, and we have the ingredients for a promising life experiment.
- Take inventory of nice items in your home that you do not use, but could be valued and valuable to other people. Make a list of at least 20 such items.
- Looking at your list, briefly write down specific people or groups of people who might benefit from or appreciate each of those items.
- Next, get your calendar and select 7 consecutive days in the next month where you can dedicate 30-60 minutes to this experiment. It might be easiest to choose at least a week or two away from when you start. This will give you time for the planning and preparation.
- Looking at your list of items, you are going to select one item to give away on each of the 7 days, as well as the person to whom you are going to give it. Or, if it is an organization, designate that.
- Instead of simply dropping all of the items at a location or organization that accepts donations (which is a perfectly good thing to do), for this experiment, you want to give it with the needs a specific person, group of people, or organization in mind. This could be friends, family, strangers with a particular need, schools, non-profits, or whomever/whatever else comes to mind.
- You might need to schedule a time to drop off the gift and/or confirm in advance that they would like to accept the gift. This planning and communication is part of the experiment. Take your time with it and enjoy it.
- At least a couple of times during the 7-day experiment and at the end, set aside time to reflect and/or journal about your observations, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. What did you learn? Are there lesson that you want to keep? Is there some sort of habit that you want to create or retain from this experiment? How did this affect you? How did it appear to affect the other person?
- For this experiment, coordination and timing might need to be flexible. While the experiment is set to be 7 consecutive days, don’t get too worried about that. If you have to spread it out over 10-14 days, go for it. It is helpful, for the sake of the experiment, to do it in a condensed time period, allowing you to compare and contrast the different experiences.
- When possible, make it personnel. Give it to someone in person. Or, if you are mailing it to someone, include a short and personal message. Consider explaining what the item meant to you (or didn’t) and how you hope it will be useful or enjoyable for them.
- Consider keeping this experiment to yourself. Not that it needs to be a complete secret, but keep it mainly between you and the person to whom you are giving it, at least during the experiment.
- Or, if you want to share this with another, consider inviting a friend to join you in the experiment, each of you doing it at the same time, gathering over coffee to talk about it.
- Also, even if you choose to talk about the experience in general, you might want to keep names and details to a minimum, depending upon the situation.
- As with any of these experiments, try your own versions. Maybe you have lots of items and choose to create baskets. Maybe you want to focus upon giving away certain types of items. Perhaps you are going to focus upon giving to specific types of non-profits or schools. Experiment with different approaches and see how it works for you.
- If you are hesitant about giving something, set it aside. Consider waiting to give something until you feel great about the idea, and you are confident about it. Try to make this something that you enjoy, keeping the guilt and negative emotion out of it. Yes, sometimes we offer gifts that were significant personal sacrifices and that can be meaningful (to you and the recipient). If you are compelled to do so, by all means, go ahead an do it. If not, give it some time. Perhaps you will decided to give it away in the future. Perhaps not.