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How to get your kids involved with spring cleaning

I recently returned from a trip to Daytona Beach where my family and I spent several evenings picking up garbage from the shoreline – plastic water bottles and caps, toothpaste caps, strings from helium balloons, and much more.

 Garbage we collected from Daytona Beach 

Garbage we collected from Daytona Beach 

My daughter enjoyed cleaning up the beloved beach she has grown up loving (my in-laws rent a condo there every year) because she hates seeing it so polluted with garbage. And, after visiting a sea turtle rescue hospital in Ponce Inlet, Florida, she was also upset by all the garbage being consumed by- and endangering ocean life.

Fast forward to home and thoughts of spring-cleaning. I grew up with spring-cleaning being about throwing out unwanted or unused goods, but times have changed. Instead of throwing out old toys, clothes and household goods, we resell, give away or donate unused items that are still in good shape – and I don’t just wait until spring to do this. I “spring clean” all year long!

“Buy Nothing” or “Free” Facebook Groups

Every season my family and I to go through our closets and shelves to see if there is anything we no longer use, but that is in good shape that we would like to donate. I try not to encourage selling smaller or lesser valued items because I just want them out of the house and on to someone who could appreciate them. We place these items in a box and then I post them one-by-one (or if it is a series or similar items, together) on my community “Buy Nothing” or  “Free” Group on Facebook.

These items are typically gone within a day or two. These free Facebook Groups make it easy to pass along unused items. I usually arrange for a “porch pickup” so no one even has to be home at the time of pick up.  You will be amazed at what you can give away – as well as what you can find in these Groups! A simple Facebook search for “free” or “buy nothing” followed by the name of your community should bring up your community group.

Have a garage sale

 Nothing teaches kids the value of their toys then encouraging them to have a garage sale with their old, unwanted toys that are still in good shape. I worked with my daughter to appropriately price her items.

My daughter couldn’t believe how much her collection of Shopkins went for as well as some of her book collections. It made her want to take better care of some of the toys she still plays with – understanding that they not only cost money, but that they may be worth money as well. She then used the money earned from the garage sale to buy something she had been saving for.

A garage sale is not only a great way to spring clean, but also teaches kids about money, and the advantages of taking care of their stuff!

Swap out “disposable” for “reusable”

The number of plastic straws we found on the beach was… disgusting.  It really made me think about the products we use, buy and thoughtless throw away. We no longer purchase plastic straws. Instead, I invested in stainless steel straws from a local company, Dalcini Stainless. You can purchase them online or at Terra 20 and while the initial cost may seem like a lot – they will last you forever! They are also easy to clean. I just store them with my other utensils, so everyone knows where to find them when they need a straw.

I have tried to reduce our overall plastic use as much as possible. Plastic bags are a great place to start. Believe me, if you could see the poor sea turtles recovering at the turtle hospital from consuming plastic bags they mistook for jellyfish you would stop using all plastic bags immediately. When I do get plastic bags, I make sure to recycle them. Some local retailers, such as Giant Tiger have plastic bag recycling bins.

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Participate in Spring Cleaning Challenges

The City of Ottawa runs Spring Cleaning challenges every spring. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in cleaning up their neighbourhood and make them understand what happens when they through a candy wrapper on the ground at the park (that it doesn’t magically disappear).

My daughter and a few of her friends arrange their own park clean up every spring and are usually disgusted by the garbage they find. My daughter has become quite vigilant about making sure garbage is put in its place (and recyclables are recycled).

As our world becomes increasingly cluttered with “stuff” I believe it is important to teach our kids to minimize their use of plastic, as well as what happens when they don’t care about trash. We need to show them how to help make the world a cleaner place – for all living creatures. After all, we want it to still be around for the next generation of beach goers!