As a Jewish organizer, there are a few events I look forward to each year between Purim and Pesach.
I. One of my favorite services that I offer my Jewish clients is to carry away their shaimos. Shaimos may be defined as holy writings or objects that are no longer needed or wanted. According to the COR (the Kashruth Council of Canada), the “Torah requires us to treat holy writings and objects with dignity, even when they won’t be used anymore. Many of these items cannot be thrown out in the regular trash. They must be discarded in a respectful manner as outlined in halacha.” Clients tell me they are relieved to know their organizer can find a dignified end for their holy writings and objects.
My town has an annual shaimos collection. A few days before the collection I go through my benchers (booklets or cards that contain the grace after meals) and remove those that have become worn. I go through the same exercise in my bookcases. I add them to the large bag of shaimos that hangs conveniently on a hook in my garage throughout the year. My husband and I bring our bag of shaimos to our synagogue and pay a small fee for the discard service.
I googled shaimos and was surprised and pleased to find there’s even an enterprising group that markets a box meant to be filled with shaimos. The best part is that the consumer may take advantage of this service any time of year. As my father taught me, “Find a need and fill it.”
II. Throughout the year I assist my clients by offering my services to cart away clothes to be donated. This time of year, I inform them of Yad Leah, a non-profit organization in Israel, and their annual mega clothes drive. Their mission is “to alleviate the impact of poverty and restore dignity to the needy.” One of the synagogues in my neighborhood hosts the Yad Leah clothing collection. Donated clothes, for men, women and children, need to be in excellent condition. For a nominal fee of about $36 to help defray the cost of shipping (larger sums are also accepted), an unlimited number of bags may be put on their truck. In this way, quality clothes are transported to Israel and distributed very ably and responsibly.
III. The once-a-year event I get most excited about and love to partake in is a “new-to-you” clothing swap held by yet another synagogue in my neighborhood. This is a very trendy idea. Community members drop off clothes of all sizes for men, women and children, again only in excellent condition, prior to the event. Volunteers sort and organize all the clothes and shoes on a Saturday night and the swap begins the following Sunday morning. This can be so satisfying! Select out your “closet mistakes”—items you bought but realized immediately after getting home from clothes shopping or after a single wearing, that the garment was not right for you—and bring them to the swap. It may be just right for someone else! That someone else will get something new or practically new and you can search for clothes that make you happy. A donation to the synagogue is optional but very much appreciated. Once I volunteered to help organize and display clothes.
I was frustrated to see that some people sent bags of dirty, ripped, old garments. I put those straight into the trash. At the end of the night of set up, the shul’s garbage was overflowing with unwearable clothing. If people would send only their best and take the time to put the rags and ruined garments in their own trash, the garbage overflow can be avoided. Also, it would be kind for everyone to donate clean garments. This same rule applies when donating bags of clothing anywhere. The recipient should feel proud of what they wear and how they look, especially if they or their family are going through hard times. A rule of thumb is if you would not be proud to wear any of the garments you are considering donating, do not donate!
IV. As I clean, I look out for books that can be donated to my library’s book sale in May. I group the books together, check the library website for the date of the sale, noting it in my Outlook calendar, and set reminders to bring the books on the first day of the collection. For the benefit of bringing donations the first possible collection day, see my column from last month, “The Moral of the Story.”
V. Ever since my children were little, I have clipped Box Tops for Education from cereal boxes and various other products and donated them to the schools my children attended. The benefit is that the school redeems the coupons for books. Although all of my children have graduated, I continue to collect the box tops and bring them to their former pre-school. At some point in the school year, there is a deadline when the school stops accepting the box tops. I don’t know when it is, I just know if I bring the box tops in before Pesach, I will make the deadline. Plus, I love to say hello to the school secretary and wish her a chag sameach.
VI. When planning for the burning of the chometz, I bring out my husband’s lulav and etrog from the previous Sukkot so I can include them with the bread to be burned. If your family burns their own chometz, place the lulav and etrog right where you will be doing the burning. If you have a community-wide burning as my community does, put them with your b’dikat chometz feather and collection plate/bowl. The idea is to walk out the door and head to the community-burning with the lulav, esrog and all bread in one package. In my community we have a garbage collection/recycling special pick-up/chometz burning in two central locations erev Pesach. Occasionally erev Pesach coincides with Good Friday, typically a day off for sanitation workers. Nevertheless, our city sanitation employees show up smiling and ever-helpful. I so appreciate this service! If you have a similar practice in your community and you want to show the workers you are grateful, consider stopping by your bank for singles or $5 bills to use for tips that day.
It is sobering to realize that some of these events may be canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. Whatever happens, I hope everyone’s preparation for Pesach will be productive and stress free. May Hakodosh Baruchu answer our collective prayers for a speedy end to this virus and a complete and speedy refuah sheleima for all who need.
Ellen Smith is a professional organizer and wardrobe stylist and a member of NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. She has been in business about 10 years and is passionate about organizing and helping people restore order and calm in their homes and their souls. She can be contacted at [email protected]