There’s something about supporting a charity that adds to our happiness and creates a sense of self-fulfilment. We feel liberated and motivated to do more in life and for our community when we give to help others. Charity is simply kindness and love in action; we all know both are much needed in today’s society. Between job losses during Covid and the rampant inflation we find ourselves navigating today, more and more people will need donated items to survive in the months and years to come.
Yet, because we have had years of relative prosperity, many people have forgotten or never even considered how much help they can offer just by being good stewards of the goods they have earned (or been granted, depending on your perspective). Many people have fallen victim to social media’s materialistic impacts and our pervasive consumer culture in American society . Social media shows us the latest and most excellent random objects and convinces us that we need them to be happy or in vogue. These are not, in fact, items we need. Many people confuse items they want with items they have been convinced they need, and they accumulate things that are throw-aways or barely used, but for a video on TikTok. Many of these items have utility, and there are people out there suffering from a host of things that would make these items such a gift to them to help them survive whatever situation they find themselves in where they lack basic needs. According to Professional Organizer Jen Heard, charitable downsizing is a process everyone should look to at some point in the future, not just for some random stranger, but for the good of society and the planet.
Jen Heard is a Professional Organizer and the Founder of Clean Sweep Consulting, Inc in metro Detroit, Michigan. She’s had a taste for the organization from an early age and recalls how she would organize kitchens, toys, cabinets, and the like for her neighbors, her earliest clients, while working as a babysitter during middle and high school. Jen started Clean Sweep Consulting in 2006, after years of working corporate jobs, so she could leave the corporate economy and pursue her entrepreneurial dream of helping people and families set goals, prioritize, downsize, and improve their lives.
As a female entrepreneur with a solid Christian background, Jen states that she learned along her Christian journey that her praise to God entails how she lives, cares for people, and helps others who find themselves in dire situations. She says, “How I act as Jesus’ hands and feet is my personal form of praise. The organizing profession is where I landed, but the charitable aspect is and always has been my sweet-spot, right smack dab in the middle of faith and service.”
During the lockdown of the Covid pandemic, Jen decided to take her one-to-one approach and expand it to become a movement of many. She decided to form Love Bigger, LLC (™), an organization that’s joined hands to support many local charities across the United States. Through the #LoveBigger Movement, Jen and her organizing team have engaged their clients in charitable downsizing. They have never charged a penny in over 17 years in business to deliver items to the charity of their customers’ choice. Jen got the #LoveBigger concept while presenting to a group of active seniors in a beautiful two-story church in Rochester, Michigan. As she did her presentation, she got a download from God that said, “You can “love bigger” that just keeping all this stuff crammed in your home. You can love others with your stuff.” It is Jen’s contention that keeping all the material possessions one has ever accumulated is self-indulgent, and it creates the problem that it hampers intimacy and friendships. But when you take the time to share when you see the poverty and need out there, taking the items you no longer use or need and serving others with them, you demonstrate love – a more significant kind of love – one that shows care and faith in people to turn their lives around with a hug and just a little help.
Charitable downsizing is something that’s connected to Jen’s #LoveBigger Movement. She teaches that by giving the stuff you no longer need to charity, you find purpose within the space you inhabit and get clarity on the items in your home. You can cut ties to things that no longer serve you.
A huge contributor to stress and inefficiency in our society today is that we all have too much stuff. It hinders our higher calling and keeps us from a better life. Whether it’s the slow accumulation of things for an older adult, the amassing of stuff during COVID-19, the appeal of a Black Friday deal, or any other event, people are just stuffed into their houses with the latest social media “props”, and they don’t know how they got into such a quagmire. According to Jen, one reason for this is our media’s focus on advertising messages and marketing manipulation, and another is social media driving demand for random objects that are wants disguised as needs.
Today’s ads are designed to manipulate the buying process and compel people to buy things they don’t need or even want. The second factor that led to massive consumerism is the lockdown during the pandemic. People spent endless hours indoors in a wine-induced screen-time binge on their phones and devices, scrolling through sites like Amazon, Overstock, Target, Wayfair, WalMart, Costco, and more. They kept buying stuff to pass the time. Jen says that when one purchases an item, a biochemical release acts like a drug. It is a momentary “high” that is truly addictive, and most Americans have this addiction. Then, your item gets delivered, and you open it, releasing more “happy” hormones. But if you remember that each item comes to you with strings attached, you’re likely to be more mindful about the stuff you buy, and choose to forego that momentary dopamine hit in favor of long-term goals.
Jen says that everyone should include charitable downsizing in their future as it is a great way to lift others in the community. Charitable downsizing is like weight loss to your home. When you practice it, you develop a healthier approach to life, with the bonus that you get to live lean and help others as you cast off the unwanted pounds. Charitable downsizing also helps clarify your values and create a vision for your space that supports those values.