Q: I like to have a bit of a clear out in January, but how can I make the distinction between what to keep and what to get rid of?
Our lead trainer Helen Johns says: “New Year is always a good time to take stock and have a bit of a clear out, and this might present a great opportunity for you to review the resources that you use. I meet lots of activity coordinators and they often say they want more resources, but when we chat further, they also tell me that they have lots of things in their activity cupboard that are still unused. The New Year may give you an opportunity to consider how you can use these, re-purpose them or pass them on in a meaningful way.
Here is my mini guide to de-cluttering and reviewing activity resources. You might find it useful to read this alongside the article on how to evaluate activities, as these two can work well together.
Take stock of what you have. Consider each resource and think about how long is it since was last used. Items that are often used and well loved remain part of your ‘stock’, but for those that are unused or haven’t been used for a while you will need to think about the next course of action. Traditional de-cluttering articles will tell you to throw out or donate anything you haven’t used for a while, but I would suggest we take a different approach…
Consider new use. For unused resources, ask yourself the following questions: “How did we use it? What worked? What didn’t work? What could we do differently?” Your answer to these questions could be the key to how you might repurpose the resource. Perhaps you could use it with a different group of people, use it in a different way, add extra resources to make it work more effectively, use parts of the resource as a talking point. However, if you still feel the resource is not for you or your residents, go to step 3…
Donate. Of course, you could simply pack a bag and take all the unwanted items to a local charity shop. However, in doing this you might be missing an opportunity to create an activity. Instead, you could:
- Ask residents to help wrap any unused/unopened resources in gift wrap and donate this ‘gift’ to a local group (e.g. school, scouts, community groups, church groups).
- Donate items to a neighbouring care home. If you have a network of activity coordinators who meet regularly – get in touch with them to see if anyone could make use of your resources. If there is no network then simply contact a few local homes. Residents could send a note with the ‘gift’ which could easily lead to a pen-pal project in the year ahead.
- Donate any remaining items to a local charity shop. It is more meaningful if residents have a chosen charity or a cause that they would like to support. If there is a shop nearby, then donate to that one. Perhaps a resident could accompany you to make the donations to any of the above.
Provide person-centred resources. You may also want to consider whether you have resources to meet individual residents’ needs. It’s great to have generic resources that may appeal to many people in the home, but do also consider whether you have specific resources that appeal to all the various facets of your residents’ lives. For example, if you have resident who enjoys talking about aircraft – do you have magazines, books and other materials to support activity with them?
Consider any gaps. Now you are in a position to think about any gaps you have in resources and make a wishlist of the items you need. Make your wishlist short, medium and longer term (e.g. for the expensive items) then create a plan of how you are going to get these.
Reviewing your resources may seem a bit of extra work, but if you involve residents, and make it into a project, the end result may be very very productive!
Good luck, and Happy New Year!