13 tips for starting off the summer clutter-free.

The school year is ending, and that means kids are coming home from college.

They're also bringing piles and piles of stuff with them. (So, so much stuff.) Used books, loads of clothes, and knickknacks galore.

And don't think you're off the hook if you don't have college-age kids. As the K-12 school year also winds down, you've probably got a whole lot of not-gonna-be-used-anymore items cluttering up the house, from old school clothes to forgotten toys to sports gear that needs upgrading.


According to the Council for Textile Recycling, Americans purchase or obtain 80 billion pieces of new clothing each year. Often, after one wear or one use, we're done with it. We toss it, and that stuff ends up in a landfill. Not only is this cycle of waste bad for the environment, but it's also a missed opportunity to model fiscal and social responsibility. ‌‌

But summer also gives us a unique opportunity: When the kids are home, it's the perfect time to shed excess stuff.

All images via iStock.

Collect unwanted items and give them a beautiful second (or even third!) life by donating them to a nonprofit organization at your local Savers or Value Village location. From your college kid's dorm room furniture to your growing middle-schooler's barely worn basketball shoes, all of these things can be donated to help a charitable nonprofit organization in your community. Plus, you're helping the environment too. According to the Savers State of Reuse Report, 71% of North Americans say a key benefit to donating unwanted items is knowing that others could be positively impacted.

And if you don't know where to start, here are 13 ways to start the summer with a clean slate:

1. Get your kids on board‌‌.

Don't sort through all this stuff behind their backs! It's better to donate together so that your kids can decide what items can go to someone else who could need them more.

2. Give one, get one.

Giving away old things also makes space for the new things you want or need. So while you're donating all your old stuff, why not also make a list of the things you need and pick it up at Savers or Value Village while you're there. Plus, if the kids know that donating stuff means they also get the new things they want, there's an extra incentive to take part in the process.

3. Arm yourself with the answer to "Why?"

"Just because" is never a good answer when it comes to convincing your kids to do something. Frame the cleanout as a learning opportunity and let them know that this exercise in decluttering will not only lead to a cleaner and more organized living space, but it's going to have a positive effect on your immediate community and the environment.

The average North American threw away 81 pounds of clothing last year, and it can take about 700 gallons of water to manufacture one cotton T-shirt. That's a lot of resources that are being thrown away!

4. Raid your cabinets.

Calling all board games, athletic equipment, and homeware: Savers accepts more than just clothing on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

‌‌5. Tackle the toy chest.

Aka the hiding place for the hottest toy from last Christmas and all sorts of other stuffed animals, action figures, dolls, and other toys. Open up that chest and help your kids assess what to donate and what just needs new batteries.

6. Donate your college kid's books (especially if they can't be resold at the bookstore).

And not just textbooks either. Paperbacks — including that young adult series they read last year — can be donated too.

7. Take the "joy test.‌‌"

Organizing expert Marie Kondo gained massive notoriety for heralding this technique in her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." Hold up each item and ask your kids (and yourself) to be honest: Does it bring you joy? If not, donate.

8. If items belong together, donate 'em together. ‌‌

Have a bunch of plates with the same pattern? Don't hang on to a few "just in case." Donate the whole set!

9. Donate the "unique" stuff too.

Just because you don't like it anymore or it seems outdated doesn't mean it won't be a new staple for someone else. Thrifters are often on the hunt for some unusual items.

10. Not everyone is going digital, so comb through your DVD or old vinyl record collections.‌‌

Chances are that your college student no longer watches the Disney classics on DVD, and how often do you really listen to all those old records in your garage? Donate your collections and make shelf space for books and entertainment you actually still enjoy.

11. Take this opportunity to tackle the garage clutter.

Old tools, unused exercise equipment, and forgotten record players make excellent donations — just be sure to test them to see that they still work prior to donation.‌‌

12. Don't forget the dorm room décor.

If your college senior just graduated and has a dorm room full of picture frames and lamps that aren’t a fit for the house, donate it.

13. Don't be afraid to start small — just keep it up.

Baby steps help the planet too. By showing your kids the importance of donating instead of tossing stuff away, you can reduce your own clothing footprint and help decrease the demand for new products and the natural resources that go into making them.

Donating to a nonprofit organization or shopping at your local thrift store may have even more far-reaching benefits than you imagined.

Any type of reuse has a positive impact on the planet, and by shopping at stores such as Savers you can help keep millions of items out of landfills every year. Savers purchases the majority of its inventory from a variety of exceptional nonprofits — creating a much-needed revenue stream for these organizations that do critical work.

Not only does your donation keep your goods out of the waste stream, it helps support these partnerships. Between the environmental and social benefits, the upside of donating things you no longer need is endless.

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