13 tips for starting off the summer clutter-free.
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Savers + Value Village

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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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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