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.

People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

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People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."