How you can help save the planet using the KonMari method this Earth Day.

Unless you live under a massive rock, you're probably well aware of Japanese organizer Marie Kondo's decluttering revolution that has swept the globe.

But did you know that the “tidying up" method that promises to improve your life by ditching the things that don't bring you joy can also help you make the world a better, greener place?

According to Caitlin Roberts, a Master KonMari Consultant and founder of Los Angeles-based Minimize with Purpose, home organization can contribute to sustainability by exposing our subconscious shopping habits and introducing more purposeful decision making.


“By confronting all of the items within our homes utilizing the KonMari method, we are given the unique opportunity to learn about how and why we have consumed in the past," she explains. “Learning to identify exactly what items support your lifestyle (and how many of them you actually need) encourages you to shop more consciously moving forward."

Roberts also says that gratitude is another big part of the KonMari method of home organization and sustainability. “When we show gratitude to the items we have selected to discard, we spend time locating the best possible way to recycle, reuse or repurpose," she adds. “When we respect the items that have supported us, we are more committed to finding them a new home and a new purpose."

With that in mind, there are some items you should NEVER throw in the trash, as they can be super harmful to the environment.

These include lights, batteries and electronics, mercury-containing items, household and garden chemicals. Instead, go online and look for local resources that will help you dispose of or donate them safely and properly.

For other less toxic items, however, there are a variety of eco-friendly, sustainable options for donating or reusing — which could, in turn, bring you a lot more joy.

Reusing household items

While there are national organizations like Goodwill that have locations where you can take items like clothes, furniture, electronic and even toiletries to rehome and repurpose them, starting with local groups in your community can be easier. See if groups like Buy Nothing, Freecycle and Facebook groups like Moms Helping Moms cater to your area. There will usually be takers for pretty much anything — opened bags of flour, mismatched dishes, old socks even half-used face creams.

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Building scraps and materials

Did you do some renovating recently? Don't toss your scraps in the trash! They can actually be transformed into works of art. “You can turn your scraps, overstock and other materials into art and education by donating to a tinkering school such as Los Angeles based reDiscover," says Roberts. These schools help children cultivate their creativity by upycling sustainable materials — aka your junk.

Most of these types of schools have their own donation policies, but some of the items they often look for include large lumber, full or ½ sheets of plywood, (no paint or varnish), bamboo, pipe, rope, casters, pulleys, hooks, wood screws, corks, bottle caps, lids, large or appliance cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, berry baskets, reusable shopping bags, pipe cleaners, wire, buttons, wooden toys of any kind, balls of any size or material, tape, glue, hot glue sticks, paper clips, rubber bands, crayons, markers and pens that work.

Costumes, Prom Dresses and Gowns

Do you have any old costumes hanging in your closet, perhaps from an ambitious Halloween party long since past? Don't worry, we all do. If you donate them to your local community or school theater group, they'll get a second (and hopefully third, fourth and fifth) showing. There are also groups like Ween Dream that take costume donations so they can give free Halloween costumes to children in need. You can donate from anywhere in America by shipping them to the Ween Dream headquarters in New Orleans.

The same goes for old wedding gowns, bridesmaid and prom dresses. There are a number of resources that will recycle those glam gowns you are never going to wear again by donating them to people in need. A few of these include the Angel Gown Program, which will turn your beautiful wedding gown into a burial gown for infants that pass away in the NICU, and Becca's Closet, a program that provides prom gowns for girls who can't afford them.

Arts & Crafts Supplies

If you envisioned yourself a painter on weekend, bought a bunch of supplies, then let them sit and collect dust in the closet, don't just toss them. “So many schools and community centers are desperate for art supplies, and the teachers can use all the support they can get!" notes Roberts.

You can even donate used markers thanks to Crayola. The color-friendly company has banded together with schools across North America as part of the Crayola ColorCycle program. Through this initiative, students in K-12 schools across the continental United States and parts of Canada collect and repurpose used Crayola markers, and are taught about sustainable practices in the process.

Denim

Every one of us has a pair of jeans they've held onto for way too long that is far too holey to wear out in public. That's where Cotton Incorporated comes in. They recently launched their Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program, an innovative way to give your jeans a new life. This program transforms your donated denim into housing insulation. And as an added bonus, when you make a donation at your favorite retailers — including Bloomingdales Madewell, American Eagle Outfitters and Rag & Bone — you can get a discount on your next pair!

However you decide to handle your spring cleaning, we hope that you consider doing it with the planet in mind.

The environment is in a precarious position no matter how you slice it — it is more important than ever to practice mindfulness when it comes to getting rid of things. So, instead of tossing those items that no longer bring you joy into the trash, take a little bit of time to find them a better home. It will help you feel better, bring joy to others, and help keep this planet we call home a more habitable place.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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