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If the urge to clean out your closet strikes, don’t toss your old clothes.

When you're done with your clothes, their life cycle has just begun.

If the urge to clean out your closet strikes, don’t toss your old clothes.
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Spring cleaning has been around since long before Martha Stewart.

Historians think the tradition of spring cleaning evolved because, especially in colder climates, people tended to hole up in their houses during the winter. Families spent most of their time indoors with fires and wood stoves burning because of the cold weather. You can imagine how grimy your house might get if you were trying to stay warm for several months without electricity or central heat.



GIF from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

When spring came and brought warmer weather with it, families (OK, let’s be real — women) threw open the windows, let the fresh air in, and cleaned out all the soot and dust that had accumulated over the winter.

That makes a lot of sense to me. This winter, I learned about the concept of koselig, which means “cozy” in Norwegian. People in Norway get through long, dark winters by embracing koselig: staying inside with blankets, lighting candles, drinking hot chocolate. So that’s what I did. I went out less and invited friends over to my house for wine more. I lit candles every night. I walked around the house in a blanket draped over my shoulders like a cape.

Pretty much sums up my winter. GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Of course, winter in Texas is a lot shorter than winter in Norway. But still, by the time daylight saving time came around, I was ready to pack up my coats and blankets and have a major cleaning day.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent my entire Saturday deep-cleaning my house — for the very first time.

Don't get me wrong. I clean my house regularly. I'm not Oscar the Grouch. But I hadn't done a full, capital-A Adult, all-day spring cleaning before. Here's what I learned.

1. The best way to avoid throwing away junk is to stop buying junk.

Half of spring cleaning is just going through all the stuff you own and throwing away what you don't want or need. I found things that I've bought over the past year that I haven't even used once: a vegetable steamer, cookbooks, clothes that I only wore once or twice. After taking a long, hard look at my "get rid of it" pile, I'm going to be a lot more cognizant about my purchases this year. It's a win-win: saving money and cutting down on waste.

2. You can donate or recycle pretty much anything.

Lots of reusable items end up in landfills when they could have found new homes. It's bad for the Earth, and it just feels better to donate your stuff instead of trashing it.

Clothing and textiles are some of the worst offenders. Even those holey jeans and worn-down shoes that can't be resold could eventually be recycled and repurposed into home insulation or rags. But 85% of recyclable clothing ends up in the trash. Make sure to donate all of your old clothes and towels, not just the ones you think would sell.

Wow, this person is organized. Photo via velkr0/Flickr.

3. Having less stuff makes us value the stuff we do have more.

Seriously. Marie Kondo hasn't sold millions of copies of her book for naught. Making a conscious choice to keep the clothing and other household items I love and to send the ones I'm done with on to their next owner — who, with any luck, will love them just as much as I once did — is empowering. Plus, living in a tidy environment is good for your mental and physical health, and a great way to keep your home tidy is by having less stuff to tidy up.

Clothes are much happier here than in a landfill. Photo via Neesa Rajbhandari/Wikimedia Commons.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and clean! And when it's time to take all your old stuff to a resale shop, snap a pic and post it on our Facebook page.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

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Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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