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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.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

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The message reads:

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