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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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Savers

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.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.