Heroes

The second half of decluttering that a lot of people might not know about.

Tidying up can be life-changing. Reusing can be world-changing.

The second half of decluttering that a lot of people might not know about.
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Savers

In 2014, Marie Kondo’s best-selling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" sparked a worldwide decluttering movement.

Her overall message is simple and elegant: When items in our homes have lost their utility or their ability to "spark joy," we thank them for their service and cast them away.

Beautiful, right? Well, kinda.


For many people in a fit of Kondo-inspired decluttering, casting away the things we no longer need means throwing them in the garbage. Instead of our homes, they're resigned to the landfill, where they live out their days decomposing along with old Smash Mouth cassette tapes, tie-dye parachute pants, and Someone With Tiny Hands University diplomas.

Somewhere in that pile is a Sugar Ray cassette single. We guarantee it. Image via iStock.

But if we’re really committed to thanking the items we once treasured for their service, can we, in good conscience, simply throw them away?

If we’re being real here, the answer is no.

A new report from Savers is all about this challenge. The thrift retailer polled 3,000 Americans and Canadians about their habits around waste, reuse, and recycling.

What they found isn't completely discouraging, but there's lots of room for improvement in how we collectively deal with the things we don't want or need anymore.

First up, the not-so-great stuff. It turns out that Americans are not great with recognizing just how much stuff they're sending to landfills each year.

Respondents to Savers' online survey estimated they're throwing out about 4.7 bags worth of waste a year. The actual amount is 8.1 bags — nearly double.

Life pro-tip: Having enough garbage to make angels might mean you have too much. GIF by "The Simpsons"/20th Century Fox.

That's a problem because North American landfills are already pretty jam-packed. Last year, researchers from Yale University added up the actual weight of trash sent to landfills in 2012. Their total — 262 million tons — is more than double what the Environmental Protection Agency estimated we threw out. All of that trash piles up, making our landfills and our carbon emissions bigger every year at a time when we've promised the world we'll try to cut back.

When it comes to clothes and textiles, we can really do better.

Savers' study found that the #1 reason people donate their unwanted clothing is because of "overflowing closets." To make space, we're throwing away a shocking amount of clothing and textiles every year — about 26 billion pounds in total, or 81 pounds per person per year. That's almost an entire Ariana Grande! Or a large labrador retriever! Both of whom are still very good and useful.

See? Perfectly delightful. GIF via "Bang Bang."

That's where the Kondo method comes back into play. While we may be done with jeans that don’t fit anymore, outdated tops, or sneakers with scuffs in the wrong places, it's wrong to assume that they don't still have further work to do. They might spark joy for someone else who finds them in a thrift store. Or, if certain clothes have been loved too much to pass on to another person, their fabrics can be recycled into other things, like carpet padding, playground mats, or even simple cleaning cloths.

Fortunately, we're open to changing our ways.

Of the people who responded to the survey, more than half said they'd reuse clothing once they learned how much textile manufacturing affects our environment. 94% of respondents also thought that children should be taught about reuse along with recycling in schools so they build lifelong habits around sustainability.

These adorable little recyclers are learning what's good. Image via iStock.

We're also eager to be charitable! According to the survey, half of us are willing to donate even more if it helps a nonprofit organization we support.

In a landfill, things disintegrate. In thrift stores, they have a chance to thrive.

If we think about the things we buy and the things we love, they should really overlap as often as possible. We should buy only what we need. We should find noncommercial ways to spark joy and find purpose in our lives. We should reuse, repurpose, and recycle everything we can.

Realistically, our landfills can't grow forever — and Elon Musk hasn't built that Mars rocket yet. The sooner we start thinking about the future life of the stuff we don't want — and how we can give it the best chance to spark joy for other people — the better off we'll all be.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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