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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.

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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.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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