25 Things to Throw Out Today

By Paul Michael on 22 August 2011 94 comments
Photo: Jon Rawlinson

There's a great quote from Fight Club, one of my favorite movies. It comes from Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt's character, and it's prophetic — "The things you own end up owning you." After watching several seasons of Hoarders, that's got to be one of the most truthful statements ever to come out of a movie.

Now, we all have a little hoarder inside each of us. We see some things that we just can't bear to get rid of, probably because there's an emotional attachment to them. Sometimes things are valuable, and we keep them for that reason. On rare occasions, we don't even know why we're hanging onto something, but we are.

Well, there's a great feeling of liberation that can come from shedding these items. If you'd like to feel it yourself, here's a list of 25 things that you should throw out today. And by that, I mean donate, dump, trash, incinerate, whatever you like…just remove them from your life. (See also: 25 Easy Organizing Changes You Can Make Today)

1. Clothing and Shoes You Haven't Worn in the Last 18 Months

"Well hang on, I'm saving those for a special occasion!" Really? I'm guilty of this too, waiting for the perfect time to wear that shirt I wore once back in 2002. It's so cool, how can I get rid of it? But at the same time, there just never seems to be the need for it, and it never gets worn. Give it away or sell it; someone else may actually wear it more than once every 10 years.

2. Old Paint

We all have those cans of paint in the garage or basement. They're great for touching up walls when they get chipped or scratched up. But when you repaint a wall and no longer need the color beneath it, or you haven't painted in several years, you should consider responsibly ridding yourself of the old paint. Try patching a wall you painted years ago with the paint in the can, and you'll see that it's not a perfect match. The paint on the wall has dulled. And if you repaint a wall, the chances of ever using that old paint color again are very slim. Keep newer paints for touch-up, but the rest can go. Visit Earth911.com to find a place that will safely dispose of the old paint for you.

paint cans

3. Contents of the Junk Drawer

Everyone has a junk drawer full of random, well, crap. The occasional battery, old hair ties, bits of string, matchboxes — you name it, it's in there. And it just gathers drawer dust. So try this little experiment for a month. Grab a box and empty the contents of the junk drawer into it. Then, if you use something from that box, put it back in the junk drawer. At the end of one month, the drawer will be filled with items you use. The box? That's all stuff you can donate or throw out.

4. Dated Receipts, Paychecks, and Bills

Do you really need a filing cabinet full of old bills, paychecks, and receipts? If they are no longer needed, dump them. If you have receipts for tax purposes or warranties, they need to be stored somewhere (although many people these days are scanning them and saving on a hard drive). You should save paychecks from the past two years; throw the rest away (scan them first if you must). And bills, who needs them? If you can, sign up for electronic bills and paychecks to save the environment.

5. Unread Books

How many books do you have on your shelves that will never be read or never read again? Chances are, you've got plenty. Go through them today and donate them, so that someone else will get enjoyment from them.

6. Expired Medicines and Vitamins

Not only is this a space-saver, it could also be a life-saver. When drugs go past their expiration dates, they become less potent. So if you're taking them for a certain illness, you may not be getting the correct dosage. Some people double up on the dosage to make up for that, which is dangerous. Drugs can also change in their chemical compositions over time, which means they could become dangerous and have serious side effects. Be safe. Throw them out.

7. Cups and Mugs

You open the kitchen cabinet and reach for a cup or mug to pour yourself a coffee. That's when you're greeted with a vast array of unmatching, chipped, and faded cups and mugs that you've collected over the years. How many do you need anyway? Throw the ones you really don't need.


8. Plastic Containers

Whether you call them Tupperware, Gladware, Snapware, or anything else, you no doubt have a fabulously mixed-up collection of plastic containers. They have missing lids, too many lids, stains, holes, and about nine of them are actually worth keeping. Go through your collection and be brutal. Most can be dumped today.

9. Linens

There are linens that are used regularly. There are linens used for guests or other special occasions. And then there are the rest. Old, dated, worn, mismatched linens that no longer have a use other than "what if?" Well, chances are that day will never come. You won't have 15 house guests who drop in unannounced. Those linens have been stored away for years. Donate them.

10. Power Cords

I have a drawer full of old power cords, data cords, and other various pieces of connective cables. Most of them are duplicates (I get a new USB cord every time I buy a new gadget). Some are for old devices that have long since departed the home. So go through them all, keep the ones for current gadgets in your house, and get rid of the rest.

11. Magazines

There's a better place for those old magazines than gathering dust in your garage, basement, or attic. Don't throw them out; give them to local businesses that have waiting rooms, including doctor's offices and dentists. Next time you have to wait around, you'll have something more current to read than a 1992 National Geographic.

12. Spices

Did you know that spices go off? Actually, most great chefs will do whatever they can to buy only the freshest spices and use them very quickly, or buy them in a state that can be ground or grated (like black peppercorns or nutmeg). If you have a big collection of spices, check the expiration dates. If they have none, use these guidelines and your best guess:

  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years
  • Ground spices: 2-3 years
  • Whole spices (such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns): 3-4 years
  • Extracts: 4 years (except for pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely)

13. Old Greeting Cards

It may sound heartless, but generally speaking, greeting cards are supposed to be a fleeting message from a loved one. They are not keepsakes to be stored or framed. You aren't throwing away someone's love by throwing away a Hallmark card that they picked out. Unless the card had something particularly sentimental and meaningful written inside, throw it away. "Happy Birthday, Love Mom" does not count.

14. DVDs, VHS and Audio Tapes, CDs and Video Games

VHS and audio tapes are a no-brainer. Have you tried listening to, or watching, either of those after watching Blu-Ray? It's like being transported back in time to the land of sucky reception. But even some DVDs, CDs, and video games should be considered. If you haven't listened to a CD in years, is it worth keeping? How about that movie you bought because it was on sale and cheaper to buy than rent? Or that video game you crushed and have no time for anymore? Dump them all.

VHS tape

15. Makeup

First, an admission. I don't wear makeup. But my wife does, and I know she has some rules regarding the lifespan of various products and brushes. Here are guidelines from Bella Sugar, and fellas, if you use makeup, you should follow them too...I'm talking to you specifically, Gene Simmons.

  • Mascara: Every three months
  • Foundation: One year
  • Concealer: 12-18 months
  • Powder: 18 months
  • Blush/Bronzer: 18 months
  • Cream blush: 12-18 months
  • Eye shadow: 18 months
  • Eyeliner: 18 months
  • Liquid eyeliner: 6 months
  • Lipstick/lip gloss: 18 months
  • Lip liner: One year
  • Nail polish: One year
  • Makeup sponges: Wash after each use, then throw away after a month.

16. Old Underwear, Socks, and Bras

Alas, sometimes we stretch out the time between washes a little longer than we should, and why? Because we see five pairs of undies or socks left in the drawer and know we're OK. But we forget they're the saddest items of clothing in the known universe, filled with holes, often glowing with a color that can only be described as "muddy gray." Get rid of them. As for bras, I bow to the ladies in my life on this one. They tell me that bras do need to be replaced. Dianes Lingerie has some guidelines for when to buy a new bra.

17. Dated Technology, Including Old Cell Phones

Last year we donated all of our old cell phones to a charity called Cell Phones For Soldiers. It gives our troops the ability to call home, and whether you agree with war or not, the soldiers always need support. That's just one way that something old and seemingly useless can be given a new lease of life. Old cameras, handheld video games, VHS players — they can all be used by someone. Better that than being stuck in your basement for the next 10 years.

18. Coat Hangers

We moved house recently. I lost count of how many coat hangers we had. I think there may have been 200. And out of those, maybe 30 were nice wooden ones. The rest were cheap plastic or were brought home still attached to the shirt or blouse we bought. Many were broken. And we used maybe half of them; the rest just took up space in the closet. Take a look at your closets — do you have hangers that are a complete waste of space?

19. Toys

Kids are spoiled for choice these days, and that means a glut of toys can be found all over the house. So get your kids to gather up all the toys, then sift through them together. Decide which ones they really want to keep, which ones can be donated, and which are no use to anyone. A jigsaw puzzle with 10 missing pieces is not fun. Actually, one missing piece is torture in some countries. Dump the headless Barbies and broken cars.

toy bear

20. Those "Fix It Up" Projects

You know the ones I'm talking about. You bought a scrap piece of furniture or machinery at a garage sale three years ago, fully intending to sand it, prime it, paint it, and make it look like new again. Of course, the day after you bought it you stored it away in the basement or garage and it's been there ever since. So, make a pact. Start to fix it up today, or get rid of it.

21. Cribs, Car Seats, and Other Baby/Toddler Products

It's difficult to keep track of all the new regulations that come into play regarding baby products. For instance, drop-side cribs have now been banned due to safety concerns. The cribs we had for our two children were drop-side cribs, and had we kept them, we'd actually be saving something that was unsafe. The same goes for car seats, strollers, and many other baby items. So, check the ones you have around the home. They may need to be thrown out.

22. Perfumes and Colognes

We all have them, lurking in the back of the medicine cabinet or closet. They're the scents we were given as gifts, maybe by an ex, a clueless parent, or even something we bought for ourselves in a moment of uncommon sense. Now they sit in the dark, 99% full, waiting for the day you throw them away. Release them.

23. Jewelry

Pendants with broken chains. Old rings. Old bracelets. Dated brooches. Dated anything, actually. Men and women alike have jewelry that is no longer needed. It's time to liberate it, and you could even get a nice chunk of cash for it.

24. Rugs

We currently have two rugs in our basement that may never see the light of day again. As we just moved house, though, I'm giving it a few weeks to see if they have a natural place in our new home. If they don't, they're out. How about you? Did you once have a rug that was pride of place in your living room, but since redecorating, it's been stuck in a dark corner? Maybe someone else can give it a new home.

25. Food

We're a wasteful society. I recently read a statistic that says Americans throw away 25% of the food we produce, and I'm not surprised. We're so obsessed with keeping a full fridge, pantry, and freezer that we can't possibly eat everything we buy. And that means right now, you have food that's gone off and is rotting in the back of your fridge, freezer, or pantry. Do a complete check of each one, bin the food that's off, and if you find anything good that you're unlikely to eat for whatever reason, donate it.

Did I miss something? Did I get something completely wrong, in your opinion? Chime in, and let us know what you think should be thrown away today, and what you should actually keep forever.

Additional photo credits: Bree Bailey, billaday, jm3, anneh632
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94 discussions

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Guest's picture

This is a great list ... but please, for much of this stuff, don't throw it away. There are people that can use what you no longer need and easy ways to get rid of the stuff. You can try to turn a profit on eBay or even Craigslist, or for the generous spirit, Freecycle (or free on Craigslist) is a great place to turn.

So while I fully support the spirit of the post, don't go wasting all the energy and resources that went into making your stuff. Give it away and let it be useful for someone else.

Paul Michael's picture

Hey Matt, and to all our other Wise Bread readers. I did point out at the start of the post that by throw away, I also meant donate or recycle. It's a good point, worth reiterating. Many of the things you have no use for can be used by someone else.

Guest's picture

Agree with everything except old paint. When you leave your home, it'd be wise to patch up blemishes or cracked up areas. Instead of going to buy an entire new can for that touch-up, why not just use what you already have? Seems wasteful to me.

Guest's picture

But if the paint no longer matches because what's on the wall has been faded by sunlight exposure, then using old paint will cause more problems than it solves. You'll end up repainting the entire wall to match the patch and probably have to buy more paint to cover the entire wall. You can buy tiny little samples of paint for touch ups and they'll actually match. Which is more wasteful?

Andrea Karim's picture

Paint isn't useful for touch-ups or anything else after about two years of sitting. Might as well repaint the wall.

Guest's picture

If the paint can has the name and formula on it at least save that for the new owner. saves a lot of time for the next person.

Guest's picture

Put the info for the paint (brand, color name, formula if you know it) on the back of a wall switch plate. Throw the paint out.

Guest's picture

I'm not sure that's true. I just touched up a room I first painted in 2004 with paint from that can. No problem with fading or needing to paint whole wall. I do love your post and have re-blogged it - with credit - noting what I need to do and not do.
I also disagree re un-read books- that's my To Be Read Pile.

Guest's picture

I'm not sure that's true. I just touched up a room I first painted in 2004 with paint from that can. No problem with fading or needing to paint whole wall. I do love your post and have re-blogged it - with credit - noting what I need to do and not do.
I also disagree re un-read books- that's my To Be Read Pile.

Guest's picture

In some places (like Austin, TX, where I was born) you can actually recycle paint. It's all mixed together and then used to paint public buildings and Habitat for Humanity houses. In my mind, it's better to have that square footage in your home and to just buy a tiny little touch-up can when you actually need it. And that way the paint won't get gross, gummy, and old, it'll be used on something!

PS: If you're ever in Austin, look for the buildings that are a strange medium brown. They call it "Austin Brown", and it's recycled paint!

Guest's picture

As for the paint....
Donate to your local High School Drama club or community theater. My son's theater group has to paint sets, scenery etc. and we depend on all those cans of paint.

Guest's picture

If you are moving, it is kind to make a notebook, or at least a large manila envelope, with various specifics about your house. As for paint color, who would ever know that it is behind a switch-plate? Or which one? Besides, my house was custom decorated and some of the colors had 12 - 15 numbers in the particular hues and would never fit behind a switch-plate. These notebooks are helpful to both husbands and wives.

You can add information about burglar alarms, furnaces, pool maintenance, septic tank inspectors, garden plants by area, drain systems, water pumps, and other specific areas of your home that will be so helpful to the folks moving in. I have been given two notebooks in houses I have moved into and they were so helpful that I made sure I kept them up for the new owners when we sold. It is a kind gesture and helps folks who don't have to "start from scratch" on figuring out how to do repairs and check-ups.

Guest's picture

Great list. One thing to consider with respect to all those old wire coat hangers: many dry cleaners will accept old wire hangars to recycle/reuse. About twice a year, we drop a big box of hangars off at a local dry cleaner -- it's been a great way to get back some hanging space in our closets!

Guest's picture

Yup! I second this one! The one I dropped off my wire hangers to seemed very grateful (less for them to have to purchase, so it's a win for all!).

Guest's picture

Some of my favorite hangers are ones my grandma taught me to make when I was a teenager. Take two wire hangers that are identical. Tape them together just enough to secure them, using extra tape on the end of the hook part of the hanger.

Then beginning at the "neck" of the hanger, use 2 colors of yarn to wrap all around the "now one" hanger. Use a kind of wrap as if casting on yarn on a knitting needle, first several "cast ons" with one color, then several with the other color. We used 6 wraps for each alternating color, but use however many you'd like. They don't even have to be all the same amount of wraps. Just make sure they are pushed together very tightly as you go along. Don't cut the yarn between colors - just carry the alternating color across each "batch" of wraps.

After you've wrapped all around the hanger and are at the "neck" again, continue wrapping up over around the hook until you get to the end of it. Make sure your wraps are pushed together extra tightly as you get near the end of the hook part. You can put some glue on the end for extra security if you think it needs it.

I just now went and found one in my closet and there doesn't seem to be glue, but I can see a little tape at the very end of the hook. If I were to make them again, I'd probably make sure that end was covered with some extra-secured and pushed together wraps, with some extra to pull over and glue down on the end. We finished them off with a simple bow at the neck of the hanger made from the same yarn.

I have a few of my own and have used these hangers for over 40 years. I remember making them as gifts in sets of 3 or more that matched. People really liked them, especially if you used yarn in their favorite color/s. They are surprisingly sturdy, and it's a great way to use scraps of yarn in addition to re-purposing the hangers. They are great for hanging slippery tops and dresses and are strong enough to hang a winter coat. You don't have to know how to crochet or knit either. A first or second grade child could probably make these.

Guest's picture

I will admit to being a sentimental card/letter hoarder. Letters likely fall under the description "contains something sentimental" (although not always) but cards... yeah, there are probably cards (and other stuff) I should get rid of, especially since my husband and I are moving soon.

There's really nothing more depressing than moving all of your stuff across town and up three flights of stairs, only to discover that what you moved was broken or no longer useful, and you just have to box it back up, walk it back down three flights of stairs, and give it or throw it away.

Whenever I move (which has been a lot), I go through all of our hangers and sort them by type (much like socks, even if you intend to buy the same kind, you often end up with odd sets). I bundle them together and throw them in a big trashbag for ease of transportation (the bundling helps with retrieving them later). Any that are broken or just not good quality get thrown out *before* we move. :) It's worked pretty well over the years.

Guest's picture

Nice list but I do not agree with the books and paints

Guest's picture

Hoarding is one of the worst things imo and most of us have excess things on this list that we can get rid of. I think a good rule of thumb is 6 mo.-18 mo.--if you haven't used these items in that time frame then it's probably something you can live without.

Guest's picture

As an FYI, you can send the front of greeting and holiday cards to St.Jude's Ranch
http://www.stjudesranch.org/help_card.php and they will recycle the cards and resell. Of course donate as much as you can before sending to the dump. Thanks!

Guest's picture

Two things I can think of --

1) Use a few of those plastic containers that you're planning to get rid of and keep some of the old paint for touch-ups.

2) Also go through and purge instruction manuals. We do every year or so and it's amazing how many items you no longer have but are still holding onto the instructions. Even better, search the internet for a pdf copy of the manual. Download & save, then get rid of the hard copy.

Guest's picture

I hang onto the instruction manuals and it saved me a bundle on a wash machine repair! The PDF online was a changed version of the original Maytag warranty and the repairman asked if I had the original paper copy or he would have to charge us for the new moter it needed. I did have the original so it was repaired for free. Make sure that the warranty in the PDF is the same as the manual before you pitch the paper copy!

Guest's picture

I love that you've not only compiled a great list of things to get rid of, but that you've also provided how they can be reused! I've never heard of the Cell Phones for Soldiers program, but it makes so much sense!

Guest's picture

Really this has been around for the last 10 years.

Guest's picture

You can also donate to your local domestic violence shelter. Verizon accepts them as part of the Hopeline program. Those at risk of domestic violence will then have access to emergency services if they need it.

Guest's picture

When getting rid of old sheets, pillows and blankets, consider donating to animal shelters. Many homeless animals get great comfort in just having something warm to sleep on and the need for these items never goes away. Even if they are worn, stained or otherwise in poor condition, shelters will take them!

Guest's picture

YES! And animal hospitals, too. Old sheets, towels, blankets. We go through them rapidly at the animal ER with really sick pets. Also, old t shirts! We put them on dogs that have sutures, so they cant chew them out. We will take any size, from baby onesies (think cats and chihuahuas), to kid t shirts, to XXXL!

Guest's picture

I agree that old towels and such can go to the Humane Society, and the fronts of greeting cards can go to St Judes,
extra hangers to the cleaners, etc but if you don't get around to doing any of this, guess what happens? You die and someone else has to get rid of it all. I spent several months clearing out a relatives's home, and I can tell you that when you are grieving, you don't have the time or energy to donate the old towels, etc.....a lot gets tossed for expediency's sake. One person can only do so much and there are usually more important matters to attend to. There isn't the time to find "homes" for everything....so do it now! Don't leave it all for one of your family members to do!

Guest's picture
Michelle H

This is a great list, but something was completely overlooked: Exactly HOW to safely dispose of unwanted/expired medications. If you simply "throw them out" you can risk causing damage to the environment and/or making other people or animals very sick.

The FDA has a good guide here: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm

Guest's picture
Clara G

A lot of drug stores, at least the ones where I live, will take your old medications and make sure they are disposed of properly.

Guest's picture

Wow! Loved this post! Putting into action is the key. Inspiring!

Guest's picture

Thanks I'm in process of cleaning/decluttering the house and have a big bin (which I'm getting rid of too) with a bunch of items I was fence-sitting on if I really should get rid of them... this helps me sway it in the right direction.

Guest's picture

I agree with everything except the VHS tapes. Though we have a DVD player, we still have 2 VCRs in good condition, and my kids love watching the large collection of kids' movies we've inherited when friends donated the movies to us. We won't be pitching those until the kids stop watching.

Guest's picture
Purchase Wisely

I do have an issue with the first item on the list. As a woman, I have several formal gown that are classic in style and I use them for the odd black tie event/formal wedding that I attend. I may only wear them once every 3 years, but I am certainly glad I have them when I need them! They also give me incentive to keep my weight in check, since I have to fit into them when it's time to pull them out of the closet.

I agree with the books unless they're reference. I have never completely read my Sunset Western Garden Book, but I'm always glad I have it when it's time to add something to my garden. There are also several home projects books I go to when I have to replace a toilet or decide how much of that kitchen remodel I want to do myself. Anything else on my bookshelves is there because I have read it multiple times (or will if I just got it), otherwise it's traded in at the used bookstore.

Something you didn't mention, but is akin to the junk drawer - kitchen gadgets! How many of those one-use wonders do you have that are shoved in the back of the cabinets? Since I love to cook, I'm often given things that I'd never use or already have. I usually take those to Goodwill - someone else might want that shrimp de-veiner...

Don't forget the tool chest! Do you really need that 5 year old tube of silicon grease that now smells odd? The sockets that you already have more than 2 of in that size? The extra allen wrenches that came with the Ikea furniture (you got one with each item)? Just don't get rid of the garbage disposal wrench, the day you do is the day you'll need to take the disposal out to repair it. :-)

Guest's picture

Very good list Paul.
Interesting to note in the responses what people are attached to. One of my personal weaknesses in books. For the rest, I finally got a close friend, who needed something to do and could use the extra cash to do it for me. This gets me past my emotional bond to the things that, as you have rightly pointed out, now own me.
If I can't find it, she's probably taken it off to GoodWill or church or someplace it can be of use. The curious thing is, I haven't replaced any of those things.
Who knew?

Guest's picture

Great points but you hit a nerve when discussing books. I keep a pretty spare listing (particularly since my Bachelors is in English and I've been an avid book worm all my life) but I keep them because I annotate them as I go and have gone back to them over and over. I have a Kindle for the ones that are less personal to me. Perhaps the better point would be to keep the ones that you go back to (for me that would be Dante, Call of the Wild; etc) while ditching any top ten bestsellers that you had to have from the pharmacy ten years ago. Or, you could just spend your time reading the greats and never having to worry about it again. ;)

Guest's picture

I know there must be some schools or libraries that need books somewhere in the U.S. or abroad. It seems that we have more books than we need in the New York Area. Does anyone know a good program that accepts donated books?

Guest's picture

Our Friends of the Library is happy to receive books in good condition. Magazines more than a year old don't sell in our book shop. We do not accept text books. So check with your local library...oh, and join the Friends!

Guest's picture

I usually donate my books to the county jail. Hey, people serving time need to read, too.

Guest's picture

If you have old books try Paperbackswap.com. You can list your old books and trade for new books. All you pay is the cost of postage. It is great if you like to read. It has helped me read even more and I like to see other people's reviews of books.

Guest's picture

You could always take those old magazines, cans of paint and cards to your local school or community center for the art classes. Phone books too! And those styrofoam meat trays. Metal hangers are good too.

Magazines are great for collage fodder for students, as well as paint palettes and printmaking as well... same for those phone books.

The cans of paint should be self explanatory, any art teacher worth their salt can think of something to do with them.

The meat trays can be used for printmaking and the cards would come in handy at the holidays for the teachers who do an art project [elementary level] for a card for their children to take home to the fam. Come on, can't tell me you wouldn't save that card. :D

I personally butcher any and all cards people send me for the little imagery, designs and cardstock. Unless it was a very special card, it does lack use.

Guest's picture

This teacher has homework this week. I esp. like 19, 15 and 7. Teachers get way too many mugss!! I'm printing this for a little guidance in the never ending quest to declutter. Thanks!

Guest's picture

I agree with you 100% I'm a milimalist anyway, so we don't have anything just sitting around. There is a place for everything and everything has a place. So if it no longer serves a purpose its out of our home. I love to get rid of stuff. I also hate buying things so the things we do have tend to be the, "best of the best", (so we won't have to purchase it again for years). Which brings me to my point, we recently sold all of our old electronics,(Desktop, laptop, printer, iPod, alarms, cd players, dvd players, vcr's, cd's, dvd's, vhs', cell phones, books, etc...), and with the profit we got new iPhones, an iPad and a MacBook Air and have now chosen to start buying off iTunes only...Its working out great no more cords, so much more space and we are totally mobile. I wish we would have done it years ago. Our home now looks like a show Home:)

Guest's picture

For wire hangers, cords and other metals I take them to a scrap yard. For old electronics it if a personal preference thing. I gut them and recycle the parts (plastic goes to a local recycler while the innards go tot he scrap yard). You can take old TVs and Computers, Monitors, Printers, etc. to Goodwill who will recycle them (the one I go to tests TVs and sells those that work). My flaw here is that I collect old computers, especially Apple and Macintosh models.
Paper goes to the bins in town for recycling. Cardboard goes to the local recycler as does glass (he has a bin for it now).

O yes, I have a tendency to "collect" stuff (boarder line hoarding some would say) and I struggle to toss out stuff but with some help from a friend I am making progress.

Guest's picture

You can also recycle old electronics, safely, and for free at Best Buy. Just take them (cords, batteries, CD, DVDs, plastic bags, ink cartridges) to the front doors, or the help desk and mention recycling. You needn't have bought them there either.

Guest's picture

As a mother of eleven children, I am constantly throwing things away. I find that keeping clutter to a minimum makes the home easier to clean for me and my family. There are always those that will argue "but we may need it one day". To which I say, fine we will buy a new one if we need it!

Guest's picture

I so agree with you Carrie. The flip side of the "we may need it someday" argument is this question to ask yourself when deciding whether to get rid of something: "If I didn't have this, would I go out today to buy it?" If the answer is no, then you should get rid of it.

Guest's picture

Before you chuck those old video games and tapes, etc., do a quick check on eBay - there are many old media forms which are worth a whole lotta bucks.

Guest's picture

While I mostly agree with this, I have to say it's a little odd to throw out UNread books (unless you truly never intend to read it). I've picked up books cheaply at thrift stores or used bookshops that I do have every intention of reading, but haven't yet been in the mood for the genre or author, or that I haven't made it to in my "books to read" list yet. I would think getting rid of books that you've already read would make more sense ;) (Of course, I keep my accumulation of books pretty low by using the library and not buying too many books in the first place.)

You mentioned rugs, but I didn't see a mention of furniture. A lot of us have those odd pieces of furniture that just get stuck somewhere when we upgrade or re-arrange rooms.

And craft supplies! That time you wanted to take up oil painting and never really got started, the yarn you got for that project you lost interest in. For crafters, there is ALWAYS an excess of supplies ;)

Guest's picture

I agree with GreenGeekGirl about the books. I would never throw a book away unless it were truly bad. You can donate it or sell/trade it in to 2nd hand book store--we can all use a little extra money these days! Having an electronic tablet, Kindle, Nook, etc can help keep the shelves from filling up again...although in another year I'll probably have my Nook cluttered with eBooks!

I think much of the problem comes from not that you don't want to get rid of something but how to get rid of them safely. The company I work for has an opportunity for you to bring in old electronics for recycling. I got rid of 4 old computers, including one that was an ancient 386 model, a monitor, a printer and a old DVD player. Some companies, churches or groups will have recycle days for things like paint and other chemicals. If your company does this, be sure and take advantage of it.

Of course now days they tell you to not flush pills down the toilet. I was surprised to find you can get rid of medications by crushing the pills in a bag and/or mixing them with cat litter or coffee grounds and then throwing them out in the trash. Really...it's on the FDA website.

Guest's picture

Regarding 14:

Dumping old audio tapes? Only if they are prerecorded and can be rebought easily
as a download.

If you recorded them buy yourself and they are several decades old, play them once and you will be surprised what's on them. Even better, free apps like SoundHound make it extremely easy to identfy what you recorded several decades ago so you can get a great sounding version of that song.

And if you happen to stumble on recordings of FM radio that includes DJ talk and commercials and runs for the full length of a tape, it's a keeper. If the station still exist, offer them the copy because most didn't bother to archive anything. If it doesn't, there will be people on the internet who desperately want this: Google the name of the station and the word aircheck and you will find them..

Meg Favreau's picture

...or send me your old audio tapes. My "new" car has a tape player. =)

Guest's picture

One general tip.

For anyone with hoarding tendencies or general OCD a great idea is to transfer the behavior towards digital hoarding. For instance, I just snap a picture of anything that I had an attachment to at one point but is ultimately useless. If there's a greeting card or piece of memorabilia I feel bad about throwing out I usually scan it.

Ultimately this behavior is a waste of time but the benefits of chucking everything guilt-free outweigh the expense.

Guest's picture

Please don't throw away or flush old drugs. Take them to a pharmacist for proper disposal.
Tossed or flushed drugs can get into the groundwater system and are doing messed up stuff to fish.

Guest's picture

I have to say I disagree about jewellery and shoes. I've been stung before by donating away shoes because I hadn't worn them in a while, only to then buy an outfit that they would have gone perfectly with. Same goes for jewellery, it doesn't take up much space anyway.

What I tend to do with my jewellery is have a section of my jewellery box for the pieces I wear frequently, but keep the rest in another section so I don't have to go through it all every time. I also keep my less-worn shoes tucked away.

Better to keep clearing out bigger items of clothing, but keep the little things that add colour or go with it.

Guest's picture

There are a couple of these that I must dispute.
1) Expired meds and vitamins: Drugs do not instantly lose efficacy or turn toxic because of a date stamped or printed on a label. Many pharmacies print a date on the bottle that is one year after the date dispensed, no matter what the manufacturer states the expiry should be. Even with that, the date set my the manufacturer is more based on marketing than or degradation. The FDA started testing drugs that expired in 1985, and have been stored in conditions that are more severe than the original testing regimen (which is hotter and more humid than natural to simulate time) in 2000, and has continued to periodically test these drugs, and has found no degradation.

2) Magazines: go through the magazines and determine if there was something that caused you to keep it in the first place. If there is, either copy or tear out that story/ article/recipe, and put it somewhere. It is much easier to keep one piece of paper than an entire magazine.

3) Spices: The best way to test spices is to sniff them. If they still smell potent, then the taste will be potent. If it is questionable, bloom it by heating in a skillet or sauce pan and taste. The key to spices lasting is buying a quality product in the first place. And quality does not have to be expensive. A provider like Penzeys or any purveyor of spices that takes pride in their product will last longer than the stuff that you find on the spice isle in the grocery store. And will taste better when fresh.

Guest's picture

Loved reading all of these comments! I am moving this weekend and NEED this inspiration! :)

Guest's picture

just one comment on cards--Keep one from the people you love. My mom passed away rather quickly after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. I recently came across a little card she had hand made for my now 6 yr old dd. it was Simple, Happy birthday (dd name) and on the inside simply Love Grandma. I am SO thankful that I have that one card for my dd. as she will not have many memories of my mom. No need to keep everything but as you are purging the cards hold on to one from a parent or grandparent. When you get another you can decide which to keep.

Guest's picture

omg. best article. I am getting ready to clean my basement out and this really helped motivate me to do what I need to do. awesome. thank you!

Guest's picture
tara o'neill

I JUST did this! After the annual Valentine's date "I have nothing to wear" meltdown I realised I was still somehow running out of wardrobe space, so I went through EVERYTHING and threw out anything I didn't wear or that didn't fit any more, or that was starting to look raggedy. I did it in stages and that made it easier to buy replacement stuff, so over the last few weeks I've been systematically upgrading all my stuff. I replaced my old jeans first, then my shoes, handbags, etc. until all my stuff had been sorted through. When I was finished I had about a dozen nice new things, and 9 bin liners of stuff to donate to charity.
I went through my food after that and threw out any old tinned stuff that had been lurking in the press for 10 years, or jars of sauces that are well past their use by date.
I did the same thing with my make-up, perfume, and hair products this weekend, and replaced anything I'd had for over 18 months. Now I've nice new everything (plus, I saved about 50 euro when I was replacing it, because the make-up counter had a three for two offer this week- happy coincidence there).
It really makes you feel better, it's like a total life-spring clean.
I didn't donate my books though, I just organised my bookshelf better so that the ones I have't read yet are on the top shelf so as to give me more incentive to pick one up and read while I'm waiting as I head out the door to the dentists or the airport.
Next thing I'm going to attack is my linens because I know I have some in the press that definitely need replacing.
I recommend everyone to do this, it makes you feel so weirdly free.

Guest's picture

Some items can be donated to local youth groups i.e. Girl Scouts, 4H etc who use them for community service or craft projects. Paint can be donated to schools and theater groups to be used for sets and props in their plays. Non expired food items can be donated to homeless shelters and food shelves. Homeless shelters and crisis centers may be in need of items as well. Some wildlife rehabilitation programs and animal shelters accept freezer burned meats along with linens and various toys.

Guest's picture

Just a couple points, 1. I found out perfume doesn't actually expire. If its a glass bottle and you're tired of the scent, sell it. There are even a couple fragrance websites that will buy old perfume and sell small sizes of it. :) Also some people like the old bottle.
2. Nail polish separates but lasts much longer than a year to 18 months. Most bottles of polish say 2 or 3 years but nail polish bloggers keep and use polish much older than that.
Thank you for this guideline as reading it is a good way to feel inspired.
Also as you mentioned, if you have stuff and its too much to go through it all to sort or sell, just DONATE it.
If you have large items or just a number of boxes (as long as it isn't actual garbage), even working refrigerators or furniture, call the Salvation Army or City Mission and schedule a pick up. They will come pick it up for free!

Jennifer Holder's picture

I'm really guilty of #4...

Guest's picture

If I had chipped mugs plates, etc., or ones I didn't use anymore, it would be kind of fun to *throw* them (maybe against a brick wall so it would make a lot of noise and get out some frustration.) Shoot, if they were made from pretty ceramic, the broken pieces could be used in jewelry making or for making a mosaic. If I thought a piece was worthy for this purpose, I would break it more carefully - just sayin'.

Also it would be kind of fun to see spices or food *go off*.

I'm from Akron, Ohio USA, and I would say "throw out" or "throw away" in the case of the bad mugs. And in the instance of spices and food *going off*, that means to me they are going to explode! I would say it has "gone bad" or "expired."

LOL! Ain't English fun? I am curious though, about where the writer learned to speak. I am not making fun of the writer - I know expressions and words can differ a lot, depending on the region or country. I just find that fascinating and sometimes it makes me giggle.

Anyway, it's a good article and thank you for the little fantasy I had in my head of spices and food exploding. Since I recently moved, my stuff is in pretty good order. Now, to keep it that way? - well, that's another story. Because I sew in addition to numerous types of arts and crafts, it is difficult to throw away things (even broken) that I have ideas to re-purpose. There is only so much room in my apartment though, and I like to be able to see the floor and find stuff when needed, so I'm more conscientious of getting rid of things when I find something that is no longer any use to me.

While going through my supply of liquids like art paints, glues, and various finishes, I learned that some of that stuff has a fairly short "shelf life" and others can last for years if sealed properly after using. I think I have finally learned my lesson about Super Glue or glues like Super Glue - Even though it is less expensive per milliliter in the cool-looking squeeze bottle, it is better for me to buy it in tiny tubes that can only be used once or maybe just a few times. That stuff dries up and/or glues it's dispenser and cap together within a short amount of time, making it impossible to use.

"A place for everything and everything in its place" is a motto I strive to achieve, but if any of you are creative and more "right brained" (like I am) that is not often easy.

Guest's picture

I have to say that is an excellent list. I ve been in the process of decluttering for the past two years, at least. There's so much old stuff been laying around here for decades that I give up most of the time. It's too confusing and I just dont want to be aggravated with it. Mom is 94 and is totally crippled with arthritis and has alzheimers. She has tons of clothes, shoes, make-up, and cheap jewelry. Also, there are tons of old photos. Should old photos be on this list? To me , that is another confusing issue. I ask myself, what value do these old photos have to me or anyone. I havent looked at these photos in 40 or 50 years. there are pictures of mom and dad from back in the 40's. the only value they have is a sentimental value. And so its a big dilemma.

Guest's picture

Old photos are neat for future generations to see family resemblence and understand history better. Best to make sure they are clearly identified now while it's still possible and then either put in archival photo books or scan.

Guest's picture

Books!? around here theres the habatat, the goodwill, and a store of old books. Habitat and goodwill have an entire corner of there space for books that are on shelves that are about 7 ft high. the old used book store is unbelievably stocked with old books. all of the walls are covered with shelves of books. roll after roll after roll of racks, all full of books. Smelly, dusty books. I got to thinking, what good would it do to donate more books to these places? I even wonder how that old used book store stays in business since the books sell for .50 cents. I was thinking of just throwing them into the recycle bin and let the weekly garbage pick-up service pick them up. I heard they have people go through the recycle stuff.

Guest's picture

Some will consider this extreme but the strategy I use is to move every 2-3 years to a new place. Once you need to move you are forced to reevaluate everything in your house.

Guest's picture

Hilarious and useful thank you : )

Guest's picture

One group a day for a month...Ill let you know how it goes!

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Just me in South Bend

I live alone, so this may not work for everyone.

Coat hangers. I have a set amount. When I buy something new, I have to get rid of something that I haven't worn, so I always have the same amount of hangers. If there's an empty hanger in my closet, it's because the item is in the dirty clothes hamper. This works for shirts and pants. This "exact number" method helps me keep my wardrobe in check, and not over stuffed in my closet.

Guest's picture

I really don't know about the paint. We painted our place recently. We mixed and matched and added white to some old paints so we used them all up. Our house looks great and it costed us absolutely nothing.

Guest's picture

I love this list. The only issue I have is with medications. Flushing meds down the toilet can contaminate future water sources or if you simply throw them away, your trash could be at risk of getting torn open by people with substance abuse problems. When it comes to old medication, especially prescription anything, call your local police dept, fire dept or hospital. They will take the meds from you or instruct you how to properly dispose of the drugs. My town does this a few times a year.

Guest's picture

I brought some of my closes to The New Orleans Mission including some I thought I would loose weight and fit in again. I feel good about it and have more space in my closet.

Guest's picture

OMG, my husband and I are guilty of hoarding #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, #12, #14, #15, #16 and #17! I don't think I'd have a problem getting rid of most of it, but my husband has an anxiety attack whenever I even talk about getting rid of a shirt that he hasn't worn since the 1990s! :)

Guest's picture

Everybody says donate it, sell it, give it away, but try doing it. People say they want it but never show up, you leave on the curb and it sits there, you spend a day on hold on the phone trying to find a donation center. After many fruitless hours and days I still have the things I wanted to get rid of. I have come to the point of if I don't have it I won't have to dispose of it. But that doesn't reduce my current pile. When I die someone else will have the same problem, or not and they simply discard it.

Guest's picture
Joe laginestra

I collected thousands of lp records worth some money and I will never part with them. So now what do you say to that.

Guest's picture
Janet Coverdale

Good for you Joe! LPs are worth keeping. Please make sure you will them to someone worthy who won't just throw them away.

Guest's picture

I need to do this I have a tendency to keep lots of old things. Me and my friend r going in my room and cleaning it out bye bye stuff I never use then ill help her do the same thing to her room. Thanks

Guest's picture

Now I know what to sell at yard sales.

Guest's picture

Old perfumes and colognes make great air freshener....especially in the bathroom.

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Guest's picture

this list does capture most things we need to get rid of, except all the stupid chotchkes we bought on vacation when it seemed like we needed another souvenier to wind up in the basement. I would add that for gently used linens, comforters, sheets the local womens shelter will really appreciate them, as well as any cosmetic and shampoo, lotion, samples you get as bonus with purchase. You need to call the local social services or hospital to drop off as they will not usually give the address to protect the women and children.

Guest's picture

Please dispose of any drugs responsibly. They should be taken to a pharmacy or police station that will accept them. Some of the things on the list can be recycled, and some donated. Don't just toss everything on the list! Thank you.

Guest's picture

Agree with most except "dated technology," because I've always found a second use for virtually every piece of electronic equipment that I own. Old PC? Install Linux and use it as a home server. Old phone? Use it as an emergency phone. Old cables? Cables in particular are quite robust and tend to be convertible in most instances. You get the point. Great article, thanks.

Guest's picture

I am a hoarder of documents. Piles of bills, mail and much more. I just feel like I will need it at some point. I guess it is the teacher in me.

Guest's picture

Dude, you left Lp's out of the DVD/CD etc section. Good article. Helpful. Thanks!!!

Guest's picture

What a great list. A few weeks ago I spent 6 hours going through the house and throwing stuff away. It's so easy to forget to purge until you realize how much junk you have. Now I try to put stuff away in the correct place and really examine my purchases. If you don't buy it, you never have to throw it away.

Guest's picture

One of the best guidelines to follow. I'm throwing out stuff today because of an old friend. She got me hooked on garage sales. She would never throw anything away and spent at least $60-$120 every week buying junk at these sales. It became a competition between us to get to the good stuff first and she finally developed such a jealousy of me getting to the stuff first that she promptly fired me from being her friend. At first I was offended, but soon realized she did me a favor. My house had become a Mecca for things others were trying to get rid of. So, in honor of my hoarder friend, I throw thee out. Because I don't want to be like her.

Guest's picture

I do my husband a favor, and get rid of stuff I know he doesn't wear or use, when he is not looking. He never misses anything I have gotten rid of. I only wish he would do the same for me!

Guest's picture

I have searched and searched cant find anything on how to actually throw out expired box mixes, ( cake, muffin, pancake any thing that is too old to eat). Do I dump it out first, can it go into the compost? Help!

Guest's picture

Super useful information.

Guest's picture

Please consider donating old paint to your local high school Art or Drama program.

Guest's picture

OMG - it is as if you have been to my house ! How did you know ? Once I start looking through my old magazines, I find something I want to read and keep it. Now I will tear out the article and recycle the rest. So hard to give away clothes that, if I saw them in the store today, I would buy. Now if something does not look GREAT on me - I will get rid of it.

Guest's picture

FYI: Check to see the value of your VHS tapes before you "dump" them. The kids are all grown but I found out that one of our Disney tapes was selling for $300 on eBay. You can use the cash instead of the movie.