10 Things in Your Basement You Should Throw Out Today


I hate to admit it, but I'm a basement hoarder.

My subterranean lair is the slightly moldy home to any and every item that I cannot decide what to do with. If it weren't for the fact that our washer and dryer reside in the basement, there probably wouldn't even be room to walk down there. (See also: 15 Things in Your Kitchen You Should Throw Out Today)

But for every item that actually should be stored in my basement, there are at least two others that are just taking up space. It's high time to clean house… literally! So if you're like me, here are 10 common basement items that you no longer need to hold onto (and the best way of getting rid of them).

1. Computer, Electronic, and Appliance Boxes

It's one of those completely irrational urges: to carefully preserve all of the packaging for any new electronic equipment you purchase. This might have made sense when you bought a desktop computer back in college and expected to move every nine months, but now it's just silly. Break down and recycle all those boxes. You can always get another box if you have to move. Recycling what you have will immediately clear up space in your basement and give you a sense of decluttering accomplishment.

2. Old Electronics

Speaking of technology of yore, how many of you have a VCR or a monitor the size of a sofa hanging out in your basement somewhere? (I actually still have a TV/VCR combo from my college days.) Often, we hang onto these items because we have no idea how to get rid of them. Enter Earth911.com. This website allows you to search for local recycling centers for everything from batteries to electronics.

3. Cables, Wires, and Chargers

Every device you buy comes with a new cable, wire, or charger. Take the time to go through your collection, match up the ones you actually need with the devices you use, and donate the rest to Goodwill or recycle them at Best Buy.

4. Owner's Manuals

One of the perks of living in the age of the Internet is the fact that you can recycle all of those manuals you have been carefully saving. You can Google the problem you need to troubleshoot faster than you could find the necessary owner's manual in the pile, anyway.

5. Hazardous Materials

Basements tend to collect everything from half-empty cans of paint, to expired motor oil, to jugs of antifreeze, to expired batteries. Just like your old electronics, you may have held onto these because you don't know how to safely get rid of them. Earth911.com can help you determine where to take these items without harming yourself or the environment.

6. Unused Small Appliances

I'd wager you have a bread machine kicking around somewhere in your basement. Or maybe your mother-in-law gave everyone a crockpot one year for Christmas and yours has never seen the light of day. Nearly every basement has some sort of kitchen appliance that's been used once or twice and then stored. Drop off those George Foreman grills and Williams-Sonoma panini presses at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. You'll never miss them.

7. Exercise Equipment

When is the last time you used that home elliptical machine for anything other than drying sweaters? Or the skis you bought before you broke your leg in Aspen? If you have pieces of exercise equipment gathering dust in your basement, it's time to clear them out. No, you won't use them and you won't get your money's worth out of them. Believing that you will is just the loss aversion talking, and you'll feel much better to let go of those false beliefs (and the accompanying guilt).

When it comes to sports equipment, the options run the gamut from donating them to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to selling them on Craigslist. It's also a great idea to check with your local YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, or Special Olympics chapter to see if you can do even more good with your unused equipment. (Not to mention the tax write-off.)

8. Broken or Unused Christmas Decorations

It seems like most basements in America have at least one strand of non-working Christmas lights stored somewhere. You can send your lights to HolidayLeds for recycling year-round, and receive a coupon good for 15% off LED Christmas lights on the site.

If you have an artificial tree even Charlie Brown wouldn't put presents under, check your local drop-off recycling center (or Earth911.com) to find out if you can recycle it.

For Christmas ornaments and bulbs that have seen better days, donate them or trash them. Don't assume that you'll make that lovely Pinterest mosaic from the broken pieces.

9. Baby Items

If you're not sure you are done having children, it can be tough to get rid of old baby items. But some baby gear expires (like car seats, for instance), and baby clothes, jumpers, strollers, and the like are generally going to be the worse for wear after spending years in your basement. Donate the usable items.

As for those car seats, there are specific guidelines for disposing of them.

Car seats generally expire within six years of purchase because the foam padding degrades over time. If your car seat is newer than six years old and has never been in an accident, you may be able to give it to another family, although you will likely have to pass it along to someone you know personally. Most parents are (understandably) leery of accepting a used car seat from a stranger.

If you cannot donate your seat, you may be able to recycle it. There are recycling centers in 11 states that will accept used and expired car seats for recycling. Otherwise, you can dismantle the seat, remove the straps, and recycle the plastic and metal portions of the seat while trashing the rest. As a last resort, you can dispose of the seat in the trash, provided you have removed or cut the straps so the seat cannot be used again.

10. Games With Missing Pieces

Just because you could play Monopoly with a handwritten B&O Railroad card doesn't mean you want to. It's time to just get rid of any games with missing pieces. It's likely that you will have to just trash/recycle these misfit toys, but it's always a good idea to post such games on Freecycle to see if a local artist-type could use some random game pieces.

What items are you still keeping in your basement that you have not gotten around to throwing out? What items do you plan to keep forever in your basement, no matter how much it will confuse future archeologists (and your current significant other)?

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Guest's picture

As for missing game pieces, call the manufacturer's 800 number and see what their policy is. I was able to get a couple Scrabble pieces for two separate sets that way free from very friendly customer service reps and we were good to go.