PROCESS OF ELIMINATION
Spring often brings an urge to purge. A disorganized home can make you feel overwhelmed, and decluttering can actually help save money and even bring a little extra dough. Even if the overload isn't so bad you're thinking of renting a storage unit, being honest about what you actually use and what's gathering dust can help you make smarter buying decisions in the future. Less clutter can also keep you from buying the same item again because you can't find what you already have. Clearing the entire house of clutter takes time, so start by targeting these 51 things you can throw away now.
One of the biggest areas of embarrassment for many people is their closets. As a rule of thumb, get rid of anything you haven't worn in the past year. Taking inventory with each season change is a good way to identify what you do and don't wear and, in the end, what you should clear out.
After cleaning out your own closet, tackle the kids' closets. Children's closets get even more cluttered because they are constantly outgrowing things or (let's face it) staining or ripping clothes. Make it a habit to get rid of unworn, outgrown, or ruined clothing.
Go through and toss any shoes you haven't worn in the past year and any that are simply worn out. No sense keeping them if you won't or can't wear them. Tip: When you buy new shoes, part with at least one pair to keep the clutter at bay.
Wire hangers can actually damage your clothes. They simply don't offer enough support for heavy clothing, and over time the clothes can become misshapen, especially in the shoulders.
That bridesmaid dress may have cost more than you wanted to spend, but it won't be seeing any action anytime soon, if ever again. Why not donate it and free up closet space for something you'll wear often? Bridesmaid dresses make great prom dresses for girls who can't otherwise afford them. Ditto on that old suit: Give it to someone who's down on their luck and interviewing for jobs (try an organization such as Dress For Success).
Everyone likely has a few loose socks without a mate. Designate a space in your dresser where they can hang out for two weeks, and if you can't complete the pairs, into the trash they go.
How many towels do you really need? The book "Unclutter Your Life in One Week" offers a simple formula: two sets for each occupant and guest room in your home (use one while the other is in the laundry). Consider donating the rest to a homeless shelter or an animal shelter.
Sheets don't need changing more than once a week. Sure, kids have accidents, and people get sick on occasion, but two sets of sheets per bed (three at the most) should suffice. The rest you can go ahead and get rid of now.
Mascara has a three-month shelf life once opened. Beyond that, it can start to break down and cause skin and eye irritation, beauty experts say. Many women likely have expired mascara in their makeup bag right now. Tip: Write the date you opened the mascara on the tube, so you know when to throw it out.
Unlike mascara, eye shadow (powder) can last up to two years. But if you're hoarding colors for that rare occasion when they might come in handy, chances are you won't come back around to them. And if you do, it's likely healthier to just get new shadow.
Lipstick and gloss can last up to one year. But again, if you've stopped using the shade, or it doesn't look quite right, just toss it and replace it with a color you're into right now. There's no need for more than one or two colors that flatter your complexion.
When nail polish begins to separate, it's time to toss it. You can only wear so much polish at a time anyway, so cleaning out old bottles or colors you don't love is a good way to declutter.
Like makeup, hair-care products have a limited shelf life, whether they are marked or not. Three years is typical. After that, they can become ineffective, and grow mold and bacteria. Toss anything older than three years and anything you haven't used in the past year.
While it may be tempting to stockpile toothbrushes from the dentist (most give you one at every visit), they should be replaced more frequently than that. Whenever you get a new one, just replace the old one to avoid getting a collection going. And if you haven't changed out your toothbrush in the past four months, or you've been sick recently, swap out your toothbrush now.
It's tempting to scoop up all those toiletry samples as you check out of a hotel -- you'll use them eventually, right? Most likely wrong. If you have tons of little bottles taking up space in your bathroom, it's time to let them go. Many homeless shelters can use them.
FOODS WITH FREEZER BURN
If something in your freezer is developing freezer burn, it's time to toss it. Also, toss anything that isn't labeled and dated. If any food has partially thawed and refrozen -- say, during a power outage -- it needs to go as well.
Food is stamped with an expiration date for a reason. Even if it's still safe to eat, it's likely losing its taste and nutritional value. Reclaim pantry space by throwing it out.
These likely take up room in a drawer or on your counter while you have a larger version in the pantry or refrigerator. Why save them? Just use the big bottle you already have.
Leftovers vary in how long they stay good, but five days is the maximum amount of time you should really ever keep them. Anything older is likely going south and best thrown away.
Like other food items, spices carry an expiration date. Toss them if they are expired or if they've lost their smell or taste.
OLD DISH SPONGES
Dish sponges invite germs, bacteria, and mold to multiply right on your counter. Ideally, you should disinfect your dish sponge daily, throw it out weekly.
Old wine bottles, especially unusually colored ones, may seem worth saving for flowers or a craft project, but if you haven't gotten around to using them yet, chances are you won't.
COFFEE MUGS YOU DON'T USE
Think about how many separate cups of coffee or tea you actually drink in a day. Most likely that number is low, so why would you keep a dozen coffee mugs? Get rid of all but two or three favorites for each coffee drinker. Keep a few extra if you regularly have company.
Have a drawer full of unused kitchen utensils? Time to clean it out. Throw away plastic utensils along with those condiment packets -- again, why save them? You likely have plenty of real silverware, so use that. Get rid of any utensils that have been mangled by the dishwasher or garbage disposal, and those that are broken.
FOOD STORAGE CONTAINERS
Food storage containers are useless if they don't have a lid that fits. Ditto if they are stained, warped, or cracked. These are simple things to get rid of now without much thought.
Baking sheets that sport cooking spots or rust aren't worth keeping. Don't fall into the Pinterest trap of thinking you'll repurpose them as memo boards or chore charts. Chances are you won't.
A stack of takeout menus shouldn't take up prime kitchen real estate. These days, you can find menus online for just about any restaurant. The same goes for restaurant coupons. In fact, a quick search online might reveal even better coupons than the ones you've collected.
REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS
Take inventory of the reusable shopping bags you have. They seem to be given out at every event these days, and you really don't need more than three or four. That's plenty to cover a trip to the grocery store.
PAPER AND PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS
Sure, having a few paper or plastic bags handy for trash or messes is a good idea, but storing bags filled with bags just isn't. Check to see if your local grocer has a place to recycle bags or, if not, put them in your recycling bin.
Do you have a broken TV stored away in the hopes that one day you'll have time to fiddle around and fix it? Chances are you won't ever get around to it. Ditto for that laptop that stopped working last year.
Unlabeled, unrecognizable electronic-device cords are useless. Rather than take the time to figure out which items they fit, toss them. You must have been using the devices just fine without them, or with a different cord. If a discarded cord turns out to be necessary, getting a replacement shouldn't be too difficult or expensive.
It's definitely time to get rid of those old VHS tapes, if you haven't already. Who has a VCR anymore? While DVDs and Blu-rays are still relatively current, discard any movies you didn't like. With streaming as the new way to watch anything and everything, those discs won't be necessary for long anyway.
OLD BILLS AND STATEMENTS
If a bill has been paid, hold onto it until you're sure payment was received. Beyond that, there usually isn't a reason to keep bills and statements. You can probably find all the old ones online if you need them. But use a shredder to destroy old bills instead of just tossing them -- for security's sake.
After initial setup, instruction manuals usually find their way into a random drawer never to be needed again. These days you can find just about any instruction manual online, or outlined in a YouTube video demo. Get rid of the paper versions today.
Once they've been read, many books can be passed on to someone else to enjoy. Reserve valuable shelf space for your absolute favorites -- until they fall apart from rereading.
Even more so than books, magazines and newspapers are unlikely to be reread. Toss them when you're done, instead of cluttering your space. Memorable articles can almost certainly be revisited online.
How many coupons do you have that are actually current? Make a habit of sorting through them every week or two to weed out those that are expired.
While it might be hard to part with a calendar full of stunning photography, there's no point in keeping it. Ditto for old paper planners. Just make sure to shred any pages with personal information on them.
It's so nice to receive a birthday or thank-you card in the mail, but once you've read it -- and maybe, in the case of holiday cards, displayed it for a week or two -- it's time to part ways.
This is a tricky one, because you may need some receipts for taxes or other purposes. But more and more stores these days offer the option of an email receipt. And they can process a refund onto a credit or debit card without a paper receipt. If you do need a receipt for a warranty, you can snap a picture and save it in your phone.
FILLED NOTEBOOKS AND COLORING BOOKS
You don't need to hang onto a notebook or coloring book once every page is full. If you jotted down important information at some point and no longer need it, just be sure to shred those pages.
In homes with kids, toys seem to be everywhere. Toss any that are broken or dirty beyond repair, and any toys that haven't been played with in the past three months. If there are batteries required and you still haven't replaced them, pass on the toy to someone willing to revive it.
EXPIRED CAR SEATS
Car Seat Safety 101: Car seats expire. If a child's car seat has expired, been in a crash, or simply been outgrown, don't just shove it into storage. Cut the straps and put it on the curb -- or find a trade-in event. Toys R Us and Babies R Us periodically offer a discount off a new item for customers who trade in an expired car seat.
OLD CRAFT SUPPLIES
Paint, glue, markers, and the like dry out. Toss anything old that can't be used. Most people don't need a ton of crafting supplies. Consider paring down to just one tub of supplies and donating the rest to a local school.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS NO ONE PLAYS
Did your kids try to learn the recorder or take up the violin for a year, only to leave the instrument gathering dust? If it's in decent condition, you can sell it to someone who will use it.
GAMES WITH MISSING PIECES
If that old game taking up space doesn't get played anymore because it's missing pieces, toss it. Ditto for that incomplete deck of cards sitting in a drawer.
Vases are one of those things you tend to accumulate without realizing it. Whenever flowers get delivered, they typically come in a vase. It's time to get rid of all but one or two favorites unless you make a habit of displaying fresh flowers in every room.
Clear out pens that are out of ink, memo pads you don't use, file folders that no longer hold anything, labels that aren't the right size, and any other office supplies that sit dormant.
If you have school-age kids, then you know the amount of paper that comes home. It sometimes feels like you should save every worksheet and piece of art, but you don't need to. Snap pictures and save digital copies of your favorite drawings and school papers instead of letting the originals pile up.