Have you ever seen A&E’s Emmy-nominated reality program Hoarders? If you’re like me, you watch with fascination people whose lives have been overrun by clutter, all the while thinking, “I could never become so attached to stuff!” But the truth is we all hold on to items that simply need to be trashed (or donated or recycled). We make grand plans for fixing broken toys or fitting into old pants. We tuck away receipts and cards because they seem important. We pile magazines under the coffee table and stow books on our shelves with intentions to read them one day. Let’s face it: “one day” never seems to be “this day.” It’s time to take a stand against stuff that’s just taking up space. To get you started, here are some of the most commonly saved items that are better off trashed than stashed.
Clothing: We’ve all jammed a pair of too-tight jeans into the back of the closet with hopes of being able to zip them on some distant date. But that day may never come, and if it does, there’s a strong chance those jeans will no longer be in style. A good rule when cleaning out the closet is to dump (or donate) pieces you haven’t worn in the last year. Charities and shelters are always in need of clothing and shoes that still have wear in them, so buy yourself some hanger space by letting go of old duds.
Kid Gear: Many parents stow a smattering of toys, clothes, and necessities from older children, intending to use them again with another baby. Such saving is smart, to a point. But before tucking away treasured hand-me-downs, make sure each item is still in usable condition. If that baby swing hasn’t enough swoop to cradle another tot, you’re better off tossing it. And if a onesie’s been worn one too many times, there’s no reason to stash it just to trash it when a wee one arrives. Decided that you’re family has expanded enough? Then pass on outgrown toys to an expectant friend, family member, or suitable charity.
Toiletries: Do you suffer from chronic product hoarding? Do you buy new makeup and hair care goodies before your current ones are used up? Keep bottles with just a bit in the bottom under the sink? Collect samples with the intention to include them in your suitcase, only to forget you them come travel time? There’s a cure for that. Dump old lotions, makeup, perfumes, and sunscreens that aren’t likely to make it onto your face or body ever again. While you’re at it, reduce medicine cabinet mayhem by properly disposing of partially used prescriptions and outdated over-the-counter drugs.
Technology: Electronics are expensive, which may be why we hesitate to trash anything technical. And with technology constantly changing, we upgrade home electronics on a regular basis. So boot up your clutter-busting by zapping old computers and stereos, voided video games, and former cell phones out of your system. (Be sure to include in your throw-away pile cables and cords not associated with any of the electronics you currently own.)
Media: Periodical and paperback junkies, it’s time to sort, share, and sacrifice. While plenty of books are worth hanging on to, you don’t need to find space in the bookcase for every novel you’ve ever read. Shelve the ones you loved, plan to read again, or might lend a friend. Everything else should be removed, though that doesn’t equate to “the end” for these reads. Consider donating books to your local library, shelter, or nonprofit in need. Got overwhelming stacks of magazines piled under the coffee table? Subscribe to the idea that if they’re more than three months old, they’re probably out of season. And since a new one will arrive at your door any day, there’s no need to hold back issues. Clip any recipes, articles, and coupons worth saving, and move on to a new month’s read.
Papers: Don’t be a paper packrat. Ditch any junk mail building up in your inbox. Shred through your home office file cabinet, eliminating unimportant papers that won’t be referred to in the future. There’s also no reason to hold hard copies of owner’s manuals and product instructions that can be easily found online. Personal receipts should only be saved if needed as proof of purchase for warranties, as proof of major expenses (like purchases and services for your car or home), for possible returns or exchanges, for expense reimbursements, or for tax deductions.
Odds & Ends: You can also dispose of these commonly conserved commodities:
- Plastic grocery bags. Keep a few in a grocery bag holder and recycle the rest.
- Used gift tissue. While there’s something to be said for saving boxes and bags, you’re not likely to re-gift wrinkled and ripped tissue.
- Items that have been on your repair list for more than three months. If you haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet, you likely won’t.
- Fast-food and takeout napkins and condiments. These can take a big bite out of a kitchen catchall drawer and hardly ever get used once hidden away.
Many experts say, “when in doubt, throw it out!” But if you can’t decide whether to trash or treasure an item, try setting it in an out of reach place for three months. If you haven’t gone hunting for it by the end of the season, you’re probably safe setting it out on the curb.
Tim Eyre works in the self storage industry, regularly traveling to see locations like a self storage facility in Peoria. In many locations, like the Brooklyn self storage units yard, Tim helps his customers store seasonal equipment when it is not being used for outdoor activities or home improvement projects.