Let Go of the Past
If you’re like the average homeowner, there are plenty of things that you bought or received as a gift that you've never used but swear you will one day. Someday you’ll read that old magazine. Someday you’ll take advantage of that gym membership. But someday never comes, and as long as it doesn’t, that unused item takes up space within your walls or in your budget without giving back anything in return. If this sounds familiar, it's time to face facts and save a little space and money.
Old greeting cards, movie ticket stubs, postcards... if you're a sentimental person, you've probably amassed a cache of paper from your past that takes up space in your bedroom, den, or attic. Sort through this ephemera and resolve to keep just a few precious items that hold special significance, such as rare baseball cards or wedding invitations, and then recycle or discard the rest.
Sure, the soufflé recipe in that once-treasured cookbook in your kitchen was a big hit at a dinner party years ago. But if you haven't opened the book since, it’s time to resell or donate it. If you frequently refer to a select few recipes in a cookbook, scan the relevant pages and save them in a folder on your computer or on the cloud so you can find them when the craving hits—without contributing to household clutter. With your scanned recipes and the thousands available online within a few clicks, you may never need to crack open a cookbook again.
Does your coffee table resemble a time capsule of the 1990s or the "noughties," complete with pop culture magazines detailing events and fashions of yesteryear? Curb clutter and modernize your space by recycling those dusty periodicals or donating them to local medical offices or other small businesses with magazine-filled lobbies. While subscribing to magazines gives you the chance to clip and save notable articles, you might want to skip paper altogether: Public libraries in many cities offer free digital access to a wide variety of publications.
With Americans keeping their smartphones for just over 32 months on average, your home can quickly turn into a museum of old phones that you will probably never power up again. From EcoATM to Best Buy, there are plenty of places to recycle old phones when you upgrade to faster, more feature-rich models.
Incomplete Board Games
You may have a hard time giving up a favorite board game or one that was given to you as a gift, but if it’s missing parts or pieces that make it impossible to play as instructed, you may as well toss it in the recycling bin. (Check first to see if you can purchase replacement pieces from the manufacturer.) You might even consider passing the game along to friends who are missing parts of their own sets.
Is your vanity littered with half-empty perfume bottles filled with fragrances that have gone foul or fallen out of fashion, or that you’ve simply outgrown? It’s unlikely you’ll spritz them again, so clear up counter space by disposing of them at the local hazardous-waste center. If you'd like to keep the bottles, transfer the liquid into throwaway containers for disposal and then wash and dry the bottles before you put them to new uses.
It may be tempting to reach for a past-its-prime pill bottle for quick pain relief, but because the chemical composition of medicines changes over time, taking expired medication may be ineffective at best or harmful at worst. Go through your medicine cabinet periodically to remove expired pills and tablets, then follow the safe disposal instructions on the labels. It's a good idea to check with your local municipality or a neighborhood pharmacy to see if either offers a prescription drug take-back program. If your only option is to throw the meds away, depending on the medication, you may need to mix it with kitty litter or coffee grounds, stash the combined contents in a sealed container, and then throw the whole container into the trash.
Long after you remove a laptop, phone, or furniture from its packaging, the box often remains on a shelf or in the basement, taking up valuable space. If you’re concerned about throwing away vital accessories or instruction manuals, retrieve them immediately after you unpack the product and stash them in a safe place. After you've removed the essential items, recycle the boxes.
Your closet doesn’t have enough square footage for you to hold on to every vintage garment you own in the hope that it will make a comeback, or that you'll finally lose enough weight to wear it again. Take an afternoon to assess every item in your wardrobe: If you haven’t worn something in the last year but it’s still in good condition, wash it and resell or donate it. If it’s damaged, extremely dated, or moth-eaten beyond the point of mending, take it to a textile recycling drop-off point. When you're done sorting, you'll be left with a clutter-free closet filled with clothing that you truly love.
When every phone, computer, appliance, and game system comes with its own power cord, you're quickly left with a tangle of random wires sitting in a drawer, jammed behind a TV stand, or shoved into a box. Get rid of old power cords and cables for electronics you no longer own, and take a little time to label cords for rarely used components so you can find them easily when you need them. Local electronics recycling programs generally accept cords and cables in addition to the devices they power.
Add a lumbar pillow to a desk chair, a bolster pillow to the bed, and a travel pillow to the backseat of the car, and before you know it, you're awash in stray cushions. You don't need to keep all of them—at some point even the fluffiest pillow becomes flat or dingy from years of dust and use. Old pillows stop providing head or neck support and can even make you sick. To see if a pillow is still doing its job, try folding it in half; if it stays folded, it's time to get rid of it. Either throw it out or wash it and donate it to a local animal shelter. (Most secondhand stores won't accept used pillows.)
Sunscreens lose effectiveness over time—that's why they include an expiration date. An expired sunscreen may not provide enough protection to stave off burns. If your bathroom contains a trove of sunscreen bottles from summers past, get rid of any that have exceeded their expiration dates. If there’s no expiration date, make some educated guesses: Sunscreens are generally good for three years from their manufacture date.
Wonky Christmas Decorations
Does your box of Christmas decorations have a few broken baubles, or perhaps a strand of string lights with bad bulbs that you swear you’ll fix one of these days? Get rid of broken decorations and any other holiday decor that you haven't displayed for a few years. Take holiday trimmings that are in good shape to Goodwill or another resale store. For broken string lights, check with your local recycling program, or look into a mail-in recycling service, such as as HolidayLEDs.
Sellers of many big-ticket items, from cars to appliances, encourage you to purchase extended warranties that kick in when the standard warranty expires. These can be costly, though, and problems can arise well past the extended warranty period, in which case you’re out of luck. As well, the warranties aren’t all-encompassing in terms of benefits. In fact, a 2013 Consumer Reports study found that car owners paid more for extended warranties than they received in benefits. If you opted for an extended warranty and now regret it, reach out to the point of contact on the warranty paperwork to cancel it; you can often get back a prorated amount for the rest of the warranty period.
Unused Gym Memberships
Gym owners bank on the fact that a certain portion of paying members will never use their memberships, which means that the gym can reap a profit without having to invest in more machines or workout classes. In fact, according to a Statistic Brain Research Institute survey, 63 percent of gym memberships go unused. If you’re among the majority who have never set foot in their gym, read the terms of the contract for the cancellation policy to find out if it makes sense to attempt to terminate membership. You may have to pay a cancellation fee, but you will probably save a bundle by stopping payments now instead of continuing to pay for a membership you have no plans to use.
Say Goodbye to the Household Clutter
Let it go. Free your space (and mind) of this household clutter.
Want a cleaner, tidier, more organized home? Sign up for the Clean Sweep newsletter to receive weekly tips, tools, and bright ideas that will help you maximize your next cleaning session.