50 Easy Ways to Declutter

I’m just 1 person who has a difficult time decluttering. I’ve mentioned a few times in previous articles that it can be hard to know when the right time to part with an item from my childhood that holds sentimental value.

A good rule of thumb is to keep things in your house only if you will use it. No matter how expensive that hand lotion or cleaning product was, if you can’t stand the scent and never use it, why are you keeping it? 

Here is a list of things it’s easier and important to get rid of:

  1. Expired medications- There’s no reason to keep ineffective, expired pills, creams, etc. Did you know most pharmacies will give you free packets to dissolve some medications like opioids? If you’re not sure how to dispose of some medicines, check with your pharmacy. 
  2. Old band-aids- I recently opened up a band-aid that was so old it wouldn’t stick. Embarrassed and bleeding, it took me some time to open a new package. I should have gone through my supplies and ditched everything that no longer works so I wouldn’t have to troubleshoot during an emergency. 
  3. Expired/old sunblock- Check the expiration date of any sunblock during spring so you can replace anything before you get stuck this summer without sunblock on hand. 
  4. Expired food- Similarly, there’s no reason to keep food that is long past its expiration date. Be sure to check the back of your pantry, cupboards, and the bottom drawers of your fridge. If you need to replace this food, keep notes as you toss things out. This is especially useful for things like spices that lose their flavor and aroma with time. 
  5. Useless food storage containers- Containers that are warped, compromised, or already starting to break down won’t be safe to use to store food. As you’re going through your containers, make sure every container has a top, and get rid of any item missing its pair. 
  6. Scratched Teflon pans- The coating could come off and get into your food, which can cause you significant health problems. If a Teflon pan is scratched, replace it immediately. 
  7. Repeat utensils- How many ladles, cheese slicers, corkscrews, ice cream scoops, and bottle openers do you need? Probably fewer than you have accumulated. Donate any utensils you have too many of. 
  8. Duplicate pans/pots/serving dishes- Again, determine how many you actually need and donate the rest. 
  9. Unused cookbooks- We buy them with the best intentions, I know. But if you’re not using them, then they’re not doing you any good. They might do someone else some good if you donate them.
  10. Junk drawer excess- Get rid of half of your rubber bands and twist ties, if they’re overwhelming your junk drawer. The purpose of the drawer is to be helpful in a pinch, not to make you wade through a bunch of twist ties until you’ve forgotten what you were originally looking for. 
  11. Swag- Ditch any keychains, stress balls, water bottles, bookmarks, etc. that you picked up at an expo or festival and never use. Promotional items you use regularly are fine, but if you bring it home and it just takes up space, donate it or trash it. 
  12. Old water bottles- Speaking of water bottles, check your old ones. Discard any that are not BPA-free. But with age, even BPA-free water bottles can leak, warp, or crack and develop mold inside. Don’t unknowingly drink mold-flavored water! We all somehow end up with more water bottles than we can use, so keep the newest and most favorite ones only.

  13. Excess mugs or souvenir cups- Similarly, these can easily replicate in the cupboard if you’re not keeping a close eye on them. If you find yourself with too many, keep your favorite and donate the rest.  
  14. Pens, pencils, markers- Get rid of any short pencils missing their erasers or any pens or markers that no longer work. A pen has one job and if it has no ink, there’s no reason to keep it around. 
  15. Address labels for old addresses- Just because it came free doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever. If you don’t live there any more, you’re not going to want mail returned there.
  16. Old electronics, phones- You can often donate old cell phones to charity, just make sure you wipe it of data first. Check your local disposal services for where to dispose of monitors, computers, keyboards, etc. 
  17. Old cables- I know they seem useful, but they accumulate quickly. Unless you’re frequently tinkering and building your own systems, there is no reason to keep old cables or adaptors that go to electronics you no longer own. Most anything you buy will come with its own cables, and you can always buy cables online if that isn’t the case. 
  18. Old remote controls- If you no longer own the device, why would you want to control it? Save the batteries and discard the remotes.
  19. Product packaging- Once you determine you’re not going to return an item, ditch the packaging. There’s no reason to keep packages for electronics or shoeboxes around to take up space.
  20. Old batteries- I one spent half an hour worrying that my blood pressure reader was broken, only to realize the 4 batteries in the pack from the back of my closet had gone bad. Test batteries to make sure they still work. Toss any batteries as soon as you take them out of a device. You might have a special bin to keep old batteries in if they’re the kind that need to be disposed of specially.
  21. Receipts- Once you’re sure your credit/debit account is correct, and unless you have to keep them for tax purposes, get rid of them.
  22. Documents- I keep my old tax returns, significant medical records, and all vet records for pets I still have. But I shred any healthcare, bank, HOA, credit card, or other financial statements after 1 year. Typically, I wait until the one box I keep this all in gets full, then I have a shredding party.
  23. Instruction manuals and product documentation- Check to see if the manual is available online at the product or company’s website. If it is, recycle the paper manual. The online version will be easier to search through when you need help.
  24. Takeout menus- menus are all available online, and the online versions also come with specials, new items, and sometimes discounts. There is no reason to keep paper takeout menus around. 
  25. Expired coupons- Go through your paper coupons regularly and get rid of any that have expired. (I usually have a couple expired coupons in my bag at any given time, which is frustrating when I get to the checkout)

  26. Old magazines- If you haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, you’re not going to. If you’re keeping them around for an art project you probably won’t get to, reconsider. And if you’re keeping them around because of specific articles, tear out the article, put it in a plastic sleeve, and put it in a binder. If you find you never read the binder, maybe it’s not worth saving in the first place. 
  27. Phone books- Why do they still make these? Everything’s online now; recycle your paper phone books and directories.
  28. Greeting cards- If you must, keep the ones with special notes or one from each person over the years. There’s no need to keep cards with no heartfelt messages inside. You can repurpose cards as gift tags or art or recycle them. 
  29. Old eyeglasses- If the glasses aren’t your prescription, there’s no reason to have them. Donate them to a local charity where they could do someone some good. 
  30. Stretched-out hairties- Even cats prefer pouncing on hairties that have some stretch left in them. 
  31. Clothes you haven’t worn in years- If you haven’t worn an item in years, there’s usually one of two reasons. It’s either a specialty item like a costume or you really don’t like it. If it’s the former, decide if you’ll ever wear it again. If it’s the latter, donate it so it can do someone else some good. This includes shoes, purses, accessories.

  32. Socks missing their match- Keep your single socks in one place, like above your laundry station or in a box beside your dresser. If you don’t find its mate within a few months, use the sock as a cleaning rag or recycle it. 
  33. Earrings missing their match- Turning that earring into another kind of jewelry (like a broach) might be possible, but will you get around to doing it? 
  34. Scarves, hats, or gloves you never wear- We all have our favorite items of clothing, even when it comes to winter weather wear. Donate any items you don’t regularly wear when it’s cold out, so they can help out people who need them to stay warm.
  35. Old makeup- Bacteria builds up in makeup over time. Cosmetics also change their color, consistency, and scent. Anything old than a year should probably be trashed. Check your nail polish and dispose of anything that is dried up as well.
  36. Wire hangers- They might come free with your dry cleaning, but they’re terrible for clothes. I like keeping three or four because I have a suitcase with a hanger hook, and wire hangers fit well in that. But I keep those few stored in my suitcase and get rid of all the rest.
  37. Beauty products you hate- I am frequently gifted lotions and creams with scents that are far too strong for me or that irritate my skin. I keep them around because they’re gifts and I don’t want to be wasteful, but then I never use them. Ditch any products you can’t or won’t wear, once you’ve given it a try. 
  38. Hotel toiletries- Do you know that homeless shelters are usually in great need of these? They’re small and easier to hand out/carry around than giant bottles of shampoo or full bars of soap. Donate your stash and make a difference.
  39. Ratty old towels- Use them as rags or donate them to animal shelters.
  40. Unloved pet toys- Bought a toy that your pet just isn’t into? You can donate these to animal shelters as well. 
  41. Plastic produce or grocery bags- These can be recycled immediately. And consider using reusable produce bags and tote bags for your groceries in the future. 
  42. Excess tote bags- Tote bags can accumulate as well. Choose from your stash the ones you love and the ones that are of the best quality. Recycle the rest or use them in projects. 
  43. Leftover materials from projects- You might find yourself with extra materials after a home renovation or after a craft project. Don’t keep scraps around. Large amounts could be donated and small scraps should just be trashed. 
  44. Broken cleaning devices- I admit it: I’m that person with a broken vacuum cleaner in the pantry next to the brand new one. Yes, the old one was excellent, but it’s broken now. There’s no reason to keep things that are broken and don’t work. 
  45. Torn wrapping paper, tissue paper, or gift bags- It’s okay to keep some of these and reuse them, but if the quality isn’t great, why would you want to give it as part of a gift to someone you love? 
  46. Bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and packing supplies- Again, you can keep a little if you know you’re going to be sending packages in the near future, but don’t save more than that. I promise you’ll order something else online soon and will get more plastic puffs of air you can use.
  47. Old media- Digitize your old home movies and photos so you can more easily share them and so they won’t be damaged by age.
  48. Old posters- If you have no interest in displaying that poster you had up in your college dorm room now, why are you holding onto it?
  49. Board games missing pieces- I grew up playing board games from thrift stores that were frequently missing a piece or two. But if it’s missing too many pieces and can no longer be played, don’t hang onto it. The same goes for puzzles. Missing one piece is a tragedy, but it’s your call if that ruins the entire experience for you or not. 
  50. Old video games- Get rid of any games that can only be played on gaming systems you no longer have or use. 

What of these will you declutter first?

Photos by Sarah Brown,   Nicola Styles, Eric Prouzet, and Nick Page on Unsplash

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