Monday, 5 March 2012

25 Things to Throw Out Today

There's a great quote from Fight Club, one of my favourite movies. It comes from Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt's character, and it's prophetic — "The things you own end up owning you." After watching several seasons of Hoarders, that's got to be one of the most truthful statements ever to come out of a movie.
Now, we all have a little hoarder inside each of us. We see some things that we just can't bear to get rid of, probably because there's an emotional attachment to them. Sometimes things are valuable, and we keep them for that reason. On rare occasions, we don't even know why we're hanging onto something, but we are.
Well, there's a great feeling of liberation that can come from shedding these items. If you'd like to feel it yourself, here's a list of 25 things that you should throw out today. And by that, I mean donate, dump, trash, incinerate, whatever you like…just remove them from your life. (See also: 25 Easy Organising Changes You Can Make Today)

1. Clothing and Shoes You Haven't Worn in the Last 18 Months

"Well hang on, I'm saving those for a special occasion!" Really? I'm guilty of this too, waiting for the perfect time to wear that shirt I wore once back in 2002. It's so cool, how can I get rid of it? But at the same time, there just never seems to be the need for it, and it never gets worn. Give it away or sell it; someone else may actually wear it more than once every 10 years.

2. Old Paint

We all have those cans of paint in the garage or basement. They're great for touching up walls when they get chipped or scratched up. But when you repaint a wall and no longer need the colour beneath it, or you haven't painted in several years, you should consider responsibly ridding yourself of the old paint. Try patching a wall you painted years ago with the paint in the can, and you'll see that it's not a perfect match. The paint on the wall has dulled. And if you repaint a wall, the chances of ever using that old paint colour again are very slim. Keep newer paints for touch-up, but the rest can go. Visit to find a place that will safely dispose of the old paint for you.
paint cans

3. Contents of the Junk Drawer

Everyone has a junk drawer full of random, well, crap. The occasional battery, old hair ties, bits of string, matchboxes — you name it, it's in there. And it just gathers drawer dust. So try this little experiment for a month. Grab a box and empty the contents of the junk drawer into it. Then, if you use something from that box, put it back in the junk drawer. At the end of one month, the drawer will be filled with items you use. The box? That's all stuff you can donate or throw out.

4. Dated Receipts, Paychecks, and Bills

Do you really need a filing cabinet full of old bills, paychecks, and receipts? If they are no longer needed, dump them. If you have receipts for tax purposes or warranties, they need to be stored somewhere (although many people these days are scanning them and saving on a hard drive). You should save paychecks from the past two years; throw the rest away (scan them first if you must). And bills, who needs them? If you can, sign up for electronic bills and paychecks to save the environment.

5. Unread Books

How many books do you have on your shelves that will never be read or never read again? Chances are, you've got plenty. Go through them today and donate them, so that someone else will get enjoyment from them.

6. Expired Medicines and Vitamins

Not only is this a space-saver, it could also be a life-saver. When drugs go past their expiration dates, they become less potent. So if you're taking them for a certain illness, you may not be getting the correct dosage. Some people double up on the dosage to make up for that, which is dangerous. Drugs can also change in their chemical compositions over time, which means they could become dangerous and have serious side effects. Be safe. Throw them out.

7. Cups and Mugs

You open the kitchen cabinet and reach for a cup or mug to pour yourself a coffee. That's when you're greeted with a vast array of unmatching, chipped, and faded cups and mugs that you've collected over the years. How many do you need anyway? Throw the ones you really don't need.

8. Plastic Containers

Whether you call them Tupperware, Gladware, Snapware, or anything else, you no doubt have a fabulously mixed-up collection of plastic containers. They have missing lids, too many lids, stains, holes, and about nine of them are actually worth keeping. Go through your collection and be brutal. Most can be dumped today.

9. Linens

There are linens that are used regularly. There are linens used for guests or other special occasions. And then there are the rest. Old, dated, worn, mismatched linens that no longer have a use other than "what if?" Well, chances are that day will never come. You won't have 15 house guests who drop in unannounced. Those linens have been stored away for years. Donate them.

10. Power Cords

I have a drawer full of old power cords, data cords, and other various pieces of connective cables. Most of them are duplicates (I get a new USB cord every time I buy a new gadget). Some are for old devices that have long since departed the home. So go through them all, keep the ones for current gadgets in your house, and get rid of the rest.

11. Magazines

There's a better place for those old magazines than gathering dust in your garage, basement, or attic. Don't throw them out; give them to local businesses that have waiting rooms, including doctor's offices and dentists. Next time you have to wait around, you'll have something more current to read than a 1992 National Geographic.

12. Spices

Did you know that spices go off? Actually, most great chefs will do whatever they can to buy only the freshest spices and use them very quickly, or buy them in a state that can be ground or grated (like black peppercorns or nutmeg). If you have a big collection of spices, check the expiration dates. If they have none, use these guidelines and your best guess:
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years
  • Ground spices: 2-3 years
  • Whole spices (such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns): 3-4 years
  • Extracts: 4 years (except for pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely)

13. Old Greeting Cards

It may sound heartless, but generally speaking, greeting cards are supposed to be a fleeting message from a loved one. They are not keepsakes to be stored or framed. You aren't throwing away someone's love by throwing away a Hallmark card that they picked out. Unless the card had something particularly sentimental and meaningful written inside, throw it away. "Happy Birthday, Love Mom" does not count.

14. DVDs, VHS and Audio Tapes, CDs and Video Games

VHS and audio tapes are a no-brainer. Have you tried listening to, or watching, either of those after watching Blu-Ray? It's like being transported back in time to the land of sucky reception. But even some DVDs, CDs, and video games should be considered. If you haven't listened to a CD in years, is it worth keeping? How about that movie you bought because it was on sale and cheaper to buy than rent? Or that video game you crushed and have no time for anymore? Dump them all.
VHS tape

15. Makeup

First, an admission. I don't wear makeup. But my wife does, and I know she has some rules regarding the lifespan of various products and brushes. Here are guidelines from Bella Sugar, and fellas, if you use makeup, you should follow them too...I'm talking to you specifically, Gene Simmons.
  • Mascara: Every three months
  • Foundation: One year
  • Concealer: 12-18 months
  • Powder: 18 months
  • Blush/Bronzer: 18 months
  • Cream blush: 12-18 months
  • Eye shadow: 18 months
  • Eyeliner: 18 months
  • Liquid eyeliner: 6 months
  • Lipstick/lip gloss: 18 months
  • Lip liner: One year
  • Nail polish: One year
  • Makeup sponges: Wash after each use, then throw away after a month.

16. Old Underwear, Socks, and Bras

Alas, sometimes we stretch out the time between washes a little longer than we should, and why? Because we see five pairs of undies or socks left in the drawer and know we're OK. But we forget they're the saddest items of clothing in the known universe, filled with holes, often glowing with a colour that can only be described as "muddy Gray." Get rid of them. As for bras, I bow to the ladies in my life on this one. They tell me that bras do need to be replaced. Dianes Lingerie has some guidelines for when to buy a new bra.
17. Dated Technology, Including Old Cell Phones
Last year we donated all of our old cell phones to a charity called Cell Phones For Soldiers. It gives our troops the ability to call home, and whether you agree with war or not, the soldiers always need support. That's just one way that something old and seemingly useless can be given a new lease of life. Old cameras, handheld video games, VHS players — they can all be used by someone. Better that than being stuck in your basement for the next 10 years.

18. Coat Hangers

We moved house recently. I lost count of how many coat hangers we had. I think there may have been 200. And out of those, maybe 30 were nice wooden ones. The rest were cheap plastic or were brought home still attached to the shirt or blouse we bought. Many were broken. And we used maybe half of them; the rest just took up space in the closet. Take a look at your closets — do you have hangers that are a complete waste of space?

19. Toys

Kids are spoiled for choice these days, and that means a glut of toys can be found all over the house. So get your kids to gather up all the toys, then sift through them together. Decide which ones they really want to keep, which ones can be donated, and which are no use to anyone. A jigsaw puzzle with 10 missing pieces is not fun. Actually, one missing piece is torture in some countries. Dump the headless Barbies and broken cars.
toy bear

20. Those "Fix It Up" Projects

You know the ones I'm talking about. You bought a scrap piece of furniture or machinery at a garage sale three years ago, fully intending to sand it, prime it, paint it, and make it look like new again. Of course, the day after you bought it you stored it away in the basement or garage and it's been there ever since. So, make a pact. Start to fix it up today, or get rid of it.

21. Cribs, Car Seats, and Other Baby/Toddler Products

It's difficult to keep track of all the new regulations that come into play regarding baby products. For instance, drop-side cribs have now been banned due to safety concerns. The cribs we had for our two children were drop-side cribs, and had we kept them, we'd actually be saving something that was unsafe. The same goes for car seats, strollers, and many other baby items. So, check the ones you have around the home. They may need to be thrown out.

22. Perfumes and Colognes

We all have them, lurking in the back of the medicine cabinet or closet. They're the scents we were given as gifts, maybe by an ex, a clueless parent, or even something we bought for ourselves in a moment of uncommon sense. Now they sit in the dark, 99% full, waiting for the day you throw them away. Release them.

23. Jewelry

Pendants with broken chains. Old rings. Old bracelets. Dated brooches. Dated anything, actually. Men and women alike have jewelry that is no longer needed. It's time to liberate it, and you could even get a nice chunk of cash for it.

24. Rugs

We currently have two rugs in our basement that may never see the light of day again. As we just moved house, though, I'm giving it a few weeks to see if they have a natural place in our new home. If they don't, they're out. How about you? Did you once have a rug that was pride of place in your living room, but since redecorating, it's been stuck in a dark corner? Maybe someone else can give it a new home.

25. Food

We're a wasteful society. I recently read a statistic that says Americans throw away 25% of the food we produce, and I'm not surprised. We're so obsessed with keeping a full fridge, pantry, and freezer that we can't possibly eat everything we buy. And that means right now, you have food that's gone off and is rotting in the back of your fridge, freezer, or pantry. Do a complete check of each one, bin the food that's off, and if you find anything good that you're unlikely to eat for whatever reason, donate it.
Did I miss something? Did I get something completely wrong, in your opinion? Chime in, and let us know what you think should be thrown away today, and what you should actually keep forever.

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