Often times when we think we need to be better at organizing, what we really need is less. When I start thinking to myself that I need more storage space, or a better shelving system, or more baskets, or more drawer thingies, I know it means things are piling up and it’s time to first turn to decluttering. Some of those needs might actually be true, but it won’t be as obvious what organizational tools are really necessary until we get rid of the things we don’t want or need anymore.
While some of the items on this list are an obvious toss, others can definitely be donated or perhaps motivate you to have a garage sale or take to Craigslist. Separate into appropriate piles, and free yourself from this stuff right now!
1 | Clothing that’s damaged or doesn’t fit anymore
Permanent stains, rips, holes, and whatever damages have kept you from wearing it or make you feel not so great (don’t forget jackets, socks, shoes, and underwear!) There’s no reason to hang on to these items. Same with clothing that no longer fits- donate if it’s still in good condition.
*A note on saving clothing that’s too small hoping that you’ll fit into it again- I used to hang onto a lot of clothing for this reason, and while some use those small pair of jeans to measure their progress and can tell a really inspiring story later showing that they can fit into them again, this was not my reality. Instead, this clothing took up precious space and occupied my mind with the past. Free yourself and your space, look to the future, and treat yourself to a sweet new pair of jeans that make your butt look even more cute, whether or not you reach your health/fitness goals (you deserve a pair of jeans you feel good in).
2 | Wire hangers
The ones from the dry cleaners. Assuming you had enough hangers already, collect the wire hangers and bring them back to the cleaners to reuse. Keeping them inadvertently opens the door to expanding your closet and clutter instead of keeping it contained to the number of hangers you have.
3 | Old linens and towels
For us this included old discolored bed sheets we had since we moved in together (OLD) and rough towels with bad bleach stains.
4 | Expired meds and toiletries
Meds will indicate an expiration date and sometimes toiletries do as well, but the ones that don’t are usually the travel size/sample items or the stuff you stole from hotel rooms. If you haven’t used them in over a year, you don’t need them!
5 | Books you won’t read and old magazines
If I had the space for a large library to keep all my books and lend them out to friends, I would, but ’tis a fantasy. There are also some books I’ve held on to where I know I’ll never read or pick them up again. Keeping my favorites, donating the others.
6 | DVD’s and CD’s
Most everything can be streamed or found online, so we haven’t touched our DVD collection in years and find it pretty much useless. Same with our DVD player, which we no longer have. The only CD’s we’ve held onto are for sentimental reasons.
7 | Damaged or no longer loved jewelry
For me this meant old costume jewelry where I’ve sweat off the metal plating, items I swore I’d fix but never did, earrings I never found the missing side for, and things I wouldn’t buy if I saw them in a store today. Sentimental items have immunity though.
8 | Handbags, tote bags, clutches, and wallets you don’t use
It occurred to me a little late that I collected these accessories but would end up using the same one or two regularly out of convenience and because they were my very favorites. Everything else was just collecting dust and eventually ended up no longer being my style. This might very well be a case of personal style, and for myself I much prefer having just a few timeless pieces than having a wide variety.
9 | Pens and markers that no longer work
Easy to forget about, and kind of fun to go through and test them all. Sometimes you go so long without using some of them that they dry up.
10 | Gift wrap you’re not going to use
During the holidays, I noticed gift wrap in the closet that I hadn’t used in years either because it was a small scrap or it was smashed by the other gift wrap. Recycling was much better than thinking I’d repurpose the crushed and creased paper for an unknown reason that I never figured out.
11 | Projects in various stages you’re probably not going to complete
Usually when something has been laying around for a while, it’s because we’re not excited about it. Unfinished projects or ones you’re trying to salvage are no good sitting there for you to trip on everyday. Be honest about whether you’re ever going to complete the project, if it’s worth your time, or the end result will last.
12 | Old makeup and beauty products
If you haven’t used it in a long time and can’t remember when you got it, it should definitely be tossed. If you do remember and it’s been more than a year without using it, toss it. Aside from the bacteria build-up, it’s a simple matter of not keeping things you don’t use. Don’t forget nail polish is included in this.
13 | Excess mugs
These tend to collect over time in the kitchen and at a certain point it makes sense that two people don’t need a combined total of 27 mugs. We’d never have that many people over either.
14 | Kitchen gadget duplicates
Same here, why do we need 4 spatulas and 7 wooden spoons? We don’t!
15 | Expired pantry items
Herbs, spices, sauces, dry goods, all those things that are really easy to forget about and think that they last forever.
16 | Old and unused electronics
Digital cameras, iPhones, iPods, abandoned laptops, things you haven’t used in a long time that you can cash in, sell, or recycle.
17 | Unnecessary furniture and decor
We had a bench since the day we moved in here and since we’ve replaced it with chairs, it has sat in the corner “in case I might need it” which has happened maybe once in the past few years.
Extra throw pillows have a similar story (save the covers if removable, pare down to just the different sized inserts needed).
18 | Packaging
I’m crazy for beautiful packaging and some boxes have luckily repurposed themselves into organization tools, but most others take up space and never see the light of day. Packaging from electronics can also feel difficult to toss, but if it’s past the return period and you’re not going to resell, get rid of it.
19 | Art and craft scraps
It feels pretty good when that little piece of ribbon I saved finally comes into use, but that very very very rarely happens and requires me remembering every little scrap there is. I’ve repeatedly concluded that I would’ve rather not lived with all the scraps just to have that one very rare moment.
20 | Unused decorations
After a full year of seasons and holidays have passed, I like to assess if any decorations went unused and will ever be used again. I came across candle holders I last used for Christmas three years ago thinking I might use them again, but they are no longer loved and will be donated.
Are you currently in purge mode too? What else would you add to this list?