During a busy season of life, non-essential household tasks like decluttering tend to fall by the wayside. It’s one of those things that’s easy to put off while you have more pressing matters to attend to, and then suddenly you look around and realize your apartment resembles something off the TV show Hoarders. Instead of putting that decluttering session on your “to-do someday” list only to forget about it as the weeks go by, why not just knock it out right now?
I get it: Not knowing where to start can make the whole process feel daunting, especially for those of us with more than the optimal amount of clutter. Instead of getting discouraged before you even start the project, focus your attention on your biggest clutter hot spots. Below you’ll find a list of the top 16 things to purge from your home, all of which can be tossed or donated without too much thought. Start with these key areas to make decluttering a breeze.
1. Expired Makeup and Skincare
We all know it’s important to get rid of old makeup (and if you don’t, get to it!), but it’s easy to forget that skincare has an expiration date, too. Some products, like sunscreen in particular, can basically become null and void once they’re past the expiration date. Check the labels on your skincare products, and keep a record of when they were purchased to make this step easier.
2. Expired Medications
Over time, medication can decrease in effectiveness if it’s kept for too long. Most medicines have the expiration date printed right on the package, but if not, Google the medication to see when it’s recommended to toss out.
According to the FDA, the safest way to dispose of medications is by dropping them off at a drug take-back location. If there aren’t any near you, you can flush medications on this list or follow these guidelines if they’re not on the flush list.
3. Extra Items in Your Shower
Most of us like to have a few options when it comes to our shower items, but what about all those things you’ve stopped using that still take up space on those extremely small shower ledges and organizers? From half-used body washes to almost-empty shaving creams to skincare products you swore you’d use but don’t, it’s time to toss the rejects and make space for what you actually use.
4. Old Sheets and Bedding
Buying new duvet covers and sheets to brighten up (or cozy up, depending on the season) your space is fun, but what happens when your closet is overstuffed with sheets and bedding you’ll likely never use again? It’s good to keep a few extras (especially for guests!), but an entire linen closet full of bedding can be pared down.
5. Canned Goods You Won’t Use
I’ll admit that my eyes are bigger than my stomach sometimes, so I end up buying canned beans, fruits, or veggies thinking I’ll “get to them eventually” but I never do. To streamline my stash, I like to go through my canned goods by looking through recipes I want to try on Pinterest. If nothing I want to make calls for a can of peaches (and I know myself—I won’t eat them on their own), I know it’s time to donate them.
6. Broken Pens
You know the frustration of reaching for a pen to find that it doesn’t work? So then you grab another and that one also doesn’t work? I’m known to toss them to the side (pens come back to life sometimes) rather than just throwing them away right then and there. Eliminate that frustration by decluttering your pen stash. Grab a piece of scrap paper and make sure all of your writing utensils are smooth and inky.
7. Books You Won’t Read
Whether it’s been on your bookshelf for years and still doesn’t strike your fancy or you know you’ll never re-read it, consider these books past their shelf life. Go through your book stash and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose anymore. Of course, books can function as decor, too, but if they don’t make your shelves prettier, they can go.
8. Expired Herbs and Spices
When was the last time you went through your spice rack? Although spices often come in small packages, they can expire more quickly than you realize—and might derail your cooking process if you go to use cumin in a recipe and realize it expired eight months ago. If they stop smelling like they normally do, it’s time for them to go.
9. Excess Clutter on Your Countertops
If you often notice your kitchen counters, desk, vanity, or bathroom counters get cluttered easily, you’re probably setting the same items on them over and over again—think mail, your skincare stash, notebooks, dishes, cords, and more. You might not be ready to throw those things away, but you can get rid of the clutter by giving them all a permanent home, such as a dedicated basket or a spot in a cabinet.
10. Next Season’s Clothes
While it might sound tempting to declutter your coats, sweaters, and scarves right now, it’s actually a better plan (for your wallet and your wardrobe) to focus on the items you’ll wear in the upcoming season. Do those eight off-the-shoulder blouses you bought two summers ago still fit your style in 2024? Do you like the denim shorts you bought last year, or are they uncomfortable now? This will help you plan your wardrobe for the upcoming season. When fall rolls around, that’s when you’ll want to see if your staple winter items from this past year still make the cut. You might be bored of your sweater collection by now, but after putting them away for months, they might bring you joy again!
Also, this is a great idea if you like to sell your clothes on sites like Poshmark or in a consignment shop. People are looking for spring and summer pieces right now, so these items will likely sell better than a pair of tartan trousers.
11. Storage Containers Without Lids
We all have a stash of meal prep containers that have somehow lost their lids. If you can’t find the matching lid, wash the container and put it in the donation pile or determine whether it can be recycled. This is also a great project to help you start organizing the cabinets—win, win!
12. CDs and DVDs
OK, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I haven’t listened to a CD since 2014. While some might hold sentimental value (me @ all of my signed pop-punk albums from Warped Tour), others were likely purchased on a whim and then forgotten about. Now that we’ve got Spotify at our fingertips, it’s time to say goodbye to your old CDs. The same goes for DVDs. If it’s a movie you can watch on Netflix or another streaming service, goodbye.
13. Earrings Without a Match
I have a tendency to keep single earrings even though I’ve lost their match. IDK, maybe I’ll find it one day? Let this be your sign that it’s time to give up the chase and just get rid of those unmatched pieces.
14. Old Paperwork
Keeping a folder (or a few) of all the paperwork you might need at some point is a great idea, but those folders can get overloaded quickly. Go through what you have and really prioritize what you might need. A bank statement from 2012 might not serve you when you’re applying for a loan, just as you probably don’t need receipts for furniture you’ve had for years.
15. Accessories You Don’t Wear Often
How often do you go through your hair accessories, jewelry, scarves, and hats? While you might go through your clothes often, those other items can easily get passed by when you’re decluttering. If you only wear the same five necklaces out of your whole jewelry stash or if your hat collection is getting out of control, give those pieces a look and decide whether to donate, sell, or toss them.
16. Anything You Haven’t Used in Six Months
This is where you can expand your decluttering efforts to all those little odds and ends you just don’t need. These may not be items you think of immediately, but pay attention to what you use and love and what’s been sitting in the same place for a long time. The mug that just doesn’t hold as much coffee as you need in the morning, the candle that always burns weirdly, the lipstick you never quite like on your skin tone—these items hide in plain sight and take up precious space in your home. Consider this your sign that it’s time to say goodbye.