It’s here, that time of year when we feel the urge to let go of things. It’s usually pounds off our bodies. But did you know that letting go of household items feels as freeing as dropping weight from your body?
Last spring Reader’s Digest featured 12 of my ideas in their article Time to Declutter: 43 Things to Get Rid of in the Next 43 Days. When it comes to getting organized, there’s no easier place to start.
If you’re looking for a weekend project to kick-start your new year’s makeover, try one of these easy-breezy ideas. Let’s review:
Did you order online last year? Chances are you still have the shipping box in your garage or closet. It’s OK to hold onto an original box for a month or two. But once that item becomes a member of your family, that original box isn’t important anymore and can go. Studies show that kids are innately drawn to boxes–they are a tool for improving cognitive and language development. I think this intuitive sense carries over into our adult lives and we are drawn to boxes the same way we were as kids. But storing cardboard isn’t playing–and it eats up valuable real estate. So do yourself a favor and release and let go.
When was the last time you gathered up loose batteries to see if they have any juice? Most of us have more than a few hanging about our in drawers. Test each one with a multimeter, your remote control, or try your luck with the bounce test. The bounce test won’t tell you if a battery is dead or not, but it will tell you whether the battery is fresh. Batteries have expiration dates, so check that info too. And when it’s time to let go, Duracell’s site says, “Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste.” And Energizer’s site confirms that rechargeable batteries should be recycled according to US federal guidelines. Visit Call2Recycle.org to locate your nearest recycling center.
Did you get a new phone or tablet this past year? If you’ve stopped using a piece of tech that was once your best friend–and it’s still lingering in your home–don’t sweat it. It’s hard to say goodbye to things we know still hold value. Gather up your unused tech and ask yourself if you’ll use it again. If not, post it on a seller’s site to earn a few bucks, donate it, or gift it to a friend.
Do magazines come to your door, or do you grab them on the fly? If so, review your collection and clean your slate. Paper is the number one item that clutters desks, and magazines are often deep in that huddle. Personally, I toss magazines older than four to six months, to keep space open for the fresh and new. And if you find you aren’t reading your magazines at all, then stop your subscriptions. As I shared with Good Housekeeping, try to be more conscious about the paper you bring inside.
Fancy dress bags
Did you buy a suit or fancy dress last year? Some stores pack clothes in dress bags to protect the merchandise–the bag helps to ensure that your fancy duds get home safe. But once we hang our new suit or dress in the closet, these bags end up smushed into closet corners or unused on shelves. A dress bag is no different than a shopping bag–it’s a transportation device for your purchase, so let it go. And if you can’t part with a snazzy bag, keep it for future use. But keep your stockpile low. Just because something comes to us for free doesn’t mean we have to keep it in our home.
Old papers and notes
Did you plan a project last year, or take a trip? If so, you likely have build up of project papers and notes hanging about your home. Project planning almost always involves paper and sticky-notes with dates, numbers, sites, and ideas about what to do and where to go. The info we gather during planning is important, but when the project is done, this info is old news. Do yourself a favor and let old paper go.
Do you have a collection of single socks at home? There comes a time when a sock has been single just a little bit too long. It’s OK to hold on to an unmatched sock while you wait for its mate to show up. But a sock that’s been single for over a year needs to reconsider its options. When it comes to closets, space is precious, and lingering single socks have their way of getting in the way. So release your single sock buddies, or get creative (40 Creative Crafts to Make With Old Socks) and give them a second chance.
Did you purchase a trending book last year? Did you actually read it? Choosing a book used to require a trip to the store. But now that books are a click away, they tend to pile up before we can read them. Knowing we spent money on something we didn’t use often triggers guilt issues, so we hang on just because. Sit down and identify why you bought each book, then send the ones you don’t plan to read soon packing, off to a friend, colleague or book donation organization.
Fast food extras
Eat out much? If so, check your kitchen, purse and car – you may have a pile-up of fast food extras. You know the suspects–plastic forks, napkins, salt and pepper packets, condiments, and straws. Some people take these items home intentionally. While others let these freebies happen to them. Either way, these small items build up drawers and bags until we have way more than we need, or will ever use. Do yourself a favor and go on a hunt, and weed these ne’er-do-wells out.
Food storage containers
While you are at it, look for a pile up of food storage containers too. Like fancy dress bags, food storage containers are designed to get food home, and nothing more. Review what you own, then hang onto the ones you’ll realistically use during the week—like for lunch or leftovers—and release the rest. Or invest in glass containers, which don’t have the chemical risk that plastics do, and start a new habit of recycling what comes home. Keep your kitchen organized–and working for you.
Plastic shopping bags
Agreed, plastic shopping bags come in handy, but that doesn’t mean you should keep an endless reserve. Calculate how many you use in a typical week–from tossing trash to carrying your lunch–and release the rest. As I always teach, do the math. It’s easy to get caught up keeping things that come home for free. But if you are struggling with volume issues at home, you may wish to re-evaluate how many bags you choose to save.
Unused speciality foods
Have you been experimenting with new foods this year? If so, you might have a stray bottle of specialty sauce or spice hanging out in your fridge or on your kitchen shelves. It’s inspiring to cook a new food, but sometimes items don’t get used or we lose our taste for the cuisine. Remove ingredients from the back of your cupboard that you only used and once donate them to friends or a local food bank.
Are you ready to let go of any of these items? Tell me what you’re tossing in the comments below!