trash bins

Do you have useless items—chipped mugs, rusty tools or old bubblegum lip gloss—cluttering your home?

Just about every house, apartment and condo in America contains some stuff that should be headed to the trash, donation bin or consignment shop. Here’s a room-by-room list of items that organizing experts say you should get rid of (and why).


Beauty products you don’t like: Do you cringe every time you see that $100 botanical night cream that makes your face break out? Buying beauty products can be a gamble, said professional organizer Amy Tokos, owner of Freshly Organized. “When you spend a lot of money on a product and you don’t like it, then you see it sitting in the cabinet all the time, you feel guilty,” she said. “When you get rid of it, the guilt goes away.”


Expired makeup: Old makeup can be a breeding ground for germs, so that ancient mascara is not only clumpy, but it could cause a nasty eye infection. Throw away any cosmetics that are past their prime, Tokos said.


Old magazines: If you’re saving a magazine for that one good article, you probably can find the same information online, Tokos said. “Just do a quick Google search.”

If you’re keeping magazines to read, figure out how much reading time you have each week and decide how much of it you want to devote to magazines, she said. Then set a deadline and, when it passes, recycle the magazines or donate them to your local library.

A dresser with sticky drawers: Unless you can get the drawers fixed so they slide easily, that cute vintage dresser should go, said professional organizer Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. “If the drawers don’t work well, things don’t make it into the drawers and then you have clutter,” she said.


Your prom dress: Unless you plan to wear it to a costume party, donate your old prom dress to a nonprofit organization, Adams recommends. “Frankly, most people’s old prom dresses no longer fit them,” she said. If it’s still in style, try


Shoes you wore once: A lot of women keep their wedding shoes for five years or so before finally deciding to part with them, Tokos said. “Old shoes are just taking up space,” she said. You can donate your old soles to a nonprofit group such as Soles4Souls.

Clothes that are wrong for you: You love that shirt you bought last year, but you never wear it because the cut or color doesn’t suit you. “If there’s something in your closet that you want to wear, but it’s just not working for you, toss it in your ‘donate box,’” Adams said.

Wire hangers: Wire hangers are flimsy and leave marks on clothes, Adams said. Take them back to the dry cleaner and invest in a set of sturdy matching hangers, she recommends.


The exotic spice you used once: Those juniper berries you bought five years ago to make a roast for the holidays? Toss them–along with any other old spices that have lost their flavor, Tokos recommends.


Old cookbooks: Unless they’re family heirlooms, most cookbooks can go, Tokos said. “A lot of people have old cookbooks they never open anymore because they find recipes online,” she said.

Dusty kitchen gadgets: It doesn’t matter if you paid $500 for that bread maker; if you’ve never baked a loaf, you should sell or donate the equipment, Adams said.

Attic, basement or shed

Expired smoke detectors: The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing smoke alarms after 10 years (or sooner if they stop working properly.) Old smoke detectors should be safely recycled or returned to the manufacturer.

Ancient paint: You probably have a quarter of a can of old paint you kept for touch-ups three wall colors ago. Get rid of it, Tokos recommends.

Stuff you’re saving for future grandkids: Do you have an attic full of old cribs, high chairs and car seats you’re saving for the day when your kids have kids? “With all the product and safety improvements, there’s probably going to be better stuff on the market when the grandkids arrive,” Adams said.

Home office

Financial records you no longer need: If you have utility bills circa 1999 or old cancelled checks cluttering up your home office, it’s time to let them go. If you have a lot of that kind of stuff, take it somewhere to be shredded. For example, Tokos said her local UPS store offers to shred the first five pounds for free.


Extra office supplies: Face it—you’ll never need 1,000 paper clips, 500 manila folders or five boxes of staples. “Many of us have an excessive amount of office supplies,” Adams said.

Devices from last year (or the previous decade): Do you still have your old digital camera, your PalmPilot or last year’s smartphone? “There’s so much technology that has become obsolete,” Adams said. Be sure to recycle your old gadgets, or look into selling them through websites like and

Allie Johnson