25 things you have permission to throw away


The new year is an ideal time to get rid of clutter and start fresh. But for a lot of us, parting ways with our “stuff” can be difficult. It seems that one of the Laws of the Universe is that as soon as you throw out something, you will need it two weeks later. Still, getting rid of unused and obsolete items refreshes your home — and your psyche — so start 2017 with a clean slate. 

Plastic food containers: You have a cabinet full of mismatched plastic containers and lids. Throw them all in the recycling bin and start from scratch with a new set.

Takeout menus: They take up a lot of room, and don’t you just look online now, anyway?

Magazines: If you haven’t read them yet, you’re not going to. 

Old suitcases: I have a relative who has an entire bedroom filled with old suitcases, and I’m not talking about the cool vintage kind.  Donate these to thrift stores for people who can use them. 

Greeting cards: I’ve kept certain cards with meaning, like the one that my Grandpa sent me when I went away to college, but for the most part, don’t save them year after year.

Hangers: They multiply like rabbits in the closet. Get rid of any you don’t need.

Loose change: Obviously, don’t throw it away. Take it to a Coinstar machine: If you exchange it for an Amazon voucher, you don’t even have to pay a service fee. Or better yet, toss it all in the tzedakah box and donate it to a good cause. 

Old towels and blankets: Your local animal shelter will love them.

Outdated electronics: I have an old VCR that I still haven’t thrown out. This will be the year. Check with your city about environmentally friendly disposal.

Old wedding favors: This is one reason I don’t like wedding favors. You keep tacky tchotchkes on display because your friends’ names are on them. 

Random vases: Unless you’re a florist, you don’t need these space hoggers.

Old socks and underwear: If they’ve lost any stretch or have holes, say bye bye.

Old files and financials: After seven years, you can dispose of tax returns. And go through your file cabinets and clean house. See if there’s a community shredding event in your neighborhood where you can take files and dispose of them safely. (Culver City, for example, has one every month.)

Unused furniture: It’s difficult to sell unwanted furniture, so make peace with giving it away. People looking through the “free” listings on Craigslist will take anything.

Books you’ve already read: Donate gently read books to the library or a hospital. My neighborhood has several of those “Little Free Libraries” in people’s front yards, so I’ll sometimes drop off books in them.

Dead plants: If it’s too sad to throw away a dead plant, put it in the composting heap.

Dried flowers: No, they’re not pretty anymore.

Unused cookware: Scratched non-stick pots and dented saucepans take up valuable space in the cabinets. Invest in cookware that lasts.

Extra cables and wires: We’re all guilty of holding onto them just in case. In case of what? That you’re going to open a Radio Shack franchise out of your home?

Promotional T-shirts: These are not fashion.

Empty boxes: Use them to load everything you’re throwing out.

Old IKEA tools: Every time you assemble a piece of furniture from IKEA, you get a new Allen wrench. You don’t need to keep the old ones.

Abandoned remote controls: Do they turn on anything? Are there even batteries in them?

Extra buttons: They come with new clothes, but have you ever replaced a button?

And finally: Anything that you can’t get rid of because “you got such a deal on it.”


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

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