For many, the new year signals a chance to start fresh and create new goals for the 365 days ahead. When considering the aspects of your life that deserve a clean slate, why not start with your house, the place where you likely spend most of your time?
During the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s natural for your home to fill up with household items you no longer have use for (think expired beauty products, old credit card statements, and clothes that no longer fit). While you can dispose of those items whenever you want, there’s no better time to do so than at the start of the new year, when many people—including your loved ones—are beginning anew. “Letting go of excess is actually about reclaiming control over the sacred space we call home,” says organising expert Tamar Prager, founder of tamarprager.com and host of the podcast The Paper Weight. “For many of us looking for a fresh start, the new year provides a natural time in the cycle of our lives to shift, to change direction, and to find a new perspective.”
There are many areas of your home to consider when beginning the clean-out process. From large rooms like the kitchen to smaller nooks such as cabinets and storage containers, decluttering your residence can feel like a huge undertaking. “Start with one space at a time,” says Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder of NEAT Method. “We always suggest starting with a smaller space first, such as a hall or linen closet or secondary bathroom, so you can get the hang of the process and feel a sense of accomplishment.” To make tackling this goal as stress-free as possible, we spoke to the experts, who helped us develop a checklist of common household items you should consider letting go of in the new year.
Although it may feel disconcerting to discard tax information or medical records, eliminating documents you no longer have use for is a necessary step towards decluttering your home. “In an age where almost all the information we want is accessible on the internet, we don’t need to hold onto papers and documents year after year,” explains Prager. As a rule of thumb, she recommends discarding anything that’s expired or can easily be found online, which includes expired warranties, tax documents older than seven years, and your child’s schoolwork. She also says to dispose of financial documents, including old bank, credit card, and mortgage statements, which are usually accessible electronically. Shred any documents with personal information, such as medical papers pertaining to an illness or hospitalisation that happened a decade ago. Miscellaneous items like old takeout menus, junk mail, merchandise flyers, and coupons can also be tossed. “If you wish to hold onto anything, you can always scan items and store them on a cloud-based service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft’s SharePoint,” Prager notes.
Damaged or Duplicate Kitchenware
According to Prager, “the simple path to opening up space in your kitchen is to set a very high bar for what gets to stay.” She recommends keeping items that are used often or have a specific sentimental value; everything else can be discarded or donated. Food storage containers are a good place to start, as they have the tendency to pile up throughout the year. Malaika Lubega, owner of Huza Home Concepts, recommends discarding any plasticware that is stained or missing lids. Additionally, she says to consider donating duplicates or items that essentially serve the same purpose, including cooking utensils, knives, and servingware. Of course, in most kitchens, there are some items that go unused simply because something else is preferred, such as the mug you never touch or the pan that has just a few too many scratches. Those items may be donated, while any broken or damaged pieces can be tossed. “Just because they were used and enjoyed in the past, doesn’t mean they need to stay in your home now that they’ve lost their value,” Prager says.
Expired Food and Pantry Items
Now is the time to dispose of that expired bottle of hot sauce in your fridge or the stale jar of oregano hiding in the back of your pantry. Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space, says to conduct a good inspection of your pantry, which will reveal expired or near-expired products. She notes that you should research what “best before” dates really mean before ditching certain items, as some may be just fine. Then, comb through your refrigerator and look for any mouldy or limp produce, condiments that have gone bad, and anything else that appears less than ideal for consumption. Maker says to go through your spice cabinet, as well. “Spices should be refreshed a couple of times per year,” she explains.
Expired Beauty and Bathroom Products
Your bathroom is a hub for half-filled, expired, and rarely used items. Start by going through your cosmetic and skincare products. When considering these formulas, Maker says to discard anything that smells or looks off, including ones that have separated or changed in colour. “Look for the small logo on your product that looks like a lid with a jar open; it will have a number and that number tells you how long a product is good for after you’ve opened it,” she explains. Items you love and use regularly can be kept—everything else should go, Maker notes. In addition to cosmetics, shampoo and conditioner bottles with one or two pumps left in them can be discarded, as can unused hair products and expired medications. Lubega recommends dropping old pills off at your pharmacy, explaining that most have a drug take-back program.
Clothes You No Longer Wear
Downsizing your wardrobe can be difficult. “Even if we are honest with ourselves about no longer fitting into a bunch of clothing, we may not feel ready to part [with these pieces] because we’re hopeful about our own changes,” explains Prager. However, she explains that this way of thinking hinders acceptance of the present. For that reason, and for the sake of saving room in your home, it’s important to comb through your closet as a step in the decluttering process. Hagmeyer encourages people to get rid of or donate clothes that are worn out, frequently overlooked, don’t fit, or gifted, but never used.
Worn Towels and Linens
Don’t neglect your linen closet when you streamline your home in the new year. Lubega says now is a great time to go through stained or tired items; she recommends donating old blankets and towels to animal shelters rather than simply tossing them into the trash. While you’re at it, go through any extra bedding you have lying around and see what needs to be washed or replaced.
Junk Drawer Items
Most houses have a designated drawer filled with miscellaneous items, ranging from old cell phones to stray pens and pencils. “Usually, this is the space where everything without a home ends up,” Prager explains. “Sometimes, they include useful items such as flashlights and batteries, and often, the household items that we never touch, but can’t seem to part with.” Maker suggests rebranding this space in your home as the place where items with utility live, so you avoid the notion that any old “junk” can go inside. “It has a deliberate purpose,” she explains. Discard ink-less pens, dead batteries, empty tape dispensers, broken phone chargers, and other unusable items. Additionally, experts recommend downsizing multiples of certain items, like paper clips and rubber bands.
Old or Broken Toys
If your child’s toy box is overflowing, the new year is a great time to go through it and pick out any damaged or outgrown play-things. Once your kids have settled into the new goodies they received during the winter holidays, consider donating or giving away the old ones. Additionally, Lubega recommends discarding your animal’s toys and stuffed animals that have been lovingly destroyed over the past year.
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