It’s a new year, new you—blah, blah, blah—you know the drill. But forget that goat yoga and olive oil cleanse. Instead, make your New Year’s resolution something that’s actually attainable—like a decluttered house!
OK, it might not seem so attainable if your holiday decorations are still up and you have scraps of gift wrap and cardboard boxes everywhere. Before you start feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of spending weekend after weekend purging, know this: Decluttering doesn’t have to take days on end or a visit from Marie Kondo. In fact, there are some very obvious things you can throw out without agonizing for a minute about whether it’s the right thing to do.
That’s why we’re launching a new series to help you give your home a total refresh, room by room. We’ll highlight what you can donate, trash, or sell to achieve ultimate organization goals in 2020. This week, we turn up the heat in the kitchen. Ready to get started? Grab a trash bag and check this handy list of things to toss, pronto.
1. Old spices
Photo by Curtis Lumber Ballston Spa
There are some things that can stay in the family kitchen for years, but spices just aren’t one of them. If the lids are covered in dust and you can’t remember the last time you used them, it’s probably a good indication they’re due to be tossed.
“When I recently replaced my parsley flakes, my daughter said, ‘I didn’t know parsley flakes were that green’—that’s when you know you’ve waited too long to replace your spices,” says Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving.” “For a few extra dollars, you can enjoy the full flavor [and color] of your spices.”
If that’s not enough to get you to purge your expired paprika, consider this disgusting reason: The longer your spices sit around, the more likely they are to be infested with bugs—yes, really! Blecch.
2. Ancient cleaning solutions
Besides the fact that storing lots of old chemicals can be dangerous, they’re also quite possibly useless once they’ve passed the expiration date.
“If a cleaning solution is ‘ancient,’ it’s best to dispose of it properly as the chemicals may no longer work as initially intended,” says Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Solutions.
Avoid nasty surprises, and read the labels on your cleaning solutions to find out how to properly dispose of them.
3. Plastic food containers
We’re looking at you, flimsy takeout containers. Unless you have a real use for every single item in your food containers cabinet, it might be time for a reckoning.
“A lot of time is wasted trying to find matching lids, and reheating leftovers in plastic can be unhealthy,” says Hannah Hearin, owner of Home Refreshment Professional Organizing. “I recommend that my clients get rid of the majority of their plastic Tupperware, leaving only the larger ones that aren’t stained, and purchase a set of glass Pyrex instead. Tupperware can typically be recycled, though my clients have also chosen to donate to those who may be in need.”
Donate your higher-quality plastic containers, and recycle single-use takeout containers. Trust us, the time you’ll save on searching for lids will far outweigh the time it takes to clean out this corner of the kitchen.
4. Broken or unused appliances
Photo by Figura Kitchens & Interiors
Plastic containers aren’t the only kitchen items we accumulate over time. There’s also all the small appliances taking up valuable space—without really earning their keep.
“Broken or unused appliances, like the fondue pot that was a pain to clean, are taking up valuable space under your cabinets,” says Hearin. “If these are in good working condition, you can donate them. If they’re broken, recycle.”
This also goes for the dehydrator and fancy (but overly complicated) coffee machine gathering dust under your sink. If you’re not using them or they don’t work, it’s time to reclaim that space.
5. Freezer-burned food
Freezer-burned food not only tastes awful, it also takes up space that could be used for things you actually plan on eating.
“Our kids love freezer clean-out day because it means they get to indulge in copious amounts of frozen desserts,” Wenzke says. “Take out your frozen meats, and plan your meals with them this week. If the food doesn’t look tempting to you this week, it won’t seem any more appealing to you next week or next month. If that’s the case, it’s time to toss that old frozen food.”
6. Expired pantry goods
Photo by Charmean Neithart Interiors
Much like your icicle-encrusted peas, if the food in the pantry doesn’t sound appealing now, chances are high it never will. Eating this stuff can also make you sick, because just like your perishables, the unopened stuff can go bad, too.
“Many of my clients find canned foods that are older than their children in elementary school,” Hearin says. “Keep your pantry with only fresh products that are within their consumable date, and you’ll save time by being able to take inventory before hitting the grocery store.”
7. Counter space killers
Unused bits and bobs eating up counter space make both cooking and cleaning a lot harder.
“Use the clothing rule: If you haven’t used it in a year, it should go,” says Julie Brooks, owner of Peaceful Place Organizers. “Be realistic: Are you ever going to have a ‘Downton Abbey’–style formal dinner party that would necessitate three sizes of wine glasses for 16 people?”
Keep the kitchen a clean workspace, storing items that are less frequently used elsewhere.
“I recommend setting up overflow kitchen storage, say, at the bottom of the basement stairs, for items which are only used quarterly or annually,” Brooks says. “Only things which are used once per week or more have earned their space on the countertop.”
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