It’s been a crazy year, and if recent events have put your hoarding habits into overdrive, well, you’d be forgiven. After a weird spring and even weirder summer, you’re not the only one who’s been compiling random stacks of stuff “just in case.”
Takeout containers, Amazon boxes, used paper masks, and even wooden chopsticks are among the offenders that have taken up seemingly permanent residency in our homes.
That’s why we spoke with home organization and tiny-living experts from all over the country to bring you this list of things that it’s time to ditch. If you’re ready to say buh-bye to your apocalypse stockpile, here are eight things to toss, for the ultimate pandemic purge.
1. Office clothing
Summer is always a good time to go through old clothing, and that’s especially true this season. With so many of us working from home, you may find your closet overflowing with things you can’t imagine ever wearing again—even when (or if) the office does open up.
“Going through clothing before each season creates awareness of the items you already own, but may have forgotten,” says home organizer Katie Barton, of Cabin Lane. “Trash any clothing that has holes or stains and sell or donate the rest.”
If you have a lot to get rid of, Barton says she’s had great success selling clothing in “bundles” through Facebook Marketplace or in local consignment shops.
2. Excess canned goods
Remember when it felt as if we might never be able to shop for fresh veggies again?
With grocery stores mostly back to full stock, it’s time to get rid of some of those extra canned goods you’ve been storing these past few months—especially the expired or unappetizing ones (we see you, store-brand SpaghettiOs).
“Your pantry is probably looking a bit in need of help right now,” says Jen Breitegan, owner of Organizenvy.
“How many cans of crushed pineapple or kidney beans do you have left? I’m betting quite a few. Be honest about the canned and boxed items you bought in a panic but your family didn’t eat, and then donate them to local food banks.”
Donate: Find your closest food bank with Feeding America.
3. All the takeout freebies
When restaurants went to takeout and delivery only, it wasn’t just the excess food that filled our kitchens. Free utensils, plastic bags, condiment packets, and the takeout containers they all came in—and we’re betting you still have quite a few of those things lying around.
“I’ve heard of people hoarding paper napkins and plastic eating utensils they receive with takeout orders,” says Breitegan. “Again, be honest about how many sets of chopsticks your family really needs, and see if you can cut your stash by at least half.”
Recycle: Free up some of your cabinet space by recycling any takeout extras you (realistically) won’t ever need.
4. Pandemic reads
We all had high ambitions when the stay-at-home orders started—like finally reading Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” or learning how to expertly debone quail, thanks to a library of recent cookbooks. But if all those hefty volumes have been sitting gathering dust for months, it may be time to store, sell, or donate them.
“Books take up lots of space, and can start to smell and leave a musty scent in a room if left for too long,” says Christine Wilcox of LettingGoLivingMore.
“I love the feel of a real book in my hand, but I only keep those that are really important to me. Everything else goes to the thrift shop for someone else to enjoy.”
Donate: Go through your book collection and put together a box for donation to your local library or favorite (used) bookseller.
5. Items from unfulfilled hobbies
Much like the books, you also probably had high hopes for the many ambitious new hobbies you’d take on during lockdown. Knitting? Guitar? Competitive Quidditch? Snow-globe making? If you’re more of a Netflix all-star, like us, it might be time to own up to it and free up the space for more useful things.
“If you’ve been able to leave the house to play a sport and still haven’t done so, maybe it’s time to accept that the dusty tennis racket is never going to get used,” says Wilcox. “Sell old sporting equipment or donate to a local school, and use the space for the new hobbies in your life.”
Sell or donate: Post your stuff on Facebook Marketplace to sell, or consider making a donation to your local youth center or school.
6. Busted art and office supplies
“It’s not uncommon for parents to end up with baskets full of broken crayons, eraserless pens, and markers missing the caps,” says Barton.
“Throw out the things that don’t work, so that you know what needs to be replaced. This is also a good rainy-day activity for kids.”
Trash: Do yourself (and little ones) a favor by purging any busted office and art supplies, and free up some of that at-home office space in time for the school year ahead.
7. Old cosmetics
If your former beauty regimen has gone the au naturel route in the past few months, it’s probably a good time to reassess which cosmetics you actually need in your bathroom, and which ones are ready to be tossed.
“Go through old makeup, especially anything that’s expired,” says Lindsey Maxwell, co-founder at Where You Make It. “You might not want to waste it, but using expired makeup could cause breakouts and other skin issues.”
Recycle: Pull out your old makeup and cosmetics, and then send those little plastic tubs straight to the recycling bin.
8. Delivery packaging
Since Amazon and other online stores have been getting so much of our business this past few months, it’s worth taking a minute to assess how much packaging you may still have lying around. Bubble Wrap and cardboard boxes won’t really help in any emergency situation we can think of, so it’s best to just toss them now.
“It may seem wasteful to throw away perfectly good boxes, but as they collect, infestation can occur,” says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer for The Cleaning Authority. “Mice, bed bugs, and even raccoons can find their way to any appealing pile of trash, turning your garage into their home.”
Recycle: Take all those empty boxes and throw them into the recycling bin ASAP!
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