Books,  Clutter,  Organizing,  Spring Cleaning

Spring Decluttering with an Organizing Pro: 20 Items You Can Quickly Donate or Toss This Weekend

It’s no secret—I looove me some organized spaces. That doesn’t mean every square inch of my house is organized, but I’m working on it. 

Disaster areas usually elevate stress and organized spaces usually usher in peace. But sometimes getting started is so overwhelming some people don’t even know where to begin. 

Been there?

After decluttering and organizing different spaces for years, a friend and I decided to turn our love for order into a business. What we’ve learned after being in our clients’ closets, kids’ rooms, pantries, garages, offices, laundry rooms, and linen closets could fill a book.

But here are the top declutterable things we consistently see.

You’re sitting down, right? This one might get a little dicey, so buckle up. And if you need a new decluttering motto, you can have mine: ruthless.

  1. User Manuals: Startin’ off with a bang and you know this one hurts. These booklets not only take up space, the odds of you perusing the pages of how to use your microwave are slim. But the best reason? Every single thing you need to know about every single appliance you own is online. Recycle those babies and take back that drawer.
  1. Old Receipts: Bought an expensive TV last month? Save the receipt if it’s not from Costco. Bought a cheap candle three years ago? Toss the receipt for sure. Can’t read the ink on the receipt from 2014? Neither will the clerk at the mystery store when you try to return the mystery item.
  1. Extra Cables/Chargers from Old Electronics: When an old cord gets separated from an old electronic, chances are they’ll never reunite. Donate or send it to electronic recycling before it’s too old to ever be wanted or needed. Speaking of old electronics…
  1. Old Phones: I currently own three old phones. One’s for sale online, and the others are waiting for me to get my act together and post them. Here’s how I decide where each phone goes: find the average selling price on Ebay, decide if it’s worth my time to sell it, and then either post it for sale or donate it to electronic recycling. Whew—I’m re-motivated now.
  1. Expired Meds: Still holding on to that last Percocet from your 2006 knee surgery in case you have another knee surgery? Besides the fact that it lost its potency three elections ago, your next surgeon will most definitely be prescribing you new meds. Bye-bye.
  1. Gift Boxes: Ugh. Why is it so painful to get rid of sturdy boxes? Here’s how to know if it stays or goes: tiny jewelry box from Mervyn’s? Gone. (Stores evaporated in 2009.) If you use sturdy boxes to wrap gifts and they’re in excellent condition, you may keep three. Okay, four. (*decluttering my boxes now*)
  1. Unused Craft Supplies: Aaaand now we’re hittin’ nerves. I scrapbooked and made cards a dozen years ago. Then life got busier and my supplies got lonely. I weeded out a bunch, but still have good intentions to start again. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. If someone held my feet to the crafting fire, I could probably whittle my supply down even more. You could too. Let’s do this!
  1. Business Cards: While this is a safe space to admit you still collect and store them, I highly recommend you toss those paper rectangles. Think you’ll need the info in the future? Take a pic of the card, or add the person as a new contact in your phone. But can you even remember who that guy is and which conference you attended where you met? Adios, Oscar from Oregon.
  1. Florist Vases: Beautiful, cute, gorgeous vases exist. Do your flowers a favor and get rid of the boring vase you got from the floral delivery in the 90s. Also, if you only get/buy flowers twice a year, maybe 13 vases is too many. Pick a few faves, donate the rest.
  1. Mobile-deposited Checks: Online opinions of when you can shred these vary from 5 days to 2 weeks and longer. Once checks clear your bank though, there’s no need to keep them. Have a shred party and be free. Or do like we did in Mexico: big Baja bonfire, baby!
  1. Old Condiments & Their Matching Packets: Can’t find an expiration date but remember using it during quarantine? Pitch it. Besides, crusty spouts are gross. And the baby versions we lovingly bring home and store for way too long? Use ‘em or lose ‘em.
  1. Lid-less Tupperware: Take them out, match them up, recycle the solos. Plastic containers exist to help you, but if potty words fly every time you put leftovers away, it’s time to declutter.
  1. Expired Food: This is by far the number one thing we toss when organizing pantries. It’s fine when clients want to save unopened crackers that expired last week, but when we discover sauces from 2015? That’s a no. Frustrated with your pantry? Do a date check and reclaim that shelf space. 
  1. Takeout Menus: Besides the fact that your favorite Italian place probably updated their menu in the past five years, all their offerings live online. Yes, all of them. Say “arrivederci” to Leonardo’s flyer and log on to his website instead.
  1. Too Big or Too Small Clothing: If it’s more than two sizes in either direction, there’s a good chance it’ll be out of style when you wear it next. Also, keeping too-big clothes is kinda saying you’ll probably get back into them. It might feel scary to donate that safety net, but they’re messing with your mind and I promise you won’t miss them. You can do it!
  1. VHS Tapes & DVDs: These take up such valuable real estate. Plus, do you even have a VCR anymore? I went through our DVDs a few years ago; if it was available to stream, to the thrift store it went. Still hoping your copy of The Little Mermaid will be your golden ticket? Unless you possess the original artwork that was first released and then banned, it probably won’t. Check Ebay, then take back all that space from storing bulky tapes.
  1. Loner Socks: Did you lose the matching one last week? Keep it and wait for the other to emerge. If it’s been a year and you’re still holding out hope though, it’s time to move on. Use it to dust or toss it, but please, for the love of every thrift store and missionary on the planet, do not donate one sock. Ever. Like, e-v-e-r.  #psa
  1. Books You Won’t Read or Loan: This one’s tough, especially for writers and authors. Yes, I decorate with a few charming, jacket-less hardbacks, but I need to remember this for the rest: if I’d only give three stars, odds are I won’t read them again. Find a Little Free Library in your area and let someone else enjoy them.
  1. Old Makeup, Nail Polish & Hair Products You Hate: I know the feeling of regretting a purchase and storing product I spent a good amount of money on. We keep thinking we’ll use it again, right? But if you hated “Funny Bunny Pink” when you bought it in 2018, I’m betting you won’t love it in 2023. You know what to do.
  1. Chipped/Cracked Mugs: I’m a sucker for pottery mugs, but once there’s a crack, it’s a free invitation for bacteria. Also, cutting your lip on a chipped mug is no bueno. When one of my favorites was no longer able to perform its original duties, I retired it to pen holder status.

Ready to be ruthless? Don’t feel overwhelmed or think you need to do all of these. Just pick one or two and go for it. Your casa will thank you!

Now tell me in the comments… where do you want to start? Any questions? I’m happy to help.

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  • Laura Naslund Taggart

    Love this, Carrie! I’m in a women’s group and we are reading John Mark Comer’s book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Julie Wollan sent us all your blog on decluttering. Do you live in my house??? So good. I see summer projects! Hope you and the family are well! Laura

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my goodness… that book has been in my Amazon cart for a while now, and you are the third or fourth friend who has told me that they’re reading it! Totally forgot that you know Julie. Small world. How nice of her to forward my decluttering blog post! Haha–I’ve never seen your house, but striking a chord (or hitting a nerve) means you’re in good company. All of our houses are probably due for a few summer projects. Hope yours are productive and awesome! If you feel so inclined, I highly recommend taking before-and-after pics. Doesn’t mean you ever have to show them to anyone or post them, but dramatic progress is motivating!

  • Jen Palo

    Carrie, I smiled and marveled a lot at this one. You hit on many of our trouble spots. Thanks for the humorous encouragement to let go!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Haha–my pleasure. Smiling and marveling is a great combo. 🙂 Thanks for reading, friend.

  • Shelley

    My junk drawers have been mocking me for a few months now. They’re on my summer to-do list for sure.
    Already mentioned above, I see, but I also wanted to be sure people knew meds need to be disposed of properly. Every time a TV show or movie character flushes meds down a toilet I scream at the screen, “nooo!!!!” ????????
    Also, do women’s shelters still accept old phones? I remember that being a thing for a while, but don’t know if that’s actually helpful as technology changes so quickly.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Yes, I was going to say all that about meds in my post, but didn’t want to get into the weeds about details I don’t know. Not sure about women’s shelters still accepting old phones, but I’m sure you could just call and ask. Nice of you to think of that! Good luck with the drawers, and make sure you take before & after pics. Those are the best!

  • Nancy Bramlett

    Thanks, Carrie for you for this fun take on this “pain”full subject. I think I’m going to need to find a buddy to hold my hand and remind me that I will be ok 🙂

    • Carrie Talbott

      Haha… everything is definitely going to be okay! Honestly, the only way I can ever do decluttering and organizing projects in my own house is to start small. Maybe print out my list and do the easiest one. Once you see success it will make you want to do another one. You’ve got this and I’m here to help! Feel free to ask any question.

  • Miguel

    Vommer: you know me also as Mr. Christmas. And since we don’t have a garage, we have a small storage unit (5 x 10) where I store 11 Bins of Christmas decor…..(I know you won’t judge me for that)…..but, I also have a Box of Boxes (sigh). They are the sturdy ones that have somehow found a little part of my heart from which they can’t depart.
    At one point we had boxes stored in plastic storage inside of other, larger plastic storage in Storage!!!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Fage: you can keep your Mr. Christmas title. It will forever remind me of Raf, and that is not a bad thing. One 5th-wheel and two mobile homes in Baja later, I know exactly how it feels to not have a garage. Crowded! So even though I will never be a fan of storage units, I get it. Not at all judging you for 11 boxes of Christmas decor–you’re the fun house every 11 months! Buuuuut… the boxes you had in storage? That’s next-level, amigo. Your description made me laugh though, so you get a pass. I went through mine like I said I would and got rid of one. Not monumental, but it’s progress in the right direction. I feel like you kinda wanna reduce your boxes but you’re not sure. Dump ’em all out, get Chris to vote, and then send me a pic. I dare you.

      • Nancy Bramlett

        So…my 30 boxes of Christmas decorations and books and blankets and stuffed animals…feels a little laughable right now! But at least I have an attic 🙂

        • Carrie Talbott

          Yes, an attic is nice, especially if you don’t have a garage. But it can also quickly become a catch-all. Out of the items you listed though, would you be willing to pare down a few things? I would wait on the Christmas one until you have to get it down anyway, and then empty every single one. Any Christmas decor you keep ignoring could be considered for donation. As for the extra blankets, do you use them every winter? Could some be donated to people who need them? Are the stuffed animals family heirlooms? Are you saving them for grandkids?