By Emily Harper
You have probably been spending a lot of time in your apartment lately, trying to escape the snow and ice or flooding rains. Take a look around. Are you happy with what you see? Do you know that clutter has negative effects on a person’s psychological well-being? A study conducted by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute suggests that mess restricts a person’s ability to focus. Useless apartment items can also limit your brain’s ability to process information and add stress to your already hectic life.
While you should be regularly tidying up to prevent stuff from accumulating, a more thorough decluttering a couple of times a year will make your place more enjoyable and easier to maintain.
Here’s a list of the 20 items that will give your decluttering and spring cleaning a good start:
1. The assortment of stale food in your refrigerator
Let us start with probably one of the most cluttered storage spaces in your apartment: the refrigerator. Throw out all rotting food, dried-out condiments and expired items. Also check out the freezer and discard all freezer-burned foods and re-frozen ice cream containers. Bonus tip: Start marking leftover containers with a date so you know when to discard.
2. The many items in your spice rack
Spices do not last forever but slowly lose their flavor. Herbs and ground spices expire after a year or two and seasoned blends after about six months. If you live in a group house with a changing cast of roommates, your spice rack soon starts spilling over with spices left over from some exotic cooking adventures by long-gone roommates. Throw out spices that are too old or that nobody uses any more.
3. Your mixed-up collection of plastic containers and bottles
You don’t need those deformed or discolored Tupperware containers anymore. These are now useless things that only take up space. Go through your massive collection of plastic containers and get rid of those with stains, holes or missing lids.
4. Your gallery of cups and mugs
Do you remember the mug you got from the office party two Christmases ago? What about the one with the “World’s Greatest Son” design you received in 2010? They are still in your kitchen cabinet together with several more cups and mugs you amassed over the years. Keep just enough cups and mugs that you need in your daily life.
5. The horrors in your junk drawer
Your decluttering job in the kitchen is not complete without checking out the dreaded junk drawer. This storage space has a lot of items that need to be in a trash bin: old batteries, unidentified keys, strings, matchboxes, half-burned candles, cords, etc. Throw away useless things and limit the number of emergency items you keep such as flashlight batteries and ropes.
6. If you don’t wear them, you don’t need them
There is an ongoing debate on the right time to get rid of old clothes and shoes. Some say you should be dumping clothes you haven’t used in 18 months. Others believe the threshold is two years. The easiest rule is common sense: if a shirt doesn’t fit and suit you anymore, then it’s time to throw it out. You may also consider selling or donating these items.
7. Outdated accessories belong to the past…and the trash
Beaded bracelets looked cute on you 10 years ago, but not now. Get a box and throw out old earrings, bands, hats and scarves. Going through your jewellery box and drawer can be a tedious task, but same rule applies that you used for clothing — if you no longer use it, out it goes. Obviously, if you have some valuable pieces of jewelry that do not go with your lifestyle any more, either sell them or gift to someone who’ll appreciate them.
8. Embrace a paperless world, get rid of those files!
Dated receipts, paychecks, bills and your old notebooks back in high school — garbage-worthy items that you don’t need in your apartment. If you need to keep record of your payables, you may scan receipts and save the copies in your computer or better yet, in a cloud account. Having electronic records not only saves space, it also saves trees!
9. Zero reading backlog. Donate those books now.
Take a look at your bookshelf. Chances are, half of its content are titles you’ve not read yet or will not read again. Donate those books to a local library and let someone else enjoy them.
10. Your huge collection of old magazines or comic books
There was a time when owning towers of National Geographic magazines was hip. Today, these copies can be bought in digital format. Clear your apartment of old magazines and consider online subscriptions next time. If you spent your formative years collecting comics, some of them may be worth a bit of money. Check out online price guides and sell them, unless you are convinced that your yet-to-be-born children will treasure them as much as you did.
11. Caution: That red lipstick may be expired
According to a Stowaway Cosmetics and Poshly study, nearly 90% of women refuse to throw away old makeup. Whether it’s lipstick, mascara or creams, most women (and some men) are guilty of using cosmetics beyond their recommended shelf life. If your makeup products don’t have expiration dates, take note that powders are only good for two years while lipsticks must be replaced after 12 months.
12. Those expired aspirins and capsules are hazardous to your health
It’s time to clean out your medicine cabinet. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that using expired drugs and medicines is both risky and hazardous to the health. Check whether the aspirins and cough syrup in your cabinet haven’t gone past their expiration date. In disposing these medical products, take note of the FDA guidelines.
13. Project tools that will never be
Do you remember those Do-It-Yourself projects you happily committed yourself into? No? Well, that’s enough reason to get rid of all project paraphernalia gathering dust in your apartment.
14. Toys and more items from the past
Toys, especially collectors’ items, are cool display items. However, your old teddy bear and headless Barbie dolls no longer belong in your home. Throw these out together with old greetings cards and postcards stacked up in your room.
15. Outdated electronics and cords
Your first cellphone unit should be in a museum, not in your apartment. It’s high time to get rid of old gadgets as well as their now useless accessories (e.g. chargers, cords, etc.).
16. The expired and useless bath products
Your bathroom is either the epitome of minimalism or a junkyard of toxic substances. Women tend to buy a lot of bath products — different lotions, creams, body wash, shampoo, etc. If you haven’t used that lilac-scented body lotion in the past three months, there’s a possibility that it will remain unused for the rest of the year. Toss it out. Take note of the shelf life of these products. Even shampoos and conditioners expire after three years.
17. Your old fragrance products
Don’t leave your bathroom (or bedroom) without checking your collection of perfumes and colognes. According to lifestyle magazine Marie Claire, there are three simple steps in knowing whether it’s time to throw away you beloved perfume: if the fragrance smells “off,” the perfume has changed in color, and the ingredients have short shelf life.
18. Posters carried over from your dorm room
The large posters of Starry Night or Che Guevara still hanging on your bedroom wall deserve the “throwback” award. It’s time to upgrade to a more adult look.
19. Worn-out bath towels and linens
Be kind to yourself and replace those worn-out bath towels and linens. You don’t need to splurge to upgrade these essential home items, internet is full of great deals and big box and department stores run frequent sales on home good. Bonus tip: Donate your clean old towels and linens to your local pet shelter. The puppies and kittens will thank you!
20. The sad rugs
If there is a ranking of home items that people commonly overlook, rugs should be on the top spot. Toss out the ratty, stained old rugs and mats and replace with new ones.
Emily Harper is an Environment/Sustainability/Health and Women Advocate. She is also fond of analyzing home structure and design and has been a Home Stylist and Consultant.