I’ve always been a packrat. I don’t come anywhere near hoarder tendencies, but I like to hold onto things, often for years longer than I’d ever need them for. This is true for everything from tax returns dating decades back, low-rise jeans from 2002 that finally just came back in style, and condiment packets that I shoved into my miscellaneous drawer when I ordered takeout at the beginning of COVID. (Hey, they’re shelf-stable for a reason!) But with my partner's urging, I finally took the time to go through every single item in my home over the last month, and I not only generated enough items to fill about 30 garbage bags, but I was also able to donate what felt like a quarter of my wardrobe. I can even finger-space my hangers now! In the spirit of tidying up, here’s a non-exhaustive list of things you can throw away this weekend—all without setting aside dozens of hours to get the job done.
Take it from me: You’ll never, ever need this much ketchup—and you certainly won’t need it on the go. If throwing away perfectly good (and unopened) condiment packets, donate them to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. The same goes for salt and pepper packets, plastic cutlery, and anything else you’ve received when ordering takeout.
I’m not sure why I insist on keeping ratty, cracked, or otherwise past-their-prime storage containers. Perhaps it’s the idea that they’re hard to recycle thanks to how much they often stain, but they’re serving nobody by creating clutter in your kitchen cabinets. If you have to double-seal it with plastic wrap, it’s time to get rid of it.
Newspapers, Expired Coupons, and Other Junk Mail
I honestly couldn’t tell you why I keep certain papers sitting around except that I’m afraid I’ll toss something that I needed. But once I threw out everything accumulating on my kitchen counter, I never thought about it again. The only thing I’ll caveat here is that some stores take expired coupons, but don’t keep them sitting around unless you need something from that store, lest you just feel the pressure to buy something random just to get 20% off.
Old Cell Phones
There’s rarely a good reason to keep these—especially if you have insurance or a yearly upgrade. Instead of tossing them in the garbage, which is both illegal and a hazard, donate any wiped cell phones to organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which uses the proceeds from donated cell phones to send prepaid international calling cards to troops.
You wouldn’t keep a shoe if you couldn’t find its match, so why do the same with socks? This is generally true for any item that has a partner that you can’t find, like gloves or leg warmers. Just toss them!
Old Bedding or Towels
I don’t know what compels me to keep mismatched, haggard bedding and towels well past their prime, but they end up taking up too much space in my linen closet—and often go months, if not years, without being used. I finally got rid of a few incomplete sets, plus about a dozen towels that had seen better days, and my closet already feels lighter!
Old Prescriptions and Medications
If it’s expired, get rid of it. (You can call your local pharmacy to find out the best way to dispose of anything sensitive.)
Remotes, Wires, and Cables
I once realized that I was keeping about 10 feet of coaxial cable for no reason when my electrician inquired about the huge pile taking up room in my closet. (My internet was already connected and in the right place.) Unless you’re hanging onto something universal like a lightning cable, there’s likely little use for all the cords you’ve accumulated for specific electronics. And if you have no idea what it might connect to, check with everyone in your house, Google it, and then toss it if there’s no relevant match.
Manuals are useful when you’re setting up and learning how to use an appliance, but fortunately, most manuals and troubleshooting suggestions are right on the product’s website. That’ll probably be easier to find than the pile of paper manuals you’ll be left to sift through.
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but make a point of going through these items this weekend and you’ll feel immediately lighter within an hour or so. Check back next month for another list of items you can toss, inspired by packrats like me!