41 Things in Your House That a Professional Organizer Would Throw Out
Get your trash bags ready! These are the things around the house you should toss without a second thought, according to a professional organizer.
Declutter like a pro
Home organization is more than just rearranging the things you have—it’s also getting rid of the things you don’t need. The change of seasons is an ideal time to give your home a fall reset, and that means adding “declutter” to your fall home-maintenance checklist. As a professional organizer for more than 20 years, my job is to help you streamline that process and offer organization ideas you’ll wish you knew all along.
And here’s the good news: Discarding things around the home doesn’t have to be a challenge. From superfluous pens to single socks, this quick list shows you what to do with all those unneeded items you’re better off discarding. After taking inventory and hitting the reset button, you’ll know what (and where) to donate, share, sell, recycle or toss. So get your trash bags ready and press play on that cleaning playlist, because it’s time to ditch the junk.
Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more organizing tips, humor, cleaning, travel, tech and fun facts all week long.
Worn-out grilling gadgets
Those bent marshmallow skewers and that rusted pizza tray aren’t getting any use. Professional organizers would suggest tossing those along with anything shedding bristles, like the baster or cleaning brushes. If your weather-worn grill cover isn’t going to protect it through the elements this winter, get ready to discard. And because none of these summer grill ideas include expired seasonings, toss those while you’re at it. Re-home still-good gadgets you never use by listing them on Freecycle or your local Buy Nothing group.
Old outdoor games and pool toys
The list of the best backyard games doesn’t include unusable versions of those outdoor activities, like the dusty horseshoe set that no one has played with in years. You can toss that, along with the warped flying disc and torn kite. A competitive game of ladder ball is a lot less fun when the rungs are cracked, so why is it still in the garage? When it comes to pool toys, you can finally admit you’re never going to patch those floaties that sprung leaks, so add them to the trash pile as well.
Swimsuits and summer outfits
Say goodbye to that firework-themed T-shirt you never put on and the two-sizes-too-small swimsuit cover-up. Want to donate your clothes? Fill a bag with items you don’t wear and schedule them to be picked up by a local charitable organization through Donation Town. Or you can recycle your stretched-out swim trunks and mustard-stained tees through H&M’s Garment Collecting program—just drop your bag off at the nearest store. You can also check with your local public works department for textile collection options.
Rusty patio accessories
The burnt-out strands of patio lights are not enchanting, and they need to go. Luckily, many home-improvement stores will accept them for recycling. Not sure if other backyard items can be recycled? Take this recycling quiz first. For other ways to improve your patio decor before next season, professional organizers suggest saying goodbye to the cracked patio chairs, broken tiki torches and flameless lanterns that no longer light. And finally, dump the bird feeder that lost its lid during the last rainstorm.
Getting ready to organize your closet? The time has come to throw away the flip-flops with the snapped toe peg and the sandals with the uncomfortable strap or broken buckle. Pick out your rarely worn shoes and give them a second life by dropping them off at DSW, which is a collection point for the Soles4Souls charitable organization. (VIP Rewards members can earn 50 reward points on a donated pair, and everyone is welcome to donate up to 12 pairs per day.)
Get that linen closet organized. Say goodbye to those old pool and beach towels that aren’t in tip-top shape. And here’s a tip: Don’t just throw them out. Consider donating them to a local pet shelter where volunteers could put them to good use when cleaning.
Damaged deer fencing, excess planters and expired seed packets need to go. It’s also time to toss faded garden flags and any lawn sprinklers that have stopped sprinkling. Leftover potting soil and unused fertilizer are often accepted by local co-ops, greenhouses or landscapers, who might also be happy to haul away your still-good-but-unwanted tools and supplies.
Dilapidated door wreaths
By the end of the season, that (now faded) door wreath looks sad hanging from the hook. If it’s shedding pieces, that’s a telltale sign it’s time to swap out the disintegrating version for one of these Christmas wreath ideas. And when you’re done with your holiday decor, don’t just shove ornaments and garland in a closet. Make sure you’re properly storing those Christmas decorations.
Tote bag stash
The free (but flimsy) bag from the farmer’s market should be the first to go, say professional organizers. Then the soft-sided cooler with a tear in the lining, which is not going to keep anything cold. And finally, weed out the tote bags you never reach for, including the one with the broken strap you keep saying you’ll repair. For the bags left in your closet, try these purse storage ideas.
The first step in kitchen organization? Enough with the freebie, logo-laden coffee mugs, souvenir shot glasses and refillable theme park cups. No more novelty faux-coconut glasses (do you realize how much space they take up?) and travel coffee mugs missing their lids. Out with the leaky water bottles and the ones you can’t clean without a brush. And make sure you know how to clean reusable water bottles you do keep.
Unknown freezer items
Organizing the freezer will make dinnertime madness a bit less chaotic. Whether you want to maximize space in a chest freezer, eliminate freezer burn or just better understand things in your freezer you need to toss, start by decluttering your space. There’s likely an old bag of frozen vegetables, expired freezer meals and unrecognizable leftovers buried somewhere. Go through and check expiration dates and toss what’s old. Then come up with a system that makes things more visible in your freezer.
Unused kitchen utensils
We love an innovative kitchen gadget, but the wine opener that never works and the garlic press that never gets clean are just two of the tosses you can make from your utensil drawer. Professional organizers would also ditch the slotted spoons and pancake turners that bend under the weight of food.
Stained food storage containers
Those stained plastic food containers have not only heated one too many leftover spaghetti meals, they’ve also likely lost their lid. Toss any old food storage containers or ones without their counterpart. Then consider glass storage solutions for anything refrigerated.
So you’ve read that book club book. Now what? Unless you want to keep a book for sentimental reasons or like to re-read the best books of all time, remember that moving a bunch of books is a pain. They’re heavy and cumbersome. Consider finding a Little Free Library, selling them online at Decluttr or learning more ways to donate used books.
Do you have suitcases piling up in the closet? Are they so old they’re coming apart at the seams? Those are an obvious toss. So too is luggage with a broken zipper or missing wheels. If you have unused pieces in good condition, consider donating them to a child in the foster care system, or check to see if a guidance counselor at your local school has a student in mind. Your suitcase is a much more dignified way for them to travel between homes with their belongings. If you’re in the market for a new suitcase, we’ve got the best luggage deals, whether you’re looking for affordable luggage, hard shell luggage, underseat luggage or the most-trusted luggage brands.
Does makeup expire? It sure does. In general, most makeup lasts one to three years unopened (when stored in a cool, dry place) and somewhere between a few months and just a couple of years after opening. Sunscreen, bug spray, body lotions, that old bottle of aloe gel and self-care products expire as well. Toss the last of the self-tanner, and always consult the manufacturer for specific guidelines.
Unfunctioning storage solutions
Professional organizers love storage solutions, whether it’s bathroom storage items, makeup organizers, closet systems or travel storage systems like packing cubes, but not every container works well, especially in smaller utility closets. If the bin, basket or box doesn’t solve your problem, then out it goes; otherwise, it just adds to your clutter. Consider passing along storage containers to a teacher who might need them.
Toss the instruction booklets that go with things you no longer own and the owner’s manual for the TV you had 10 years ago.
Odds and ends
Even professional organizers keep odd things, like those plastic clips from bags of bread or the tiny bag of spare buttons. The key is to know when you’re saving too many and when they are becoming clutter. For example, if you’ve kept every rubber band from every fresh produce purchase, it’s time to throw some away.
Try to resist bringing home one of every free item offered at street fairs, lectures and conferences. Professional organizers throw away extra wall calendars, promotional coffee mugs, water bottles, jar openers, pill organizers and excessive quantities of chip clips.
Did you forget about that bag of clothing donations that’s been riding in the trunk of your car for a month? It’s time to drop it off. Professional organizers have a standing pickup scheduled or routinely make drop-offs at donation locations near them to prevent anything piling up at home.
Just because you know how to get rid of dust doesn’t mean you don’t have dust collectors piling up in your home. These are, without a doubt, on any professional organizer’s throw-it-out list. They include photo frames without photographs inside, collections you don’t care about and knickknacks that lack special meaning.
Did you know that expired coupons are still good for six months at U.S. military bases overseas? To get rid of them, donate them to Troopons. Then recycle take-out menus and business cards for people you don’t remember, and let go of the receipts you don’t need, old shopping lists and now-obscure notes you made to yourself.
Worthless writing instruments
If it doesn’t write, why keep it? Daily decluttering habits mean addressing that junk drawer. Pitch pens that don’t work, eraser-less No. 2 pencils, dried-out markers and highlighters without caps. Removing worthless writing instruments is one of the top organization tips professionals suggest.
Outdated reference material
Organizing books is a serious art. You’ll rarely find loose stacks of old novels and space-hogging phone books in a professional organizer’s home. They also let go of encyclopedia sets and textbooks. Consider donating those through Better World Books. And unless you need the thesaurus and dictionary for playing Scrabble or that new Wordle board game, pass those on too.
Trip memorabilia and souvenirs
Outdated maps will only get you lost, so professional organizers advise recycling them. Out-of-date travel guides and old brochures are filled with obsolete information, so don’t bother keeping those either for a potential future trip. Instead, download the best travel apps. And if you’re sentimental, before tossing anything that you want to remember, snap a photo of things like ticket stubs, postcards and that “not my style” souvenir snow globe gifted to you by a friend.
Old prescription bottles can pile up if you forget to throw them out when you are done with them. Additionally, keeping old pills around can be a safety issue if you have pets or young children. Fortunately, there are take-back programs, where expired medications can be dropped off securely. Check with your local pharmacy or police department. You can also enter your zip code to search for an authorized drug collection site near you, or simply type “medication drop off” in Google Maps. Tempted to flush old prescriptions? Think again! They’re one of the things you should never flush down your toilet.
Once you’re finished with a hobby, professional organizers advise donating the equipment to someone who will use it. Whether you have woodworking tools, scuba fins, camping gear or a set of watercolors, if you’re no longer using it then toss it out of your house.
Obsolete media and tech
The VCR and boom box have been replaced with more up-to-date technology, so donate the old stuff. Recycle floppy disks and ancient laptops, obsolete phones, VHS tapes and more through the recycling programs at Best Buy or Staples stores. Or check out Earth911 for a convenient, hazardous waste drop-off location. And make sure you’re on top of cord conditions—frayed electrical cords need to be replaced immediately, as they’re a big source of accidental electrocution.
The to-be-fixed pile
Even if you have the best storage solutions, you still must address the to-be-fixed pile. You know all those broken items you’ve waiting to fix, either professionally or on your own? Professional organizers either fix them or ditch them, and so should you. If you’ve already replaced the item, you don’t miss it or it’s too costly to make the repair, there’s no sense in keeping said item around.
If they’re meant to be mated up, and you’ve hopelessly lost or ruined one, then why keep the other? Dump that sad, single soc or the winter gloves missing their mates. And did you know you can donate single or mismatched shoes to amputees through OddShoe?
Broken cleaning tools
Professional organizers dislike cleaning tools that don’t get the job done. If the item is meant to help make your cleaning chore easier, but it actually makes it more difficult, then throw it out. This includes the cracked dustpan, the broken laundry basket, the broom with the handle that keeps falling off and the leaky bucket. And before replacing them, look for the cleaning products professional house cleaners buy.
Medals and trophies
Just because it has your name engraved on it does not mean you have to keep it forever. Professional organizers preserve the memory by taking a photo of the accolade, then they donate the trophies, plaques or awards of excellence through places like AwardsMall or Medals4Mettle.
Is the treadmill you used for a week now a makeshift clothing rack? What about the green smoothie maker you tried once and haven’t touched since? Give away those items you purchased with the hopes of making a change.
Do you search online for culinary inspiration or still scour the best baking cookbooks? If the former is your answer, then you can let go of those bulky cookbooks. Recipes are everywhere, and most times we end up falling back on our go-to recipes anyway. Most friends of library groups accept donated books, including cookbooks, for their book sales.
The crushed bows must go! Torn or bent wrapping paper, faded gift bags and tags are promptly tossed or recycled by professional organizers. (First, check whether your gift wrap can be recycled.) Other items that make the throw-it-away list are scraps of wrapping paper and tangled rolls of ribbon.
You couldn’t resist that 2 a.m. infomercial, and now you’re the owner of the latest craze in kitchen appliances, workshop tools or some other must-have item you never use. While some impulse buys can be useful, professional organizers remind you that keeping the item won’t bring back the money you spent. So, it’s best to toss it or pass it along.
On your way to a closet purge? You’ll only find space-saving hangers in a professional organizer’s closet. Clear the clutter by returning the wire ones to the dry cleaner. Then let go of the other unused hangers like the ones with weak clips and the small hangers that don’t slide on the closet bar. The best closet organizers will make sure you’re maximizing space.
Professional organizers will ask you how many bouquets of fresh flowers you have out at one time. The answer should help you realize that more than two or three vases could be unnecessary. Bring the extras to a local florist or fill them with flowers from your garden and gift them to someone.
You won’t find magnets stuck to the refrigerator in a professional organizer’s home. Throw away the ones that keep falling off onto the floor—their magnets are weak. Then discard the outdated business card ones, the save-the-date ones and the ones with last year’s calendar.
They call it junk for a reason. Professional organizers immediately recycle unwanted catalogs, flyers and advertisements. While you’re at it, toss the huge stash of blank greeting cards and return address labels sent to you from charitable organizations. Then learn how to stop the junk mail from coming in the first place.