Ready for a fresh start? Here's a quick list of what you can toss or donate to clear out the clutter and lighten your load in 2010.
Donate: To a good cause or save for a yard sale
Whether giving away the goods or saving them for a sale, package them now in clearly marked cardboard boxes that can be stashed in the attic, a dry garage, or your basement until yard sale season commences, or until you have time to visit your local charity drop-off center. Be sure to keep an inventory list of what you donate to share with your accountant at tax time. A write-off is very likely.
Donate: Old clothes and bags
Any clean piece of clothing, bag, or shoes that you haven't worn in the last 18 months. Dressforsuccess.org will let you know where you can contribute business wear to aspiring career women in need. Or check your local Good Will or Salvation Army for specific drop off days, times and article restrictions. (Related: Clean out your closet in a snap.)
Donate: Old computers or electronics
Before donating any piece of electronic equipment, make sure that it's functional and reusable. It's always best to check with your local donation organization to see what their requirements might be. If your electronics or computer equipment have simply bitten the dust, it's important to recycle or dispose of them properly. To find out how, visit the Environmental Protection Agency at epa.gov. (Related: Easy Ways to Update the Office)
Donate: Toys It's great to give castoffs a second chance to bring fun to kids in distressed situations, but remember that donated dolls, games, etc. should be clean, safe, complete, and in generally good condition. If you wouldn't let your kid play with it, then that one-armed G.I. Joe and money-less Monopoly game should be sent to the big toy store in the sky. (Related: How to organize kids' rooms.)
Donate: Books you are finished with
Books that you've read, especially paperbacks, or whose pages have remained unrifled for more than a year. Why not mark the boxes of yard sale candidates now with the prices you plan to charge? 50 cents for paperback? $1 for hard covers? Consider giving art books and good-condition hardcovers to a local library, school, or college. (Related: Get free books)
Donate: Rarely used small appliances
Come on, when was the last time you whipped up Belgian waffles? And that fruit drying thingamajig is taking up way too much room in the cupboard.
Donate: Unused exercise equipment
Be honest. If you haven't used the NordicTrack since ABBA was a hit, don't torture yourself with its guilt-inducing presence. Besides, if you truly want to start a health regimen, you've got the best, completely free equipment already: your feet! Did you know that a half-hour of brisk grocery shopping burns around 130 calories? And here's even better news: A Vanderbilt University study shows that if you add laughter to any behavior, even sitting on your rump, you'll burn 20 percent more calories. Now that's something to giggle about.
Donate: Old eyeglasses
North Americans toss 4 million pairs of glasses each year. UniteForSight.org makes sure that castoffs are put to good use in developing countries. Your local Lion's Club will also accept donations that will go to sight-limited seniors and other needy recipients. And don't forget prescription sunglasses, because everyone can use a great set of shades.
Recycle: Unread mags and newspapers
Bundle up any newspaper or magazine that you haven't read within a week of receiving or buying it. You may think you'll get back to it, but the odds are against your ever making it to the back page.
Cancel: Catalog subscriptions 52 million trees are used each year to make the paper for the 19 billion catalogs that we receive. Shopping online will keep at least a leafy oxygen-producing tree or two alive a bit longer. And catalogchoice.org will help you cancel all your subscriptions for no charge.
Toss: Anything past its expiration date
Anything in your pantry or freezer that has passed its expiration or "best if used by" date. If you're not certain how long something's been in the old igloo, say "sayonara," and next time label tightly wrapped items with the date you place them in cold storage. Generally speaking, foods should be kept in the freezer for only two to three months before use, so that trout from your 1995 vacation might have to go. And never refreeze food that has been defrosted. (Related: The best refrigerators)
Toss: Outdated medicines
The current cost of some drugs might tempt us all to hold onto them as long as possible, but a number of medicines do more than lose their potency over time - they can become dangerous. Unfortunately, there's no perfect way to dispose of over-the-hill pills and expended elixirs, but never pour them down the drain or in the toilet. Experts recommend that you scatter loose pills in with other trash to avoid children finding a tempting bottle. Adding kitty litter to liquid medications and putting the absorbed results in your bagged waste is probably the easiest way to get rid of syrups and such. But perhaps just as important as how you dump drugs is how you store them. Unless advised otherwise, they should be kept at an even room temperature, and sadly, the humidity of a bathroom can reduce the effectiveness and longevity of almost all medications. A high cabinet in a temperate spot is your best bet for smart and safe storage. (Related: 30+ Ideas to Update the Bathroom)
Toss: Bad Cans
Periodically check your pantry for any canned food items that might be swollen, badly dented, have rust spots, or that spurt when opened. You're not just saving space -- bacteria from tainted canned foods can be dangerous to deadly.
Toss: Left-out leftovers
Any perishable food that's been left at room temperature for two hours or more is basically a breeding ground for bad things. This does make me wonder how I survived an entire childhood of bag lunches that sat in the cloakroom for much longer, but happily you can be more well-informed than my mom. And remember that no matter what, anything that contains mayonnaise or eggs should be kept consistently refrigerated.
Toss: Flammable materials properly
Partially used cans of paint or other flammable items that haven't been used in a year should be disposed of according local toxic waste restrictions. Be sure to consult your disposal center for details and DO NOT pour these or other solvents down the toilet or drain. Paint that might be needed for touch-ups can be stored in airtight recycled take-out containers. (Related: How to paint a room in a day)
Toss: Yarn and string scraps in your yard
Bits of leftover twine and yarn are perfect liners for a bird's nest or robin roost. Place these bird goodies on bushes in your yard as the weather begins to warm, and odds are that you'll be keeping a feathered friend and her brood a bit toastier this season.
Donate, Recycle, or Toss: One old item
Get rid of one item you think you simply can't part with. In a short spell you'll probably find that you barely remember what it was that made you hold onto it so tightly. Letting go of the old, both literally and symbolically, is liberating and good for the soul. It might also remind you that "things" aren't worth nearly as much as those you love.
More Advice from Good Housekeeping:
Home Decorating Inspiration for Every Room
30-Minute Clutter Solution
What's Your Organizing Style?
Cheap Decorating Ideas Under $35!
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