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De-Clutter Right Now by Paring Down on These 10 Unnecessary Items

Put your emotions aside and pull on your organizing pants. It's time to de-clutter.

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Clutter is emotional—we hold onto things for a reason. “I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel. If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love, says Morgan Ovens, owner of Haven, a home organizing company in Los Angeles. It’s hard to part with your favorite books, and you don’t have to. You do, however, need to consider whether you’re actually going to finish that book you’ve read half of, or the one you bought at a second-hand store four years ago and will never read again. They take up much-needed shelf space that you can use for new books, photos, candles, or general storage space. Here are thoughtful ways to donate your used books.

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These collect like the hair in your shower drain, except you only clean one of those things regularly. When getting ready to de-clutter, Felice Cohen, professional organizer and author of 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet suggests, “When dealing with toiletries, separate into categories: lotions, feminine hygiene, teeth, medications, etc. Toss anything outdated, dried up, hotel shampoos.”

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If you’ve been using the same tube of mascara for more than three months it’s time to toss it out. Blush, eye shadow, and powder, can last up to one year. Either way, take a look at the contents of your makeup bag and start tossing the old items away.

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It’s time for some tough love in your pantry. When did you actually buy those microwavable noodles? We look in our cabinets every day, and somehow it doesn’t occur to us to toss the non-perishables we’re not eating. Check the expiration dates on everything in your pantry and let go of the items that are past their time. Don’t stop there. Head to the freezer and spice rack as well—both places where food is bound to sit long past its expiration. While you’re at it, organize your pantry into these 8 zones.

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Old DVDs

While there’s nothing wrong with having a collection of DVDs, getting rid of the ones you never watch is an easy way to declutter. “If you watch something only once a year or once a decade, stream it instead,” says Kirsten Fisher, owner of Imagine Home Organization.

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Clothes are hard to part with; you’ll always remember the first date you went to in that dress and the hike you conquered in those shorts. Luckily, when you toss your clothes, your memories stay right where they are. After going through your drawers, head to your closet where you can use the hanger technique to figure out what you no longer wear. Here’s how to do it: Every time you wear something and put it back, hang it the opposite way of all your other hangers. At the end of one month, give serious consideration about keeping whatever is hanging on the hangers that never got turned around, not counting seasonal clothes. Now you have an excuse to get rid of these 16 items in your closet.

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Manuals and misc. papers

This may sound weird, but you likely have a few old paper manuals lying around the house, tucked into the bookshelf or stuffed into a drawer. Get rid of them, unless you really do need them. If you do, buy an accordion organizer to be the new home for these manuals, along with the other miscellaneous papers you have hanging around. You can put this into a drawer and know exactly where to go when you need one of those old car insurance papers or the manual for your backyard swing set.

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I am a serious offender of this one, so I can say first-hand how much clutter old magazines bring. If you’re keeping them around because you like a recipe, workout or article inside, rip it out and toss the magazine, says Annie Draddy, of Henry and Higby. Put those recipes in your new accordion folder (see Manuals and Misc. Papers) so you can access them whenever you want.

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Food storage containers

If your food-storage container drawer is overflowing like mine, it’s time to let. It. Go. (I’m going to do this right now!). Separate all your pieces into tops and bottoms, matching each bottom to its top. Anything that doesn’t have one or the other should be tossed.

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With technology moving at what feels like the speed of light, everyone has a box or drawer full of cords from computers, laptops, and phones that are now long gone. Go through them, take out the ones that are no longer valuable (you can’t use them with anything), and organize the rest with rubber bands or old hair ties. (Don’t miss these 50 organization tips you’ll wish you knew all along!)

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest