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9 Things Professional Organizers Would Never Throw Out

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

It's OK to be creative with everything in your home. In fact, when organizing, it's encouraged.

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Plastic Boxes on Shelves
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Home edit

Spending more time at home means spending more time going through your belongings. Being great at organizing also means knowing how to repurpose ordinary household objects into extraordinary essentials with renewed lives. From shoeboxes to baby clothes, here are a few major household objects professional organizers wouldn’t throw out. Likewise, these are 18 things professional organizers never buy.

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shoe boxes
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Remember the days of buying sneakers for running and a pair of ballet flats for everyday life? We do, too. However, do you remember where any of your shoeboxes are? “When I take on a new client, I tell them not to buy any organizing products in advance because most people have enough containers throughout their homes that can be repurposed to hold other things,” Sharon Lowenheim, MBA, MSE, Certified Professional Organizer, Organizing Goddess, tells Reader’s Digest. One item she tells clients not to throw away? Shoeboxes. “Just be sure to label the outside of the box so that you know what’s inside and not think its shoes,” Lowenheim adds. Here’s what your favorite shoes say about your personality.

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food containers lids
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Plastic containers with missing lids

Like always finding a single sock after doing laundry, you’ve probably found containers with no lids. Instead of tossing the container, repurpose it. “This is especially helpful if you can see through them,” says Lowenheim. “Rectangular or square containers are a better use of space than round ones.” If you’ve found a food container that has some leftover stains, don’t despair. This viral video shows how to get stains out of plastic containers the easy way.

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important documents
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Important documents

As you’re moving through your home trying to get organized, you might come across important documents. Should they stay or should they go? “Generally speaking, I never advise tossing legal documents, house documents, or tax documents,” Shira Gill, organizing expert and author of the forthcoming book Minimalista, tells Reader’s Digest. Here are 11 other tax-related documents you should never throw away.

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kitchen cabinet with mugs and glasses
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Do you have a bunch of old coffee mugs gathering dust in the back of the cabinet? Dust off those mugs and use them as modern decorations. Lowenheim says you can use mugs as a pen holder on a desk. So easy anyone can do it! Make sure you’re not making any of these kitchen organizing mistakes, either.

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Hanging files/bank accounts
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Label organizer

If you’re looking to seriously up your organizing game, owning a labeler is a must. An often overlooked item in any organized home is a labeler. “Labeling is so important! If someone doesn’t have a labeler, then a roll of masking tape and a marker will do,” says Lowenheim. “Labeling the outside of containers or the edges of shelves is so powerful. It reminds you where things go so that you can easily put them away, and also reminds you where you can find them again.” Looking for other ways to organize your life? Here are 13 secrets of people who always have a clean house.

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personal momentos
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Personal mementos and art

Having a tough time deciding whether to keep old letters of other personalized memorabilia? It’s OK, we understand. “Anything one of a kind such as handwritten notes, old photos, or original art should also be carefully considered before tossing,” adds Gill. While you might keep notes, photos, and original art, here are 43 useless things you’ll never miss after getting rid of them.

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Girl clothes inside the wardrobe
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Children’s clothes

“Hanging onto high-quality baby/kid gear and apparel is also a good idea if you plan to have more children in the future,” says Gill. You might want to try using one of these best organizers on Amazon to help

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checkbook checkbox
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If you know how to make a budget you can actually stick to, you’re probably familiar with paychecks and checkbooks. “Shred the old checks but keep the boxes for small office supplies such as paper clips, pens, or rolls of tape,” says Lowenheim. “The box and the lid can be used separately.” Here are a few more organizing tips you’ll wish you knew a lot sooner.

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other peoples stuff
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Items that aren’t actually yours

If you’re trying to clean up after other people, you might want to talk it over with them as opposed to throwing them out those items yourself. “I would never advise throwing out anything that does not belong to you without consent from your partner/spouse/child,” says Gill. “This can save you a lot of drama and hurt feelings later!” Find out some more things you should never throw out. 

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repurpose old things
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Repurposing old things

It’s OK to be creative with everything in your home. In fact, when organizing, it’s encouraged. “Before running out to buy new products, I always encourage ‘shopping your home.’ Bins, baskets, and other vessels can easily transition from space to space depending on your current storage needs,” says Gill. “The pencil case you’re no longer using may be perfect for storing travel toiletries. The tray you no longer need from your office could be a great way to corral mail in your entryway. Even old cosmetic bags can be handy for organizing smaller items like tiny toys, cords, or travel toiletries.” Next, here are 10 organization hacks pros use in their own homes to keep them looking tidy every day. 


  • Sharon Lowenheim, MBA, MSE, Certified Professional Organizer, Organizing Goddess
  • Shira Gill, organizing expert and author of the forthcoming book Minimalista, which will be out next year with Penguin Random House