Smarter: how to throw away things you don’t need


Step 1: Should it stay or should it go?

If you’re paralyzed by the question of whether you should throw something away, ask yourself these questions first, says Kevin Doyle, editor of CR, whose reports on how to dispose of things in your home l caused him to stop keeping the items he had been holding onto for too long for no good reason.

Do you really need it? If you don’t use it now, will you need it in 5-10 years? Let’s be real here. Anyone who’s ever said, “Oh, but I might use it in this X-scenario in the future” is lying to themselves. Current business included.

Can it be easily replaced? If in doubt, consider $20/20 minute rule recommended by professional organizer Amanda Scudder: If it’s within your budget, something that costs $20 or less and takes 20 minutes or less to replace can probably go away if you plan to throw it away.

If you’re still having a hard time letting go, here’s the best advice Kevin says he’s gotten from interviewing several organizing experts: the less stuff you have, the more you value it.

Step 2: Thank you, then

Once you decide to get rid of something, there are three ways to say goodbye: sell, give away, or throw away.

Don’t underestimate the things you can sell. No matter what an appliance or piece of furniture is used for, someone is likely to be ready to buy it. Take it from my friend, who was able to sell a couch covered in animal stains for $60 on Facebook Marketplace.

But consider the time and energy it would take to sell it. For example, if you need to get rid of your books, do not do what I did, which was to haul over 20 books in a 50-minute subway ride to a bookstore that paid over $12 for my efforts. Compared to other items, books are hard to sell, and you’re better off donating to your local library or organizations that accept used books.

When you don’t have much time, donating can be the solution. If you want to donate to charities, make sure your items are clean, safe, and in good condition. And if you want to donate to your local community, consider groups like the Freecycle network and the Project without buying anythingsaid Kevin.

Make sure you dispose of things correctly. Not everything should be thrown in the trash. Land911 has an extensive database that directs you to programs near you that collect household hazardous waste, and the Environmental Protection Agency Responsible Device Disposal Program lists groups that will pick up and recycle refrigerated appliances such as freezers, refrigerators and window air conditioners.

Step 3: I’m ready for my glow-up

However, decluttering isn’t just about throwing things away. It’s also about organizing your space so it looks less messy.

You might consider following these general guidelines when organizing your home, says Anna Kocharian, an editor at CR who has reported on home organization and home decor for the past eight years.

Focus on problem areas in your home. A great exercise to try is to scan your places for areas that seem to be overwhelmed with odds and ends or rooms that don’t belong there.

Once you’ve done that, find manageable storage solutions that work for you. Avoid any methods that you know will be hard to stick to. For example, if your entryway doesn’t have a closet, your coats, shoes, and bags could end up strewn about your home. Instead of finding different storage spaces in other rooms, you can get an entryway rack or shelving system for your entryway, which is an easier and more pragmatic solution to reducing clutter.

Declutter first, before buying storage bins and baskets. If you declutter your space before purchasing storage containers, you may not need them as much as expected.

What organization hacks do you use that have made all the difference in your home? Let me know!


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