April 1, 2014 at 2:14 PM ET
While the temperatures outside may not be screaming that it's springtime, it is in fact that time of year when we purge the closets, clean the clutter and welcome the peace of mind that comes from organized living.
To get the party started, we asked professional organizers for their tips on what items to toss right away —or better yet, donate to an organization that can make good use of them— and here are their top 10 recommendations.
1. Unworn clothes
If you’re holding onto stuff in case it comes back in style one day, you’re squandering closet space and the ease of navigating a clutter-free wardrobe. "Closets are a major cluttering source,” says Donna David, a New York-based professional organizer. "If you haven’t worn something in the past 12 to 18 months, you no longer need it." Donate your clothes or try reselling them online.
Specifically, take advantage of the new, warmer season to analyze your cold-weather gear. "Now’s a great time to go through your closet and see what fall and winter clothes, shoes and purses you didn’t wear the past two years," says Linda Rosen of Linda Rosen Interiors. "If you haven't worn it during that period, chances are you won't wear it again. It’s time to make a run to your local charity.”
2. Unnecessary paperwork
Sure, you need to hold on to some paperwork for an extended period of time, like tax-related materials. But beyond that, you may be storing an unnecessary number of useless hard copies out of fear of throwing away something important. David advises keeping only the prior month’s bill for a given account, for instance, as most information is now available online."I recommend shredding the rest,” he said.
3. Office supplies
Acknowledge that those dried-out pens and empty White-Out bottles are never ever coming back from the dead. Do yourself a favor and dump those into the trash, and don't stop there. “Get rid of office supplies that haven’t been utilized in a year,” says David. “Chances are you don’t need them.”
4. Old electronics
Unused gadgets —not to mention the associated tangle of cords— are taking up space and causing confusion as to what goes with what. "Oftentimes, we keep cables and wire to equipment we don’t even own anymore,” says Cyndi Seidler of HandyGirl Organizers, and spring cleaning is a perfect time to ditch it.
5. Unmatched items
This goes for socks that have lost their pairing partner, pot lids missing pots, plastic storage lids without their matching storage containers (or vice versa) and bed linens that don’t belong to a set. “Do people really need more than two sets of bed sheets and loads of blankets or towels anyway?” asks Seidler.
6. Expired kitchen items
Seidler reminds us that pantry items like vitamins and supplements have expiration dates, so check them and ditch anything past its prime. Furthermore, purge expired herbs and spices. They may only last a couple of years in the cupboard if ground, or about four years if in whole, extract or seed form.
This is also the time to do spring cleaning in the pantry and the freezer. "Check the dates on the labels in the pantry, and make sure you still intend to eat those freezer foods within a reasonable time frame," Rosen says.
7. Old makeup and nail polishes
We get it. We’re sentimental about everything, including makeup. (We bought that lipstick for our wedding!) But keeping makeup for too long not only leads to clutter, but can also be a hazard as makeup expires. Cream products typically expire within 6 months to a year after purchase, according to dermatologists, while mascara often only lasts three months before becoming a bacteria threat. Seidler suggests running by those expiration dates and throwing away anything that's crossed the line.
8. Some of your kids’ stuff
Don’t freak out. We’re not suggesting you throw out all of your kids’ artwork, but saving every single piece forever isn’t practical — and it’s not even the goal. "As precious as your children's arts and crafts projects are, consider saving only the very special pieces for posterity,” says Rosen. "Kids' art is whimsical and fun when framed and hung in a playroom or hallway, but multiple boxes of it stored in closets will only collect dust and take up valuable space.”
If you have made the swap and now do your reading on a Kindle or tablet, you may have tons of books you never even consider opening. But even if you don't have a device, consider ditching books you've already read. "Sort through your favorite books, then donate the rest to your local library, charity or shelter,” says Rosen. "The chance that you'll read those books again are slim to none, so give someone else the pleasure of a good read.”
10. Garage clutter
You know that building by your house where tons of things go in, but nothing ever comes out? Yeah, make this the year you change that. "This is not an area most people enjoy sorting through, but you will most likely find a jumble of old electronic equipment, cords and cables, gadgets and countless other items,” Rosen says. "Only keep what you know you will use. Then toss the rest."
A version of this article originally appeared on iVillage.