How Long to Keep Records and Household Items

When to toss, shred, or donate your documents, bills, clothes and shoes.

A big contributor to household clutter is not knowing how long to keep certain items in your home. That's because most items don't come with a built-in expiration date. 

If you're suffering from clutter taking over your home, you're not alone--in a recent survey done by SquareFoot, ​51% of respondents described their home as cluttered and 91% have kept an item because they felt guilty getting rid of it. 

it's time to start clearing out your clutter without the guilt. 

There's...MORE no reason to supply valuable real estate to items past their prime that are no longer of use to anyone. Follow this guide and begin tossing, donating, shredding and recycling the items in your home and office that have met their expiration dates.

  • 01 of 09
    Items Inside of Closet
    Fuse/Getty Images

    You might be holding onto some clothes and shoes because, once again, you don't know how long you should keep them. I've held onto clothes and shoes well past their usefulness: when they didn't fit, itched, scratched, and no longer projected the image I was trying to project.

  • 02 of 09

    Food and leftovers

    How long to keep food
    Martha Stewart Kitchen with Open Shelving. Photo / Martha Stewart Living

    Food is something you *really* want to be clear on the expiration date once it goes into your refrigerator or freezer. I like to store food in Pyrex glass containers, and I label them by writing on a masking tape with a sharpie pen.

    Food Storage Times

    • This food storage container is perfect for storing portion-sized soups, stews, casseroles, rices and more.

    See also: What to Do with Food so you can use it before it goes bad.

  • 03 of 09

    Make up & cosmetics

    How long to keep make up

    What's the shelf life of your make up and grooming products? Sometimes it's very tricky to tell since makeup and shampoo often don't come with expiration dates. 

    With most products you can tell when they "turn" by their smell. But here are some general guidelines:

    Mascara, Gel Eyeliner and Liquid Eyeliner:  90 Days.

    Bacteria build up is common for anything liquid-y so you really need to stick with 3 months or less for these types of products. Toss them after 90 days. 

    Liquid...MORE Foundation: One Year.

    Stored properly, away from heat, liquid foundation can last for up to a year. Avoid double dipping (i.e. putting your finger into the bottle over and over). it's best to use a sponge or brush so you're not sticking anything into the foundation. 

    Lipstick, Lip Stain, Lip Gloss: 6 Months to a Year

    Since they are not liquid, they can remain bacteria-free for up to a year.

    Powders of Any Kind: Two Years.

    Unless your powder starts to change color os begins to smell, you should be good to go for up to two years. 

  • 04 of 09

    Newspapers and Magazines

    How long to keep newspaper and magazines
    Gadget Wally Organizer by Kangaroom. Photo by Kangaroom

    This is a huge source of clutter for me! I like to hang onto my Saturday and Sunday new York Times well past their expiration dates. Here are my self-implemented guidelines:

    For the weekday newspaper, recycle these every single day, meaning you keep it no longer than 1 day. As soon as the next one arrives, the old one goes in the recycling bin. If there's an article or recipe I'm interested in, I tear it out and put it in my In Box.

    For the thicker weekend edition, I keep these for a week.

    F...MOREor magazines, tear out the sections you want to hold onto and use a notebook to organize them. Toss monthly magazines after a month and weekly magazines after two weeks. 

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
    How long to keep records
    Ikea office storage. Ikea office storage

    Financial records, receipts, tax returns, credit card offers... How long do I have to keep these? And how do I get rid of them? Fear not, here's a handy, printable list:

    • This stadium file is perfect for organizing incoming mail.
  • 06 of 09

    Sneakers for excercizing (like how long to keep running shoes)

    How long to keep sneakers
    Expandable Stacking Shoe Rack. Photo / Container Store

    Holding onto and using sneakers for longer than you should can lead to injury. Also, old sneakers tend to get pretty gross after you've run or walked in them for a while. Here's how to tell when it's time to upgrade your kicks.

    For running sneakers, every 6 months to a year or 500 miles.

  • 07 of 09

    Spices and herbs

    How long to keep spices
    Linus Spice Racks. Photo / The Container Store

    I remember a few years back, Mark Bittman of the New York Times said to throw spices out after one year, and then everyone told him that was too soon. I'm sticking with a year rule, just to be safe.

  • 08 of 09


    How long to keep sunblock
    Coppertone Sunblock. Photo / Coppertone

    Different sunscreens go bad at different paces base don how much heat they've been exposed to and the makeup of the ingredients. It's best to find a sunscreen that is labeled with an expiration date, barring that, throw sunscreen out after 1 year.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09


    How long to keep toiletries

    If they have an expiration date, throw them out when they reach that date, but most don't, so look for these 3 signs it's time to toss the shampoo:

    1. Smells
    2. Turn Color
    3. Changes consistency

    A good rule of thumb is to keep toiletries for a year and then buy fresh ones.