How to Get Rid of Stuff: 3 Pain-Free Strategies

The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering

Decluttering by separating items into labeled bins

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

One of the biggest reasons people hold onto clutter is inertia. Once you bring something home, you forget about it, think you might use it "someday," or decide to keep or discard it later. Soon, however, your home is so full of clutter that it feels overwhelming to tackle it all. You likely feel tired and weighed down by a glut of stuff. And, you probably want some simple guidance about where to begin and how to do it easily.

Here's some straightforward guidance on getting started and the items you can get rid of right now.

Three Easy-to-Start Clutter-Busting Strategies

Being a declutterer is not second nature, but you can develop it into one. It involves a mindset change, and to get there, you need a little prioritization, a la Marie Kondo. She is the organization guru who says if an item does not give her joy, it's no longer needed in her home. Bottomline: Getting rid of junk should not be mentally exhausting. Try one of these easy strategies to get you started:

  • Prioritize for yourself: Make a list and decide the types of items you must keep (and why). Figure out which items are not essential. By writing down your wishes concretely, your black-and-white list will help fortify you when you have a moment of wavering from your plan.
  • Start in one spot: Streamline the process by decluttering one space at a time to make it easier for yourself. Start with a spot that takes the least effort. Do not decide to do the bedroom and the closet; perhaps start with making your bed and clearing one side table. Then, work in quadrants of the room.
  • Hit the reset button: Kondo says a complete overhaul is the best way to go. Remove everything from a space. After a flurry of removal, you have just given yourself the ability to start over. Seeing the progress of a cleared area or clean slate gives you the impetus to go through the pile of stuff you just removed, making it easier to dump non-essentials.

5 Things to Get Rid of in the Kitchen

  1. Plastic silverware: Unless you often eat on the go, you don't need plastic silverware to take up space when you already have proper silverware in your home. Take the plastic silverware to work and stash them in your desk when you need extra silverware for your packed lunch. 
  2. Condiment packets: No one needs to save condiment packets from fast-food restaurants. Buy bottles of ketchup and mustard and toss those extra bits of plastic.
  3. Unitaskers: Gadgets that only serve one purpose sometimes look cool when you find them but take up space because you don't use them frequently. Common unitaskers include quesadilla makers; avocado, egg, and strawberry slicers; herb scissors; and bagel cutters. If you haven't used it for over a year, it's time to recycle, donate, or consign it.
  4. Mismatched or warped food storage containers: Go through your drawer of food storage containers and match every container to its top. Check to see if any are warped or otherwise unusable. Recycle anything you can't use.
  5. Expired pantry items: Spices lose their flavor over time, and other pantry staples, such as flour and sugar, don't perform as well after some time as fresh ingredients. If you haven't used a pantry item for six months, consider getting rid of it.
  6. Appliances you never use: If you haven't used a device in over a year, you likely will not use it. If it's broken, and you've gone a long time without it, do you need it? Go ahead and toss it. Also, inventory your appliances to see if you have duplicates. For example, if you have a multifunction device like an Instapot, think about donating or rehoming a veggie steamer, rice cooker, and slow cooker.
things to get rid of in the kitchen
The Spruce / Daria Groza 

10 Things to Get Rid of in Your Office

  1. Newspapers: Newspapers more than two days old should be recycled. Unless there's a mention of your child or an article you need, toss any old newspapers. If you want to keep an article, clip it, and file it appropriately.
  2. Pens with no ink: If a pen isn't working, you don't need it.
  3. Power cords you can no longer use: If you’re unsure if you can throw it out, create a storage bin and label it "cords." You can't use old power cords for newer devices in most cases.
  4. Magazines more than two months old: Magazines are tricky because they often contain recipes or articles you're hoping to read. If you're serious about a recipe or article, clip it, and store it correctly (or look to see if the recipe is printed online). You should recycle everything else.
  5. Expired coupons: These are useless—recycle them.
  6. Old cell phones: There’s no good reason to keep these, as they are likely outdated and just taking up space. You can donate old cell phones to organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which uses the proceeds from donated cell phones to send prepaid international calling cards to troops.
  7. Last year's calendar: People hang onto these intending to transfer important dates from one year to the next. You have until January 31 of the new year to complete that task, but recycle it if you take longer than that. 
  8. Greeting cards: Some greeting cards have sentimental value, with a handwritten, heartfelt message. Most, however, are generic "happy birthday" cards that lose their significance minutes after they're read. Recycle them.
  9. Receipts: Some receipts should be saved, primarily if they represent tax-deductible purchases or items you need to try on. Otherwise, you should pitch them. Alternatively, get out ahead of clutter by opting for digital receipts or scanning and digitally filing the paper receipts.
  10. Old crafting supplies: Unless you're an avid crafter, you are likely the proud owner of a dried-out bottle of glue, various spools of ribbon, and other miscellaneous items that are now useless or unlikely to be used. Get rid of the things that no longer work as expected and donate other items to an elementary school art teacher or local YMCA.
things to discard from an office
The Spruce / Daria Groza

8 Things to Get Rid of in Your Closet

  1. Mismatched socks: Keep a small basket on top of your bureau for mismatched socks. After a month, if you haven’t found a match, either toss them or re-purpose them as dust rags.
  2. Eyeglasses with the wrong prescription: Donate these immediately. Someone else could use them.
  3. Accessories you never wear: Donate items you haven't worn in years and organize and store those you wear. 
  4. Old clothing that no longer fits: If you've been hanging onto something for years in hopes you'll fit into it again, odds are it's not even in style anymore.
  5. Extra buttons: This is another item your child's art teacher will love.
  6. Broken sunglasses: You were going to buy one of those kits to fix them, but you haven’t yet, so toss them.
  7. Shoes you haven’t worn in five years: ​Your shoes should fit well, feel good, and look good. If they do not, donate or consign them.
  8. Old towels and bedding: Animal shelters gladly accept donations of old linens.
items to get rid of from your closet
The Spruce / Daria Groza

6 Other Things to Throw Away ASAP

  1. Old remote controls: Everything comes with a remote control: iPod speakers, air conditioners, fans. If you don’t use it, trash it. 
  2. Last season’s sunblock: Toss it. Sunblock degrades in quality over time. 
  3. Old makeup: If your cosmetics have changed color, lost their scent, or changed consistency, it's time to get rid of them. If you haven't used any makeup items in over a year, dump them.
  4. Old prescriptions and other medications: Check expiration dates. If it's past its prime, contact your local pharmacy to learn about disposal options.
  5. VHS and cassette tapes: If you have old tapes with content you love but no VCR or tape player to play them, have the contents converted to a digital format and toss the old videos.
  6. Product Manuals: Manuals are helpful, but fortunately, most manuals and troubleshooting suggestions are right on the product website.
odds and ends to get rid of
The Spruce / Daria Groza

Watch Now: 8 Easy Things to Get Rid of Now to Declutter Your Home