So many of us get caught up in thinking we should keep these items for a rainy day or that it isn’t sustainable to throw perfectly good items away, but, sometimes, you just have to let go. From the ketchup packets in the kitchen junk drawer, to chipped mugs, to the single-use kitchen appliances you rarely reach for, there are probably more than a few items in your kitchen that you could stand to throw away.
Takeout Containers, Cutlery, and Condiments
“We all feel guilty throwing out those plastic packets of cutlery and small packets of soy sauce from your local takeout spot, but they pile up easily and cause a lot of clutter in your kitchen drawers,” says Ashley La Fond, the founder of home organization company Of Space + Mind.
She recommends using them for packed lunches or tossing them. And don’t forget to make a note in your next delivery order that you don’t want them.
Extra Kitchen Appliances
Laura Price, the founder of The Home Organisation, a home organization service, recommends looking at your smaller kitchen appliances to see if any of them can do more than one job, then choosing one to keep.
“Does your food processor double as a juicer? Or does your blender grind spices?" she asks.
Plus, she notes that appliances often come with lots of accessories, many of which you may not use.
“If you're not going to be making bread in your food processor you don't need to keep those attachments," she says. "Let go of anything you know you'll never use.”
Mismatched Food Storage Containers
Is there an avalanche every time you open the cabinet where your food storage containers live? Do you dread having leftovers because it means you’ll have to go on a treasure hunt for a bottom and top that match?
“There is no use keeping food storage that doesn’t have a top. Sort and match lids and get rid of any that don’t have a pair," La Fond says.
While bulk buying is touted as a great way to save money, it doesn’t always work, especially if you’re short on space. In a small kitchen, it can cause more clutter than good.
“If you don't have the space to create a good storage area for all of those spares and bulk items, the kitchen quickly becomes unmanageable,” Price says. She notes that you need to understand what is realistic to store in your kitchen and stick to those limits.
“If you’re overloaded with things you can’t store, there are food banks who would be delighted to take in-date surplus food," she says.
La Fond recommends getting rid of all those paper shopping bags and reusable totes you’re holding on to.
“Keep only a few and recycle or donate the rest. And always store them where you’ll actually remember to bring them to the store (like the back of your car!),” says La Fond.
A reusable bag is only good if it’s actually getting used.
Michelle Urban, professional home organizer and owner of The Organized House, says you should absolutely throw away chipped dinnerware immediately.
“Even if the chip or crack in your plate, bowl, bakeware, cup, or mug looks minuscule, you must toss it. Not only are the sharp edges dangerous, but cracks in your dishes can harbor undesirable bacteria," she says.
Next time you’re tempted to think a crack isn’t so bad, remember, it could be giving bacteria a breeding ground.
“Most people have way more mugs than they need and they take up a lot of space,” says La Fond, who recommends keeping only your favorites and donating the rest. Maybe that means a set of perfectly matched mugs, or maybe you like the quirky, mismatched look, but, either way, you don’t need two dozen.
How old is your oregano? What about your basil? Is there an onion salt that’s been hanging on since 2014?
“Spices lose their flavor and potency over time, so if they expire, it's not worth hanging onto them,” says Urban.
She recommends, as you purge, list the spices you have tossed so you can replenish them next time you go grocery shopping.
If you’re worried throwing away your microwave manual could set you up for an error warning you don’t know how to fix, don’t worry. It's safe to toss owner's manuals for most appliances and tech, since nearly everything is accessible online now.
“Don't let owner's manuals take up prime real estate in a coveted drawer or cabinet. When clients ask me what to do with their appliance and household manuals, I always recommend purging the manuals if it’s a small, easy-to-use device or if you can access the product information online," Urban says.
Pitted Plastic Storage Containers
“Throw away any plastic storage containers with pitting, or the white marks that often show up after microwave reheating,” says Christina Hidek, an organizing and decluttering coach at Streamlined Living.
She explains that pitting means that the plastic is breaking down and the surface is no longer intact, and that you may be eating plastic with every bite. These are no longer safe and should be thrown away not just for clutter clearing purposes, but also your own health.
"It's good to reuse things like take out boxes and yogurt containers, but not for food storage since they're designed for single use only. Use them in your garage or craft room instead," Hidek says.
Old Kitchen Sponges
A kitchen sponge shouldn't live forever—and their lifespan is possibly far less than you might think.
"They harbor bacteria and germs, so toss and replace with a fresh sponge weekly," says Hidek.