9 Things in Your Home You Should Never Declutter, According to Experts

Closeup shot of a memory box with mementos and photographs

Kara Riley / Stocksy

When it's time to organize, decluttering can take a turn into throwing away too much. Yes, it is possible to go overboard even when you're trying to do something good for your home.

"Decluttering your space is a great way to make it easier to find what has value to you and what you need on a daily basis," says Janelle Cohen, author and founder of Straighten Up by Janelle.

When organizing, think of it as a process, so you make smart decluttering decisions. You may need more than one session to keep you from wanting to throw it all away.

“Sometimes if you spend too much time doing an edit, you get overwhelmed and just want all the clutter to disappear,” says Cohen. “But if you get rid of things too aggressively, you’ll end up wasting money. Consciously decide what to keep and use less accessible storage to keep those items you can rotate out.” 

Read on to find out what nine items you should never toss.

Important Documents

While appliance manuals can take up precious real estate in cupboards, those pamphlets (and menus) are kinds of clutter you can part with. “They are always available online,” says Cohen.

On the other hand, documents such as legal contracts and titles, birth and marriage certificates, and passports should be stored in a designated spot. Yes, they can be replaced, but doing so is a headache. For example, replacing a lost passport or birth certificate may require you to obtain a new one through a government agency. This can take weeks or even months and may require significant paperwork and fees, adds Cohen.

Family Heirlooms

Keeping an heirloom piece is all about cherishing the memories. Even if you were to replace it with a similar item, it just wouldn't be the same. Using your best judgment, make sure you go through your collectibles to see what's really important to keep and if they hold any sentimental value. If you know it's one-of-a-kind, be sure to store it in a secure place, so it doesn't get tossed out with the other clutter.

Printed Photos

Social media and digital photos are so prolific that it’s easy to forget about actual hard-copy photographs. "Keep all those old photos since you never know when you may need a new framed photo or artwork that has meaning to you,” says Carly Cicero, a principal designer at Cicero Design Group in Niles, Ohio.

Heartfelt Notes and Cards

Although you may not want to keep all your cards, keep track of the ones that were meaningful to you. You will be surprised just how therapeutic it is to read over these messages, especially if you’re having a rough day.

Instead of letting these pieces of correspondence get lost in the back of a desk drawer, find a pretty letter box for storage. If the messages are not too personal, you can even keep them on your coffee table as a way to start conversations.

Original Artwork and Vintage Furniture

Look at decluttering from a point of view of sustainability. Before you lug seemingly outdated artwork and grandmas dresser to the dump, see if it can be revived or upcycled. 

"Give new life to it,” says Breegan Jane, an interior designer and author in Los Angeles. “Use your creative eye to elevate old artwork, possibly with a beautiful brass frame. It could look completely different in another room or space in your home.”

Dated furniture pieces often have a lot of potential with a bit of DIY savvy. A fresh coat of paint or a new stain can completely revitalize something that has seen better days. Adding new hardware can also make an impact without much effort.

Ice Cube Trays

Even if your new fridge has an automatic ice maker, hang on to ice cube trays as they are a fantastic storage solution for sorting small items like paper clips, nails, push pins, and especially earrings.

“My grandmother taught me that trick when I first got my ears pierced and I still use that system to this day,” says Beth Blacker, a Thumbtack organization pro with It’s Just Stuff.

Some Toys and Books

Chances are your household has more toys than you know what to do with. Before you corral all of them into a donation bag, consider whether your child had played with the toy in the last six months. A well-loved toy, even if it is on hiatus right now, is likely to be played with again.  “Just put it away and do a toy rotation,” advises Cohen. 

The same approach should be taken when it comes to children’s books. Once your kids grow out of them, consider whether the page-turner has sentimental value before you bring it to a book drive. Alternatively, find new uses for old books.

Especially those cookbooks with old casserole recipes. Blacker likes to make DIY knife blocks. “Tie books together with a string and slide the knives between the pages,” she says. Just keep the vintage display away from wet areas, like near the sink.


Perhaps you have unopened toothbrushes from a dental visit or used toothbrushes that have served their purpose—either way, keep both. The unopened ones will always be useful in a guest bedroom since people often forget to bring their own.

Those that were used can find a new purpose as a cleaning tool. “The bristles may still be useful to help clean around a sink faucet that needs a little extra scrubbing,” says Blacker. Grout lines are another spot that is much easier to clean with a toothbrush. You’ll still want to sterilize them before you tackle chores. A little bleach and water can go a long way. Air dry before cleaning, Blacker adds.

Well-Fitting Clothes

Style comes and goes but the fit is eternal. As you declutter your closet, it is easy to get carried away and donate everything that seems out of date. But before you toss, pause and try things on. If an item fits perfectly, keep it no matter what. Anyone who has searched for the perfect pair of pants knows that a flattering fit is hard to come by, especially if the quality is holding up, Cicero states.

Essential Kitchen Appliances and Tools

Tempting as it may be to get rid of all the kitchen gadgets in the name of clean countertops, hold up. If you use something regularly, it makes no sense to get rid of it. When it comes to tools that you may only use for special occasions, move them out of cabinets that you use every day or place them on the top shelves. 

What you can get rid of is duplicates and unused dishes, glasses, and utensils, Cohen says. Of course, if you decide to upgrade to a better model, like a spiffy new coffee maker, and the other one still works, donate the old version pronto.