Gather up the markers and highlighters that may have expanded their territory from your desk to your kitchen counter, random end tables, the dresser in your bedroom, the dining table where the kids worked on a school project last month, etc.
Do you have and need duplicate sets of markers? Do you need eight black permanent markers … or do you keep buying more because you can never find the ones you own? Do you use different highlighters to color-code your calendar or would you do just as well with only a yellow highlighter (or none since you realize you never use them)?
Where should markers and highlighters live? With your – or the kids’ – craft supplies? On your desk? Someplace else?
If you’ve found a lot of markers all over your house, then figure out where you’ll go looking for them and keep them together.
(Are the markers good or not? If you have a kid, you can ask them to test markers to see if some that are dried out. Otherwise, the next time you are sitting on the couch, watching television, test your markers to see if you have a collection of dried-out markers.)
Can you believe you have completed two months of A Year of Decluttering?! If you’ve been with us from the beginning, I hope you are noticing changes in your home … and, that you are developing the habit of questioning why you are holding onto things that can no longer serve you.
Head over to your cabinet of dry goods and check the expiration dates on cans and boxes. Depending on how much food you have stored, you may not be able to do this in 15-minutes, so either plan for a bit more time or continue this activity on days when the task of the day doesn’t apply to you.
If you find food with an upcoming expiration date, pull it to the front and plan to use it in a meal. Or, donate it to a local food pantry. Unfortunately, if it is expired, you can’t donate it, even if the food is perfectly fine.
If you don’t already have the habit of rotating your stock, get in the habit of putting new purchases behind food you already had on your shelf. Or, consider how many boxes of rice or pasta or cans of beans or tuna you need to keep on-hand so that you have food available for meals without having so much that you are losing track of what you have.
Group similar food together to help you maintain your inventory.
In most cases, even if an expiration date is past, the food is still okay to eat – unless you see signs of insects in the rice or pasta or if a can is bulging.
Notice what food has expired and consider that you many not need to replace it.
My cat loves the red pull tabs that we remove from jugs of milk or apple cider. When I look under or behind furniture … a red pull tab or two (or five). Every so often, the cat creates a convention of red pull tabs in some random spot.
How many toys does your pet have? How many do they use? I know, my cat will suddenly start playing with a toy that she’s ignored for months. (She must pick up on my thoughts. Within an hour of thinking that I’m going to toss a box that she hasn’t gone in for a week or throw out a long-ignored toy, suddenly she’s sleeping in that box or skittering across the floor with that toy.
So, evaluate your pets’ toys … are there toys that are too chewed-on or damaged or in not-great condition that your pet no longer plays with and that won’t be missed?
Are there “new” toys that are no longer new but have been completely ignored by your pet. (My cat hated the tunnel I bought for her. It took me nearly two years to acknowledge she wasn’t going to use it. I donated it.)
Gather all the toys you can find and post a picture on A Less Cluttered Life’s Facebook page … do you know there is a special group for people doing A Year of Decluttering? Ask to join the group and share your decluttering progress!
Only if this doesn’t apply to you: Delete five bookmarked pages on your smartphone or computer.
How many cabinets and shelves do you have filled with glassware – juice glasses, water glasses, wine glasses, beer glasses and glass steins, and all the glasses you’ve received as favors at weddings, showers, birthday parties, and other events … not to mention the souvenir glasses you bought on vacation.
Consider how many glasses you and your family use over the course of a day and how often you run your dishwasher (or hand wash dirty glasses and dishes). Then, decide what cabinet or shelf space you have to devote to these items.
If you have space and need for a dozen glasses, then keep that quantity. Curate your collection so you have glasses that will meet your day-to-day needs. Do you need half a dozen wineglasses when you are the only one who drinks wine? I know, I know, what about company? Think back over the past year to how many times you’ve pulled out the wineglasses for company?
Don’t feel that you must keep more than you currently use “just in case.” Live the life you live right now. Don’t weigh on your peace of mind each time you go to get a glass because you are faced with glassware stacked inside other cups because you might host a dinner party for 20 (even though you’ve never done such a thing).
What about souvenir glassware? Are you keeping them to use? Then use them. If they are meant to be displayed, then don’t keep them in with the drinking glasses.
Do your takeout menus live in the junk drawer (or maybe, their own drawer) or in a file folder tucked into a corner of your kitchen counter?
How many restaurants do you really call for takeout?
Sort through these menus. Keep one each from your favorite takeout places. Toss the ones from places that you know have closed. What to do with the menus from the new places you want to try? Keep them in front … and if the next time you call for takeout you don’t go to any of these new places, toss those menus and accept that you like the places you like.
If you’ve started using an app to order takeout, then you probably don’t need these menus at all. Also, if you find you usually look at menus online, toss the print menus.
Only if this doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate 3-to-5 computer files you don’t need.
I remember as a teenager watching television and sorting through my mother’s coupon envelope the night before she’d go grocery shopping. I’d group coupons and pull out any that had expired.
Way back when, coupons wouldn’t expire for months, some even had “no expiration” dates on them. After a while, I’d realize that if a coupon didn’t get used for six months, it probably wasn’t going to get used and I’d weed them from their envelope.
I recently started clipping coupons and was (and wasn’t) too surprised to notice that most coupons had expiration dates less than two months from the day I clipped them.
As I noticed as a teen, if a coupon doesn’t get used quickly, you probably won’t use it at all … and, there’ll be new coupons next week, and the week after that, and after that.
If you are an extreme couponer, you have a well-managed system. However, if you are a casual couponer, you may lose track of when the coupons expire. Do you find coupons beneficial to saving money or do you buy things that you wouldn’t have otherwise purchased without a coupon?
Weed out those expired coupons and those you won’t use. You may even decide to toss the entire lot.
Only if this doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate 3-to-5 computer files you don’t need.
Sad bras are faded or stretched out. They may have frayed bits of elastic poking out. Or, perhaps your sad bras are in pristine condition because they are uncomfortable – too small or too large.
You’ve probably heard that most women wear the wrong size bra because breasts change with events like aging, childbirth, or weight gain and loss – only, we keep going back to the size we’ve been buying since we graduated high school.
You may not have the money right now to purchase new bras. However, if you have bras in your drawers that you don’t wear because they are uncomfortable, get rid of them. If they are all horrible, hold onto the ones you wear.
If you aren’t wearing them, you can’t really count them as part of your wardrobe. Instead they are clutter, making you think you have something you really don’t.
When you get rid of what you already aren’t wearing, you free yourself from the misconception that you could wear what you own, and you’ll truly see what you have … or don’t.
Only if this doesn’t apply to you: Remove an item from your closet that you haven’t been able to wear for five or more years. If it is a sentimental item, take a picture of it … or move it to a memory box.
Because you probably don’t limit yourself to going through paperwork at one only one place in your home, you may find that paperclips have worked their way to multiple locations – your desk, where you sort incoming mail, where you pay bills, file cabinet, junk drawer, shelves where you store clipped articles from magazines and newspapers, etc., etc.
Find a spot where your paper clips can live. If you have a lot, you don’t need to keep them all … particularly those that are bent or warped. I keep my paperclips in a desk organizer at my desk which is in the basement. I also keep paperclips and binder clips (I use them to hold bags of food shut) in my kitchen “junk drawer” (which is 85% stationery supplies) so I don’t have to walk downstairs to get a paperclip.
If you find paperclips in odd places around your house, either decide that you’ll toss paperclips that you aren’t putting with your stationery supplies or that you’ll be better at keeping these supplies in one or two places in your home.
Ever see a droopy plant that you hope will rally and become a perky plant once more? You may hold onto the plant for a while and then, while you aren’t looking, it dies and ends up sitting on your shelf for weeks because you’re disappointed another plant has died.
If you are more attuned to your plants, glance at them and remove any dead leaves, check that they have enough soil and water and that they haven’t outgrown their planter.
Only if this doesn’t apply to you: Pull a book off your shelf that you haven’t read and decide if you will start reading it today or if you will pass it along to a new owner.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.