Remember, ‘could be useful’ isn’t the same thing as ‘is used.’ If you haven’t used these notes for a couple of years, consider that they may never find a use. Unless the notes are from primary research (the answers to questionnaires or surveys or notes from interviews), could you find the information online?
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Sort through your files or any stack of papers for ten-minutes.
You bought ink for your printer – and then it died, and you never got around to returning the ink cartridges. Or, you have accessories for the hand mixer you no longer own; or, chargers for the phone you no longer have … or, even barrettes and ponytail elastics even though you now have short hair.
If the item is something someone could use, donate it or post it online. However, sometimes an item is trash.
While on vacation, do you pick up brochures of places to go and things to do? When you return home, do you hang onto these items? Or, maybe you pick up a brochure on a health topic at the doctor’s or dentist’s office that makes its way home with you. Some brochures come in your mail.
In most cases, a brochure doesn’t contain much information. Its goal is to get you to go someplace or ask a question or even go online and find out more. You don’t need to keep brochures. Instead, you could write down the topic on a list and accomplish much the same – it will jog your memory.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Clear loose papers from the surface or your desk or spend ten-minutes pulling unnecessary paper from your files.
Although you cleaned out your car at the beginning of the year, have items found a home in your backseat or trunk? While emergency supplies and a sweatshirt for everyone in the family are useful, have some items landed in this space simply because you haven’t put them away in the house … or, figured out where they belong?
Your car isn’t a storeroom on wheels. Consider how and if items get used.
Do you have things like markers, crayons, construction paper, glue that you got for a specific purpose, but now you no longer need? I know, you want to hold onto these things for the day you need them again – but, markers dry out, construction paper fades, glue gets gloopy.
You may have kid-variety art supplies around the house from when you had kids (or, kids of the age that used these supplies) or from a project or pastime you were working on.
Donate supplies to your neighbor’s kids, if they’d like the items or see if a local preschool, public school, or afterschool program would be interested in supplies that are in good condition.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Sort through your pens and pencils to make sure the ink flows in your pens and that there’s lead in the mechanical pencils.
If you have holiday-themed aprons, consider storing them with the appropriate holiday decorations. Otherwise, consider how often you switch your apron and if one or one-to-wear-and-one-in-the-wash are enough for your needs.
If you like to cook, chances are you’ve received aprons as gifts. Keep your favorites (or the most functional) and donate the rest. If you like an apron, but you don’t want to ruin it by wearing it, treat it like a decoration, and hang it on a hook in your kitchen.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: turn down the invitation to an activity you’d rather avoid.
Eliminate belts that don’t fit, are in poor condition, or aren’t in style
If this doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate a snack that you are eating only because you are bored, or you need a break.
If your family upgraded a gaming consoles, like Xbox or Playstation, asks the ones who play the games if there are old consoles or games that could be donated or sold.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Delete a game app off your computer or smartphone – one you don’t play or one you wish you didn’t play.
Books are one of the most challenging things for me to get rid of. While there are some books I enjoy rereading every year or two, there are others that I’ve read and intend to read again … but I never do. I looked at one such book on my shelf and saw a copyright of eight years ago. Since I purchased the book when it came out, that means that I’ve held onto it all this time, only touching it when I dusted!
Make plans to reread these books or donate them to your library’s next book sale. If you give away a book and if in a year or two you decide you do want to reread it, borrow it from the library.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.