How many towels do you have? I have one bath towel in use and one in waiting for each of us, although I know some people keep one towel a person, so the towel goes from rack to washer to dryer and back to the towel rack.
Check with your local animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitators to find out if they can use the old towel you have. If you keep a few old towels for wiping up mishaps, put these towels with cleaning supplies as opposed to storing them in your linen cabinet. If you are keeping towels for guests, consider how often you really have overnight guests and if you need to store multiple towels.
And don’t forget dish towels. I have three dingy, worn towels that I’ll be moving into the cleaning supplies closet. I’m going to see if I can get away with not replacing them and stick to four dish towels.
A friend recently told me about one of her friends who used her old towels and blankets to protect items during a move. When she unpacked, the towels and blankets went into a donation box.
Do you store boxes of facial tissues and rolls of toilet tissue in multiple locations in your home? Perhaps you have a spare roll or two in the bathroom, some items in your cleaning closet, and an overstock of items in the basement or garage.
Can you store your overstock on a single shelf or in a single cabinet? Although I’m not suggesting that you should have so few of these supplies that you risk running out, do you have months of stock? Do you really want to give that much space to these bulky supplies?
Maybe when the kids lived at home you maintained a certain level of stock, but you’ve never adjusted your shopping habits as the kids moved away. Consider how often you shop and what you really need to keep for back-up supplies.
Lunchboxes and backpacks aren’t just for kids. Check the condition of the lunchboxes and backpacks (and tote bags, if that’s what you use) and make certain that zippers zip and other features are in working condition. If the item(s) needs to be aired out, hang it up. If the item doesn’t get used or it has been replaced, clear out the items you don’t need.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate a snack that you are eating only because you are bored, or you need a break.
You’ve sorted through the contents of your bathroom – medications, grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, etc. on different days, so you may open your medicine chest and be pleased with what you don’t see there.
This could be a quick cleaning task, or it could be a mid-year check that nothing has expired or is unwanted.
Moldy bathmat? The body wash that dried out your skin? Remove something that doesn’t work the way it should or that is worn out or that you dislike and won’t use (so, holding onto it won’t help you get any more value from it).
Consider how many laundry baskets and hampers you need for shuttling dirty clothing to the washing machine.
Do you have some laundry baskets that have become catch-alls for stuff that needs to be put away? If you walk through your home with this basket at the end of the day putting away items, great. If there’s a layer of dust on the items because they never get put away, consider that both the basket and its contents may be unnecessary.
If the basket is broken or cracked, you may still be able to use it, but clothing may get snagged and damaged.
I heard the story of a woman who put multiple hampers in her bedroom, bathroom, and closet to encourage her husband to toss his dirty clothes in a hamper instead of on the floor. Alas, he did not develop a new habit.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Take an item off your to-do list. Either do a brief activity or cross something off your list that’s been there for more than 6-months (and that you are realizing you won’t just do)
A quick search online shows that natural loofahs should be replaced once a month while plastic poufs can be used for a couple of months before being replaced.
If you can’t remember how long you’ve been using your loofah or mesh pouf, it’s probably time for a change. And, if you have a loofah you never use, you don’t need to keep it.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Intentionally skip or turn down an activity you want to avoid.
If you have an assortment of half-used bottles of shampoos and body washes because you like switching to different products, gather these supplies together so you can see what you have.
Are there products that look or smell strange? Toss them. Otherwise, make a point to use up body lotion, hand cream, face moisturizer, and other beauty and grooming products before you buy new ones.
If you store the products with the almost empty ones up front, you’ll go through these supplies fast and you’ll clear clutter.
My father had the strange habit of purchasing new towels or washcloths and then declaring that we could still use the old ones we’d been using. When I cleared out their house, I gave away bags of brand-new towels and washcloths.
If you’ve purchased new washcloths because they were on sale, why not use them? Thin, frayed, and stained washcloths can be downgraded to cleaning rags (only if you use cleaning rags) or donated to animal shelters.
Make it a habit of only purchasing replacement items when you are ready to switch out the old items. You aren’t getting a great deal at a sale if you buy items that you tuck away for future use.
The way I see it, for each person in your home, you need the towels you are using and another set that is in the wash or the linen closet. Add in one set of towels for each guest you could possibly host which probably is enough (unless you have guests who stay for a month).
If the number of towels and washcloths you own suggests that you regularly host six guests (who would have no space to stay with your family of four), you may have more towels than you need.
A few ratty towels for absorbing large spills are useful, but you don’t need a dozen ratty towels (and you might want to keep these separate from your good towels.
I remember my father buying towels at discount stores and then coming home and announcing that we wouldn’t need to use them until the towels we were using were in worse shape. I found shopping bags of perfectly good, brand new towels piled in a spare room. The linen closet was packed with gray, frayed, threadbare towels.
If you’ve bought new towels, enjoy them. Demote your old towels to clean-up duty. Pass your clean-up towels on to an animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitator.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.