If you are in the U.S. and getting ready to hold Thanksgiving dinner or you’re planning to host any upcoming holiday dinners, at some point you may inventory the condition and number of serving bowls, plates, and utensils you have. Do you use all of them?
If you no longer host big dinners, do you need these types of serving items or do you know a friend or family member who could make better use of them?
If this task doesn’t apply to you – Look through your plates, cups, and mugs to see if you are holding onto extra pieces that you just won’t use.
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.
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.
My parents used to keep broken kitchen appliances (like toasters) even after they went out and bought a new one. Their reasoning was that if something happened to the new one, they could pull out the older toaster. Are you thinking ???? Even as a kid, that bit of illogic baffled me.
Do you have items around your kitchen that you’ve replaced while holding onto the older item? Even if there’s nothing wrong with both utensils, do you really need two vegetable peelers or lemon squeezers? Or, are you holding onto items that don’t work very well? If you rarely use the item, could you use another item as a substitute? If you use the item frequently, why are you adding to your stress with a toaster that’s set on “burnt” or a blender that barely swishes its contents. If you are saving for a replacement, stay focused on this commitment; however, if you feel you must make do, question why you don’t feel you can replace something you use all the time.
Do you have a picnic basket? Do you use it? Yes? Good for you! If you have a picnic basket that hasn’t been used for a couple of years (or, ever), it’s probably time to acknowledge that picnics aren’t a part of your lifestyle.
If you feel bad for not using it, plan a picnic for some time in the next two weeks – it can even be a picnic in the yard! If the thought doesn’t excite you, put the picnic basket in your to-be-donated pile.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Donate any basket in your home that isn’t serving a function or that you don’t care about.
If you have duplicate pans and you don’t use both at the same time, keep the best and donate the other. Do you have pots and pans that you can’t remember the last time you used? You may have inherited or been given cookware that seemed useful and so you kept it, but you never use it.
Once a year, my grocery store gives away cookware – receive stickers for every ten dollars you spend and redeem them on pots and pans. Great if you are replacing an old pan, otherwise, it’s more stuff to move around when you’re trying to find a skillet.
A hint that you don’t use a pan – you don’t store it in your kitchen; instead, it’s kept in another room. Out of sight, out of mind? Maybe you used to use it, but life changed, and you don’t host big holiday dinners where you need a roasting pan. It’s okay to pass items along to people who will use them.
Ice cube trays are inexpensive, and they come in some fun shapes, so you may have a stack of ice cube trays in your freezer. If you’ve noticed that the cubes in the trays shrink or disappear, then you just aren’t using that many ice cubes and could do with fewer trays.
(Science-y note: The ice cubes are going through sublimation – going straight from a solid to a gas. The ice is melting into a gas instead of a liquid. This is perfectly normal.)
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Check your freezer’s contents for food that should be used soon or that has gone bad.
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.
Do you have an old appliance sitting in your garage or backyard because you replaced it but then never arranged for the old appliance to be carted away? Perhaps it still had some use left in it and you thought having an extra refrigerator would be a good thing to have when you had parties. Or you thought someone would take it off your hands.
Wouldn’t you rather have the cleared space? Find out from your trash service how to arrange the removal of the item.
Smaller appliances that don’t work – mixers, coffee makers, rice cookers – can usually go in with the regular trash. If you don’t use the item but it still works, donate it.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: sort through that stack of papers; file what you’ll keep and shred or recycle what you won’t
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.