If you’ll be entertaining at some time this month or next, will you need your cloth napkins, placemats, or tablecloths? Check them for stains before you go to set your table. And, if life has changed and you no longer need cloth napkins and tablecloths, it’s okay to let them go. If they are heirlooms and in excellent condition, see if a family member would love to use them and build new memories.
As someone who crochets, I’ve made a lot of afghans. I even remember crocheting an afghan while my cat slept on the half that was completed. By the time I finished that afghan, I knew it belonged to my cat … so I made another afghan for myself.
Consider how many afghans and throws you use at any one time. If you are holding onto an afghan because someone made it for you, even though you don’t use it, consider if you want to hang it over the back of a chair to display it instead of hiding it in a trunk or storage bin so to show your appreciation.
You can always donate extra afghans and lap blankets to animal shelters as well as homeless shelters and nursing homes (check that they are looking for this type of donation).
Chances are that the blankets you use are already on your bed. An out-of-season blanket may be in storage. Beyond that, how many extra blankets do you need? An extra blanket to throw over your lap if you get chilly on the couch? Enough blankets for your kids to create a fort?
Consider how many and what blankets have been used in your home over the past year. If you regularly have guests sleeping on your couch, then you’ll want a couple of blankets for that use. However, if you never need extra blankets, what just-in-case situation are you holding onto them for?
Blankets take up a lot of space and can become musty if they aren’t used for years. Donating them allows this useful item to be used.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Use your 15-minutes of decluttering to get rid of five emails (in your inbox or archived in a folder).
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.
I’m happy with owning the sheets on my bed and a spare set that sits in the cabinet. I can strip the bed and put on a new set while the others are in the wash.
I don’t have a spare bedroom and so I don’t need sheets for guests. If I did, I’d probably only have the set on the bed that I’d wash and replace. You may enjoy switching from cotton sheets in the summer to flannel sheets in the winter.
If the fitted sheet wears out, do you replace that alone, or do you get a new set of sheets, toss the worn fitted sheet and keep the flat sheet and pillowcases just in case? Have you ever used these just-in-case-sheets?
Sheets are a functional item and so keeping things that you can’t or don’t use can clutter your linen cabinet and make it more difficult to access the items you do use.
Check with local wildlife rehabilitators or animal shelters to see if they can use worn-out sheets.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Give away a knickknack that you’ve been displaying for years even though you no longer like it or find any meaning for keeping it.
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.