Whether it’s seasonal décor or something you display year-round, do you have yard decorations that are faded or damaged to a degree that just looking at the items is discouraging? Just because the item stays outside is no reason to hold onto something you don’t enjoy looking at.
Take a walk through your garden and notice any embellishments that are damaged, rusted, faded, or otherwise looking shabby.
If the item has become a distraction instead of an ornamentation, it may be time to release it. Also, do you have some items that you don’t have displayed? (Perhaps they are tucked into the corner of your shed.) If you feel the item(s) don’t help accentuate your garden or yard, or you no longer like them, you aren’t obligated to hold onto them.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: get rid of something you don’t like.
Do you have an air mattress for guests? When was the last time you used it? Are you planning on guests this summer? Are you thinking that the last guest to use it commented that it was leaking, and you thought it would be a quick fix … but you haven’t got around to the task yet?
Do you or your kids have sleeping bags? Have the kids outgrown their sleeping bags? Do you go camping (the backyard counts)?
If these are useful, used items, you might want to make certain they are someplace handy. If you can’t remember the last time you used an air mattress or a sleeping bag, consider that it is time to let these items go.
If this doesn’t apply to you: unsubscribe to a shopping website’s emails.
If you haven’t gone in search of your sunglasses for a while, you may be surprised to discover they haven’t fared well over the winter. Damaged lenses make it difficult to see and a broken earpiece is uncomfortable.
If these are prescription glasses, see if there is a warranty that will cover the replacement of damaged components. If you picked up your sunglasses at the drugstore or department store, you’ll need to replace your sunglasses … unless, of course, you have other pairs around the house that are still in good condition.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Use your 15-minutes of decluttering to get rid of five emails (from your inbox or archived in a folder).
I know that I never apply as much sunscreen as is recommended, and, so, I’m not surprised when the summer comes to an end and I still have sunscreen in the bottle.
And, sunscreen is one of those items where you may have a couple of bottles in use, particularly if you go to the beach or send your kids to an outdoor camp or sports program.
Check expiration dates or toss any sunscreen from previous years. In this case, go out and buy a replacement bottle of sunscreen.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Toss five pieces of paper – an old list, an out-of-date warranty, an article you tore from a magazine or printed from online, etc.
Gather in one place any sports equipment that you own. Encourage your family to do the same.
Do you still participate in these sports?
If so, do you have duplicate equipment because you upgraded without getting rid of the older items?
Do your kids have equipment that they’ve outgrown? (Could you sell these items?)
Is the equipment in good condition?
Do you use everything you have or are there pieces that could be sold, donated, or, perhaps, tossed? If you are telling yourself that you will get back to participating in a sport, when will that be? Can you block out your schedule … or, is it time to acknowledge that your life has changed, and you can enjoy your memories and release some expectations?
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Eliminate one kitchen gadget you don’t use.
If a chair is unsafe to sit in, or if it will leave streaks of rust on someone’s clothing, or someone’s clothing could get caught and torn on a screw or a crack, it may be best to be proactive and toss these items.
Decide whether you need to replace these chairs. If you don’t host outdoor parties, you may not need new chairs. Save yourself the money and the time spent cleaning and storing the chairs.
If this task 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
If you have play equipment in your yard for your children or grandchildren, check that the pieces are still in good condition and are size- and age-appropriate. Are there pieces that the kids never play with?
Talk to the kids about donating unused item(s) to other children (be them kids your children know or less advantaged children). Kids are used to sharing items and so the idea of giving away things they no longer use won’t be unusual.
If the equipment is old or damaged, toss it.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Organize the contents of one digital or physical file folder. Eliminate what you don’t need and keep what you do.
While growing up, my family did not order much take-out food; however, as my parents aged, they got more take-out meals. These meals often came with those wrapped packages containing a napkin, fork, knife, spoon, and packets of salt and pepper.
They didn’t use these utensils, but they held onto them “just in case.” They had bags and containers filled with these packets of utensils.
Now, at the location where I worked, we held an annual fundraiser on Mother’s Day – a nature walk followed by a simple pancake breakfast. Because of health codes, we used paper plates and plastic utensils for the breakfast.
I decided to ask my mother if she would donate all these unused plastic utensils to the event; I was relieved that she agreed. At work, I opened the packets and removed the flatware.
We had more than enough forks, spoons, and knives for the one hundred participants.
Yes, my parents had saved over a hundred sets of flatware … and they still had some at the house for “just in case.”
Use these utensils when you get take-out – or toss them. If you have saved these utensils, use them at your next cookout, tuck them into the family’s lunchboxes, or let kids use the utensils instead of paintbrushes to create art.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.