20 Things You Probably Own Too Many Of (and what to do with them)
We need multiples of some things, but at a certain point "a few" becomes "too many." Things accumulate, and we veer into clutter territory. Clutter steals our time and attention, and makes our home environment seem out of control.
Check your home for these items, and see how many you can declutter this week.
Unless you have babies or potty-training children, you probably don't need more than two sets of sheets per bed. I actually have one high quality set per bed, and save time and space by simply putting them back on after wash day.
Donate old sheets to animal shelters, DIY a kids' play tent, sew up some drawstring bags for craft kits or gift bags, or cut the sheets up for cleaning cloths.
It's not necessary to use a new towel after every bath or shower. When you use towels to dry clean hands or bodies, they can be hung and reused for several days.
As with sheets, donate old towels to animal shelters.
3. Kitchen utensils
If you have eight spatulas, how many of those are extras? Personally, I use two – a flexible, slotted fish turner,* which is also great for omelets, pancakes, French toast, burgers, and more; and a silicone spatula for mixing and scraping batter, eggs, sauces, icing, etc.
* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.
And how many knives do you have? How many do you use every day? Chef Anthony Bourdain famously said that knife sets were a rip-off and a waste. He recommended "ONE good chef's knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand."
There are also special slicers, brushes, pizza gadgets, the garlic press, and so much more. You know what you use and what you bought because it looked cute or had a good sales pitch. Streamline your utensils, and the pieces you love will be that much easier to access.
Wine glasses, juice glasses, martini glasses, champagne glasses – do you really need a different glass for each beverage you drink? I like the modern trend toward stemless glasses for everything. In fact, French bistros use these Duralex Picardie tumblers for water, juice, and milk as well as wine, tea, and espresso.
5. Food storage containers
Let's be honest. Many of us pack up our extra food, then gasp at the horrifying science projects that develop in the fridge after a couple of weeks. This tells me we don't need so many food storage containers! With fewer containers, I use leftovers more often, and waste less food.
Go through your stash (which is probably larger than you realize) and put lidless, warped, or cracked containers in the recycling bin. Better still, eliminate plastic and get glass containers that can go in the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, oven, and even be used as serveware.
Repurpose usable plastic to store batteries, nails/screws/picture hangers, a mini sewing kit, Matchbox cars, doll clothes, etc.
6. Tote bags
Reusable shopping bags are a must – until you have too many. At some point you must stop accumulating them. Don't buy more, don't take a free one from that charity you support. Just say no.
Fill one of your extra totes with canned goods and give the whole thing to a food bank. Pile extra sweaters and jackets into a tote and donate at your local homeless shelter. Shelters and food banks love tote bags because their patrons put them to use.
7. Paper and plastic dishes
Do you host a party every weekend? If not, you really don't need that 250-pack of paper plates, cartons of plastic utensils, or holiday napkins you bought on sale. They're taking up valuable kitchen space you surely need for other things.
See if you can donate your surplus to your church's social committee, your child's school, or your workplace kitchen. If there's an event for which you do need these supplies, buy just enough for the occasion.
8. Bulk foods
I makes sense to buy some shelf-stable foods in bulk. But did you get a great deal on a case of canned green beans that have yet to be eaten? Or maybe you thought you'd switch over to oat milk instead of cow's milk, but it never caught on?
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I bought a case of V8, thinking I'd up my nutrition every morning. It turned out that I had to stop drinking V8 – even thinking about it made me queasy. (If you've ever suffered from morning sickness, you'll know what I'm talking about.)
Don't just hang on to that stuff. Donate it while it's still good, and be thoughtful about what you buy in large quantities from now on.
9. Personal care products
Whether it's shampoo that was supposed to make hair lustrous and full of body, or a facial serum that was supposed to make skin look ten years younger, we've all been suckered in by products that were supposed to transform us. Time to eliminate. And the truth is, using fewer products is probably better for your hair, skin, nails, etc.
The same psychology is at work with makeup. Even if you don't generally wear a lot of it, you may still have three eye shadow palettes and five lipsticks. And products like mascara, eye liner, and foundation can go bad. Toss anything you haven't worn in the past year. It's not only full of bacteria, but chances are you'll never use it.
Once again, consider using fewer products. See if you can streamline your look to five products or less.
Yes, they're cute. But do you actually use them? Stash one in your gym or travel bag, and either use the rest or donate them (if unopened) to a homeless shelter. And next time you stay at a hotel, leave them behind.
12. Fancy soaps, bath items, and scented candles
Why do we buy these, or receive them as gifts, and then decide to save them for a "special occasion?" That just insures that we'll never use them.
Don't just be a collector. Either use and enjoy these items or give them to someone who will.
Batteries get stashed in junk drawers, desk drawers, the garage, and other places. Then the smoke alarm starts chirping at 2:00 a.m. and you can't find the new battery it needs. Alternatively, you buy batteries because you think you're running low, only to find an unopened package in a drawer you don't expect.
So first of all, choose one place to store your batteries. Next, make sure the batteries are still viable. When your dead battery container is full, take it to your nearest battery recycler.
I know – books are "sacred." And you probably do have a few all-time, re-read forever favorites. I'm not suggesting you part with those.
But the book club choice you only read because you had to? The last five books by a prolific best-selling author that simply aren't his best? The beach read with the broken spine or the last-minute desperation purchase made at the airport? How about fad-diet books, and even old textbooks? Why are those sitting on your shelf?
My number one suggestion – use the library! Borrowing books is an amazingly great way to read a wide variety. Also consider switching to e-books. Amazon's free app lets you read Kindle books on any device. (All of my books are available in Kindle editions.)
Donate books to a library or senior center. Kid's books can go to a day care or school library.
From now on, only buy physical copies of books you're sure you want to keep and re-read.
Related article: How to Pare Down Your Home Library and Uncover the Books You Love
15. Office supplies
Are you a sucker for big packs of pens, funny greeting cards, and pretty notepads? Does your desk hold more paperclips and pushpins than you'll ever use? Do your office mates secretly call you the Post-It Queen?
If you've got it, use it. Write a letter or mail that card. Organize paperwork into those file folders. But don't buy anything new until you've used up what you have, and make a conscious decision to use less paper. Think carefully before you print anything, and make lists on your smartphone.
If you've ever received flowers, you've probably received a vase. You may have a cupboard full of them! Reuse a couple of your favorites when you buy fresh flowers or cut some from your garden. A low or wide-mouth vase could become:
- a candleholder, with one fat candle or several votives nestled in pebbles or glass marbles
- a vessel for a tabletop garden or terrarium
- a serving dish for salads, chips, wrapped candies, etc.
- a container for cooking utensils next to the stove
- a gratitude jar
Donate extras to your neighborhood florist.
It's typical to have a mix of wood, plastic, and wire hangers jumbled together, which may not only stretch and ruin your clothes (or allow them to slip onto the floor), but looks ugly and messy. Uniform hangers, such as these slim velvety ones, can fix all those problems.
Many dry cleaners will accept the return of old wire hangers.
Here's a statistic that will stop you in your tracks: The U.S. is home to about 3% of the world's children, but we buy 40% of the world's toys. Excess toys are a problem for almost everyone, and we have parents, grandparents, other relatives, the occasional "bribery" toy, and Happy Meals to thank for it.
You probably know which toys your child plays with regularly, which toys they pull out every once in a while, and which ones they're tired of, too big for, or never had much interest in. Plan to declutter every three or four months using this guide.
19. Purposeless furniture and décor
Many homes have furniture pieces and décor items that exist simply to occupy space. We're afraid of empty corners and bare walls.
Don't let inertia and guilt keep you from decluttering. Just because Uncle Homer gave it to you, you've had it "forever," or you "spent good money" for it is no reason to hang on. And removing useless furniture or knickknacks won't make your home sparse – it'll make it roomier, and give the things you do like and use a chance to shine.
20. Apps and subscriptions
Many apps are free, so it's easy to download something you need just once or that seems intriguing. Cool, right? Until you can't see the wallpaper on your phone. And you can't locate the app you want. Or you realize that you actually use a half-dozen apps regularly but have cluttered your phone with 49.
Delete. And think twice before you download any more.
Then there are subscriptions. Not just great blogs (like mine 😉), but podcasts, newspapers, magazines, entertainment and music channels, genealogy services, alumni sites, foreign language lessons, shaving clubs, dinner kits, beauty product samplers, fashion boxes.... You name it, it's out there, and I bet you're paying for subscriptions that you could do without. Yes, it takes a bit of time and effort to cancel, but meanwhile your monthly cash flow may be leakier than you realize. Unsubscribe! (Not from me, okay?)
Here come the benefits.
There are plenty of things in life that we can't control, so why not control what we can? And there are plenty of things worth our energy and attention, so let's stop hanging on to stuff that steals both.
Related article: Declutter 30 Things (or More!) With Ease This Weekend
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