A Dozen to Ditch: Things You Should Throw Out Today


Get the trash can. It’s tossing time. You already know to start with the obvious, like expired foods, old vitamins and—because it accumulates bacteria—makeup.

But there’s plenty more to ditch, donate, or recycle, including these items:

Linens and towels. Some experts say to discard bed linens every two years or so, but depending on use, you can keep them much longer. Just be sure to eyeball them for wear. Retired sheets make good drop cloths and worn towels are welcome at vet offices and animal shelters.

Pillows. Can’t recall the last time you bought a new bed pillow? Then it’s past time to replace yours. Oils, hair, skin—they’re on and inside pillows eventually, and so are dust mites. Pillows wear out and stop supporting your head and neck, too. Replace pillows annually or sooner, if they’re lumpy or have to be fluffed to feel right.

User manuals. Check if an appliance, tool or computer manual exists online. If it does, get rid of the paper version. If there’s no online version, scan it and then trash it.

Electronics. Round up chargers, cords, old phones, and unused laptops or tablets. Get rid of whatever is worn or outmoded. Don’t just throw these in the trash—batteries and other components can be hazardous. Many local governments or electronics stores take these items for safe disposal.

Cookware. Some cookware, like cast iron, improves with age. Most doesn’t. Scratched nonstick cookware is a problem. Those scratches can flake nonstick coating into your food. Toss it. Donate other pots, pans and specialized cookware that you don’t use often enough to justify storing it.

Unused or incomplete kitchen gadgets. The mixer with one beater missing. A two-slot toaster with one faulty slot. A bulky coffee maker you replaced with the “coffee pod” version. Say goodbye. If they function, like the coffee maker, donate them to a charity secondhand shop or a college kid.

Plastic food containers. They’re reusable, and that’s great. But they degrade over time and warp, crack, or absorb smells and stains you can’t wash away. Check regularly. Some can be recycled or repurposed to hold non-food items like nails or screws.

Cookbooks. Not all of them, just the ones you seldom use. Scan recipes you want and donate or recycle the space-gobbling books.

Office junk. If you’re of a certain age, you’ve amassed business cards, Rolodex cards, CD-ROMs, name tags, and work-conference freebies (yet another stress ball or coffee mug with a corporate logo). Scan cards, then throw them out with the rest. Ditch old pens too.

Free samples. Miniature shampoos, lotions, etc. from hotels or tiny toothpastes from the dentist are great if you use them. So use them, toss them, or if they’re unopened, donate them. Some homeless shelters accept unused, travel-sized toiletries.

Contact lens cases. You know to change your toothbrush, but did you know to change your lens case too? They’re durable, but invisible buildup can make them less than sanitary. Change every three months.

Shoes. You really won’t wear those shoes you only kept because they match one outfit you loved years ago.  Cull them, and maybe the outfit. Go through other shoes ruthlessly. Old shoes might look OK but can be broken down inside and can cause injuries.