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Ditch These 6 Items to Start the New Year Fresh

Someone putting clothes in a donation box.
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A new year is the perfect time to refresh your home and get organized. However, one major obstacle to a fresh start can be the overwhelming feeling of simply having too much stuff. We’ve got a few suggestions on where to start the decluttering process. Before you know it, you’ll have reclaimed your space!

Throwing out, recycling, or donating items you no longer use is key to keeping your home clean, organized, and comfortable. To start the new year off right (and with less clutter), try getting rid of these common unnecessary items.

Old Reference Books

A stack of encyclopedias.
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When was the last time you actually looked at an old travel guide, used an atlas, or consulted an encyclopedia? Chances are, you now use the internet to look up questions like these. Not only is it usually much faster, but it’s probably more helpful and up-to-date.

At this point, those old reference texts are just clutter. Go ahead and donate or recycle them to clear some space on your shelves.

Don’t feel bad about donating relatively useless books, either. Many people do still collect books, sometimes just because they look old. Some crafters and DIYers also repurpose books for tons of creative projects. So, fear not—they’ll get a second life somewhere.

Decorative Pillows

A bunch of throw pillows on a bed.
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Decorative throw pillows can add pops of color, texture, and personality to your décor. They can also quickly pile up until you have a closet full of them. Ditching any throw pillows you’re not usually regularly is a quick way to make your living space look less cluttered and more put-together.

Even in storage, pillows tend to take up a lot of space, so don’t just stuff them in a closet and call it good. Clearing some out is a quick way to create more space for items you truly value.

If there are some you can’t bring yourself to part with that have removable pillowcases, consider saving just those and rotating them with a few of the pillow inserts from those you’re keeping. It’ll save space, while still allowing you to refresh the theme of your décor often.

Pantry Items

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Reorganizing the pantry and cabinets is a task many resolve to tackle at the start of a new year. It’s pretty easy once you get going! Just start going through them, one shelf or cabinet at a time, through and toss out anything that’s expired.

You’ll be surprised how many cans or boxes just got shoved to the back and sat there until they were a year out of date. While a lot of boxed, canned, and jarred foods can stay good for years, some—like peanut butter and other nut-based products—spoil faster, so you’ll need to check those expiration dates.

Clothes You No Longer Wear

A tortoiseshell cat in a closet.
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The new year is also an excellent time to go through that closet and pull out anything you never wear. If you see an item and think you might wear it someday, consider whether it’s worth the space it takes up in your closet.

If you’re unsure about an item, try the six-month test. If it doesn’t fit or you still haven’t worn it in six months, bid it goodbye. If you live in a climate with seasonal changes, or if you’ve gone through some major life events, you can give it a year instead of six months. But the same principle applies when that year is up: if it’s just taking up precious closet space, out it goes.

Outdated Tech Accessories

Somewhere in the back of your closet, garage, or desk drawer, there are probably quite a few once-indispensable devices that you haven’t used in months, or even years. We’re talking about stuff like calculators, old cords, adapters, chargers, and other tech accessories for devices you no longer have or use.

Rather than just throwing them in the trash, try taking them to a recycling location. Many tech stores, like Best Buy, accept old cords and chargers for recycling, or you can look for a metal recycling center in your area.

Miscellaneous Papers

Someone sorting through stacks of bills and papers on the floor.
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Time to clear out that desk and file cabinet and get rid of all those random papers you don’t actually need. File away or shred old billing statements or credit card receipts, and toss any receipts from purchases you made with cash.

Toss or recycle takeout menus, old calendars, and planners from years past. You’ll be surprised how big of a stack you’ve accumulated—and how great it’ll feel to be rid of it all.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can extend this part of your decluttering spree to include larger paper products, like old newspaper clippings and magazines. Keep only those you really want, but if a magazine issue has just one article you’re interested in, tear it out and recycle the rest.


A new year is when many people start tackling goals. If decluttering your home is one of yours, these steps will help you free up tons of space and get organized, quickly and efficiently.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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