Throw Away 50 Things!

It is time, yet again, to grab a drawer, closet, refrigerator or medicine cabinet and start chucking stuff.  You may think we just finished the most magical season of the year, but the truth is … it has just arrived.

It is THROW AWAY 50 THINGS season, which is only eclipsed in terms of excitement by the one day a year your hair, nails, outfit and skin look good, by some miracle, all at the same time.  Sadly this “time” is usually at 1 a.m. after coming home from a bar and is also mainly imaginary.

January is traditionally the clearing out, decluttering, cleaning up, paring down season. That’s why plastic totes, cutlery trays and storage towers are on sale this month.  But those things really just help your organize or hide your crap,  when what you really need to do is get RID of it.

As fond as you are of the operation manual for the 20 year old VCR you threw out 9 years ago, you can probably part with it without consequence.

I have an entire folder filled with useless manuals. It started out as a great way to keep track of all them and has ended with me housing manuals from products that have long been thrown out, given away or deemed hazardous by all countries but China.

So that is the first thing I tackled in my Throw Away 50 Things Challenge.  My collection of manuals.






I had a manual on how to operate my toaster.  A toaster.  How to operate it.

I’m pretty confident in my toasting skills so I took a risk and threw it out.

The second thing I tackled was the entire closet that the manual folder is in.  I lost count, but I threw out approximately 14,543,256 things.

This is what it looked like when I started.  I’ll allow you a moment now to snoop through all of my things as I know you will.  It’s human nature.




And after a few hours of  chucking and reorganizing …




It still doesn’t look like something that would be in Martha Stewart’s or even Jon Stewart’s house but it’s better than it was.  The next time I go to Ikea to pick up a hotdog, I’ll check the As Is section for more shelves so there isn’t as much wasted space.


Now I just have to tackle the other side of the closet.




Oh, you finally made it to this sentence did you?  Dirty gawker.

Now it’s your turn.  Throw Away 50 things and make your life easier, more organized, simpler and safer (no one should own 30 year old fireworks).  Once you do it, let everyone know what you got rid of in the comment section.

More organizing incentives coming up on Wednesday, this time … the freezer.  How I got twice as much into the same amount of space, which is not unlike what I’m currently doing with this year’s thighs in last year’s jeans.

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  1. Nan says:

    I have a candle drawer. Sadly I couldn’t fit anything else in it, not even a feather. Reorganized and threw away my first candle purchased and all old and partially used and never intend to use ones. I feel like a huge weight was lifted off of me. I think the drawer thinks that too.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I’m sure it does. So now you just have to remember to actually burn the odd candle. Not at both ends of course. ~ karen!

  2. Dianne says:

    My name is Dianne and I am a hoarder. (Isn’t that the opening line for a twelve step program?) I came by it naturally as the child of a hoarder, and some really hard times in my past lead to fears of being without – again. But I am attempting to mend my ways. So as not to throw myself into total psychotic shock, I have adopted my own 1 out of 4 rule. I must rid myself of one out of four of any item which I have too many of. I put them out by the street in a large box plainly marked “Free Stuff” and let the scavengers do the rest. Every Sunday I empty the box and take it to a local mission. So far I have reduced my plastic container stash (don’t we all have one?) from a cabinet shelf and four (yes, four) big boxes to the shelf and two boxes, a closet and six garbage bags of clothes to the closet and three bags, three sets of pots and pans to one (now that one was stressful) and other smaller heaps of stuff. I am still working on it but when I realize that 5 big boxes of ‘stuff’ are no longer here, I feel there is hope for me yet.

  3. Karen says:

    On to it.
    374kgs of paper/cardboard, boxes to the dump dating from 1988.
    Lots of junk thrown out or given away e.g. chairs that were going to be fixed, tables, art paper, pens, books clothes. On a roll and going room by room. Very therapeutic.

  4. calliek says:

    I stumbled onto this pledge last winter and it was the best thing ever.
    I made a list of things I needed to de-crappify and every day I picked one project to complete. On a high energy day I tackled one of the bigger projects and on days when I was less enthusiastic I did something simple like delete old emails. Breaking it down like that really worked for me and my ADD issues- I could make myself spend an entire day cleaning out the spice rack and feel like I accomplished something without getting distracted on other projects. I made one cupboard the recipient of all of the things that I wanted to give away. By the end of the 40 days I had cleared up things that had bothered me for years, gotten rid of a ton of things (7 garbage bags worth went to Goodwill, 3 shopping bags to a consignment store, 3 bags of books went to various places and so on.) It actually made a huge difference in our seriously storage deprived apt- so noticeable that my friend (who spent the winter in Mexico and missed the process) couldn’t get over the change. I’m already lining up my list for this year and you have given me some ideas!

  5. Peggy says:

    Two words to change your life– manuals online! I am liberated from paper, but I do have a plump Evernote account now.

  6. Martha says:

    Looks like you have a pretty impressive music collection and you’re intent on being lint-free. Cool.

  7. Desiree says:

    Any tips on purging boxes of old photos (lots of crappy ones included)? I have done really well throwing stuff away in the rest of my house but when I get to the craft room where I have piles of photos and scrapbook junk I intended to put into scrapbooks I get stuck. :(

    • Karen says:

      Hi Desiree. For me, personally, I’ve found with old photos you have to just bite the shoebox so to speak and go through them. I sent an entire winter, every night on the ground of the living room just going through photos while watching television. I separated them by date and then just filled albums. I still have all the photos (all of which I watned) but now they’re completely organized by year and not such a frenzied mess. Shockingly people even look at the photos when they come over now, lol. Because they’re in albums they’re easy to whip out and go through. Not an easy job, in fact I still remember how much I hated it near the end of album …. 7 or so. But I’m glad I did it. ~ karen!

    • Kate says:

      Your readers are as funny as you are! Desiree, Blacks has this amazing service where you can send them shoeboxes of photos and negatives and slides and Super 8 film and they digitize them all. Amazing. Then you can recycle (are they recyclable?) your photos and take your time to delete any crappy photos from your new digitized collection. Amazing.

  8. I want to make a magical gleaming fish-scale wall with my old cds one day. I can’t imagine where it would go in my house, but couldn’t it look beautiful?

  9. Maria says:

    I did the bathroom cabinets. Old stuff gone forever

  10. Patricia says:

    I just cleaned out my spice cupboard! Threw out old and expired spices (cloves dated 1985)….old extract flavorings…salt and pepper combos……consolidated three shelves in a cupboard so that now I actually have an EMPTY shelf!

  11. Laura Bee says:

    Ohh, just purged & moved November 3rd. How could I already have 50 things? bahahaha! I am painting this week- will get on it asap. Thanks Karen.

  12. Jaylah says:

    I never realized there was an actual month for doing this. I started doing this (for real started instead of just thinking about it) last spring. When you are single, have no kids, and reach a birthday that ends in 0 you tend to start thinking about stuff like this. Because….

    When I’m gone, who is the unlucky person that gets to go through all this crap?

    So three friends and I had a garage sale last June where I got rid of all of the big stuff (a lot that got transferred over here when my parents abruptly sold their huge house and moved to an apartment in a retirement home) and a whole lot of the small stuff. Anything that didn’t sell at the garage sale got immediately taken to Goodwill right after we closed the garage-sale down. (One of the friends had a pick-up truck.)

    My garbage service has a limit as to how much they’ll take on any given pick up day without additional charges, so I’m slowly but surely putting stuff at the curb.

    I’ve recently been researching the “tiny home” movement. Although not as small as a true “tiny home” my house is quite small. I’d love to have it, by the time I croak, down to the point where it would take one person one afternoon to get everything cleared out of here and the house ready for a professional cleaning company to come in and give it the once-over before putting it on the market.

    One of the ones that’s causing me to stumble is my wedding photograph album. We were divorced in 1978, so why am I keeping that??? Any why would anybody else want it after I’m gone? It’s on a shelf in the attic, in the white box it came in from the photographer, so it’s not like I look at it. And who would want it after I die? Maybe it’s because the photographer charged so much money to make it? I honestly have no idea why I still have it. But I do.

    But what I want to know is: Is every defunct user’s manual one item in to 50? Or is throwing out all defunct user’s manuals one out of the 50?

    • Sandra says:

      Jaylah, maybe somebody in the wedding party would want it? Or, somebody who likes “old” photo’s for art’s sake might. Or, somebody in your family who was there?

      Or, maybe the ex? Does he have kids?

      Seems a shame to dump it. There’s history in those pics.

      • Jaylah says:

        I know, Sandra.

        Thing is, the marriage only lasted a bit over a year. My sister and one of his sisters were my attendants. I don’t think anybody in either family really wants to be reminded of what a fiasco both that wedding and marriage were.

        The ex is on his third (at least) marriage (I was his second) and I doubt his current wife would be very thrilled about having a wedding album of one of his previous marriages arriving in the post, even if I knew where he lived (which I don’t, and don’t want to know.)

        About the only thing I can really think of doing with this is to take the photos out and donate the album to Goodwill. If a bride couldn’t afford a professional photographer, she could have a friend take pictures, have them blown up to 5 X 7 prints, and have a lovely, white, padded album.

  13. Sandra says:

    LOL – you’ve both given me ideas for next year. I WAS going to fill up the over abundance of back packs we have with socks and sh**, but maybe a kitten or a pup from the countryside outside the city limits would be better. How about some free love, buddy?

    • Karen says:

      Well, the time I’ve taken to read all the inspirational comments – it’s now my bedtime and alas not a single thing was piffed today!!

  14. Sandra says:

    I thought everyone in Canada gets those catalogues from ?PlanCanada where you can buy different things for individuals/families in ?Africa. I bought chicks (each were $17), 3 hens and a rooster, educational material for individual children to go to school, good water for a family, harvest seeds for several families, quinoa seeds, a goat and a pair of pigs. Some were matched in price by corporations. My nephew thanked me! He said he has everything he needs.

    • martina says:

      That’s great! In my imagination you had gone to some seedy pet store and gotten pit bulls for all your local squeegee kids.

    • Jaylah says:

      Sandra, my parents do that for everyone in the family each year. They say it’s to remind us all that Christmas is about giving, too, and not just about getting.

      I loved the year they gave me a goat. And I told all my friends my parents gave me a goat for Christmas, and they all wanted to know where I kept it since I lived in town. :)

      Their “giving-gift” has always been my favorite ever since they started the tradition.

  15. martina says:

    You are preaching to the choir! My dining room is currently heaving with junk that I purged today. You know when you get in a mood and just lose it on your closets and drawers? Garage sale here I come!

  16. Sandra says:

    Oh, yeah, and this Xmas, I bought animals for poor people – ($600 worth), and gave stuff from the house to everyone that I thought they’d like, just so they’d have something to open.

    • martina says:

      What do you mean you bought animals for poor people?

    • Karen says:

      LOL!! I’m with Sandra, I was confused at first. I thought you meant you went out and forced kittens and puppies on unsuspecting poor people who wondered how they were going to pay for the upcoming vet bills. Now I understand. In that case, in the past, I’ve bought animals for poor people too. :) ~ karen!

  17. Sandra says:

    I finally have all my booze in one place!

  18. Dana says:

    Toothbrushes. There were about a dozen in the drawer, and none of them were mine. I called a family meeting in the bathroom to get everyone to throw out their old ones. It was a little strange that one went unclaimed.

  19. Barbie says:

    NO! I’m keeping everything until I can literally build another house out of all the crap I own….then I will write a book about it!

  20. Janet says:

    My daughter and fiancé just moved out last week…woo hoo..can you say “run around the house naked after 28 years”…yah, me neaither. However, I have given them kitchen pots, pans, cutting boards, dishes, glasses, furniture, hangers, a rug, dining table, desk, blah, blah, blah. Our house is finally feeling great and all those things I didn’t want..she did. But I miss her. It feels like a half of my soul has just left…and a tear or several just rolled down my cheek as I lay here thinking about it. I miss her but love that her life will really begin…and now, so may ours once again.

  21. jainegayer says:

    I sold my house last spring and really got rid of lots of stuff. I put it on my front lawn with a big “FREE” sign. It’s amazing how fast it went and I actually had people stop and thank me for the dishes, the hairdryer, the clothes, pots and pans, towels etc. I felt good and they felt good…win/win.

  22. Bonnie says:

    Wow! I am impressed with everyone’s dedication and diligence. I have been going through files on my computers and throwing out old or redundant files. Does that count? It has taken some time because I use three computers.

    I have to do this with my office at work.

  23. KiwiKat says:

    My brother prefers “practical” presents, so this year, Mum gave him 2 days of cleaning for his present. He is a messy bachelor, so it was an interesting time, but they worked through his place together, and she took away a car load of junk/rubbish to the dump for him.

    He’s also worked through what furniture he’s going to keep and what he’ll pass on when Mum’s place sells (we swap furniture as a family, so things move around a bit, and Mum will be downsizing again), which makes life easier too…

    For me, I went back into my home office/sewing room, which had become the junk room. I have a lovely lady that comes in once a fortnight and vacuums and does general cleaning for me, so the rest of the house is tidied before she comes around, but pieces I don’t know what to do with in the interim tended to be biffed in there until I got a chance to deal with them…it’s the 80/20 principal – 80% of the work/sorting/tidying takes 20% of the time…I’m aiming to have a major session this weekend, as the boxes I took out of the office that were on the floor are currently roosting in my bedroom, which is not ideal….

  24. LazySusan says:

    We cleaned out the freezers and the refrigerator when we got a new refrigerator this past fall. We cleaned out the garage last summer when we got a new laundry pair. Next on the list are two storage rooms, each of which are half organized at the moment. I’m currently looking for a truck to beg, borrow or rent whose bed I don’t have to worry about keeping pristine, to haul away the huge pile that has been building in one corner of the driveway. I’m sure the neighbors will be delighted once it’s gone. We’ll be happy, also, but for some reason people always think what others do or don’t do is worse than what they do or don’t do. We always sell or give away anything that is in good shape, and only toss things that are broken, irreparably torn, permanently stained, etc., though I do have a bag for rags that is now fairly large. I bought some shelving units to help with the storage rooms, to keep them in better order in the future. When I was younger it was much easier to part with things than it is now that I’m older. I’m not too sure if that’s because of entropy or because letting go just gets more difficult as time goes by. It could also have a little something to do with my name. :)

    • Desiree says:

      Try contacting the place you will be donating the stuff to. Sometimes they will come pick it up.

      • LazySusan says:

        Thank you, Desiree. It’s not the things we’re giving away that need transport. That’s already been taken care of. It’s the things going to the dump. There’s a full pickup truck load of broken things, including an old 1950s era lumpy full mattress and box spring, that need to go to the dump. Thanks for the suggestion though!

  25. Jcorn says:

    Until recently my clothes closet was crammed full. . Every time I went out, I had to change from my usual outfit (a beloved baggy t- shirt, flannel pajama pants, etc) to something fit to be seen by others. I’d search through my clothes, desperately try to pull something together- which would take way too long- and rush out the door.

    My bedroom often looked like my closet had spent a few days on a drinking binge, got sick, and vomited all over the room.

    I finally took a hard look at my wardrobe and faced the fact that I generally wore the same favorite pieces, week in, week out. In the last few days, I got rid of at least 80% of my clothing. Some was donated. Some went to consignment shops ( now I’m a whole $300 richer, woo- hoo). Some were made into cleaning cloths.

    I saved a few pieces with sentimental value. How could I part with the sweater my mother had repaired when she was 98 years old- an hour before she went in for emergency gallbladder surgery? It had a loose button. She noticed and insisted on fixing it ( she always carried a mini sewing kit in her purse). I also saved a goofy hippy jacket, leather with fringes. It evokes memories, mostly good ones.

    I kept 5 pairs of jeans, 7 basic t-shirts, 2 dress pants, several skirts, 3 dresses, 2 sweaters, and 5 blouses. I still have too many shoes. I’m not counting accessories like scarves, hats, purses, etc. Or my underwear and socks.

    But you get the idea. When I open my closet doors, I feel happy.

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I have done my underwear old Hoosier cabinet and the fridge..I really need to do my freezer plus the freezer attached to the fridge..Since you will be discussing that on Wednesday I will wait for your the mean time I will do more drawers..

  27. Jake says:

    I am so obsessed with decluttering and have been for the last 5 years, I am in the 6th year of a 3 week organizing plan. I am getting there, I have closet space and empty cupboards and space in my storage room. I have got rid of so much stuff (that’s what most of it was, stuff). I don’t cook so what am I doing with 6 saucepans?????,now I have two, big one and small one. One winter coat, three sets of sheets, I still managed to decorate seven christmas trees, oh well maybe that’s the next project. I feels good, very good.

  28. Krista says:

    I am obsessed with decluttering and organizing this month. I have a dresser in my closet that I finally went through, and I can finally close my drawers. Not having to hide the crazyness behind my closet curtain is such a relief. I have two closets in my hallway, and my next project is to reverse the functions of my coat closet and my pantry (1/2 the size of my coat closet). I am beyond excited. You know it’s bad when you ask for a gift card to The Container Store for Valentine’s Day.

  29. Susan Warder says:

    It is a good time to consider this book: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.. I’ve found it has made more impact on my process of clearing away than all other articles, websites, books, etc.
    An essay in NY Times describes that writer’s experience with the process

    It’s different approach. I like it!

    • Heather says:

      Susan, this looks interesting. I need to check it out.

    • judy says:

      I got this book on your recommendation but it is rather small and as I have 10 6 foot by 3 foot bookcases filled with books and since my 78 year old Husband has Alzheimer’s-he does fine at this point but he helps me by “putting things away” that means unfindable. AnyHoo what I read was really helpful and I’m sure I’ll come across it again so thanks for the great recommendation.

  30. Karol says:

    I purged after Christmas for the second year in a row. I had over 20 crates of Christmas Crap that I had accumulated over 30 years. It really wasn’t crap, but the older I get, the less I need “stuff” around me. I had an extensive collection of Santas mostly. I now have about 6 crates with only the special things in it. I also made a pledge to myself last year not to purchase another singe seasonal item because I simply don’t need it.
    One of the things that stood in my way of purging was the thought of having a garage sale instead of donating. To be honest, I’d rather have a root canal than organize crap and host strangers in my yard and end up negotiating treasures down to a quarter. So, I bit the bullet and hauled it all to a non-profit thrift store. From my house to someone else’s. Done, done, done.

  31. Shauna says:

    Does it count that I did this on the eve of New Year’s Eve? I cleaned out an entire room including a closet, so I think it counts. At one point I was standing in a giant pile of trash about half the size of the room wondering how it had all fit. The majority of extra crap that I threw out was bags and wrapping paper. It was hard to do being that I felt a bit wasteful, but considering how much I was still keeping, I told myself it was more wasteful to waste valuable space than to throw out wrapping paper I’ll probably never use.

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