Decluttering falls somewhere between backing up your hard drive and filing taxes on the excitement scale. But even though it’s not the sexiest of chores, it’s necessary — and so much easier if you set aside a little time to chip away at it periodically throughout the year. The end of summer is no exception. Now is a great time to take stock of your needs and ditch all those ill-fitting swimsuits and untapped barbecue condiments.
In other words, don’t hold off for a big spring clean, says Maria Gracia, founder of Get Organized Now! “It’s tough to get rid of certain things before summer, because you tell yourself you may ‘need’ them,” Gracia says. “Instead, take the end of the season as the perfect time to close up shop.” Get a head start on your end-of-summer purge with this list of items you can donate, recycle, or toss without a second thought.
1. Old binders and folders
If you’re planning to replace supplies like binders and folders for the new school season (who doesn’t use back-to-school season as an excuse to buy new office supplies?), let go of last year’s leftovers. Julie Naylon, a Los Angeles, CA, professional organizer who’s an advocate of reusing or recycling wherever possible, recommends Office Depot’s binder recycling program.
2. Worn beach towels
Got beach towels that have seen better days? Don’t let them take up shelf space in the linen closet. Most animal shelters accept old towels as donations — which come in handy for lining cages, cleaning up messes, and bathing pups.
3. Summer clothes
If you have a bathing suit that doesn’t fit well enough for you to wear it regularly, donate it. Likewise, toss sandals and flip-flops that are worn out from a season or two of pounding the pavement. And peruse your closet: If you have spring or summer clothes that you didn’t wear this year, chances are, you won’t touch them down the line. Donate, donate, donate and “free up your closet for items you’ll use and love once the warm weather rolls around again,” says Gracia.
4. Unused condiments and spices
Gourmet chipotle barbecue sauce, blackening spices, and pickled vegetables often look great at the store — and then don’t necessarily cut it when you try them out. Pare down your collection so they don’t get pushed to the back of the fridge or pantry and sit unused. Bonus: You’ll free up space for the new spices you’ll need for all that fall and winter baking (or just making your place smell amazing)!
5. Old makeup
If it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned out your makeup kit, now’s your chance. Shelf life varies depending on the product and how it’s formulated — for example, lipsticks can last a couple of years, but mascara is best replaced at least every six months (here’s a helpful cheat sheet). After a clean sweep, you’ll have more room to add new fall colors and hues to your collection (we hear charcoal-gray nail polish will be particularly on-trend).
6. Broken pool noodles
Those ubiquitous floating toys are fun but tend to snap easily. If you have beat-up pool noodles you regularly tote to your apartment’s pool, dry out the pieces and then take Naylon’s clever suggestion: “Reuse them as boot shapers for winter boots.” Brilliant!
7. Running shoes
Most athletic shoes are spent after 400 to 600 miles of running or walking (or 45 to 60 hours of other cardio like tennis, dance, or basketball), but there are so many variables that it can be hard to pinpoint exactly when it’s time to retire a pair — look for signs like a worn-down tread, thin sock liner, and loss of resilience underfoot. Turn them over to a recycling program like Soles4Souls or One World Running.
8. Air-conditioning filter
After the air conditioner has been chugging along all summer, it’s probably time to toss the old filter and replace it for the coming year. Whether this is your responsibility or your landlord’s depends on your lease terms, so make sure to ask before you invest in new filters.
9. Party favors
If you’ve accumulated small gifts and trinkets from spring and summer weddings and other events, assess your collection, determine what’s worth hanging on to (basically only items you truly love or those that hold sentimental value), and clear out the rest. Extra credit: recycle any outdated invites and save-the-dates taking up real estate on the fridge.