Times moves fast — so much so that sometimes you realize you've had that "new" T-shirt for over seven years, or got that "special occasion" perfume as a middle school graduation gift. The crux of the matter is that there are just some things we need to throw away in life, but we can become so accustomed to our surroundings that we don't even noticed when something has not only reached, but gone well past it's respectable shelf life.
I'm actually the queen of holding onto things way too long. I recently cleaned out my closet and literally almost kept a "going out shirt" I stole from my older sister's closet when I was 14 — it wasn't until I forced myself to truly remember just how long I had been waiting for just the right time to wear it that I realized it had to go. And I also found myself realizing that I still had spices in my cabinet that had been in my apartment when I moved in over two years ago — and who knows how long they had been there before that.
I started to realize that my home was full of stuff that was in pretty rough condition, and most of it was easily and inexpensively replaceable. I ended up going on a mini-research mission to figure out exactly what I owned that I should definitely get rid of (since, as I said, I'm clearly not the best at figuring this one out for myself).
If you're looking to declutter unnecessary items in your life, or just feel like your home needs a little rejuvenating, here are 13 things you should just throw out right now.
1. Old Makeup
OK. No ifs, ands, or buts on this one. If it's old, isn't working well any more, or you literally never wear it, get rid of it right now. According to Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California, mascara has a shelf life of two to three months, eye pencils a year, and lip gloss must go if you've used it when you had a cold sore. Similarly, she said foundation typically lasts six months to a year (so there should be no "fancy special occasion foundation" you keep around forever).
2. That Old Loofah
According to a piece in The Huffington Post, your loofah — the thing you use to wash your body — may be one of the dirtiest things in your home. In the article, Dr. Stafford Broumand, plastic surgeon and associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, said, "Bacterium is attracted to moisture and loves to grow in the nook and crannies of a loofah. Some of the bacteria might be something like P. aeruginosa (which has been linked to drug-resistant infections)." He also recommended making sure your loofah is able to dry between uses, and also said to replace it every three to four weeks.
3. Old Sunscreen
According to Dr. Karen E. Burke in a Q&A piece for The Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen should always be tossed if it's past it's expiration date, as it's no longer effective after that time, and it generally is no good after three years. This means that if you have that huge bottle from a few years ago that you only use a few beach weekends a summer, it may be time to toss it.
4. Expired Medicine
According to Consumer Report, medicine is generally good for about a year after it's official expiration date — anything after that and it'll either lose its effectiveness, or in some cases (as with some antibiotics) potentially be actively bad for you. Make a date with yourself to go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of everything that's passed it's date, and make a running list of what you now need to replace.
5. Magazines You Won't Read
This is just a personal organization and declutter tip that I recommend to anyone looking to simplify their lives. Go through your home and recycle any magazine that's been sitting around for more than a few days that you've been meaning to "get to reading" and — if you're really ambitious, take 45 minutes of your life to unsubscribe to mail that you don't actually want. We waste so much of our lives getting annoyed at junk mail, and it's totally within our power to stop getting it!
6. Old Tupperware
According to Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group in a piece for Health, old tupperware models that we've had for years could contain polycarbonates that are bad for our health. She specifically said to toss anything made of clear, rigid plastic stamped with a number "7" or "pc," as "these are the types of containers that may contain BPA.”
7. Old Sneaker
According to a Q&A for Runner's World, the majority of runners wait too long to replace their shoes. While you're technically supposed to replace them after 300-500 miles, it really all depends on how the shoe actually feels, as every person moves differently and wears their shoes down in different ways. They noted that if a shoe feels like it's no longer giving you support, then assume it isn't.
8. The Old Toothbrush
According to an article in Everyday Health, The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three months because of the wear on the bristles. In the same piece, dentist Richard Price noted that a good rule of thumb is to replace your brush when the bristles spew in different directions.
9. Clothes You Never Wear
In an article for Apartment Therapy, site editor Janel Laban said to, "Turn around all the hangers in your closet so the hooks are pointing towards you (wrong way round). When you wear something, put it back with the hook the normal way. In six months, any hanger still facing the wrong way is holding an item you haven't worn, ready for the donation bag." If you only have seasonal clothes hanging up, then shorten your time limit to just a couple months to see what you wear in that season.
In that same piece for Health, Michael P. Doyle, PhD, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, noted that in general, we should eat, freeze, or toss food in our fridge after three days. "Listeria is linked to scary things like meningitis, miscarriages, and even death," he said. "It can grow to millions at refrigerator temperatures in under a week."
11. Your Contact Lens Case
According to ContactLensSafety.org, you should be replacing your contact lens case every one-to-three months, even if they technically look clean. "Bacteria and other micro-organisms produce a substance called biofilm," he said. "Biofilms can form in a contact lens case, helping bacteria "hide" from the disinfectant in the contact lens solution."
12. Stale Spices
Unfortunately, those spices in your cabinet definitely don't last forever. According to McCormick Spices in a piece for Women's Day, ground spices generally last for two to three days, herbs for one to three years, and extracts and seeds for around 4 years. This might seem like plenty of time, but odds are you've probably had some of your herbs and spices for way longer than you realize.
13. Air Purifier Filters
Getting an air purifier is a great start to a cleaner home, but according to The New York Times, if you don't replace the filter once a year or so, it's not actually all that effective. Set a note on your calendar for a year after you replace your current filters for a reminder to switch them out, or even set your Amazon account to automatically send you a new one in a year.
It's easy to watch a year or two go by and not realize how much of our stuff is out of date or no longer functioning the way it should be. And at the same time, there's no use in having so much of our stuff if it's not actually working. So take an afternoon this month to evaluate all the things in your house you can toss — I guarantee it will feel amazing to know everything you own is fresh and safe to use.