Why is it that curating and collecting household items seems simple while figuring out what to donate or pitch ends up being the hardest? That’s especially true for those of us who have a basement. For whatever reason, basements tend to be magnets for stuff. Old stuff, broken stuff, stuff you might need later, containers that stuff arrived in and all the other stuff you swear you’ll get around to dealing with one day.
Don’t let your basement be the place where toys and old gadgets go to die! We’ve researched what organizing experts suggest is best to pitch or pass on, so you can stop second-guessing (and ditch the guilt!) when trying to achieve a clutter-free clean basement.
It’s OK To Toss Old Stuff—Really
While items that still have some life left in them are best passed on to friends, family or charity, you never want to donate pure junk. Certain items can be donated or recycled, like gently worn clothing, kitchen appliances that may have fizzled a bit but aren’t completely broken, or lamps that need to be restrung. But it’s totally OK to toss things in the dumpster if they’re no longer useful to anyone.
If you have a pile of rags that are completely spent from a home renovation project or old cardboard boxes, it’s OK to toss them, we promise! There will always be more cardboard boxes to be had, especially if you regularly shop online.
Boxes of Books
Here’s our theory: If you have a box of books (or two) collecting dust — we’re talking about the ones that never even made the cut for your bookshelf — there is no point in keeping them. Old textbooks, cookbooks you didn’t love, novels you devoured in a weekend and won’t revisit … pass them along to someone else. And if you have kids, we promise it won’t make you a bad parent if you get rid of books your little one used to love but has outgrown.
Books don’t keep well in dark, damp spaces, so pull them out. Local libraries usually accept book donations in good condition.
Unnecessary Sports Equipment
Did you have a snowboarding or rollerblading phase that has run its course? Or maybe you still have a golf bag full of clubs that haven’t been used since high school? Old sporting goods can stand in the way between you and your clean basement. Pass these items along to friends, donate them or look for a sporting goods reseller near you so someone else can enjoy them.
Some people love to save boxes, especially the big ones, thinking they might need them if the product shipped inside them ever stops working or they want to get maximum resale value. While, yes, this might come in handy a couple of times over a lifetime, more often than not, it’s totally unnecessary.
Many appliances now come with warranties that might spare you the hassle of returning things or send you a new box for shipping it back. So, make a pact with yourself. The box can sit for a few weeks, then, if it’s not needed, it can be broken down for recycling. Hanging onto boxes for years “just in case” takes up unnecessary space. Plus it’s wildly satisfying to break down a box!
Do you have an ancient TV sitting in your basement? What about a broken speaker or an old gaming system? If it’s not useable or you have no interest in using it again, it’s time to part ways. There are ways to properly dispose of old and broken electronics in your city, but there might also be local charities that will take them “as-is” to fix up. Just keep in mind that old video game systems can fetch a handsome price on sites like eBay and Mercari, as long as they still work.
If you have leftover holiday lights that don’t light, it’s time to move on. While you might have dreamt that one day you’d fix it, accept that you haven’t and that’s OK! Other places can take them for recycling. If you have a specialty kitchen appliance that still works but you haven’t touched in years, like an ice cream maker or pancake griddle, put it in your charity pile.
Other People’s Stuff
Are you holding onto mystery boxes a relative stashed in your basement years ago? What about your grown children’s artwork from third grade? Give them a call and set a date for them to collect their belongings. If they are no longer interested in what you’ve been storing, it’s time to donate, recycle or pitch it. At some point, it’s necessary to make the call to clear out the clutter.
Basements and garages are breeding grounds for hazardous materials, from nearly empty paint cans to expired batteries. Check out your city’s program for hazardous waste disposal or search Earth911.com to find locations near you.
Remnants of renovation projects, like leftover scraps of wood, tile or carpeting, can get re-homed if they’re in good shape. The nonprofit program Habitat for Humanity Restore is a good place to start.
Things That Never Made It To Goodwill
Many of us have boxed up things for donation but then never actually taken them. When you are done cleaning out your basement, immediately move your donate pile either to your lawn and call your favorite charity for a pick-up, or move them to your trunk. Otherwise they run the risk of getting stashed in a closet during a frantic clean-up the next time company comes over. Then, go back inside and organize what’s left in the basement.
Forgotten Craft Projects
Whether it was a painting phase, craft extravaganza while your kids were little or that one time you tried crocheting but it didn’t stick, if it’s been set aside to collect dust, it’s time to let it go. Unfortunately, starting something new is sometimes more exciting than following it through.
Leftover Party Supplies
We start parties with the best intentions with streamers, tablecloths, plates, cups and napkins, but then we’re left with just a few plates and napkins that never seem to be enough to reuse. If you like to picnic, put them with your picnic basket. If not, place the items in your donate pile. Pitch anything torn or wrinkled.
Of course we usually have the best intentions whenever we walk items down to our basement shelves, but the truth is that life gets busy and it’s OK to move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it — simply pass the items along. You’ll be amazed how much lighter and happier you’ll feel when you step into a clean basement!