13 Household Items You Can Safely Toss Out While Spring Cleaning

iStock
iStock

Spring cleaning is the perfect time to unearth junk, clear out attics, and question if you should hold on to something for just a little while longer. There’s a lot to purge you may not have considered, but tossing things out doesn’t have to doom mementos and old bills to a landfill. They can also be recycled or donated—so long as they’re no longer in your house.

1. CHILDREN'S ART

It may sound cruel to toss your kid’s macaroni self-portraits, but elementary school art projects can sure add up. Preserve the memories (and your children’s feelings) by keeping only their best pieces. If that still seems like too much to store, consider scanning or photographing art for memories that won’t take up space in the garage. The key to parsing through kids' drawings and art? Don’t feel bad for being selective—other parents are, too.

2. PILES OF MAGAZINES

Magazine subscriptions are perfect stocking stuffers, airline point savers, and bathroom material. But once all those magazines have been read through, they often pile up in the corners of bookshelves and coffee tables. The problem with magazines are their useful tidbits that convince you to keep them forever—but do you really remember which issue had that pie recipe you wanted to try? If you actually reference back issues frequently, they’re probably worth holding onto. If not, consider clipping favorite recipes or inspiring photos and recycling the rest.

3. OLD RECEIPTS AND BILLS

Don’t feel bad about having a file cabinet full of old doctor’s bills and rent receipts—keeping them just in case a payment dispute comes up or for tax reasons is a solid financial move. But after a while, it is OK to let go of documents you likely won’t need any longer. Hold on to sales receipts until warranties expire or you’re unable to return the item; utility bills can be tossed after a year, along with bank and credit card statements. Keep track of medical bills for three years, and obey the golden paper rule: Anything related to filing taxes should be retained for three years. But feel free to clear out those file cabinets and make room for a new decade of (organized) paper clutter.

4. OUTDATED MEDICATIONS

Between allergy season and aches and pains, it’s easy to build up a stash of over-the-counter and prescription meds. Weeding out old medications can keep you from taking a five-year-old painkiller that may have lost its potency. Many police departments offer drug take-back days to safely dispose of old meds, but if you don’t have one coming up, follow disposal directions on the label. If there aren’t any, the FDA recommends removing medications from their original containers and mixing with coffee grounds or cat litter before tossing out in a sealed bag. Some prescription narcotics can be flushed without poisoning your community water supply, but ask a pharmacist if you are unsure.

5. BROKEN JEWELRY

Purging your jewelry box is just like clearing out the closet—seek out broken pieces, rings that no longer fit, and earrings missing their pair. Fine jewelry can often be recreated into a new piece or sold for materials, though don’t expect anything for cheap mall kiosk items. And it should go without saying: Don’t trash valuable family heirlooms or expensive pieces. If you really dislike the jewels, consider passing them on to another family member. As for that necklace from an ex-boyfriend? Sell it.

6. OLD COSMETICS

Makeup, perfume, and nail polish have a shelf life that often begins the moment you open them. Expiration dates for many products are labeled in number of months (normally found on packaging with a jar and lid icon). But for labels that are removed or nonexistent, examine cosmetics regularly before applying. Makeup that has changed color, smell or viscosity has likely expired. Generally, anything applied to eyelids or eyelashes has a short two- to three-month lifespan while lipsticks, powders, foundation, and nail polish can last between six months and two years. As for all of those sample sizes you collect—use them or lose them.

7. EMPTY PENS AND PENCIL STUBS

It’s a universal bad habit to shove nearly finished pens in a drawer or hold on to pencils for the “good” erasers. Save yourself from future frustration by just tossing pens as they dry up and emptying the junk drawer graveyards full of them. Some office supply stores recycle plastic pens, which is the perfect option for keeping you and the environment happy.

8. DVDS, CDS, AND OLD ELECTRONICS

Technological advances and upgrades leave behind a lot of digital stragglers, like entire CD collections, old music players, and old charger cords. Popping CDs into your computer for one last rip before selling or recycling them can help you let go, but when you're ready to part with all your '90s rom-com soundtracks, many electronics stores will take your old items for recycling or offer buyback programs. Before you drop the heftier items, remember to remove old batteries (which are recycled differently) and delete all personal information.

9. SINGLE SOCKS

Once a sock goes missing, it normally doesn’t come back. Meaning, you can end up stuck with a lot of single socks. Rather than letting them build up in the corner of a drawer or closet, turn them into something new like a bird feeder or pet toy, or take them somewhere that recycles fabrics (like H&M or Levi Strauss, both of which offer future discount vouchers for bringing in unwanted garments).

10. OLD KEYS

Losing keys is unfortunate, but not remembering what that lone unlabeled one is for might be worse. If you’ve been holding onto keys for a long time and have never used them, it’s probably safe to toss them. Most keys are made from scrap metal, meaning they can’t be recycled like aluminum or tin, but some metal recyclers will take them off your hands.

11. CHILDHOOD MEMORABILIA AND KNICK KNACKS

It can be hard to part with trophies, toys, and other childhood items. But if they’ve been in the garage collecting dust, the time has come to weed through what’s worth keeping and displaying—and what should get tossed. It’s easy to be sentimental when going through memorabilia and knick-knacks, but culling your collection can help you reconnect with favorite items. Even if you choose to get rid of items, taking photos before donating or throwing away can resolve the sadness of letting them go. If you come across items that you’re hesitant about purging, consider the six-month box method where you place items in a box and store it for six more months. If you don’t go into the box during that time, donate the contents, sight unseen.

12. GAMES WITH MISSING PIECES

The chances of finding missing game pieces long after they’ve been initially lost are slim (this goes for puzzles, too). While board games like Monopoly can be restored with homemade paper money, in most cases, lost chess pieces or missing Rummikub tiles mean you won’t play the game. When sorting, also parse out board games your family or children have outgrown and donate them as well.

13. NOVELTY APPLIANCES

As Seen On TV products come with promises to improve your life and productivity, but they should come with a disclaimer for how much space they’ll take up in cabinets and basements. Downsizing kitchen and household appliances can cut the clutter and make room for the standard appliances you do use regularly. It’s OK to let go of that George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine—just think of how lean and clean your entire pantry could be.

All images via iStock.

19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
Tom Merton/ OJO Images via Getty

Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
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Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
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General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
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Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
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We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
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Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
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We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

A tornado in the distance.
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It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

A woman sleeping.
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There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

A woman asleep.
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Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
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We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
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Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
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It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
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The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
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Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
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And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
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We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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