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 OUTDATED MEDICATIONS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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Fascinating Facts About Davy Crockett

State of Texas/Larry D. Moore Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
State of Texas/Larry D. Moore Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Born on August 17, 1786, backwoods statesman Davy Crockett's life has often been obscured by myth. Even during his lifetime, fanciful stories about his adventures transformed him into a buck-skinned superhero. And after his death, the tales kept growing taller. Here are 10 facts about Crockett that’ll separate reality from fiction.

1. Davy Crockett ran away from home at age 13.

When Crockett was 13, his father paid for him to attend a school. But just four days in, an older, bigger boy bullied him. Crockett was never one to back down from a fight. One day, he waited in a bush along the road home until evening. When the bully and his gang walked up the road, Crockett leapt from the bush and, as he later wrote in his autobiography, “set on him like a wild cat.” Terrified the schoolmaster would whip him for beating one of the boys so severely, Crockett decided to start playing hooky.

His father, John, was furious when a letter inquiring about his son's poor attendance arrived home. Grabbing a stick, he chased after Davy, who fled. The teen spent the next few years traveling from his native Tennessee to Maryland, performing odd jobs. When he eventually returned home, Crockett’s parents didn’t even recognize him at first. Following an emotional reunion, the family decided he would stick around long enough to help work off some debts. About a year later, all these were satisfied, and Crockett soon left for good.

2. Davy Crockett nearly died in a boating accident.

G.F. Nesbitt & Co., printer Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After serving under General Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee militia, Crockett entered politics, completing two terms as a Tennessee state legislator between 1821 and 1823. After losing his seat in 1825, he chose an unlikely new profession: barrel manufacturing. The entrepreneur hired a team to cut staves (the boards with which barrels are constructed) that he planned on selling in New Orleans. Once 30,000 were prepared, Crockett and his team loaded the shipment onto a pair of flatboats and traveled down the Mississippi River. There was just one problem: The shoddy vessels proved impossible to steer. The one carrying Crockett ran into a mass of driftwood and began to capsize, with Crockett trapped below deck. His mates on the other boat pulled him out through a small opening, and a traveling merchant rescued them all the next day.

3. Davy Crockett claimed to have killed 105 bears in one year.

If his autobiography can be believed, the expert marksman and his dogs managed to kill 105 bears during a seven-month stretch from 1825 to 1826. Back then, bear flesh and pelts were highly profitable items, as were the oils yielded by their fat—and Crockett’s family often relied on ursid meat to last through the winter.

4. A successful play helped make Davy Crockett a celebrity.

Crockett ran for Congress in 1827, winning the right to represent western Tennessee. Four years later, a new show titled The Lion of the West wowed New York theatergoers. The production revolved around a fictitious Kentucky congressman named Colonel Nimrod Wildfire, whose folksy persona was clearly based on Crockett. Before long, the public grew curious about the real man behind the character, and in 1833, an unauthorized Crockett biography was published.

Sketches and Eccentricities of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee became a bestseller—much to its subject’s chagrin. Feeling that Sketches distorted his life’s story, the politician retaliated with an even more successful autobiography the next year.

When The Lion of the West came to Washington, Crockett finally watched the play that started it all. That night, actor David Hackett was playing Col. Wildfire. As the curtain rose, he locked eyes with Crockett. They ceremoniously bowed to each other and the crowd went wild.

5. Davy Crockett received a few rifles as political thank you gifts.

Over the course of his life, Crockett wielded plenty of firearms. Two of the most significant were named “Betsy.” Midway through his state assembly career, he received “Old Betsy,” a .40-caliber flintlock presented to him by his Lawrence county constituents in 1822 (today, it’s in the Alamo Museum in San Antonio). At some point during the 1830s, the Whig Society of Philadelphia gave Crockett a gold-and-silver-coated gun. Her name? “Fancy Betsy.”

If you’re curious, the mysterious woman after whom these weapons were christened was either his oldest sister or his second wife, Elizabeth Patton.

6. Davy Crockett put a lot of effort into maintaining his wild image.

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

For somebody who once called fashion “a thing I care mighty little about,” Crockett gave really detailed instructions to portraitists. Most likenesses, the politician complained, made him look like “a sort of cross between a clean-shirted Member of Congress and a Methodist preacher.” Before posing for John Gadsby Chapman, Crockett asked the esteemed artist to portray him rallying dogs during a bear hunt. He purchased outdoorsy props and insisted he be shown holding up his cap, ready to give “a shout that raised the whole neighborhood.”

7. Davy Crockett torpedoed his political career by speaking against Andrew Jackson’s Native American policy.

Jackson was a beloved figure in Tennessee, and Crockett’s vocal condemnation of the his 1830 Indian Removal Act didn’t win him many friends back home [PDF]. “I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure,” the congressman later asserted, “and that I should go against it, let the cost against me be what it might.” He then narrowly lost his 1831 reelection bid to William Fitzgerald, who Jackson supported. In 1833, Crockett secured a one-term congressional stint as an anti-Jacksonian, after which he bid Tennessee farewell, famously saying, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”

8. Davy Crockett really did wear a coonskin hat (sometimes).

Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett TV serial triggered a national coonskin hat craze in the 1950s. Suiting up for the title role was square-jawed Fess Parker, who was seldom seen on-camera without his trusty coonskin cap. Children adored the rustic hat and, at the peak of the show's popularity, an average of 5000 replicas were sold every day.

But did the historical Crockett own one? Yes, although we don’t know how often he actually donned it. Some historians argue that later in life, he started wearing the accessory more often to capitalize on The Lion of the West (Col. Wildfire rocked this kind of headgear). One autumn morning in 1835, the frontiersman embarked upon his journey to Texas, confident the whole Crockett clan would reunite there soon. As his daughter Matilda later recalled, he rode off while “wearing a coonskin cap.” She never saw him again.

9. There’s some debate about Davy Crockett’s fall at the Alamo.

Crockett was killed during or just after the Battle of the Alamo in 1836—but the details surrounding his death are both murky and hotly contested. An enslaved man named Joe claimed to have spotted Crockett’s body lying among a pile of slain Mexican soldiers. Suzannah Dickinson, whose husband had also perished in the melee, told a similar story, as did San Antonio mayor Francisco Ruiz.

On the flip side, The New Orleans True American and a few other newspapers reported that Crockett was actually captured and executed by General Santa Anna’s men. In 1955, more evidence apparently surfaced when a long-lost diary written by Lieutenant Colonel José Enrique de la Peña was published. The author writes of witnessing “the naturalist David Crockett” and six other Americans being presented to Santa Anna, who promptly had them killed.

Some historians dismiss the document as a forgery, but others claim it’s authentic. Since 2000, two separate forensics teams have taken the latter position [PDF].

10. During University of Tennessee sporting events, a student dressed like Davy Crockett rallies the fans.

Smokey the hound dog might get all the attention, but the school has another mascot up its sleeve. On game days, a student known simply as “the Volunteer” charges out in Crockett-esque regalia, complete with buck leather clothes, a coonskin cap, and—occasionally—a prop musket.