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22 Things in Your Basement That a Professional Organizer Would Throw Out

Putting random stuff in your basement is easy—deciding what to do with it is hard. Here’s what an expert organizer says you can and should toss, guilt-free.

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Pile of black plastic garbage bags.MINT IMAGES RF/GETTY IMAGES

Dump the junk!

We’ve all done it: We go on a cleaning binge and at some point, we run out of time and just start tossing stuff into the cellar. Or we’re tired of seeing clutter around the house but don’t know what to do with it, so we put it downstairs, swearing we’ll deal with it properly soon. The problem is that it’s all too easy to forget about that stuff once it’s there, and then your basement starts resembling a giant storage closet.

As a professional organizer, I have a few ideas about which items you can throw out right now—without regret. It’s not as difficult as you think. Once your basement is in tip-top shape, here are other things in your house that you should throw out.

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Woman's hands while unpacking a brand new toasterBANEPX/GETTY IMAGES

Appliance boxes

Most of us are in the habit of hanging onto the packaging from expensive appliances or electronics, just in case they need to go back. But if a cardboard box has been hanging out in your basement for months, it’s time to let it go. Especially if the product is past its warranty period, you can feel confident about recycling it. By the way, here’s a quick list of what can and can’t be recycled.

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Electronics Recycling CenterDONNICHOLS/GETTY IMAGES

Old or broken electronics

Is it a basement if you don’t have a console television or a broken VCR sitting down there? Yes—and no, they’re not worth keeping because they’re “vintage.” Start getting rid of your unusable things. Not knowing how to properly dispose of old and broken electronics might account for the fact that you’ve accumulated such a big pile of them. Check with your town about junk days, or find out how to recycle or donate your outdated tech devices.

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Cans of paint

Basements tend to be a repository for hazardous materials—everything from mostly empty cans of house paint to expired batteries, insecticides, weed killers and maybe even a random car tire. Just like old electronics, these items that you no longer need, expired or not, should be disposed of properly. And that doesn’t mean just tossing them in the trash. So, what should you do? Most towns offer a hazardous-waste disposal option; if yours doesn’t, search the website Earth911 for local options.

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A treadmill sitting vacant just waiting for someone to run on it. The treadmill is sitting in a concrete basement.JONATHAN D. GOFORTH/GETTY IMAGES

Exercise equipment that’s collecting dust

If you’re using your treadmill as a drying rack, it’s time to get rid of it and any other exercise equipment you’re not using. The good news is that dragging it up out of the basement counts as exercise! While you’re on a decluttering kick, here are some ways you can declutter your kitchen.

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Outdoor holiday lights laid out on a driveway next to a plastic storage bin full of extension cords.MELISSABROCK1/GETTY IMAGES

Broken holiday lights

Almost every basement contains at least one broken strand of holiday lights. This is also the time to toss the popped inflatable holiday lawn decorations and that pre-lit reindeer whose left leg has gone missing. Some home improvement stores collect broken holiday lights. Or you could mail your lights to Holiday LEDs for recycling year-round and in exchange for a coupon.

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Young Afro-Caribean woman renovating her homeALISTAIR BERG/GETTY IMAGES

Home renovation remnants

Are you hanging onto a few floor tiles from a bathroom renovation or two ago? These home improvement leftovers, including scraps of carpeting, must go. If they are in reasonable shape, consider donating them to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Avoid buying more of these common items that cause clutter.

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General view of money on a Monopoly Board. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/PA Images via Getty Images)LYNNE CAMERON - PA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Games with missing pieces

Putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle only to realize you only have 999 pieces isn’t much fun. Sure, you could color in a tiny piece of paper to complete the puzzle, but will you really? It’s time to say bye to that and any other board games that are missing pieces. These are the secrets personal organizers will never tell you (for free, that is).

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The garage staple of an old metal coffee can being used to hold assorted nails.HALLOPINO/GETTY IMAGES

Coffee cans full of nails

Most of us have a coffee can filled to the brim with rusty nails and screws. Pare down the hardware, especially ones that aren’t in good shape. Also, toss dried-out super glue and clamps that don’t align properly. Take a look at these genius decluttering tips for flat surfaces.

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Everyday clothes packed in plastic bagsONDACARACOLA PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

Someone else’s stuff

Your basement may have inadvertently become a storage unit for someone else’s stuff. Maybe it’s something your now-adult child left behind when they moved away to college. Or, a friend or family member asked you to hold onto something with the intention of coming back for it. If it’s been a while, ask them to come collect their clutter so you can clear out space in your basement. Check out these smart ideas for organizing your basement.

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Old terracotta plant pots in a box.HAIR FASHION/GETTY IMAGES

Cobweb-filled flowerpots

Unless you are opening a florist shop, you don’t need to keep more than a few vases and pots. Toss the cobweb-filled flowerpots, crumbling florist foam and cracked vases. If you’ve amassed quite the collection, donate the ones that are still in good condition or call a local florist to ask if they want them. If you love fresh flowers, take a look at these flower subscription services.

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Old golf clubs in a garageJULIAN WARD/GETTY IMAGES

Old sports equipment

It doesn’t take long to accrue enough balls and bats to be able to outfit a whole team. You may have also accumulated equipment for sports you no longer participate in, like skiing or snowboarding. Or maybe the items were for kids who’ve now outgrown them. Pass along the items to a friend or donate them.

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Rear view of coworkers stacking plastic sacks in warehouseMASKOT/GETTY IMAGES

Items earmarked for donation

You already did the hard part: While decluttering other rooms in your home, you decided to give away certain items. The only problem is, you never got them out the door. They’re not doing anyone any good stuck in the basement, so schedule a pickup by a charitable organization. Learn how you can best help out your local food bank.

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the woman moves into the apartment, carries her booksNES/GETTY IMAGES

Old textbooks

Storing unused textbooks is not a good use of space. Books do not store well in dark, damp spaces, like in unfinished basements. Many local libraries accept book donations, which they, in turn, sell to benefit the library. Of course, recycle any books that can’t be salvaged. Read up on some of the most recyclable materials on Earth.

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Precious picture frame covered with a clothSKATZENBERGER/GETTY IMAGES

Framed posters and paintings

If it isn’t on the wall now, there is most likely a reason. If you aren’t displaying that canvas painting, poster or piece of art, then out it should go. A sturdy picture frame is one of the valuable items you should look for at Goodwill.

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Close-Up Of Clothes Hanging On Rack At StoreMICHAEL MOELLER/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

Items you meant to sell

The time has come to toss the things you’ve been saving for a future garage sale that’s never going to happen. The truth is, letting that stuff sit in the basement and get dusty for months hasn’t made it more valuable. You’ll find great value in reclaiming space in your basement by letting it go. Here are more items you should throw out ASAP.

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Close-up of unrecognizable woman holding a skein of super bulky hand dyed yarn and pair of giant knitting needles while searching her stashGRACE CARY/GETTY IMAGES

Half-finished craft projects

Unfinished craft projects tend to be cast aside, left to collect dust in the basement. Unfortunately, starting a craft project is usually much more fun than finishing it, and you certainly won’t be more inclined to complete that needlepoint, cross-stitch or quilt by hiding it in the basement. Craft a clutter-free basement by throwing away these forgotten items. These tips will help you organize your bedroom in an hour.

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Two suitcases standing upright in a hallwayELVA ETIENNE/GETTY IMAGES

Old luggage

It’s time to toss suitcases and carry-ons that have taken one too many trips. Retire broken pieces like luggage with wheels that don’t roll, cases with cracked telescoping handles or busted zippers. You’ll wish you knew these organization shortcuts sooner.

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All the baskets

Wicker doesn’t last forever. It’s time to throw away all the brittle and broken baskets. Donate any that are still in good shape. And if you have a picnic basket, unless you picnic regularly, let it go and use a cooler instead. Here are the best organization tips from the pros.

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After the new year's eve party. A single party horn blower is found on the floor with fun, colorful confetti.SUZANNE DEHNE/GETTY IMAGES

Party supplies

Leftover party supplies need to go, especially the crumpled ones. This includes crushed party hats, blowers that don’t blow and crinkled crepe paper. Say goodbye to the torn tablecloth and the Happy Sweet 16 banner from a decade ago. Use up any leftover themed paper goods like plates, napkins and cups, and start fresh for your next celebration. Find out the most popular organization tools of the past year.

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Close-up Of an illuminated lamp in a dark room, with bead detail on the lamp shade.JENNY DETTRICK/GETTY IMAGES

Old lighting fixtures

It is too common to find unused light fixtures hiding in the basement. Lamp bases, random lamp shades or even a ceiling fan or wall sconce. Whether you upgraded when you moved in or you’ve made some design changes in the last few years, chances are you saved the old one just in case. But remember: If you liked it or it worked properly, you wouldn’t have replaced it, so throw it out.

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Close-Up Of Empty Chairs And Table At Sidewalk CafeALBANE DOYET/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

Rickety tables and chairs

Pieces of flimsy, foldable furniture need to go—even the ones you’re keeping in case the need arises for extra seating options. Unstable furniture like tables without locking legs can be dangerous to use, and no one wants to sit on a rusty or uncomfortable folding chair. Throw them all out of the basement and don’t look back. Check out these stellar organization tips from Marie Kondo.

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Organizing equipment that didn’t quite work

There’s a good chance you bought something to help you get organized at some point that either didn’t work or you stopped using because you found something better. Now that solution has become part of your basement-clutter problem. Let it go regret-free because if you needed it, you would have come looking for it by now. Next, read about these organization methods from around the world.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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