STEP 1: Clear out the clutter! – The University of Illinois Extension Service offers practical advice on sorting, organizing, storing, and getting rid of stuff. You’ll find more clutter-busting tips at Live Simple: Rule Your Stuff and Surprising Strategies for Finally Organizing Your Space.
STEP 2: Where to Donate Goods – If you’re doing spring cleaning, you may find things to get rid of that are too good for the trash. What to do with them? Our ‘Where to Donate Goods’ page can help!
STEP 3: Resell that stuff! – Thinking about having a yard sale to get rid of some of that extra stuff? Download the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Reseller’s Guide to screen for hazardous products that should go in the trash instead!
STEP 4: Safeguard your Personal Data – Getting rid of old financial/legal documents, as well as old electronics that may contain sensitive information, can be an important STEP of de-cluttering. But it can also pose a risk to your personal data. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse offers practical advice on how to do it safely! A Pack Rat’s Guide to Shredding includes a printable graphic you can keep near your shredder as a handy guide (2015, Federal Trade Commission).
STEP 5: Recycle! – After you’ve removed all your personal data from unwanted electronic items, what are you going to do with them? If they’re too old or aren’t working, you can e-cycle them! The South Plainfield Consumer Electronics Recycling Drop-off Program accepts televisions, computers and peripherals at the Recycling Center from residents. Included in this program are: computers (desktop and laptop), monitors, televisions, cell phones, copiers, digital cameras, DVD players, e-book readers, fax machines, keyboards, MP3 players, modems, mouses, personal digital assistants (PDAs), printers, scanners, stereo and radio equipment, telephones, VCRs, and any products that contain rechargeable batteries. Click here for more recycling links.
STEP 6: Safe Disposal of Old Medicine – Did you find unneeded and/or expired medicines in your medicine cabinet? It’s NOT a good idea to put them in the trash or flush them down the toilet! Instead, follow these instructions for safe disposal: NJ Project Medicine Drop and FDA Consumer Update: How to Dispose of Unused Medicines.
STEP 7: Appraise Old Paintings, Antiques, & Collectibles – Did you find any old paintings, antique objects, or possible collectibles while you were clearing out the attic? Want to find out more about them? The Smithsonian American Art Museum offer some tips and resources to help you. See also PBS’s Antiques Road Show.
STEP 8: Clear Out the Fridge – Kitchen shelves full of old cans? Old food in your fridge/freezer? How do you know what to keep and what to toss? FoodSafety.gov has advice for you. Here are some helpful guides you can print out to keep handy: FDA 1-page Food Storage Chart [PDF], NDSU Food Storage Guide with Chart [PDF], OhioLine Pantry Food Storage Guide with Chart.
STEP 10: Let the (Green) Cleaning Begin – Once the clutter’s finally gone (well… reduced?) it’s time to start cleaning! Oregon Metro offers these tips for eco-friendly non-toxic cleaning. See also: Rodale’s 8 Must-Haves for a Nontoxic Cleaning Kit and Rodale’s Spring Clean your Kitchen. For information on cleaning products, see Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning [NEW!] and EPA Safer Choice [NEW!].
STEP 11: Stain Solutions – For tougher cleaning problems, the University of Illinois Extension has lots of good advice! The FabricLink Fabric Care Center offers stain removal guides, laundry tips, information about fabric labels & laundry products, and related resources.
STEP 12: Caring for your Treasures [UPDATED LINK!] – Heritage Preservation has a wealth of information on caring for family heirlooms, keepsakes, and other heritage objects. See also : CCI Caring for Objects and ICON Caring for your Collection.
STEP 13: Don’t Forget those Electronics! – This 2013 piece from Lifehacker gives you the 411 on how to clean up your computer and electronic gadgets.
Revised April 2017