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Over 40? Here Are the 40 Items You Need to Get Rid of Immediately

Declutter your home and destress your life in one fell swoop.

Unless you're a home-organization pro, you've probably struggled with clutter. After all, by the time you hit 40, you've acquired nearly a half century's worth of stuff. And while some of those acquisitions are great (like your helpful kitchen gadgets and quality designer duds), a lot of them are likely unwanted, unused, and unhelpful when it comes your home's aesthetic as well your peace of mind. Those are the things you definitely do not need more of in your 40s.

Besides, too much clutter can also harm your health. One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that clutter can increase a person's levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can contribute to weight gain, memory issues, sleep troubles, and heart problems. To give you a head start on what to keep and what to toss, we've rounded up a list of items everyone over 40 should ditch immediately.

Chargers you don't use

a smartphone charging things to throw away

The charger for your first cell phone and the power cable for your iMac probably aren't going to come in handy again. If the electronics the chargers belong to haven't been used in more than six months, you can—and should—give them the heave-ho.

VHS tapes

vhs player things to throw away

You haven't seen a VHS player in years—so why do you still have that stack of VHS tapes cluttering up your house? If they're particularly sentimental—a tape of your wedding or your kid's birth, for instance—get them digitized and toss that bulky cassette once and for all.

But you can't simply toss them in the trash. VHS tapes require a specific type of recycling . Head to to find a specialized recycling center near you.

Expired medication

pills on a countertop things to throw away

Whether they're prescription meds or over-the-counter pills, keeping expired medication around is never a good idea. According to the Food & Drug Administration, expired medications might be less effective and could be at risk of bacterial growth. Sub-potent antibiotics could also lead to more serious illnesses and contribute to antibiotic resistance. So it's time to get rid of 'em!

Broken headphones

headphones things to throw away

Those $2 headphones you bought at a drugstore that stopped emitting sound after 10 minutes of use? You probably don't need them anymore. Toss them now, before they get tangled with any of your more important electronics.

Plastic bags

Plastic bags things to throw away

Plastic bags are major contributors to the plastic pollution in our water sources and are responsible for the untimely demise of countless marine animals. If you're still hanging onto those grocery bags, it's time to recycle them and start bringing your own reusable totes to the grocery store instead.

Stuffed animals

Broken teddy bears things to throw away

Sure, that stuffed gorilla your spouse gave you for Valentine's Day a decade ago was charming. But now that it's been gathering dust in your closet for 10 years? Not so much. It's time to part ways.

The same goes for stuffed pals belonging to your kids; if they haven't played with a particular toy in years, it's time to donate it.

Takeout chopsticks

wooden chopsticks things to throw away

Unless you're expecting a huge group of guests for a sushi dinner at your place, you can (and should) get rid of all those takeout chopsticks.

If you find yourself frequently consuming Asian cuisine, get yourself a reusable set instead. You'll cut down on your personal waste—and sidestep the splinters those cheap chopsticks are notorious for.

Appliance manuals

manual things to throw away

At one point, having printed instructions for how to use your 8-track player was useful. However, especially if the appliance in question is relatively modern, its manual is probably available online, allowing you to safely ditch those instruction booklets cluttering up your cabinets.

Old textbooks

math books on table in front of white board with math problems for math jokes

Be honest with yourself: You're probably never going to crack open one of those textbooks from high school or college. And even if you were inclined to do so, odds are the material is outdated enough that it's no longer be useful.

Cooking utensils you have multiples of

spatulas and kitchen utensils things to throw away

While it may be helpful to have an extra spatula or ladle for when one is in the dishwasher, you probably don't need six of the same cooking tool, right?

Have you ever even used that extra set of corn picks or lobster forks in your drawer? If the answer is no, it's time to donate them.

Gift bags

Buying presents things to throw away

We appreciate the intention to recycle and reuse gift bags. But if the corners are torn, the handles are dirty, and the glitter adorning them has worn away, you're just left with a stack of bags you're never actually going to use. It's time to get rid of them.

Dingy towels

towels on floor things to throw away

Whether you've stained them while dyeing your hair or they've simply become ratty after years of use, there's no reason to keep those dingy towels around. The good news? Countless animal shelters are in need of towels and linens to help care for the creatures they take in, so don't be shy about donating them.

Old sponges

Dirty dish sponge things to throw away

Even if you consider yourself a relatively clean person, that sponge sitting on the edge of your sink is anything but. Kitchen sponges can harbor more bacteria than your toilet seat. So if that sponge is more than two weeks old—especially if you haven't taken the time to disinfect it—it's time to toss it.

Anything with freezer burn

Woman opening freezer things to throw away

Sure, those foods in the back of your freezer that are covered in ice crystals are technically still edible, but the texture and quality is probably way off. If it's been there for more than six months or if it's covered in frost, get rid of it.

Old Halloween costumes

people sitting at a bar in halloween costumes things to throw away

Was that cookies and milk costume you wore one Halloween with your best friend cute? Sure. Is there any chance you're going to wear it again? Definitely not.

Bridesmaid/groomsman outfits

bridesmaid things to throw away

Unless it's the outfit you wore to your own wedding or a basic black dress or suit, it's time to get rid of that wedding wear. After all, when in your adult life are you going to voluntarily wear a ruffled pink cocktail dress or a purple paisley tie again?

Expired credit cards

we see a brown leather wallet over packed with different currency and credit cards on a pale marble surface

It's not just your home that deserves a thorough spring cleaning—your wallet does too. If you're carrying around credit cards that are no longer useful, all you're doing is holding up the line every time you go to pay at the grocery store and fumble for the right one. Just make sure to shred or cut up those cards to keep your personal information safe.

Opened bottles of wine

Wine cork

There's a major difference between a great vintage bottle of wine and one that's simply old. In general, if you've had that bottle of wine open for more than a week, it's time to toss it. The two exceptions? According to Wine Folly, bag-in-box wine can last up to three weeks and fortified wine is often good for up to a month.

Hardened paint brushes

painted floorboards things to throw away
Shutterstock/Ozgur Coskun

Didn't have time to clean off your brushes after the last time you touched up the paint in your house? Chances are they've since hardened. Unless your brushes are particularly high-quality, you'll save yourself plenty of time and frustration by ditching them.

Ancient receipts

long receipt things to throw away

Throwing away receipts can make even the most levelheaded person a bit on edge. What if you really do decide to return that TV you bought a decade ago? Is it possible that you'll need to remember what you ordered at Starbucks last week? As a general rule of thumb, if your purchase is no longer within the return period and you don't need proof that you bought it for tax purposes, you can safely get rid of that receipt holding precious wallet space.

Broken furniture

broken folding chair things to throw away
Shutterstock/subin pumsom

That thrift store chair you swore you were going to put the springs back in or that bookcase you are always planning to paint? All they're doing is taking up unnecessary space in your home—and it's time to bid them farewell.

Accessories turning your skin green

vintage watch man

Accessories can liven up your outfit in a flash. But if that Fauxlex is giving your wrist a green tint or those earrings are blackening your lobes, there's no use keeping them.

Dry cleaning bags

dry cleaning things to throw away

It may seem like you're protecting your clothes by keeping them in the bag from the dry cleaner, but doing so may actually affect your wardrobe's longevity. Storing your clothes in dry cleaning bags can trap humidity, encouraging the growth of mold. According to one dry cleaner, the chemicals in the bag itself can also cause items to yellow.

Old toothbrushes

Toothbrush holder in the bathroom things to throw away

If you're keeping your toothbrushes around until the bristles fall out, all you're doing is setting yourself up for oral health problems—like gum disease or infection—down the road. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your brush every three to four months, or sooner if it's showing visible signs of wear.

Games with missing pieces

board games for couples

Sure, board games are fun, but if your set is missing a few pieces, it's only going to lead to game night fights. Toss your old set and try one that's got all of its parts. Total game changer.

Extra buttons

Bottom Button things to throw away

When you first buy a new item of clothing, it may seem like you'll definitely need that extra button in the future. Once you're done with the garment, however, you can—and should—ditch that spare button, too.

Old sheet sets

sheets things to throw away

Whether they're pilled, ripped, stained, itchy, or too small for the bed you're sleeping on, there's no use keeping those old sheets around. However, just like those old towels, your local animal shelter might be eager to get their hands on them.

Tacky vacation souvenirs

souvenirs things to throw away

Whether you've got a souvenir snow globe from that Christmas you spent in Hawaii or have some novelty salt and pepper shakers from that vacation in Key West, by the time your 40th birthday has come and gone, it's time to opt for more attractive housewares.

Clothing with holes

ripped sweater things to throw away
Shutterstock/Moon Safari

If you can't fix it with a stitch or two, it's time to ditch that ripped item of clothing for good. Odds are you won't feel super-confident heading into that big meeting or attending your next formal gathering in something that looks like it's been nibbled on, anyway.

Old keys

spare keys things to throw away

Unless you love fumbling with an overloaded keyring every time you're trying to get into your house, it's time to get rid of those spare keys. Just make sure to check with your local recycling center or locksmith to see if you can have them repurposed before tossing them in the trash.

Cardboard boxes

moving boxes things to throw away

It may feel like those cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling in your basement will come in handy someday, but unless a move is imminent, it's probably best to recycle them. If you do need boxes in the future, most grocery and liquor stores will be happy to give you their extras for free.

Restaurant menus

Chinese Take-out Menu and sauce packets things to throw away

With online ordering services quickly replacing traditional takeout, odds are that folder full of menus is doing little more than cluttering up your kitchen. Check online to make sure that your preferred takeout spots have digitized menus and then get rid of those paper ones for good.

Mismatched socks

single sock in dryer things to throw away
Carlos Caetano/Shutterstock

If you haven't seen a sock's mate in months, it's time to send the singleton packing. While we don't know why socks always seem to go missing, we do know that only having half of a pair is pretty useless.

Sports trophies

sports trophies in trophy case things to throw away

That T-ball trophy you won in elementary school may have been cute when you were five, but using it as décor in your adult home makes it seem like you're stuck in the past.


CD Player things to throw away

You may have loved that Spin Doctors CD so much that you practically warped it, but if you don't have a CD player in your home or car, what use does it have? If any of your CDs have particular sentimental value, have them digitized or download the songs and toss that disc once and for all.


calendar things to throw away

The large majority of Americans (75 percent, to be exact) own a smartphone, making calendars practically obsolete. And let's be real: If your paper calendar isn't currently opened to the correct month, then there's no use keeping it around.

Old razors

Disposable razor things to throw away

If they're rusty, dull, or otherwise broken, it's time to get rid of those old razors. Not only will you not get the close shave you're going for if you attempt to use them, but they may be harboring dangerous bacteria that can cause a serious infection.

Papers from college

student with graded paper things to throw away

It probably felt great to get an A on that biology paper… 20 years ago. However, unless it's your thesis or some kind of groundbreaking research, there's no reason to keep those rapidly-yellowing assignments.

Old cell phones

old cell phone things to throw away

Unless you also have a time machine, chances are you'll never be able to use that first generation cell phone again.

However, on the off chance that old cell phone still works, you can donate it to a charity like Secure the Call, which provides phones to senior citizens, domestic violence survivors, and police departments.

Chipped cups and plates

broken mug things to throw away
Shutterstock/Irina Sokolovskaya

Best case scenario: You cut your mouth on that chipped mug. Worst case scenario: That chipped serving platter crumbles as you're about to set your Thanksgiving turkey on the table, leaving the meal all over the floor and your guests horrified, hungry, and unlikely to return next year. When in doubt, throw it out. And to get a head start on that spring cleaning, check out these 23 Things in Your Home That Are About to Become Obsolete.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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