16 Items to Stop Storing Now

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Clear out your shelves and drawers and free up your counters with our guide to 16 items to stop storing now.

Cooking Oils, Herbs, and Spices

When to toss: 2 years for olive oil, 1 year for herbs and spices

Why toss: Light and heat all break down that which make oils and spices flavorful. Your best bet is to store yours in a cool, dry spot. Oils will smell rancid when they're no longer good, and spices no longer have distinctive aromas (pinch some between two fingers to test).


When to toss: After 3 months

Why toss it: Think about it: You're using those same bristles (hopefully twice a day), which wears them down and reduces their effectiveness. Plus, stray bacteria or food debris may lodge in toothbrushes. Throw them after a few months, especially if you've been ill.


When to toss: Every few years

Why toss it: The material inside pillows breaks down with daily use, and all the dust, oil, and debris from your face transfers to the pillow’s surface and interior space. Dust mites also accumulate, which can be troublesome to people suffering from asthma or allergies.

Household Cleaners

When to toss: After 2 years

Why toss it: Many of the properties that make cleaners and disinfectants work break down after time, reducing their effectiveness. Throw them out after a few years and replace with fresh bottles.

Photo Negatives

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Photo negatives degrade over time and they’re cumbersome to store. There are several services, such as scandigital.com, that will scan your images and save them to a DVD or CD for you, or you can buy an inexpensive slide and negative scanner for about $125 and electronically store them yourself.

Business Cards

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: You don't have to manually enter the information on your stacks of business cards, thanks to inexpensive or free apps that do it for you. The apps convert the information on the cards into your contacts program, allowing you to edit as needed. If you're not sure if you want to spend on the paid version of an app, give the free one a try first. Two to look at: ABBYY Business Card Reader and Business Card Reader.


When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Although you might be emotionally attached to the physical existence of your music, the plastic cases and CDs from your collection take up loads up of shelf space -- and they’re hard to sort through and keep organized. If you haven’t imported the tunes into your digital music library, do so and take advantage of the convenience of sharing songs with family members through cloud services, too. If you can’t bear to part with liner notes, take them out of the plastic cases and stash in archival boxes.


When to toss: After 2 years, or the expiration date

Why toss it: Like most food-stuffs, vitamins degrade in quality over time. Most packages list an expiration date, and if they’re unused by then (or you can't find yours), replace with new ones.

Eye Makeup

When to toss: After 6 months

Why toss it: Most eye makeup has some basic preservatives to keep it fresh, but those wear down or can be overcome by bacteria that transfers from the environment or your face to brushes and then the makeup itself. Refresh yours after about half a year.


When to toss: After every summer, or with the expiration date

Why toss it: The protective chemicals in sunscreen break down over time, reducing the ability of the product to block out damaging rays from the sun. If you can’t find an expiration date on your bottles, throw them out after pool season has ended.


When to toss: After 3 months

Why toss it: The chlorine in bleach dissipates over time, losing its effectiveness. Keep your bleach in good shape by storing it in a cool, dry place.

Gift Cards

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: How many times have you put a gift card aside, only to forget it when you visit a store or worse -- lose it. Newer apps such as GYFT and Go Wallet allow you to digitize the gift card information into an electronic platform, which tracks the balance. Bonus: Some of the apps let you convert receipts to a digital format, too.

Appliance Manuals

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Most major appliance and equipment manufacturers have made it simple for you to throw your how-to manuals: They're available online as PDFs, free of charge. And if they're not, electronic contact options make getting answers easier, too. If you're worried about getting rid of very unique ones, put them in a binder or file folder for more efficient storage.

Opened Nail Polish

When to toss: After a year

Why toss it: Once they've been used, nail polish ingredients can evaporate or separate, causing inconsistent color and application.

Opened Wine

When to toss: After 1 week

Why toss it: Air and heat can quickly sour wine, even if it's properly corked and stored upright. Keep it in the fridge to get a few more days out of it, if possible.

Opened Paint

When to toss: After 2-5 years

Why toss it: The components in paint separate and break down once the can opened, and the paint may be difficult to mix, even with the most vigorous stirring. To repaint a room, take the old color formula specifications to your local paint, hardware, or big box store.

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