It’s spring clean time again: here are some things that you really don’t need to hang on to
Are you bordering on hoarder? If you struggle to let go of things, on the off chance you might need them one day, then let us guide you through the easy part – getting rid of things that either you’re never going to have time to use or that really are redundant.
Old bank statements
Is your filing cabinet bursting at the seams with old bank statements that you’re keeping for… actually what are you keeping them for? In case someone asks what your bank balance was in 2001? Or do you still think there’s some mis-sold PPI hiding away somewhere?
Unless you really do want to claim for something, HMRC suggests you keep bank statements and other financial evidence (payslips, P45s, P60s) for 22 months after the end of the tax year to which they relate (so a maximum of three years). If you own a business, you should keep paperwork for five years and if you are being really careful, six years (HMRC won’t ask to see paperwork older than this).
Once you’ve shredded old statements, switch to paperless bills now to stop them mounting up again.
When considering whether to dump paperwork, ask yourself how easy it would be to replace. Birth certificates, marriage certificates and wills are obviously precious but while you will want to keep hold of insurance documents, you only need the latest version.
The Citizens Advice Bureau recommends keeping utility bills for a year, as a way of keeping track of your spending but suggests streamlining paperwork to make it easier to keep on top of things.
Why oh why is that antibiotic you were prescribed two years ago still hiding in your bathroom cabinet? Medicines have expiry dates – after this date they may not be as effective and could actually cause you harm.
Similarly, medicines that have not been stored correctly as described in the advisory notes or on the packaging (i.e. in a cupboard rather than a fridge) should also go. The NHS suggests taking all medicines to your pharmacist, who can dispose of them safely.
When you first move into a new house it’s exciting when the local Thai pops one of their menus through the door, isn’t it? We must try that one day, you think, and then stick the menu to the fridge or tuck it away in the drawer of dreams. It’s time to clear out this junk mail. Most menus are online nowadays and both Deliveroo and JustEat also have apps, making ordering food even easier.
We all have that ever increasing ball of bags stuffed somewhere, don’t we. Under the stairs or in a kitchen drawer, but have you ever noticed that it never really gets smaller, just fatter and rounder?
We know you don’t want to waste single-use plastic but next time, rather than bring more bags home with you, why don’t you take one with you to the shop and actually reuse it (you should invest in a reusable bag too)? For bags with holes or generally past their best, there are carrier bag recycling points at the larger stores of most major supermarkets, or if you get your shopping delivered you can give them back to your driver for recycling.
It’s sometimes useful to have a back-up of something (a spare tyre for instance, and one can never have too many corkscrews, surely) but often, more than one of something is just taking up valuable space and causing clutter.
If you have an extra cheese grater, toaster, or kettle, there is always someone else that could use it. You could do a car boot sale, or donate unwanted household items to a local charity or refuge, so they are actually being used rather than gathering dust in your cupboard.
We all do it, but once a battery has come to the end of its life, there’s really no point hiding it in a drawer or a box, however, you need to be careful how you dispose of them.
Many councils now collect batteries as part of their household collection service but in some areas you will need to take them to a recycling centre, a collection point in a supermarket, or a DIY centre for safe disposal.
We all have keys that we don’t know what they might belong too. It’s possible they were left in our care by an old neighbour/friend who never asked for them back or maybe they open a secret box filled with jewels. While the latter is possible, it’s not likely. Don’t hold out on finally opening a treasure trove, most recycling centres have a mixed metals bank (just make sure you remove any tags first).
Old chargers for things you no longer own
It can be tempting to keep hold of old chargers for forgotten phones and computers but there's really no need.
Whatever you do though, don’t just put them in the bin – they will end up in landfill. There’s a huge world-world crisis with e-waste and most refuse centres will have a drop-off point.
Alternatively, you could try recycling them, along with any old phones or tablets, through a company like OnRecycle.
Read more about what to do with old electrical items.
When towels become shabby and threadbare, it’s no use just putting them to the back of the airing cupboard, instead, why not donate them to an animal shelter and give a cat or dog some welcome comfort? Shelters will usually also take old blankets and bedding.
If you’ve got a money box filled with out-of-date pound coins or £10 notes, you can take them to your bank or building society and exchange them for current currency.
There are also companies such as Vintage Cash Cow that buy old coins and foreign currency, giving you more money for your next holiday.
Is there anything sadder than a lonesome sock? Of course there are some alternative uses: it could become a cleaning rag, a cat toy (simply fill with catnip and seal it up at the open end), or fill with rice, seal up and all you need to do is pop it in the microwave for around 30 seconds and you have a heat pad.
However, if you know you are never going to get round to any of these things, take the offending sock (or socks) to a clothing recycling bin.
Main photo: Patpitchya/Shutterstock
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