10 Things in Your Kitchen You Should Throw Away
The kitchen is the heart of every home. You spend so much time there you may have tucked away more items in your kitchen than you think. You don't have to wait until spring to declutter! We've talked to organizational experts and compiled a list of 10 things you can say goodbye to right away.
Items to Toss for Sanitary and Health Reasons
While you can extend the life of your kitchen sponge by cleaning it with soapy water, washing it in the dishwasher or sanitizing it in the microwave (note: never put a sponge with metal in the microwave), a 2017 study published in Nature discovered that used sponges harbor the bacteria Moraxella osloensis. Despite not posing any grave health threats, the bacteria could increase the risk of infections for people who have a weakened immune system.
Our advice? Change your sponges regularly and get rid of them if they develop an off smell.
Worn-Out Cutting Boards
Keeping separate cutting boards—one for raw meat and seafood, and one for vegetables, bread and most anything else—is a safe practice to avoid cross-contamination. But, grooves appearing on a board over time is a sign of wear and tear that calls for disposal. According to the USDA, the grooves on the worn cutting board are difficult to clean thoroughly and may become breeding grounds for bacteria that could make you sick.
Your Favorite Old Utensils
Your partially chipped and cracked utensils may have been kitchen workhorses, but now they are a hazard. "Pieces of rubber can disintegrate into hot liquids or [chipped wood from your wooden spatula could] break off into a recipe … This can be a choking hazard, not to mention unpleasant!" says Sylvia Fountaine, CEO and founder of Feasting at Home.
Like your worn-out cutting boards, the cracks and crevices in your aged utensils make them harder to clean and are places that may harbor bacteria. If you love a specific brand or type of utensil, consider buying a couple of duplicates and stowing them away for later use.
Tossing to Organize and Declutter
Unused Appliances and Their Instruction Booklets
Kitchens are filled with all sorts of appliances and tools we've accumulated over time. (Are there any kitchen gadgets sitting in your cabinets and drawers collecting dust?) Don't get me wrong, some kitchen gadgets are excellent timesavers or solutions to particular food preparations, but you may not need every single last one. Take an (honest!) inventory and consider selling or donating any that you don't use.
When disposing of a kitchen appliance, toss the instruction booklet that came with it. "Old instruction booklets for items you no longer own are clutter," says Stacey Agin Murray, a professional organizer at Organized Artistry. "Even though they're flat, they still take up precious space in your kitchen."
Unused Takeout Condiments, Straws and Cutlery
Takeout orders sometimes come with an overabundance of sauce packets, straws and cutlery. Tossing them into the trash may seem wasteful, but they turn into clutter if unused. They're simply taking up kitchen space. Chances are, these condiment packets will also lose their flavor and color over time if left unused.
Murray suggests purging them regularly to keep your collection manageable. Check their expiration dates and toss out those that have expired. If there's no expiration date, throw out those that appear old and the ones that you will likely never use. And see whether you can opt out of receiving these the next time you place a takeout order.
Those of us who buy magnets as souvenirs when we travel tend to have fridge doors that are highly decorated ... and a bit busy. Consider showcasing your favorite magnets on rotation and tossing the ones that don't make the cut. It may not only declutter one of your most visible kitchen surfaces, it could also free up space in your mind to daydream about your next vacation!
Tossing for Freshness
If you're a home cook who loves exploring flavors and experimenting with spices, you may have unused or partially used spices lingering in the back of your rack or shelves. Some may be unknown years old!
The USDA suggests whole spices can last up to two to four years, while ground ones can last up to two to three years at room temperature. Even so, spices lose their flavor and aroma and become stale over time.
To avoid food waste, buy them in small quantities. Better yet, purchase them from the grocery store's bulk section so you can decide how much you need. Labeling your spices with the purchase date also helps keep track of their shelf life.
Are you a coffee lover? You may have stockpiled coffee beans or ground coffee in your pantry. You can store whole-bean or freshly ground coffee for up to two weeks in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark area. "Coffee will [be used] much faster than other dry foods in your cupboard, so it is best to write the date of when you opened it on the container or bag, which will let you know whether your coffee will still be in date or not," says Anna Silver, founder of CookForFolks.
Cooking oils do not last as long as you think. They become stale and sour and lose their aromatic qualities over time. While some cooking oils can last up to a year after opening, not all types do. For instance, a bottle of olive oil only lasts for a few months once it is opened, according to the North American Olive Oil Association.
Let's not forget about your freezer. There may be frozen meals or frozen meats back there in the darker recesses of the appliance. Freezer burn degrades food quality over time. Free up space by tossing those items affected by the burn. Lauren Saltman, a professional organizer and owner of Living. Simplified., advises, "Be sure to check expiration dates on the food you purchased. If it's food that you cooked or froze to be eaten at a later date, check for signs of freezer burn."
Whether your goal is to reduce food waste or to achieve a minimalist aesthetic, regularly decluttering your kitchen helps keep it organized and maximizes your space. To start your kitchen organization project, "Group or sort like items together. This is a great way to get rid of or combine multiples of the same item," suggests Saltman.
She adds, "Chances are you don't need to keep an item any longer if you haven't used it for several months [or in a year]."