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How Long to Keep Records and Household Items

When to toss, shred, or donate your documents, bills, clothes and shoes.


A big contributor to household clutter is not knowing how long to keep certain items in your home. There's no reason to supply valuable real estate to items past their prime that are no longer of use to anyone. Follow this guide and begin tossing, donating, shredding and recycling the items in your home and office that have met their expiration dates.

Clothes, boots & shoes

How long to keep clothes and shoes
Photo / The Container Store

You might be holding onto some clothes and shoes because, once again, you don't know how long you should keep them. I've held onto clothes and shoes well past their usefulness: when they didn't fit, itched, scratched, and no longer projected the image I was trying to project.

I've now established some guidelines for how long I keep clothes and shoes: How Long to Keep Clothes & Shoes

Records, papers and financial documents (including tax records)

How long to keep records
Ikea office storage

Financial records, receipts, tax returns, credit card offers... How long do I have to keep these? And how do I get rid of them? Fear not, here's a handy, printable list:

How Long to Keep Documents

Food and leftovers

How long to keep food
Photo / Martha Stewart Living

Food is something you *really* want to be clear on the expiration date once it goes into your refrigerator or freezer. I like to store food in Pyrex glass containers, and I label them by writing on a masking tape with a sharpie pen.

Food Storage Times

See also: What to Do with Food so you can use it before it goes bad.

Make up & cosmetics

How long to keep make up

Whats the shelf life of your make up and grooming products? Sometimes it's very tricky to tell since makeup and shampoo often don't come with expiration dates. Here is a guide.

How Long to Keep Make Up

Newspapers and magazines

How long to keep newspaper and magazines
Photo by Kangaroom

This is a huge source of clutter for me! I like to hang onto my Saturday and Sunday new York Times well past their expiration dates. Here are my self-implemented guidelines:

For the weekday newspaper, recycle these every single day, meaning you keep it no longer than 1 day. As soon as the next one arrives, the old one goes in the recycling bin. If there's an article or recipe I'm interested in, I tear it out and put it in my In Box.

For the thicker weekend edition, I keep these for a week.

read more about How I Manage Mail & Paper

Sneakers for excercizing (like how long to keep running shoes)

How long to keep sneakers
Photo / Container Store

Holding onto and using sneakers for longer than you should can lead to injury. Also, old sneakers tend to get pretty gross after you've run or walked in them for a while. Here's how to tell when it's time to upgrade your kicks.

How Long to Keep Sneakers

Spices and herbs

How long to keep spices
Photo / The Container Store

I remember a few years back, Mark Bittman of the New York Times said to throw spices out after one year, and then everyone told him that was too soon. I'm sticking with a year rule, just to be safe.

Spice Storage


How long to keep sunblock
Photo / Coppertone
Different sunscreens go bad at different paces base don how much heat they've been exposed to and the makeup of the ingredients. It's best to find a sunscreen that is labeled with an expiration date, barring that, throw sunscreen out after 1 year.

Top Sunscreens


How long to keep toiletries

If they have an expiration date, throw them out when they reach that date, but most don't, so look for these these 3 signs it's time to toss the shampoo:

  1. Smells
  2. Turn Color
  3. Changes consistency

A good rule of thumb is to keep toiletries fora year and then buy fresh ones.

How to Store Everything | How to Recycle Everything | Where to Donate Everything | How to Organize Everything

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