4 Things to Get Rid of Before the Year Ends
Here are the things that need to go—for your wallet, your conscience and your health, too.
Photo: KStork /iStock
The Dinnerware You Never Use
New rule: Either break out those special-occasion-only items on more than just special occasions—or move them out. December could not be a better month to assess what you're no longer using (ahem, the soup tureen you got as a wedding gift) and to unload things that have to do with entertaining.
Mugs Buckley, head of media and partnerships at Chairish, a website that lets you sell or buy vintage décor and furniture, says the site does a booming business selling dining-room-related items in December, so there are plenty of people who could be interested in taking any unused soup tureens off your hands. Serveware, tabletop, candleholders, linens, barware and bar carts are all strong categories for the site right now.
Similarly, during the holiday season, the online china, crystal and flatware emporium called Replacements, Ltd. buys festive patterns, including Christmas Rose by Spode, Winter Greetings by Lenox and Merry Christmas by Johnson Brothers.
The Items You've Been Meaning to Donate
Whether that's clothes, coffeemakers, books or bikes, donating gently used items to charity is always a good idea. To get a tax deduction for this year, though, you must make your donation by December 31. And be sure you're giving to an IRS-qualified organization. If the gift is valued at less than $250, you don't need documentation—TurboTax even has a tool called "ItsDeductible" that uses eBay to calculate the IRS-approved value of your donations. If it's more than $250, get a receipt, which you can then include when you itemize the deductions on your tax forms.
The Foods That Made Summer Awesome
If your July and August were anything like ours, there were peaches, blueberries and tomatoes galore—and also plenty of barbecued chicken and toasted marshmallows. Yet, while the produce is long gone, some other items may have lingered for four months, or more, in your kitchen cabinets.
According to The Food Safety Book, by Joe Kivett and Dr. Mark Tamplin, an opened bottle of barbecue sauce will last one month on the shelf, or four months in the fridge—so, it's probably best to toss the one you used all summer. An opened bag of marshmallows keeps for a month; after that, they may start to become sticky or dried out, so buy a new bag for your hot-cocoa needs. And if you stocked up on protein-packed snacks for road trips over the summer, inspect them well.
Andrew Callaghan, a manager of service operations for the pest-control company Terminix in Chicago, says drugstore beetles are undiscerning omnivores that could gladly attack a variety of pantry items—including sunflower or pumpkin seeds—after two or three months. Examine nuts and seeds for the brown, oval-shape pests; and, toss the food if you see any signs of them.
The Fine-Print Reports You Never Read Anyway
In today's e-everything world, paper documents can feel even more important (case in point: We've yet to see a digital marriage license or birth certificate). But financial expert David Bach says there are many hard copies that you can toss, and the end of the year is a great time to do that, thereby helping yourself to start the new year fresh.
Here's what you don't need to hold onto, according to Bach: outdated wills; old annual reports from stocks and mutual funds; and, credit-card statements (however, save ones with tax significance—such as those documenting charitable donations, medical expenses, energy-efficient improvements to your home and/or business expenses—for three years, which is the window of time the IRS has to audit you).