10 things to throw out now
10 things you need to get rid of to unload and update your home.
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Does the traffic jam of clutter in your home feel more oppressive than ever? You've likely already started thinking about a plan to tackle the easy stuff-cleaning the house from top to bottom, donating clothes you no longer wear to charity, clearing out the garage. (Well, at least the thinking part is easy.)
But here's a list of things that you may not have realized are cluttering your surroundings just as much, adding to the overload of outdated or just plain excess "stuff." Add these to your to-do list, and you'll be surprised how much space you'll free up-not to mention the mental freedom that comes from letting them go.
1 Outdated technology
You probably have one (or more) computers, TVs, DVD players, VHS recorders, cassette decks or other rusting electronics stored away in your basement. What are you waiting for, the return of the eight-track machine? Old electronics can be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way at the local transfer station. (In the case of computers, be sure to wipe the hard drive completely first for security reasons. Many office supply and computer stores will do this for you for free.)
2 Old files
Whether you have a working home office or not, chances are you have a file cabinet filled to overflowing with old files and paperwork. Most of it you don't need to keep. If you do, scan the papers and store them electronically. Then put the rest in the recycling bin (shred it first if it contains sensitive information). Tax returns should be kept for seven years; after that, you can get rid of them with a clear conscience.
3 Bedding and mattresses
Even top-quality mattresses only have a life span of about 10 years; if yours is older, it could be the reason you have that nagging backache in the morning. If you can fold your pillow in half and it stays folded, it's ready for the pillow retirement home. While you're at it, go through your linen closet; old sheets and towels that are no longer in fashion, no longer match your decor or are torn or faded should be recycled.
4 Smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers
Over time, smoke detectors get clogged with dust, pet dander or simply become less sensitive. Also, the efficiency of newer models is higher, making periodic replacement (every 10 years or so) a good idea.
5 Medicines and vitamins
If you no longer have the affliction the medicine was prescribed for, or vitamins (or over-the-counter medications) have expired, they should be safely disposed of.
6 Makeup and nail polish
Rare indeed is the beauty queen who doesn't have a bathroom drawer filled with dried-up nail polish or makeup that's worn out, nearly used up or the wrong colour. Out it goes.
7 Coat hangers
Metal coat hangers have a way of multiplying. Determine how many you really need and toss the rest. They should be recycled or taken to the transfer station.
8 Books, CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs
If you're a culture vulture, you probably have a large collection of one or all of these (except perhaps LPs, unless you are of a certain age.) Go through them and recycle or donate anything that no longer interests you, and free up room for all the new ones you're probably going to buy. In the case of DVDs and CDs, download them from iTunes (or similar streaming services) from now on.
9 Anything chipped or broken
I have a teapot I purchased at Value Village years ago that's lovely, except for the little chip on the spout that makes it unusable for tea. If I can part with that, you can part with the cracked coffee mug that you rarely or never use, or the flower vase that's a beautiful colour but leaks.
10 Excess furniture, rugs or chairs
In some cases, old furniture can be repaired, reupholstered or repurposed, but if, realistically, you're not planning to do it any time soon, donate it to charity (or if really beyond repair, take to the dump). Old rugs, unless they're heirloom quality, take up a lot of room when they're rolled up. Alternatively, if your old pieces are too nice to throw out, put them on Craigslist and turn your clutter into cash.
Recipe: Great pumpkin cookies
crisp white towels
Find everything you need to know to pick durable towels and keep them looking and smelling fresh.
Did you know?
The quality of a towel is measured by its grams per square metre (GSM), ranging from about 300 on the low end to 600 on the high.
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Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.