They clutter up your kitchen, hog your closets and collect in your entryway. Just about everyone has too many of something. And the things we hoard are surprisingly predictable. Forget heirlooms and sentimental tchotchkes, it's the utilitarian items that overrun our homes.
"We hold onto things because they seem to have a purpose, whether it's recipes we've clipped or little jewellery boxes," says Susan Borax of Good Riddance, a professional organizing firm in Vancouver. "We don't realize that there's a statute of limitations on how useful something can be."
Need some breathing room? Chances are, you've got more of these than you need:
Reusable shopping bags
"I always forget them and end up buying new ones," says Carrie Macmillan, a student at Ryerson University in Toronto. "I have enough for an unreasonable amount of groceries." Too much of a good thing is, well, not good. "People forget about the first part of reduce, reuse, recycle," says Emily Alfred, a waste campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Instead of squirrelling them away, drop a few bags off at a food bank or thrift store. Always keep one on you and a few in your car, so you won't feel tempted to buy more at the checkout counter.
Your cupboards are probably riddled with orphan lids and semi-disposable plastic takeout containers. Give up the hope of reuniting each piece with its long-lost mate – keep one set of each size and recycle the rest, or just use regular bowls with reusable stretch-to-fit silicone lids.
You have several of the el cheapo variety sitting forlornly by your front door, and yet you never seem to have an umbrella when there is a downpour. Invest in a tiny purse-sized one to carry with you at all times, or do your best impression of a born-and-bred West Coaster: In a drizzle, they just pull up their hoods and carry on.
Go Joan Crawford on your closet and round up all the wire hangers. Some (but not all) dry cleaners will take them back, so you will have to ask around. Better yet, replace your mishmash of plastic and wood hangers with matching slim flocked ones. When they are all the same size, you will find closet space you never knew you had.
Ms. Borax sees a lot of clients who can't part with old suitcases, even if they have broken wheels and straps. "They have this idea that some day they'll have time to fix them," she says. Don't bother. They make excellent under-the-bed storage containers.