Spring cleaning usually means organizing closets, driving all those boxes labeled DONATE to your local clothing drive, washing down patio furniture, and other big, highly visible projects. So it’s easy to forget about the little things that keep cluttering our lives. Here are 10 unexpected items you should organize, purge, or spruce up this spring.
1. Cleaning supplies
Before you dive into spring cleaning, focus your energy on your actual cleaning supplies. Good Housekeeping notes that household items actually have shelf lives:
- Laundry detergent keeps for six months
- Fabric softener keeps for one year
- Dish soap will last up to a year and a half
- Dishwasher detergent lasts three months
- Disinfectant lasts two years
- Multi-surface cleaners keep for up to two years
- Metal polish lasts for two years, but throw it away sooner if it’s lumpy
2. Emergency kit
Everyone should have an emergency kit, whether you live in a place with hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, or any possibility of an unexpected disaster (i.e., every place on earth). If you checked that off your list a few years ago, make sure your batteries still work and your food and medical supplies haven’t expired. While you’re at it, make a similar emergency kit for your car in case you ever get stranded.
3. Spice rack
I’ll venture a guess and say you haven’t thought to replace your ground coriander recently. While it’s unlikely that eating old, dried spices will make you sick, spices will lose their flavor after two to three years. Extracts can last up to five years, but similarly lose their flavor. So if you don’t remember when you bought that almond extract — but do remember attempting a pound cake for your sister’s bridal shower seven years ago — it’s time to restock.
4. Your purse/bag
Purge your bag of the receipts, gum wrappers, empty mascara tubes, broken hair ties, and the entire GDP of California in pennies. Your back will thank you.
5. Car trunk/glove compartment
Empty your trunk of the bag of ill-fitting clothes you meant to take to Goodwill, water bottles, shoes you forgot you owned, or whatever else landed in there. While you’re at it, it’s time to face the music and pay those parking tickets you shoved into your glove compartment.
Do you remember buying the mustard or capers that are sitting in your fridge door right now? Probably not, which is making me a bit queasy. Still Tasty has a hugely comprehensive list of food expirations, and here’s a few you may want to replace:
- Jams/jellies last one year
- Mayonnaise lasts two to three months after the use by date
- Hot sauce lasts five years
- Pickles last one year
- Soy sauce lasts two years
- Mustard lasts one year
- Ketchup lasts six months
7. Your keyboard and mouse
Not to gross you out, but your keyboard and mouse are cesspools of germs and bacteria. Give your keyboard a full clean (not just a cursory wipe-down), and place some disinfecting wipes on your desk to remind you to make this a regular habit.
8. Makeup brushes and makeup
While you should be cleaning your makeup brushes once a month (Come on! You put those things near your eyes and mouth), use this spring-cleaning kick to get into the habit. And then go ahead and toss your old makeup:
- Foundation more than 18 months old
- Powder more than two years old
- Lipstick more than one year old
- Mascara more than three months old
- Gel eyeliner more than two months old
9. Stroller and car seat
You likely spend time picking Cheerios out of car seats. But in addition to the Sisyphean task of keeping strollers and car seats clean, you should also take some time to do maintenance. Make sure all functions are working properly and that your car seat hasn’t expired. Car seats are tested only for a certain time period after they hit the shelves, and manufactures can’t guarantee their performance past the expiration date.
10. Your computer files
Unless you’re incredibly disciplined, your computer could probably use some organization. Clean up your desktop, but then go deeper: Put completed projects onto external hard drives or the cloud, go through the hundreds of screenshots you can’t remember why you saved, and clean up whatever app you use to keep random notes.
[Editor's note: This was originally published May 8, 2015.]