For the most part, we think we’re pretty good at saying no to the things we might be tempted to buy and bring home. When we actually pay for something, it causes us to rethink its practicality. Yet what about stuff that’s free or just migrates into our hands without any thought or effort? While we may not be intentional about keeping an item that has an expiration date for usefulness, somehow things slip into our lives and take up residence. Four standard questions when decluttering are: Do you love it? Do you need it? Do you value it? Could you get it again? But do the same rules apply when you didn’t purposely bring it home? While the list can be long, here are the most popular free things we have a tendency to hoard.

  • Takeout items. Look at how many plastic utensils, sauce packets and paper napkins you’re keeping. You’ll get more on the next delivery or drive-through, so toss the excess and resist the urge to keep a drawer full.
  • Boxes. We tend to rationalize keeping boxes for appliances and electronics in case you move. Considering the space and how they’re prone to mold, mildew and attract bugs, it may be more practical to get another box when the moving van shows up. Limit the number of boxes saved for mailing. Again, there’s a steady stream of boxes coming into your life.
  • Plastic cups. Parties, fast food restaurants, networking events, sporting events and outdoor festivals use these for advertisement. Repurpose these for storage in a craft room, under a sink or sandbox; recycle the rest.
  • Ink pens. Pens are like bunnies; they can reproduce in a blink of an eye. Keep the ones that write and that you really like.
  • Shopping bags. There are many uses for plastic shopping bags, yet enough is enough. A space will look a hundred times better when you remove the excess bags stuffed in cabinets, drawers and pantries.
  • Storage containers. Butter tubs, deli meat containers and glass jars can give way to the stackable containers that take up a fraction of the room.
  • Recycled gift wrap. Saving every gift bag and multi-colored bow and flattening out tissue paper, yet passing over them and picking up something new at the dollar store might signal an end to this behavior.

So much of what is cluttering our lives comes into our space without any effort on our own. Adopt a new mindset: “There’s always more of where that came from.” Let it go. It’s that simple.