The Best, Safest, and Least Wasteful Way to Declutter Your Expired Home Items

published Jan 5, 2023
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Man opening refrigerator. You can see lettuce, green onions, carrots, and other produce in the door. The rest of the fridge is full of food.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is a free 20-day program that’ll help you reset your home for the year ahead. Sign up here and get all assignments delivered to your inbox.

No matter how much stuff fills your home, there are just some things that need to be let go of, and those are the things that cause more harm than good, especially when it comes to your health and safety.

That’s why today’s task is about getting rid of things that have expired around your home. However, it’s not as straightforward of an assignment as you may think.

While you’ll definitely be doing some decluttering, you’ll also need to do some research and reflection (more on that later) to ensure that you’re not only removing toxic things in your home, but also making a plan moving forward to not be as wasteful.

Day 4: Clear expired items from all over your home

We’re going to do a clean sweep of all things expired, from food to cleaning products and everything in between. Let’s break it down into three main areas to declutter: the kitchen, bathroom, and the space you keep all your cleaning supplies. You can pick one or challenge yourself to do all three — whatever you feel comfortable doing today.


Before diving into the details of decluttering this area, let’s talk about the word “expired” when it comes to food waste, specifically “expiration dates.” 

The truth is that expiration dates aren’t regulated, which leads to so much confusion on what to keep and what to toss. Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulation, states the Food Safety and Inspection Service U.S. Department of Agriculture, and manufacturers are the ones to provide dating to consumers and retailers to help them decide when food is of the best quality. 

That’s why it’s best to not rely solely on these “expiration” dates. Instead, trust your senses and do your research. Inspect and smell it. Anything that has spoiled should immediately be tossed. Look into how long food can last and the signs of something that’s gone bad. One commenter during last year’s Cure post suggested FoodPrint as a resource for this research. The project also has some very helpful information to help you better understand the confusion around what a “sell by,” “best by,” or “use by” label really means.

Armed with more knowledge, you can get to work on today’s task. In the kitchen, you’ll look in the fridge, freezer, and pantry for expired items and make decisions on what can stay, needs to be used soon (labeling helps!), or can be tossed, donated or frozen for later.


Next, head to the bathroom where several expired products could also be hiding. Specifically your beauty products — the regular ones and all those travel- or trial-sized extras you picked up during hotel stays or got as a gift with your purchase. Most packages include a “PAO” (period after opening) symbol on the bottom that looks like a small jar and includes a number that represents how many months after opening it is safe and active to use. Unlike food, I stress that you follow the PAO symbol. Not only will they lack potency over time, but they can also cause adverse reactions. (I recently felt the bite of an expired eye cream that made my face swell up!)

Cleaning Products

Whether you keep cleaning supplies under the sink in the kitchen or bathroom or in a closet or cabinet — make sure you are checking that they are all still good to use. (Did you know that bleach has a shelf life of one year?)

No matter if you just removed one potent jar of jam or swept through all three spaces, I hope you are feeling a weight lifted off your shoulders now — and feel a little safer in your home.

PRO TIP: Let’s take this as an opportunity to really look at our food waste situation. On average, people waste 25 percent of the food they buy, and on a grand scale, 108 billion pounds is wasted in the U.S. alone. So while taking this time to declutter let’s also be proactive in limiting waste as much as possible now and moving forward. Here are some ideas.

What was the most surprising thing you found while decluttering expired things from around the home? Share it with us in the comments below.

More ways to participate in the January Cure:

The Cure Program is a tradition here at Apartment Therapy — it happens every January, April, and September. Click here to learn more about the year-round program and when to sign up.