Here's What You Should Never Declutter, According to the Pros

How to tell what's OK to declutter versus what you really ought to keep.

Springtime is almost here and if decluttering is a big part of your spring cleaning routine, you might already be taking inventory of what you think you might keep and what items you’re planning to get rid of. If you're feeling frustrated, you might be tempted to just declutter everything, but that doesn’t mean you should. Alternatively, you might need some extra direction about what to declutter because you could end up keeping things you don't truly need. 

Here’s what three organizing pros say you should always declutter—plus the items you should never declutter. 


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Always Declutter: Manuals for appliances and electronics should always be decluttered according to Janelle Cohen, professional organizer and author of The Folding Book. “They are always available online and the hard copy is just extra clutter.”

Never Declutter: On the other hand, Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder of the NEAT Method, tells me that important documents like birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, marriage certificates, and other legal documents should be filed away and kept forever. “No need to declutter these items, but we would suggest considering a small fireproof safe to store them in.”

Kitchen Supplies

Always Declutter: Still hanging onto that odd wine glass or that food processor that doesn’t work properly? Cohen says it’s best to dump (or donate, if they're in good condition) these things.  

Ashley Murphy, co-founder of the NEAT Method, shares a similar sentiment. “Duplicate kitchen gadgets are a huge clutter-building culprit. Set aside pizza cutters, ice cream scoops, and other specialty items to determine which duplicates, if any, are used simultaneously. If none are, you should be safe holding onto your favorite and getting rid of the rest,” she says.

Never Declutter: As for those kitchen items or tools you use regularly (or perhaps seasonally like a turkey baster), Cohen recommends holding onto those.

Household Paper Products

Never Declutter: Was your favorite brand of toilet paper on sale or did you go overboard in the paper towel section at Costco? Even if you have an over-supply of these types of non-perishable items—there’s no need to declutter, especially because you will use them eventually. “We always suggest considering available storage space before purchasing back stock, but should you end up with too much, just store it the best way you can until you make your way through it,” says Hagmeyer.

Sentimental Items

Always Declutter: We all have things we plan to scrapbook or put in a box for safekeeping, but rarely does that day come. Cohen tells me to declutter ticket stubs, Playbills, and “all the random items that you are saving for sentimental value.”

Never Declutter: On the other hand, there are some sentimental items you should never declutter, such as irreplaceable family heirlooms and items that you truly cherish. If you plan to pass these items down one day or you look back on them often, keep them. However, if you have tons of photos you'd like to keep but don't want to spare the physical space to store them, consider using a source such as to digitize the images and make them easier to share.


Always Declutter: Is the area under your bathroom sink a complete disaster? Tiny hotel toiletries and other samples should be disposed of, at least most of the time. “Be honest with yourself about how many you can reasonably use before they’re past their prime,” says Murphy. Keep in mind that even toiletries have expiration dates. For any items that are still good but that you won't likely use yourself, check if a local shelter accepts donations of unopened toiletries.

Never Declutter: If you have half-full bottles of shampoo, bars of soap, or other products that you use regularly—don’t declutter those. After all, you never know when you will run out of your current shampoo or get the urge to switch it up. It's also a smart idea to have a backup on hand if your refills get delivered late or your local store runs out. 

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