What not to throw out when decluttering — cleaning pros spill on the 7 things you should keep hold of

The experts explain what not to throw out when decluttering and how

Find out what not to throw out when decluttering. Here are three of these things - a pink and green medicine bag with tablets in, a table with three wooden jewelry boxes, and a white looped cable on a wooden table and green mat
(Image credit: Getty Images / Carol Yepes / knape / BitsAndSplits)

Finding out what not to throw out when decluttering will come in useful whether you're doing a full spring clean or are tidying just one room.

We've asked cleaning pros what they always advise clients not to throw. Some of these are seriously surprising, from spare parts and tools to sentimental items. They have also helpfully recommended how to organize these instead.

If you're decluttering your home, putting aside these items will ensure you don't get rid of anything important.

What not to throw out when decluttering, according to cleaners

We don't often say this, but it's time to put down your best cleaning supplies and be a little more careful when decluttering.

Our pros have recommended products that might come in useful when organizing these items, which we have shopped wherever possible.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article. 

1. Sentimental items

A light wooden table with a wooden jewelry box with jewelry in it, two stacked wooden boxes on top of each other, a bottle of pink nail varnish, and a white coffee cup

(Image credit: Getty Images / knape)

The pieces that pull at your heartstrings have to be the most important items to take care of when you’re decluttering your drawers and other areas of your home.

“Sentimental items should be curated with care. Instead of storing everything, select pieces that truly reflect significant memories or achievements and consider displaying them instead of hiding them away,” suggests Yessica Bello, cleaning expert at Bello’s Cleaning.

“For collectibles, clear display cases or dedicated shelves can highlight their value and keep them organized,” she says.

A product Yessica has found particularly useful is The Container Store's Clear Stackable Document Box for organizing various categories of paperwork and precious documents. “Its transparency allows for easy identification of contents without needing to open each box, and the stackable feature saves space while keeping everything orderly,” she adds.

2. Important documents

A wooden table with a silver laptop, a light pink mug, and a pile of white envelopes and paper on it, with a white wall and windows in the background

(Image credit: Getty Images / Tom Merton)

When you’re faced with stacks of paper when cleaning, it can be easy to panic and throw them all away. This is a big no-no, though, as they’re key things not to throw out when decluttering.

“Important documents such as passports, legal papers, and insurance documents should always be spared from the purge,” explains Eliana Coca, cleaning expert and owner of E.C. House Cleaning.

“For these, I recommend a secure filing system like the SentrySafe HD4100 Fireproof Safe and Waterproof Safe on Amazon, as it’s excellent for keeping documents protected from damage.”

Organizing these by category in a fireproof and waterproof container ensures they are safe and accessible. 

3. Emergency supplies

A pink and dark green bag that's open with silver medicine packets in it with white and red tablets inside

(Image credit: Getty Images / Carol Yepes)

While we do recommend getting rid of ‘just in case’ items you’ve had for years and not used, we also advise keeping hold of key items.

Eliana continues, “Emergency supplies like first-aid kits, flashlights, spare batteries, and backup chargers are essential, especially in unforeseen circumstances.”

She continues, “These items should be consolidated in an easily accessible, designated area of the house.”

Her top tip? Storing such items in a clear, labeled bin (the Shelfshaper Storage Bins from Amazon are made from thick, BPA-free plastic and come with a roll of labels) to maintain organization and ensure that in an emergency, everything can be found quickly.

4. Spare parts and tools

A birds eye view of a dark wooden table with silver tools, a tablet, and a calculator on top of it

(Image credit: Getty Images / Hispanolistic)

Working out what not to throw away when decluttering extends beyond untidy items — it extends to things you’ll need in the future, too.

“Miscellaneous screws, bolts, and tools may clutter up your space, but they're invaluable when something needs fixing,” explains Emily Adams, cleaning expert at NW Maids.

She recommends organizing these items in a toolbox (the Hyper Tough 19-inch Toolbox from Walmart has two lid organizers and is made from heavy-duty construction) for easy access. 

You can also consider donating excess tools to community repair shops, secondhand stores, or makerspaces.

5. Old electronics

A birds eye view of a warm wooden table with a dark green circular placemat with a black phone on top and a looped white cable

(Image credit: Getty Images / BitsAndSplits)

Have you been decluttering your living area and found wires for things you don’t use anymore? You can remove these from your home — but make sure you sustainably do this.

Emily says, “Old electronics like chargers, cables, and obsolete devices shouldn't be tossed in the trash due to environmental concerns.”

“Instead, recycle them through certified e-waste recycling programs or donate them to organizations that refurbish electronics for those in need,” she explains.

6. Personal care items

Two bottles with oils in them, a white coral sponge, a white stone pot, with a light brown pleated fabric underneath these

(Image credit: Getty Images / Carol Yepes)

You’re probably going to be faced with lots of boxes and bottles when you’re decluttering your bathroom cabinets. So, it’s worth remembering that the big things not to throw away when decluttering are items you likely keep in these.

“Personal care items such as prescription medications, eyeglasses, and contact lenses should be carefully organized and never thrown away,” Eliana says.

“Using a specific drawer or cabinet organizer helps keep these items in order and readily available,” she adds.

A good piece of advice from Eliana is using a multi-tiered organizer (the Felizhouse Bathroom Organizer from Walmart will fit under your vanity, is made from a safe material, and is easy to assemble) so that everything has its place, reducing clutter and maintaining order in these crucial areas.

7. Quality cookware

A white kitchen with marble countertops with salt and pepper mills and glass containers with grains, and a black electric stovetop with a terracotta saucepan on top

(Image credit: Getty Images / brizmaker)

You might have invested in the best non-stick pans and cookware and found yourself teeing them up as things to throw away when decluttering. Whether you’re on a budget or not, it’s a good idea to not let your dollars go to waste.

“Quality cookware and utensils may seem worn or outdated, but they can often be refurbished or repurposed,” Emily explains.

She advises polishing stainless steel pots and pans, sharpening knives (the The Original Tumbler Rolling Knife Sharpener from Amazon is Bobby Berk's knife sharpener and has a diamond disc), or donating them to someone in need. If anything is beyond repair, ensure you recycle responsibly.

By thoughtfully preserving items while still maintaining a decluttered home, you can ensure important items are protected.

“This approach to decluttering emphasizes practicality and preparedness, integrating with the overall cleanliness and function of the home environment,” Eliana finishes by saying.

For those wanting to make their homes sparkle even more, finding out the things people with clean homes have in common may come in useful.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.