I’ve pulled bookshelves and cabinets, picket fences and enamel buckets out of people’s trash or away from their yard sales and I’ve scoured and scrubbed and cleaned and painted to give them new life. I mean, if something is valuable, or if it could be, then going that extra mile can really pay off!
And I’m all for saving money and making do with less, but sometimes I think this hyper-frugal, minimization-obsessed trend that seems all the rage right now often guilts people into trying to save things that just aren’t worth saving.
So if you’re one of those determined-to-hold-on-to-something-until-it-absolutely-falls-apart kind of people, be warned: I’m about to offend you.
Because, while I used to be more of that thinking, time and experience have taught me better in many respects. Now I think there are just some things that are better to trash than to clean. And here are just 11 examples:
Blackened Baking Sheets
I don’t care how many miracle cures for tired old baking sheets you may have read about, they do not work. At least, not on layers of baked-on mess. I’ve tried multiple versions of these cleaning methods and only one of them was at all effective, and that involved a lot of time and a lot of effort for only slight improvement.
The truth is, if you want nice, shiny baking sheets, you have to take better care of them. Line with foil and use parchment paper as often as possible, (use liners in muffin cups,) wipe away excess oils and cooking spray before baking, and be careful not to overcook particularly oily foods.
Take care of them and they’ll last a long time, but once your cookie sheet or muffin tin starts showing its age, just toss it and buy new.
It’s okay. Tell them I said you could.
Yes, you can wash shower curtains. And if you’re one of those who insists on a $200 shower curtain, it might be wise to try it.
But you know they sell shower curtain liners, right? And you know you can get them for less than $5 a piece, right? I mean, even the high-end liners at my local department store, the mildew-resistant ones with metal grommets at the top and weights at the bottom, are still under $10.
Even if you have hard water, a shower curtain liner will usually look decent for at least 6 months. Give it a quick spray and a wipe when you’re cleaning your shower and it will last even longer! When it starts looking bad, don’t bother taking it down except to trash it and replace it with a new one!
Dusting your mini blinds will keep them in shape for a while, but eventually the grime will build to the point mere dusting doesn’t do the trick anymore.
You can slip blinds out and either submerge them in a soapy bathtub or hose them off outside, but it’s not an easy task, since they’re sometimes long and heavy and awkward and blind slats can be broken or pulled out of track easily, not to mention a set of mini blinds can take a long time to dry properly.
But honestly, unless your windows are unusual sizes, mini blinds just aren’t that expensive. Discount stores regularly sell them for well under $10. And brackets are pretty much universal, so a new set of blinds can usually be slid into old brackets without having to drill any holes. It’s just a matter of sliding old blinds out and new blinds in.
Cleaned regularly, mini blinds can look great for a long time. But when they start looking bad, replacing them really makes more sense than trying to deep clean them.
You can spend crazy money on a hairbrush, but most people I know spend a sensible $5-15 for their hairbrushes, meaning they are an important, but mostly disposable tool.
With regular use a hairbrush will see a build up of natural oils and hair product residue, plus all that hair you lose as you brush. A quick cleaning with a bobby pin or toothpick and an occasional rinse with hot water and even a little dish soap should keep your brush looking good for a long time. When it starts looking and feeling downright dirty, however, it’s time to trash it and buy a new one!
Another kind of brush, though for a very different use…
Not only are toilet brushes used to do some of the dirtiest work in our home, but between scrubbings we also tend to store them in wet little cesspools of bacteria where icky microorganisms can continue to grow and thrive. Pouring antibacterial cleaner or bleach over a toilet brush on occasion will kill some germs, but it won’t remove the overall grossness.
Ignore any deep-cleaning advice you’ve ever read and just replace your old toilet brush every few months at least. Or even better, use the disposables.
We used to have washable furnace filters, which were supposedly more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly that traditional filters.
But they were a pain in the neck to clean! Hosing them off wasn’t so bad, but waiting for them to dry could take forever, especially on a cold day! And you can’t run your system again until the filters are back in place, which is really inconvenient, especially when it’s really cold or hot outside.
Plus they’re expensive, especially for unusual sizes. And some heating and cooling professionals insist reusable filters are actually terrible for your furnace, very inefficient and far less effective when it comes to improving air quality in your home.
So go with the traditional disposables and replace them regularly.
Maybe if I spent more on my plastic food storage containers I would be more inclined to save them. But I don’t. I prefer glass for one thing, but when I do buy plastic containers, they’re usually from the clearance aisle or they’re the cheap disposable type.
Why? Because they tend to get lost in the back of the refrigerator where they turn into scary science experiments. Or, if they’re a sippy cup, they get lost under the couch or in the depths of a toy box. And 3-week old milk smells very bad and can even be explosive.
Don’t ask me how I know this. Just don’t open it: Take my advice and throw it away.
I could bring up the issue of bed pillows, the kind you sleep on, but I’ll leave that one alone for now and focus instead on decorative pillows.
These, particularly the frilly, dry clean only kind, can become houses for dust mites and dander and all sorts of allergens. Surface and spot-cleaning can be effective for a while, but if you can’t wash your decorative pillows, and sometimes even when you can, you need to replace them from time to time.
Look for washable pillows or pillow covers, or just buy cheap so you can toss them without much guilt.
Artificial Flower Arrangements
I’m not big on flowers, but I realize some people LOVE them enough to fill their home with them. Yes, there are cleaners you can use, (but they’re expensive,) and sometimes compressed air can be helpful, but eventually dust and grime will take its toll.
Personally, I would recommend not spending big money on artificial flowers to begin with, but if you do, just know they’ll have to be replaced at some point.
One of my most eye-opening moments as a mother came one day when I squeezed my daughter’s tub toy and BLACK GUNK ran out of it. I. Was. Ill.
Listen, those things mildew inside very quickly and there is really no way to clean them effectively. I recommend avoiding tub toys with the little holes in the bottom, but keep in mind even those that don’t hold water will mildew and build up layers of soap scum with time. Do you really want your kids chewing on something like that while they take a bath?
I know tub toys are fun, but be careful which ones you buy and toss the old and replace with new fairly frequently.
These kitchen tools aren’t meant to last forever. Whether you have a plastic board or a wooden one, (and there are conflicting ideas of which is safer to use,) a cutting board that is heavily nicked and scratched will become a haven for bacteria. You should disinfect your board regularly and oil a wooden board from time to time to prevent cracking, but if it has bits of scratched plastic, deep nicks and cuts, and especially if it has cracks where bacteria can sink and hide, you need to throw it away. No question.