How to Declutter DIY Supplies



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As a content creator and former editor who has been in the DIY space for nearly a decade, I’ve come to amass a rather large collection of tools and supplies. Some I use regularly, like my power sander and hot glue gun; others, I’ve used once or twice and then forgotten in the back of my closet, where they’ve sat collecting dust year after year (I’m looking at you, diamond drill bit and balloon arch-making kit). When you work on one to two projects a week, like I do, it can feel hard to get rid of anything because Murphy’s law dictates you’ll need it exactly as soon as you decide to toss it.

Even if you aren’t a full-time DIYer, you probably have certain tools and supplies taking up precious storage space that you either won’t use again, have broken or missing pieces, or are so dried out or gunked up that they can’t be used at all. These are the kinds of items you can purge from your collection right now that you definitely won’t miss. Some are easy to dispose of while others may require a bit of special handling, especially if they contain any kind of hazardous chemicals. Read on to find 11 DIY materials you can absolutely toss right now, and the safest way to do so.

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Rarely do you buy a can of paint and use the entirety of its contents for a specific project. But paint isn’t cheap, so if you’re like me, you save the can for future projects or to have on hand for touch-ups down the road. Before you know it, you have 20 to 30 cans sitting in your garage. So how do you differentiate what paint to keep and what paint to toss? First, get rid of any paint that has gone bad — you can tell it’s spoiled if it has a sour milk smell or it has turned into a very lumpy consistency. You can also part ways with paint used on projects that you’ve since repainted with a different color, since you won’t be needing it for touch-ups. 

Latex or acrylic paint that has dried out completely is easy to dispose of, as you can simply toss the can in your regular garbage, but if it’s still in liquid form, it must either be dried out in the sun first or combined with something absorbent like clumping cat litter to solidify it. Any oil- or solvent-based paints should be taken to your city’s household hazardous waste facility, as they contain toxic chemicals. Spray paint can be tossed in the regular garbage, but the cans must be emptied of their contents and depressurized first (simply spray until it’s empty).

Tip: If you can’t recall the name of a paint color that has dried out or gone bad and you’d still like to use it in the future, you can either bring the can or cut a small paint chip off of the painted surface you used it for and bring it to a hardware or paint store to get it color matched.

Ever step into the adhesives aisle at the hardware store and find yourself amazed by the many glue options available? Super glue, wood glue, construction adhesive, epoxy, craft glue — you can take your pick from an entire range of products, and they all have their individual advantages for certain applications. But one thing they all have in common is they get dried out. 

Getting rid of your unwanted tubes and bottles of glue isn’t as simple as just tossing them in the trash can, though. Some industrial adhesives, like super glue, E6000, rubber cement, or epoxy, contain hazardous chemicals that should be disposed of properly. If your industrial-strength glue is completely dried out, then it’s safe to place in your regular garbage. But if it’s still somewhat viscous, you can leave the lid off until it’s fully dried out and then throw it away, or drop it off at your local household hazardous waste facility. Non-toxic glues like white craft glue can simply be thrown away in the regular trash.

Tip: To prevent your glue from drying out in the future, clean the tip before putting the cap back on, and be sure the cap is securely tightened. Because water vapor in the air is what dries out glue, you can also place the glue in an airtight plastic storage bag or container.

Painter’s tape comes in clutch for getting nice crisp lines when you’re painting a wall or project piece. But when stored for long periods of time or exposed to fluctuating temperatures, the adhesive on the tape tends to get a bit gooey, making it hard to peel off the roll and also leaving an unpleasant sticky residue on your hands. Since the entire appeal of using painter’s tape is because it’s supposed to be “easy-to-peel” and “residue-free,” go ahead and toss that gooey roll in the regular garbage. 

Tip: I’ve never tried this myself, but I have read of others placing a roll of old painter’s tape in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds to warm up the adhesive and make it like new again. If you’re about to toss your tape anyway, it’s worth a shot! But if the adhesive remains gooey or gloopy, let it go — you’ll risk ruining a paint job. Better to shell out $5 more for a new roll.

4. Supplies from a Hobby You Tried Once

Almost every intrepid DIYer has been there: You’re excited to take up a new hobby, and you give it your full effort for a week or so… but then life gets busy and you completely forget about it. And now you have a bunch of supplies that you bought and probably won’t ever use again. Maybe you tried your hand at knitting or watercolor painting, or perhaps you decided to take up woodworking. Whatever the hobby, if the supplies have been sitting untouched for over a year, it’s highly probable you won’t be using them again. In that case, instead of throwing them away, consider donating arts and crafts supplies to a local youth center or school, or items like carpentry tools to a local maker space or charity such as Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill.

5. Spare Screws for Furniture You No Longer Own

A lot of furniture manufacturers include extra screws in their packaging in case you might need to replace a lost or broken piece in the future, which may come in handy a small percentage of the time. But usually you end up saving them in your toolbox or junk drawer and never think twice of them. If you have spare screws on hand for furniture that you don’t even own anymore, then you have the green light to go ahead and get rid of them. As long as they’re not rusted, local charitable organizations would be happy to accept your donation. If you have a large collection of spare metal screws, you could also take them to a scrap metal dealer or recycling center. Any rusted screws or nails, though, should be thrown away in the garbage.

Are you even a DIYer if you’ve never attempted an IKEA hack? Kidding. But if you have put together any furniture from the Scandinavian home furnishings giant, then chances are, you are intimately familiar with the teeny tiny Allen wrenches they include with their packaging for furniture assembly. From big items like couches to a small spice rack, the tool is needed to assemble just about any product, which is why you’re likely to have a few extra of them laying around. Rather than toss, you could place any extras that you no longer need in a clear plastic storage bag and donate them. 

7. Worn-Out Sanding Sponges

I don’t know about you, but I can never seem to find a sanding sponge when I need it, so I tend to hang on to them. Some in my collection are half-used and still salvageable, and others are completely worn out and should have been tossed long ago. How can you tell when it’s time to toss yours? If the grit has been completely worn off all sides, or you notice you have to apply a lot more pressure for the sandpaper to do its job, then it’s time to chuck it. These can go right in your regular garbage can.

8. Paint Brushes That Are Past Their Prime

So long as you clean your paint brush after each use, they can last a long time. But even with proper maintenance, the bristles can stiffen and clump together over time. When this occurs, it can leave a really streaky and uneven appearance in your paint job. And nothing is more frustrating than spending a lot of time and effort to paint something only to realize you have to smooth all the streaks out. Save yourself the headache and throw out any paint brushes with bristles that aren’t soft and pliable — they can go right in the household garbage bin if they are dry and don’t have any wet paint on them. However, any paint brushes that have any oil- or solvent-based products on them, even if dry, should be taken to a hazardous waste facility.

9. Small Pieces of Scrap Wood

When you work on projects that call for cutting wooden boards, such as hacking furniture or building shelving, inevitably you will end up with leftover pieces of scrap wood. Sometimes, it’s useful to save the scraps for other projects, but if you have a lot of small or awkwardly-shaped cuts that wouldn’t be large enough to use in another project, there’s no need to hang onto them. As long as it’s not pressure-treated, wood is considered a solid waste product and can be disposed of in your regular garbage. However, it is also worth considering donating scrap pieces to local schools for wood shop projects or taking it to a recycling center, where it can be repurposed into something more useful.

If your scrap wood happens to be pressure-treated wood, which is wood designed for outdoor use that has been treated with special chemicals to resist insects and decay, then it is considered a hazardous material and should be taken to a hazardous waste facility. And whatever you do, never burn pressure-treated wood, as it can release toxic chemicals into the air that can be harmful or even fatal if inhaled in large quantities.

10. Scraps of Wallpaper or Contact Paper

I’ve used a lot of contact paper and peel-and-stick wallpaper in my DIY projects. In most cases, I wind up with lots of little scraps of paper leftover. While larger remnants can be saved and rolled back up, the smaller scraps usually just contribute to clutter. If you don’t have a project idea that you are definitely going to use them for within the next month, go ahead and put any small paper scraps right in the regular garbage.

11. Dried-Out Patch and Fill Products

Products that are designed to patch holes in wood or drywall, such as wood filler, spackle, and joint compound work wonders for getting a nice smooth finish on your walls or wood projects. But they are all prone to getting dried out over time, and for this reason most have a shelf life of only a year. If you notice that any of your patch or fill products have turned lumpy or are hard to smooth out, then it’s time to get rid of them. If they are completely dry, they can go right in the garbage. If they aren’t, you can either dry them out first or dispose of them at a hazardous waste facility. 

Whenever you’re in doubt about how to dispose of a particular item, you can check the Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth 911 database for specific instructions.


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