Outlook's Third Annual Spring Cleaning List

Done your spring cleaning yet? Don't worry, we've started it for you.

The Washington Post's Outlook section invited 10 writers to sift through the world's clutter and each nominate one thing – an idea, a tradition, a habit, a technology, you name it – that we'd all be better off tossing out this spring. From tipping at restaurants to "The Simpsons," here are their nominees.

What do you think? Vote among our candidates and suggest your own – we'll highlight the most interesting entry in next Sunday's Washington Post. And for more ideas, check out our Spring Cleaning list from 2010.

(J.P. Moczulski/Reuters)

Engagement Rings

First comes love. Then comes the debt-inducing, decision-delaying jewelry purchase. And then, maybe, marriage. Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe says if we want to reduce materialism and advance equality of the sexes, it's time to say no to engagement rings.

(National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)


In practice, it's great, but as a term "democracy" has lost all meaning, veteran broadcaster Ted Koppel complains. He says it takes much more than deposing an undemocratic leader to build a representative government – so don't fall in love with the "Arab spring" quite yet.

(Truth Leem/Reuters)


How did we live before smartphones? Imagine: We actually had to agree on a place to meet, figure out where it was and show up on time – all without using a gadget to change plans en route. Hmm. Is it possible, Onion digital director Baratunde Thurston wonders, that we'd be better off without smartphones?

(Fox/Associated Press)

"The Simpsons"

Don't have a cow – we're just tired of a 20-plus-year-old cartoon that still thinks it's edgy and relevant. Salon TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz says it's time to wipe Springfield (wherever it is) right off the map.

(Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)


Tipping is supposed to ensure good service, but all it does is pit servers against one another. D.C. bar owner Derek M. Brown argues that professionalism in the industry requires employees who can count on a consistent paycheck. So let's cut tipping from the bill.

(Stefan Hesse/AFP)


What's that freaky vocal effect that makes Cher – and Rihanna and Faith Hill and T-Pain and so many others – sound like a broken Commodore 64? It's Auto-Tune, and recording guru Larry Crane says it's past time to tune it out.

(Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)


Look inside your fridge. Chances are, about 14 percent of the fruits and veggies and doggie bags in there will go to waste. We need to cut down on leftovers, explains Mother Jones reporter Kate Sheppard. We are what we eat — but our landfills are full of what we don't eat. And that's a problem.

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)


For decades, American foreign policy has pursued the holy grail of stability around the world. Forget it, journalist William J. Dobson argues. All it does is put us in league with bad guys who, it turns out, can't really keep things together anyway.


Small talk

The weather … sports teams … the weekend. These are staples of mindless elevator and party chatter, the small talk that makes the world go round. But what if we didn't have to prattle on about nothing? Writer Yiyun Li has cut small talk from her life – and encourages others to do the same.

(Big Stock)

Seniority-based firing

In many school systems, when administrators need to cut staff, they must use seniority firing – the "last in, first out" system of job security. It means lousy teachers can stay while better ones with less time in the system must leave. Harlem Children's Zone President Geoffrey Canada says it's this practice that should be let go.

Cast Your Vote