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  • The Fine Line Between Frugal, Green, and Clutter-free

    I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for a while now. Most of the time, being frugal and being green go together. If you’re frugal, you generally buy fewer items, you drive less often, you reduce, reuse and recycle. Because of this, your home is also generally less cluttered.

    But as I declutter my home, I find that the line between these areas becomes very fine. There are many things that I might need someday. It wouldn’t be frugal or good for the environment to have to buy them new all over again. But keeping these things around makes my home more cluttered. It also increases the possibility that I’ll forget I have these items and buy new ones anyway.

    I’m still finding a balance that works for me. But I would love any tips you have to share, because this is definitely an area that I struggle with.


    1. Meredith says:

      I think about this conundrum a lot.

      It helps to buy products with reusable packaging (marinara in jars that can be used to hold other things, strawberries in wooden baskets instead of plastic).

      I really don’t like clutter. When I can give things away to someone who needs them–even if it’s just a strawberry basket full of cookies–I usually have no problem finding a replacement, should the need arise.

      Buying secondhand, bartering, and borrowing are all ways to circumvent the consumer cycle.

    2. Manager Mom says:

      I struggle with this dichotomy myself. however where you call yourself frugal I will heartily admit that I am a huge cheapass. so the idea of re-buying something drives me crazy, both from a money waste and a environmental standpoint. But the clutter drives me crazy too.

      I have decided to land on the side of declutterficiation. I almost NEVER wind up deciding I needed what I got rid of, because I usually forgot that I used to have one of whatever it is that I’m buying again. And it’s usually less than $20, well worth it to get rid of some crap.

      But I try not to throw stuff away. Books and toys to friends or the library, clothes to Goodwill, furniture and stuff I unload on http://www.freecycle.org or craigslist. I figure, good Karma for later on…

    3. Clean ClutterFree Simple says:

      I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve given an item away and later actually needed to buy it again. I always think of the cost to store that item and whether that will exceed to cost to re-aquire it later if need be.

      It’s a balancing act. And today’s America is awash in stuff. I think about the folks who lived through the Depression (my dad) and how it really was important to save every bit of string because it would definately get re-used. Now, we all have so much, there’s more just around the corner. Sometimes I wish we could all experience those days of true deprivation…

    4. BeachNerd says:

      It helped me to get organized. I put all of the candles in one place, all lotions in one place, etc. I have two closet shelves specifically for gifts. If I do that, I’m less cluttered and I save money. I also see how much I really own, so I don’t buy more.

    5. Jennifer says:

      I’m definitely with Clean Clutterfree Simple on this one as well as Meredith.

      The world itself is cluttered enough and does everything it’s power to go against your attempts at staying clutter free (junk mail, catalogs, ‘stuff’ from friends who are getting rid of THEIR clutter, excess packaging on items). This is the clutter that adds up in our house and drives us mad. We’re very good about not buy ‘decorative’ clutter, or ‘Froof’ as my husband calls it.

      I also have never thrown anything away only to wish for it later. We are in the process of cleaning my parents out of the home they lived in for 50 years. They both grew up during the depression and held on to everything to the point that my dad built separate buildings to house the ‘stuff he might need someday’. They weren’t the sort of people that bought things they didn’t need…that’s something different entirely…but instead like a previous commenter said, he held on to every can of paint, jar of nails, piece of stovepipe for 50 years. We got into a lot of arguments about getting rid of things because he kept trying to explain to me that these items were expensive to replace and it was foolish to toss them. I kept asking him when the last time was any of us had a stove that needed that kind of stovepipe was and why would use his rusty old pile of pipe. It was painful for all of us involved.

      I’ve been trying to be conscious whenever I buy anything to purchase something that is multipurpose. As Meredith said, if I can reuse the packaging, or reuse the item itself in a different fashion then I consider it worth it. Toys are particularly difficult in this category since most come with such large quantities of packaging. Although you can pass toys on when you are finished, we’ve even had trouble lately doing that because many places near us have stopped accepting them due to concerns about lead, and our friends don’t have small children.

      I also will say, that I think it’s healthier if you know you come from a family where you have THE CLUTTER GENE, THE HOARDING GENE or any other variant which puts you in danger of one day being featured on any of those shows on TLC then you need to immediately throw the items away. I KNOW that’s why my husband throws away things as heartlessly as he does. It’s because deep down he DOES want to save them but he’s afraid to start saving things and spiral out of control. I view it in the same fashion as keeping alcohol out of your house if you’re an alcoholic. You can’t help the fact that stuff is going to enter your house, it’s inevitable, but you need to remove it as quickly as possible for it not to become a temptation.


    6. Camille says:

      Amen to that! We live in an apartment — so I am always in the debate of to keep or to toss. A few months back I gave away an answering machine I’d had because we had voice mail. Then found a better deal without voice mail… and now we don’t have an answering machine because I can’t bear to buy another one!!

      And all the “stuff” kids have — oy!

      My general rule of thumb is if it hasn’t been used or worn in a year, then it goes.

    7. I think I have a pretty healthy relationship with clutter. I keep a box in my youngest daughter`s room for clothes she`s out grown. When it gets full it goes across the street to the neighbour. I routinely pass along things to a local charity that are no longer of use here. My husband however has clutter issues and he tends to go more too the other extreme. While it drives me nuts how quick he is to get rid of something I have to say, there has never been an instance that has turned into some sort of catastrophe because he was a little too diligent in his decluttering.

    8. Chief Family Officer says:

      Thanks for the ideas and suggestions, everyone! You’ve certainly given me some food for thought. I will be taking a hard look at the things I think I *might* need and asking what the odds of that are …

    9. heather says:

      I’d be interested in seeing you expand thoughts in this post to include frugal bloggers and shoppers who buy hordes of product in sample sizes.

      One of the reasons I’ve never been able to get behind the drugstore gaming is seeing bloggers posting pictures of 20 1 oz bottles of shampoo or teeny toothpastes.

      I couldn’t stand all that stuff cluttering up my cabinets, plus the small packaging isn’t very environmentally friendly to be buying for everyday use, even if it was cheap or free.

    10. Chief Family Officer says:

      @Heather – You bring up an interesting point. It hadn’t occurred to me since I don’t buy trial sizes (and I don’t recall seeing a post with massive quantities of them either). I’m going to have to think about this some more …

    11. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says:

      Well, I think this also has a lot to do with the size of the house you have. If you have space to store a few extras then why not (remember Amy D with that attached barn?). But then again, when you live in a smaller space, then the items can take over.

      Since I just moved from a small house to a large one, I find I can keep more stuff-but I try to be concious about how many I’m keeping. I notice that there are a lot of things that we need that my MIL can just pull out of the attic (a sprinkler that belong to YB’s grandfather, an old mechanical push mower from the same, even pie tins that were “original equipment” from MIL’s marraige) On the other hand, my FIL, before he passed, would keep broken stuff. Sigh.

      On the issue of trial sizes, something I found helps is to decant them into a larger size. So I might get 3 or 4 trail shampoos-if I just squeeze them all into the shampoo bottle I’m using, then I actually use them up. Ditto for lotion etc. . .