Take a look at any frugal blog and you’ll see advice on de-cluttering, living simple and streamlining life in general. Why?
Does frugality lend itself to clutter?
In a way, I think it does.
Scenario #1-I’ll Re-Use This Later
You just threw a birthday party/baby shower/some gift giving shindig at your home and you begin the process of tidying up and finding homes for your new gadgets/gizmos/toys. You start throwing away the gift bags, but stop yourself when you realize how wasteful it is to trash a perfectly good gift bag! So you add it to your ever growing assortment of gift bags, tissue paper, bows, gift tags, ribbons, etc in your closet. You are being frugal and not wasteful and that’s something to be proud of. However, this can get out of control quickly. If you have children, they will receive gifts multiple times throughout the year. Usually windfall style! Think about your gift giving though. Do you generally give out THAT many presents each year? Probably not!
Scenario #2-I Know I Can Re-Purpose This!
While you are hunting through the household closets during spring cleaning, you start setting aside clothing and shoes that don’t fit. Some articles are set aside for donation. Still, others are saved for younger children or nieces and nephews. Then there are those items that really should go into the trash, but give you pause. “Look at these perfectly good buttons.” you say. “I can use these for that project XYZ I have planned!”. So you save that shirt (no time to remove the buttons now, we’re closet cleaning not button removing!), and maybe you also save a pair of pants that you consider turning into shorts or that baby blanket that is tattered and stained that will make an excellent square for your quilt….
Scenario #3-There Is Nothing Broken That I Can’t Fix!
You are walking down the hallway and you bump into the wall with the laundry basket. Oh no! The picture frames fall off the wall and several are cracked and broken. Rather then throwing these items out, you set them aside convinced that you and super glue can make those picture frames shiny as new (not right now though, you need to get this load of laundry in the wash!).
It seems foolish and wasteful to throw out perfectly good gift bags, shirts with great buttons or picture frames that might just need a little TLC. Our lives are busy though! Not every project can take center stage as soon as we think of it.
With the best of intentions, we set things aside to complete at a later date. We set items we might be able to re-use aside in an effort to avoid wastefulness.
What about when these things pile up though?
What good do those buttons do you when they are sitting in a basket covered by the pants to turn into shorts, that purse with the broken zipper and that baby blanket that is meant to be a quilt?
What about when your gift bags start overflowing their container?
When you go to move homes and you find that broken picture frame you meant to fix several years ago, and even though you still haven’t gotten to it, you can’t bear to throw it away so it moves along with you…again.
There has to be a balance between frugality and clutter. It can be hard for the frugal mind to wrap itself around throwing away items that could be perfectly useful with a bit of TLC, but if it starts creating a cluttered life, it will defeat it’s purpose.
Clutter is the enemy of living a frugal, simple life.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I have an issue with having too much clutter in my life. I was not born with the gift of neatness and I’m guilty of ALL 3 scenarios I spoke of above. However, I’ve been working on a few of my *ahem* clutter issues, and I have a few words of advice for my fellow frugal clutterbugs:
- If you can’t fix it NOW…think about these 3 things: 1. How much would it cost for me to just buy a new one? 2. Do I really need this? 3. Realistically, when will I get to sit down and fix this? I’m just going to admit that often times, #1 stops me in my tracks. If something breaks that is expensive, I tend to fix it right away. If I decide to set it aside, it probably isn’t worth as much to me to fix (now this isn’t ALWAYS true…but the less important items are the items I tend to forget I had the intention of fixing!).
- Want to salvage the buttons from that shirt? Okay, if it means that much to you, do it now. Right now. Take the buttons off and put them in your button box. If not, you likely won’t make time for it soon so just let it go.
- For items that you re-use (for example: gift bags, glass jars, pretty containers, etc) follow these 3 rules: 1. It either has to fulfill it’s purpose immediately (If that glass jar would be perfect for your collection of pens, go get your pens right now and place them in the jar) 2. It has to fit in a designated spot with a lid…if it doesn’t fit, it goes in the trash (this is especially true for those of you with fabric/yarn/scrap booking stashes…those can get out of hand quickly!) 3. If you won’t use it immediately OR it won’t fit in your designated container, consider donating it.
No need to clutter up your life just because you are trying to live frugally! Remember that there is such a thing as TOO cheap! 😉
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5 thoughts on “Do Frugality and Clutter Go Hand in Hand?”
This is a constant problem for me! I always keep things thinking I’ll repurpose them…but I’ve gotten better since my clutter challenge earlier this summer. Although, I think another one is in order…
Good reminder! I struggle so much with keeping everything junk free. I’m so inspired to purge my life of “stuff” these days. I really need to rethink my scrapbook collection…
Oh, this is so true. Thanks for the reminder. I don’t like clutter but it’s overtaking my house right now. In one corner of my foyer, I have the clothes I need to take to the consignment store. They just need to be ironed. In the other corner, I have my Yankee Candle boxes full of Christmas gifts that need to be taken downstairs to hide. yikes!
Yep. Clutter leads to spending more money. FLYLady taught me that one. I am the complete opposite of a pack rat. The only “stuff” I keep are the things in my children’s memory boxes (they only have 1 each), my memory box (one only), and my scrapbooks.
Thank you for writing this! I am always trying to upcycle and recycle everything. I hate throwing stuff out because 1 – it just goes against my nature and 2 – I think there is a lot of pressure on us now to NOT throw anything away (the world and economy are teetering on the brink of disaster and destruction every day, and yes, saving that damn egg carton is you doing your part!)
My flat has practically zero storage, and I am constantly feeling guilty for chucking stuff out that I am sure (given enough time and glue) could have been transformed into some kind of Martha Stewart masterpiece.
My boyfriend, however, is my Jimminy Cricket, who gently points out that sometimes, recycling a glass jar when there are already 10 crammed under the sink, is not the peak of irresponsibility.
Thanks again for helping to ease my guilt a little. Now, I am off to get rid of some of those jars… or maybe just move them to the shed 😉