Having multiples of certain items in your home (plates) or office (reams of paper) can be very helpful. If we use those items often, we simply need to find a way to store them for easy access. But, sometimes, multiples can double and begin to take up valuable space in our homes and offices. Don’t let those “every day” items get out of control. Consider donating these five items that you probably have duplicates of:
- Paper shopping bags. How many shopping bags do you own? The bags we get from shopping at certain stores can be very sturdy and attractive. And, they’re useful, right? You can use them to take your lunch to work or to hold something you wish to give to a friend. Their value seems unending and it’s easy to accumulate them since you get one each time you make a purchase. Now that reusable grocery bags are being encouraged, you might find yourself with an influx of old paper shopping bags. If you have several that you no longer need, consider giving them to charities that could benefit from their use. (Some charities bag up meals, clothes, supplies, or purchases and are always looking for bag donations.)
- Hotel toiletries. If you’re a frequent traveler, chances are you’ve returned home with these travel-size toiletry bottles and packets. If you don’t use them when you get home (offer them to guests, pour shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and liquid soaps into your larger bottles, use shower caps as food container covers), they can override and clutter your space. When your collection has become too large, donate them to a local shelter or reduce clutter altogether by leaving them at the hotel.
- Pens, pencils, and markers. How many times have you made it back home with a pen that you borrowed and forgot to return? That happens to me all the time, especially with Sharpies. If you take a look around your home, you probably have a few pens and markers (or even highlighters and markers, particularly if someone in your family is in school) hanging about in more than one room. It’s impossible to use them all, so donating them is a great option.
First, check your stash and remove the ones that no longer work. Then, select a handful (or two) that write well and consider giving them to schools and community centers in your neighborhood or to the Pencil Project. Store the ones that you’re keeping in the places that you tend to use them the most (nightstand, home office, by telephones). Of course, if you’ve discovered too many pens in your office, simply return them to the supply room or share with your officemate.
- Sheets. The number of linens you need can depend on how often you do laundry. If you change your sheets every week (or every two weeks), you likely won’t need more than two or three sets. Sometimes we still have sheets of varying sizes that used to fit beds we no longer have. Or, perhaps they need repairing and you haven’t gotten around to fixing them yet? Whether they’re the wrong size or need mending, consider giving them to an animal shelter, but if they’re still in good shape, many local charities will accept them.
- Mugs. When I was in college, I collected mugs and I’d get them as gifts, too. When I moved into my first apartment, I still kept all my mugs and then I realized that I often reached for the same one, leaving the others untouched for long stretches of time. Even if I had coffee several times during the day, I wouldn’t be able to use every mug I had. If you find yourself in a similar position, pass them on to a charity like Goodwill (or to the student in your life who’s away at college or in a new apartment).
You may not realize that you have duplicates unless you’re actively uncluttering. Take a look inside your storage areas and start putting like items together so that you can get a better sense of the volume and multiples of things you have. And, using the suggestions above, pinpoint items that are great candidates for donation. You’ll gain more space for your important items and help others in the process.
Travel-size shampoos, lotions, and soaps found in many hotel rooms are easy to accumulate when traveling and even easier to become clutter in your house when you return home. Since these items are consumable, can’t be passed on to a future guest once opened, and don’t have a price tag, it really is okay to take them. But, over time, an overflowing stash of these freebies can outgrow your space or take up room that other important “must-haves” should occupy.
Rather than throwing them in a bag in your closet (where you’ll probably never see them again) or putting them in the trash, you can repurpose them:
- Use them at home. Instead of saving them up, why not use them? Chances are you still have some half used bottles of shampoo, lotion, or even mouthwash, so start by using those partially consumed bottles first. You can also combine all the shampoos into larger containers (and then recycle the smaller bottles) or all your mouthwashes together, etc. You can also set them out in your guest bathroom in a “For Our Guests” box.
- Use them on your next trip. Extra bottles will come in handy on your next vacation that doesn’t involve staying in a hotel, so keep a bag in your suitcase (or backpack for camping trips) with the items you use the most. When packing, you can also put your shoes inside shower caps to help keep them for soiling your clothing.
- Use them at the gym. If you regularly shower at the gym after working out, travel-size toiletries are very useful and they don’t weigh down your bag.
- Keep them in your car. Are you a road warrior who spends lots of time in your car? Put some lotion, mouthwash, or sewing kit in your car’s glove compartment.
- Keep them in your purse or bag. Whether you walk, bike, or take public transporation to work, you’ll likely have a bag with you, the perfect spot for storing those items for easy access while on the job. You can also put some personal care items in your desk drawer at the office.
- Donate them. If you don’t have a need for the volume of items you have, donating them to a shelter is a good option. Clean the World accepts unopened and unused bars of soap and shampoo for distribution domestically and internationally to those in danger of hygiene-related illnesses. The Global Soap Project also collects and reprocesses soaps into new bars.
Of course, if you can avoid the temptation, you can avoid having to decide what to do with them by leaving them behind during your next hotel stay.