Money saving ideas that can create clutter

Uncluttering can lighten your load and put cash in your pockets if you choose to sell items you no longer want. You also can save money by repairing broken items instead of replacing them with new purchases. But, one of the downsides of selling (and other money saving ideas) is sometimes you can end up with more clutter than when you started. It works out this way because you likely add new items before the old items leave your home. And, if you don’t get them out quickly, they can linger and commandeer much needed space.

Does that mean you shouldn’t sell your lightly used items? No. But, you should think about ways you can avoid the clutter build up, especially when …

Stocking up on coupons and sales flyers

It can be tempting to stock up on coupons and sale flyers, particularly when you know you can save quite a bit when you go shopping. Couponing, like any other project, needs to be a regular part of your routine. If you don’t have a specific space to keep the coupons (along with the large quantities of things you get), they can start to fill every available room in your home, leaving you with less living space.

Try this instead: Share the couponing experience with a friend (or two) so you won’t have to store every sale or grocery store flyer. You’ll also save some time when you meet up with your couponing partners to process your coupons (be sure to add these meetings to your calendar).

Buying in bulk

Bulk purchases can offer big savings and a high volume of products that can last for quite a while. But, therein lies the issue. Because you have such large quantities of items, you will need to consume perishables (meat, poultry, dairy) and other items before they expire. These items can languish in your pantry or fridge and end up not saving you money in the long run. And, unless you have ample space to store everything, your purchases may begin to clutter other areas of your home.

Try this instead: If you find that you don’t use everything you buy before it expires, consider splitting the cost and sharing your haul with a neighbor or friend. This will give you a chance to use everything you buy and still reap the cost savings. Also, designate specific areas of your home for storing bulk items and do not go beyond those limits, irrespective of how good of a deal something is.

Returning recyclables for money

I recently read a New York Times article that described the author’s love of coffee and the clutter that came from it. She saved Starbucks coffee bags to take to her local store because she’d get a free 12-ounce cup of coffee (a savings of $2). I’m sure coffee lovers everywhere were rejoicing at the opportunity to get free java. As it turned out, she didn’t make it to the Starbucks closest to her home very often and her collection of coffee bags became a source of clutter that she ultimately trashed. I feel her pain. A few years ago, I amassed a collection of bath poufs (mesh sponges) I purchased from a local store that encouraged patrons to bring back old ones (that were fraying and no longer wanted) to get new ones free of cost (the store recycled them). I also didn’t make it to that store often and decided to pitch my collection. At the time, it seemed like a painful decision. Afterall, I was missing out on something free.

While you might not keep a stash of bath accessories or coffee bags, you could be more inclined to stock up on plastic bottles and soda cans. Keeping these two items out of landfills is a good goal to have and you can get some money for them. When you return plastic bottles and aluminum cans, you can collect $.05 for each one (depending on where you live). If you tend to save up recyclable containers so you can return them for cash, they can quickly outgrow your space and infiltrate several areas of your home.

Try this instead: Pick a spot to store the recyclables as well as container that fits that space. When the container is full, stop collecting and schedule a time to return them. If your container is overflowing and you haven’t had time to take them in to the recycling center, consider putting them out on the curb with your other recyclables.

Saving useless things to make something new

Do you save scraps of wrapping paper not big enough to wrap a gift with the intention of making something crafty with them? How about lonely socks (single socks with no mate) that you plan to include in a project you saw someone post about on Pinterest? Are you really going to create a window valance out of those hankerchiefs you never use? While you may be saving money by using what you already have to make something new, unless you actually upcycle them, they will begin to clutter your space and leave less room for more valuable things.

Try this instead: Be very selective about the scrap materials (and volume) that you keep and store them in one location. And, think about other ways to use those useless things yourself (wear unmatched socks at home, use scraps of paper as padding for things you’re shipping), or donate them to a school or daycare center in your neighborhood that wants them.

Saving things that need repairing

Depending on the item, you can save money by doing your own repairs (like hemming your pants or replacing buttons). If you pick a day every week (or month) that you’ll fix a handful of things, you can continually reduce the volume of your fixer-uppers. But, if this is not something you enjoy doing (or know how to do), you could find yourself overwhelmed with lots of things that need mending or fixing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of repairing an item may be higher than replacing it. According to Lori Bongiorno, author of Green, Greener, Greenest, “a good rule of thumb is to skip repairs that cost more than 50 percent of what it would cost to buy a new version.”

Try this instead:

  • Before you attempt a repair on your own, find out if the manufacturer offers that service for free. Some places, like Coach, will fix wallets (and other items they sell) without charging you or give you a new one (same value as your original purchase) if they can’t repair it.
  • Another option would be to keep the things that are easy for you to do and trade the things you don’t want to do yourself with another person. This could mean that you’ll take on a task they don’t like doing, so you’ll both get your jobs done without having to do the task you wouldn’t otherwise complete. Or, you can barter an item (they fix your thing and you give them a thing that functions well but you don’t want anymore).
  • You can also let go of those items altogether by using Freecyle. It’s not unusual for someone to accept an item that needs a little repair work.

Collecting things to consign

Clothing is often a popular consignment item. It can be hard to let go of some pieces, especially if the purchase price was pretty high. Consigning is a great idea if you have the time to take items to the consignment shop and your items are exactly what the consignment store wants (they can be very picky). But, you’ll lose out on the money you could be getting if you have bags and bags of things you intended to sell that are simply sitting around and cluttering up your home.

Try this instead:

  • Keep a basket in your closet or laundry area for things you want to consign. Once full, put them in your car immediately so they don’t linger in your home. If, after a reasonable amount of time (you’ll hate seeing them in your car) they haven’t made it to the consignment, drop them off at donation organization (or arrange to have them picked up) to get the tax write-off.
  • Have a clothing swap party and trade the items you no long want (or that don’t fit anymore) with friends and/or family.

Go ahead and try your hand at turning your clutter into cash. Just be sure the things you need to do are reasonable for your lifestyle and not too demanding on your time and won’t clutter your space.

13 Comments for “Money saving ideas that can create clutter”

  1. posted by guest on

    I was a student for a long time, so collecting bottles and returning them was the only way. No way I would throw away money (there is a difference between getting something for free or getting actual cash back). Now I set recycling out earlier and people who need it (with shopping carts) walk by at night and pick through our recycling. good for them. They depend on that income and bottles don’t go into the landfill that is already overflowing.

  2. posted by Dede on

    I swear mismatched socks multiply in the bag while waiting to be sorted. Getting rid of them is difficult because I know as soon as I toss one sock, the other one will magically appear. I am so reluctant to toss mismatched socks that I brought a large bag of them with me the last time we moved. And no, you do not want to know how many years ago that was. Trust me. This summer I went through the box of socks, tossed the ones without a mate and donated all the newly paired socks. Because honestly, does anyone really NEED 25+ pairs of socks? (ok yeah, as long as they are all hand knitted, so thereby a beautiful custom fit. But I don’t toss those EVER.)

  3. posted by kris on

    Here’s a simple way to avoid mismatched socks. First, get a supply of large safety pins. Diaper pins work well. Then, when you take your socks off, before you throw them in your hamper or laundry basket, pin them together at the top of the cuffs. After you’ve washed and dried them, you can just put them in your sock drawer still pinned together.

  4. posted by Jeannette on

    Here in the city, plenty of folks who really need the money are constantly prowling the streets for recycleable bottles.

    We can easily toss out the few bottles we have in a hallway bin for the building’s trash. However, we’d rather that they went into the hands (directly) of someone who could use them and is doing all the work of collecting. So we place them in a public trash can on our corner.

    (Our recycleables are bagged up and it’s not easy for those collecting them to access given where/how they are stored before collection day.)

    It’s not all that much, but if everyone did this, where it can work, it helps those who are doing the collecting.

    It might be a different story if we lived in the burbs, but it’s how it works here.

    I honestly wish it were easier to donate and there were more assurances that folks who needed the stuff (and not the charities who sell it) could get it and use it. I’m not sure where all the money from those salvation army and goodwill stores really goes. And the more I read about the misuse of funds by charities, the more incensed I get. It also stifles my urge to donate when I question whether the people who need help will actually benefit.

    We need a better system, that’s for sure, when the employees of these places are basically stealing from them and selling on craigslist and ebay for their own pockets!

  5. posted by pkilmain on

    I donate to a thrift store run by a local charity supporting our local women’s shelter, so I know that either the actual items (esp clothing, toiletries, etc) or the funds raise go to fulfill the mission of the charity.

    As I live in a remote semi-rural area, there is only limited recycling. We cannot, for instance, recycle glass. We also cannot return them for cash. I try not to buy things in glass containers rather than add it to the landfill.

  6. posted by infmom on

    My husband saves soap. He can’t bear to toss out that last little unusable sliver of used-up soap. For years he would store them in a glass jar in the bathroom, and when I asked, he said he was going to melt them down and make new soap bars. I finally got tired of seeing the jar with all those dried-out bits of soap in it and threw the whole shebang out, which upset him, but after all those years he hadn’t melted them down or done anything but fill up a jar.

    So he got one of those mesh jobbies that you poke the soap scraps down inside, to be used as a skin scrubbie in the bath. He doesn’t actually use the skin scrubbie in the bath. It’s falling apart. We’re cleaning the house for a big party this weekend and when I get to the bathroom I’m going to throw that ratty old thing out.

    I don’t know why he thinks soap can’t be thrown out. I asked his mother whether she saved soap scraps and she said no.

  7. posted by Carol Swedlund on

    I certainly can’t speak for all charities, but at The Salvation Army corps where I work, an employee can be instantly fired for appropriating any of the donated items for themselves. The sale of donated items helps us to: offer vouchers for free clothing and sometimes household items to the needy; feed breakfast daily to those who need it; give out food boxes; offer free computer classes to the public; and offer a traditional Thanksgiving day dinner to anyone who wants to come … among other programs. At Christmas it is rare that all of the Angel Tags are picked by the public so to give all the children and teens signed up a gift we have to puchase many of them. There may be charities out there that squander the gifts given to them but The Salvation Army is consistently at the top of any list of most respected charities.

  8. posted by Carla on

    I have a drawer where I place any socks missing their partner. Every so often, I go through them and match up what I can. Eventually, if the same sock has been in there for quite a while, I put it in my bag of rags. I can use them to dust or when cleaning something grimy. If they get really dirty, I don’t feel bad about throwing them away!

    Mysteriously, I have only had the mismatched sock problem since I got married just over a year ago. For the three years I lived by myself, my socks always matched up when I got them out of the dryer. I don’t understand it.

  9. posted by WilliamB on

    For coupons and flyers: write the date of the end of the sale on the flyer with a fat sharpie. Makes it easier to ID the out-of-date ones.

    My city’s Goodwill doesn’t allow employees to shop at the store they work in.

    Avoid the lone sock problem by minimizing the different types of socks you have. I have only two types.

    Buying in bulk, during the cheap part of the price cycle, is an excellent money saving strategy. But it can get out of hand. Try doing one of two things:
    1) Decide how many is enough. Frex, 6 tubes of toothpaste.
    2) Decide a space it can take. If that space is full, stop buying till it empties out.

    Remember that free is not the same as costless. A free item could cost you time, space, gas, mental space, etc.

  10. posted by amy on

    I actively don’t have mismatched, or lone socks. I don’t match them up when I put them in my drawer! I just toss in all of my loose socks, and fish out a matching pair when I put them on. Then I don’t A) Notice if there’s a loner, or B) Need a separate holding area for the mismatched/loner socks. Win-win!

  11. posted by [email protected] on

    Great post!

    I have experienced so much of this and respect the post. Another idea with the scrap items (my shed is stuffed) – is to donate them to a Restore. Restore is the Habitat for Humanity name – but shops like this exist everywhere. Essentially they are a Goodwill for homeowners and stock lightly used doors, wood, kitchen cabinets, etc. This not only helps others but helps the environment as the landfills don’t get stuffed with more junk.

    As far as keeping things that need to be sold. What I do is get everything together that I want to sell and list them on Ebay, Amazon, and Craigslist. If they are not sold in 2 weeks I just donate them (otherwise they are likely to sit around and take up space forever).

    This topic goes along with my niche of being happy everyday. I have found an uncluttered home to be a great source of joy! I look forward to more post like this, keep up the great work.


  12. posted by Rob on

    Could not agree more on the buying foods in bulk. That only works if you actually eat all the stuff you buy. I just had to throw out a bunch of 20-year-old food (and plenty of bugs) from my parents’ old house. So disgusting.

  13. posted by Katie on

    I think another way to save money is to not assume that you can buy your way organized – I’ve tried. Clear plastic storage boxes are helpful in the storage room but I’ve tried to get away from just having big bins that constantly need to be sorted and re-evaluated. I agree on the consignment box – I stop by Goodwill at least once a month!

Comments are closed.