Avoiding the clutter of free stuff

When you stay at a hotel, you’ll usually be provided with toiletries that are free for you to take along: shampoo, shower gel, hand lotion, etc. However, some people seem to feel compelled to take these at every hotel they visit, and they wind up with huge unused stashes at home.

It makes sense to take the toiletries under specific circumstances:

  • You didn’t open them, and there’s a charity you support that needs such things. And you’ll be able to drop off donations in the near future.
  • You used them, and you really like them. You want to use the remainder and maybe order more — or just enjoy an extra bit of luxury. I rarely take hotel toiletries, but this happened to me on my last stay.
  • You used them, and they were just okay, but there’s enough left that you hate to see the partially used bottles go to waste. You’ll take them home and use them yourself or you’ll give them away using Freecycle or some other organization that accepts open bottles.

That last one can be problematic — will you really use those toiletries or pass them along? Or will they just sit in a cupboard for years? If you already have a collection of such bottles, it’s a good sign that perhaps you should just leave these new ones behind.

Other things you might take if you will use them (or donate them) include sewing kits, note pads, and pens. But this advice from Mikey Rox on Money Crashers seemed odd to me:

While I don’t personally need to shine my shoes, I can still use that small shoeshine kit as a stocking stuffer or to add to a grown-up Easter basket.

I don’t know anyone who would want to get a hotel’s shoeshine kit in a Christmas stocking — but if you do, and you have a place in your home to accumulate stocking stuffers, then taking the kit might make sense. It certainly fits within the list of consumables that hotels expect you to use or take.

If you happen to take long-haul flights or fly in business or first class, you may get an amenity kit with toothpaste, a toothbrush, eyeshades, etc. If you get this on an outbound flight and don’t want to haul unwanted amenities around for the rest of your trip, you might decline to take the kit so things don’t go to waste. But if you want just some of the amenities, there’s often no great option — you either toss the things you don’t want or you let them clutter up your bags until you get home to donate the items you won’t use.

If you do decide you want the hotel toiletries, remember to take time to ensure they won’t leak during the rest of your trip and cause a huge mess. It would be a shame to have a freebie ruin something like your luggage, your clothes, or your electronics.

7 Comments for “Avoiding the clutter of free stuff”

  1. posted by infmom on

    My husband always brought home the partially-used bars of soap and bottles of shampoo because “the housekeeper will just throw them away.”

    And then they would sit around our house forever.

    I told him quite firmly that letting the housekeeper throw out his partly used soap was not going to bring the world to an end, and I threw out all the toiletries that had been languishing in a cupboard in the bathroom so long that most of the soaps were rocks and the stuff in bottles had solidified.

  2. posted by AJ on

    I take the plastic shower caps. Can use them (and re-use) for so many things, including a cover for a bowl used for raising bread dough.

  3. posted by Courtney on

    If you have frequent guests, or even just company, you can set up a little “freebie” box in your guest bathroom with unused soaps, shampoo, toothpaste samples, etc. My aunt does this and it’s great because I always forget something when I visit.

  4. posted by Barbara Mueller on

    As parents of a U.S.Marine we can tell you that he and his platoon LOVE those sample size toiletries. They are small enough to carry on their deployments, and easy to send in care packages. They can use for themselves, or hand out to locals who love the friendly gesture. Much better than throwing them away. Send them to Soldiers Angels.

  5. posted by Debi on

    My husband’s office has lots of frequent travelers, and they collect unused hotel toiletries to donate to battered women’s shelters. They have lots of great uses beyond letting them pile up in your bathroom 🙂

  6. posted by Christine on

    I found that hand-me-downs were a big source of clutter for me. As a thrifty person I wanted the free stuff, and some items have been very useful, but so many I just didn’t need (and that’s why I didn’t already have one).

  7. posted by Carolyn on

    I always pick any freebies up and then they are passed onto my church where we have an “Outreach” program. The little bottles of shampoo are really appreciated. Plus any small bars of soap, etc. A good use for those items as I seldom use them for myself.

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