Eco(n)-quandary: De-clutter or be frugal?

PantrySometimes I look around my house, which I’m trying to streamline, and I wonder why we can’t just be tidy. You know, minimalist.

We used to be pack rats, but that’s not so much the case. We’ve gotten rid of the trifle bowls and extraneous candlesticks that we received as wedding gifts in 1995 and never used. Instead, our challenge now is that we are trying to save money and be friendlier on the environment.

  1. Instead of using disposable wipes or paper towels to clean, we use washable rags, so we usually have some rags drying, draped over the shower rod or the utility sink in the laundry room.
  2. A few times a week, the laundry itself is hanging on the outside umbrella line or on the wooden rack in the laundry room.
  3. We buy many things in bulk and stock up on sales, and these stores are on shelves in the laundry room and stacked around on the floor: 20-lb bags of rice, 40-lb bag of dog food, two big bags of bird seed, a bag of thistle for the finches, a gallon bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap.
  4. Instead of dechlorinating tablets for the water that goes in our front porch water garden (where our goldfish, Sunshine, lives), we often have a big pot of water dechlorinating overnight on the stove.
  5. Because we cook a lot and try to use the least energy-sucking appliances instead of more wasteful/polluting appliances (like the gas oven), we have extra appliances — a bread machine, a hot air popcorn popper, a CrockPot, a toaster oven.
  6. We keep a supply of empty bottles, bags and tubs for re-use. I have several boxes of canning jars (not to mention the huge canning kettle) stacked up for food preservation. Another milk crate holds various bottles, jars and tubs. I have a stash of materials to re-use — from foil under the sink, to wads of washed plastic bags, to plastic bags to pick up dog poo (I haven’t yet made the dog poo composting system I hope to implement in an unloved corner of our back yard), a small stack of paperboard berry containers to re-use or return to Berry Patch Farms, plastic cereal bags to re-use as gift bags or in lieu of waxed paper when I’m rolling out or refrigerating pie crust … you get my drift (or is that drifts of what some might label trash?).
  7. We use various cloth items in the bathroom instead of disposable, so we have various storage buckets sitting around, plus a bucket in the tub to catch shower water to recycle, plus a bucket or two of leftover washing machine water in the other bathroom to recycle for flushing.
  8. I bought Ziploc bags in bulk last November. I wash and re-use the bags, and avoid them when I can, so I expect my stash will last me something like two or three more years.
  9. I even have extra dog toys on hand because the three-pack was cheaper per unit than a single — and a box from Freecycle contained these fleece scrubbies that Cheap Dog loves to shake like a fleecy rodent.

Being frugal also means shopping when the getting is good, so I maintain a bin filled with clothes Little Cheap hasn’t yet grown into. When I see a pair of cute jeans for $2 (that she approves of — now that she’s 6, she has a “style” whose demands must be met), I buy them and stick them in the bin, even if they’re two sizes too big. We have a pair of Keen sandals she won’t wear till next year (to her dismay) — I stashed them last year after I found them at Goodwill for $2.50.

Instead of throwing things away when we no longer need them, I try hard to recycle them. This means the guest room is the repository for a bag for Goodwill, a bag for the local kids consignment shop, and various other items on their way to being sold or given away on Freecycle.

When we get free gifts of fabric, yarn, paint, or paper, we tuck those away for Little Cheap to use in her endless craft projects. She has squares of fleece, bandannas, rugs, caps and scarves that help her become an endless parade of characters. Her brain, personality and talents are growing — along with the mess.

All of this takes space. It would be neater to plug Little Cheap into the Xbox, throw out everything we aren’t using now, and keep things clean. Instead, we go for the middle ground. I have a “pantry” in the laundry room (which I’m lucky to have) and a freezer in the garage. I throw most of Little Cheap’s junk into a bin in her closet.

Have you corralled the clutter? Manage to stockpile and live in a small place? Do tell …

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2 thoughts on “Eco(n)-quandary: De-clutter or be frugal?

  1. Oldnovice says:

    Creative people require materials for their creativity.

    When my oldest was very young, we were working on a craft of some sorts when I realized that it was soon time for my folks to arrive for a visit. I said, “Time to put this away, now. Grandma and Grandpa will be here any minute.” She said, “We don’t want Grandma and Grandpa to know we were doing this? (with a twinkle in her eye at the thought of hiding something)

    So, do you not want people to know what you’re doing?

  2. littlejennywren says:

    If you are going to cook from scratch, buy in bulk and preserve foods from your garden then you need adequate storage space. This is not clutter it is what you actually need to maintain you lifestyle. If you knit, sew or do anything else to make clothing for your family or decorate your home you need storage space and room to carry out these tasks. If you have children and need to store hand me down clothes or buy items at thrift stores or on sale that will be worn in the future, you will need space to store these things. A frugal life doesn’t necessarily mean a minimalist life especially when you have a family. I guess you just have to be able to judge when you have enough and be good at organising what you have.

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