Guest Post by My Friend Kelly
January is over and the Eating From the Pantry Challenge has come to a close. While you may be ready to dive back into grocery shopping, couponing, and restocking, don’t let the momentum end here. The principles behind this challenge can be applied to a variety of other projects which can help cut costs, de-clutter your home, and streamline daily life. Sometimes this means using up excess stock and other times the focus is getting more regular use out of non-expendable items.
Here’s a few ways to do that:
Personal Hygiene Products
Whether or not you can find coupons and deals on the food your family eats, most everyone will be able to find a rebate or rewards deal on hygiene products at one of the drug stores or national chains around the country. Using what you learned during Eating from the Pantry Month, give yourself 30 days before buying any new personal hygiene products. In the meantime, clear out your bathroom cabinets and see what you still need and what you don’t.
Finish up half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner and use the last bits of lotion from gift sets. Replace the razors with dull blades or broken handles and if you have liquid soap, refill pump bottles. Toss broken combs or hair accessories and use up the last inch of mousse or gel before starting a new bottle. If someone in your family opposes a particular brand and you have unopened items consider putting together a care package. Check out this post for ideas on what to send and who to send it to.
Pull out fresh floss and mouthwash to improve your oral hygiene and health. If you haven’t swapped out your toothbrush in the past three months or have recently gotten over an illness open up a new one but don’t throw out the old just yet–a toothbrush can clean more than your molars!
Maintaining a clean house doesn’t have to take hours and hundreds of dollars in premium cleaning products. Use similar tactics to inventory what you have, see what you need, stretch what you use and find substitutes. While you’re digging under the sinks use up the last little bit of general cleaner and wipe down the shelves. Try to identify what you use each product to clean and how often you use up a bottle.
Don’t just think about products but other supplies as well. Re-purpose old towels from the kitchen or bath as cleaning rags, use old worn out toothbrushes to scrub small crevices, find an old pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades, or lone socks to dust. If you find you have a pile of dusting rags you can reduce the amount of paper towels you buy.
How many different places in your house do you have a stash of pens? Notepads? Tape? Round everything up and sort it out (old shoe boxes come in handy here) and toss or donate what you don’t use. Find out what you’ll need for everyday use and what school-aged children can take to class. Just like the pantry challenge, make do with what you have–blue pens can work just as well as black ones–and substitute where you can. Whether you write grocery lists on the back of a used envelope or reuse file folders these tactics can keep money in your pocket and clutter out of your home.
Centralize one place for commonly misplaced items like tape, scissors, and sharpies. Or is that just my house?
Crafts & Decorations
If you can be described as crafty, then you’re probably well aware of the dangers that entrap quilters, scrapbookers, knitters and painters alike. It’s easy to hoard supplies and fill drawers, bins and yes, even rooms with projects that we have no hope of finishing in ten lifetimes. Make the commitment to stop buying new supplies for one month and go “shopping” at home. Dig through your stock and try to remember what project you had in mind when you brought home these items.
Finish an old project or start a new one, substitute one component instead of buying new, and give away things you won’t use to someone who will. Consider a swap amongst friends or just a potluck night in when everyone can bring a dish and a project and work together.
As Spring rolls around it can be easy to get tired of our surroundings and want something new and fresh. Check your attics, basements, and closets for decorative items that were put away or forgotten. Re-hang a picture or touch up the paint on a table. Move around some furniture, pull out the throw blankets, fill glass vases and use the good china. Put a new picture in an old frame or clear everything off a wall and paint it fresh. Look for things you already have that can be used in new and interesting ways.
There are also some things we can be getting more use out of, things that are not necessarily used up.
Do you have family games gathering dust? Puzzles, video games, books or movies that go unused? The same principles apply even if using an entertainment item will not expend it for future use. Pull out all your puzzles and look them over together. Maybe some are missing too many pieces, another too advanced for younger children, some too juvenile for older children. Keep what you’ll use, recycle what you won’t. Donate unused items to your school or church, ask friends if their children would enjoy something new.
Do your kids have piles of half used or broken crayons? Turn them into a craft project. Go through your books and weed out volumes you no long read, reference or enjoy. Do the same for family pictures by tossing prints that are fuzzy or faded, or pictures that have no personal meaning or value. Be careful about tossing older photos that may have some value to another family member. Check out this post for tips on preserving family memories.
If you find yourself wearing the same outfits over and over again try the Empty Closet Challenge. Pull everything out and box up things that don’t fit or flatter your figure. Work with what you have and fill in pieces that will create attractive looks that fit your lifestyle. At the end of the month pull out the boxes of discarded clothes and sell them by consignment or eBay, return new items to the store, donate to a charity or give to a friend. Don’t forget to look over belts, scarves, jackets, shoes, and jewelry too. Rethinking a wardrobe can be challenge–check out this site for ideas on using thrift store finds to create stunning new looks for under $20!
I know it seems overwhelming when you think of all the places to apply the principles you learned during Eating from the Pantry Month. But just like January, take one thing at a time, make adjustments as you go, and share what you’ve learned. By 2011, you might just have a cleaner, uncluttered home, more money in the bank and new routines. Then your only challenge will be finding a New Year’s Resolution you haven’t already accomplished!
Kelly is a 25 year old single homeowner living in Northern California. Despite a high cost of living and tough job market, Kelly has created a cozy home without acquiring debt. Now just $3,000 away from eliminating student loans (the last of consumer debt), Kelly looks forward her first trip abroad, thrift store decorating, and teaching financial awareness. Kelly blogs at My Friend Kelly.
Photo credit: Fauxto_credit; Kevin McShane; Patrick Q