Using Stuff Up

I love to use stuff up. It’s a great feeling to finish the contents of a container and then recycle or toss it, as appropriate. Now there’s one less thing cluttering up my cabinets!

The things I love to use up fall into two categories:

  • Things I use frequently.
  • Things I use rarely.

For things I use frequently, I generally notice that I am running low and have already purchased a replacement. So when I use up the old one, the new one is ready. Things that fall into this category are stuff like toothpaste, Tylenol, everyday makeup, and a box of 5,000 staples that I thought would outlive me.

For things I use rarely, it’s exciting to finish up something up that has been around for a while. I may not even buy a replacement because it gets used so rarely, so it gives me some free space. Things that fall into this category are stuff like specialized Band-Aids and colored printer paper.

So where does this system break down? For things that get used frequently, the system breaks down if I don’t have a replacement. If it wasn’t available at the store the day I noticed I was running low, I may forget about it and then find myself completely out of that item. Oops!

For things that get used rarely, the system breaks down if I forget that I have that item because I haven’t used it so long. Then I might end up buying a new one, and it’s not until I put it away that I realized I have a package already that’s almost empty. It’s so frustrating to have lost the opportunity to use it up!

When I work with clients, we often find multiples of the same item. If it’s an item that they use frequently, they’ll tell me that they wanted to make sure they didn’t run out so they bought a lot. But that’s not a good solution. Because they have so many, they don’t notice when they are on the last one, and they end up with none. Then they buy too many again. See the cycle?

If they have multiples of an item they use rarely, they’ll tell me that they forgot they had it or they couldn’t find it when they needed it so they bought another one. Often they didn’t even realize that they had multiples until I pointed it out, because they don’t have a good system for keeping similar things together.

Here are some guidelines for managing your stuff so that you don’t have too many or too few:

  • Buy only one backup for your frequently used items, and be diligent about replacing it after you start the new one.
  • Organize your stuff so that you know where everything is and you can see it, and keep like stuff together.
  • If you’ve been holding onto something for a long time and haven’t used it, toss it. A sure sign is that it has become dusty on top!

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