Minimalist Mama

Learning to let go of ‘just in case’ stockpiles

A few years ago, I was at the home of a friend who started couponing. Her spare bedroom was filled with multiples of shampoo, deodorant, paper towels and more. For just a brief moment, I was envious.

As I looked around, I realized we had much different priorities. She was a bargain shopper who loved the “thrill of the hunt.” As for me, I was trying desperately to reclaim the space in my home and trying to rid myself of duplicate items.

It’s hard to get rid of those “just in case” items. You know, the extras that were bought on sale, or in bulk, that you know you will use … eventually. But do you really need them?

I recently read about the “20/20 rule” from The Minimalists, which changed my outlook on “just in case” items: If something costs under $20 and you can easily get ahold of one within 20 minutes of your home, then don’t bother keeping it just in case.

I know, I know — easier said than done, right? What about the extra … everything? How many coffee mugs, kitchen utensils, office supplies, scarves and toiletries do we really need?

During a bathroom purge, I discovered several unopened bottles of travel-sized and full-sized shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and lotion. After putting one in my travel bag, the rest of the travel-sized supplies were donated to a local shelter, and full-sized bottles were moved to the front of the shelf, so I would use them up before buying another one. If it is a product I didn’t really like, I gave it to a friend or threw it out.

“Just in case” also applies to the closet, kitchen and garage, where items tend to take up valuable storage space yet are rarely used. I live in walking distance of two convenience stores, and work downtown near several stores, so if I do run out of something, I can quickly — and easily — replace it.

Removing the excess “just in case” things also applies to larger items, such as holiday decorations and small kitchen appliances — do I really need an immersion blender, blender and food processor, when they all accomplish the same thing? My husband and I kept the immersion blender for soups and protein shakes, and the food processor for larger recipes and ditched the blender a few years ago; my ice maker has a “crushed ice” function if I need it.

I often have trouble parting with items that I bought with good intentions that no longer fit my lifestyle: bread maker, juicer, different sized and shaped crock-pots, the list goes on. And then there are the bulk items I bought because it was a good deal: 84 rolls of toilet paper, 2 gallons of dish soap, six tubes of toothpaste. Yes, you read that correctly, I once had 84 rolls of toilet paper in my four-person home. These items must be stored until they are needed, and they take up space that could be better used.

So this month, try to take an inventory of your “just in case” items and determine if you can use them, donate them or give them away to friends, or get rid of them. You may be surprised at how freeing it can be to reclaim your storage space.

Minimalist Mama is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. Brigandi can be reached at