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Rules for Usables – Declutter Useful Clutter

Image: africa

It’s one thing to go through your house as minimalist, simple-loving tornado getting rid of everything you don’t love, don’t need, or don’t use.  That step, by itself isn’t always easy.  However, what about all the stuff you know you will use in the future, or could use.  I call them ‘usables’.  They are things that will be used up at some point through living.  They are all through the house: kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and more.  These ‘usables’ can really add up, they can become their own clutter.  This is sometimes hard clutter to deal with because it legitimately is something that you could use up.

Last week, while planning this post, I went through my apartment to evaluate my ‘usables’.  For the record, I only recommend you simplify in ways I have already done or am working on.  This blog has been great to keep me on track 🙂  So,  I went through the whole apartment and pulled out everything that was a usable and didn’t pass these tests.


  • Is it less than a year old?
  • Have I used it in the last 3 months?
  • Do I really like the item?
  • Will I use this up in the next 3-6 months?
  • Is this a safe product for me and the environment?

This includes: make-up, hair products, soap, lotion, medicine, TP, fragrance, razors, everything in the bathroom really.

Pull everything out that has a ‘no’ from any of the above questions.

Image: Kittisak



  • Is it less than 3 months old for most items?  Less than 6 months old for spices or baking ingredients?
  • Am I using it at least once a month?
  • Does someone in the family really like it?
  • Will we finish it in the next 3 months?

This includes all food in pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer, deep freeze, and anywhere else you have food (anything home canned over about 9 months should be pulled out)

Pull everything out that has a ‘no’ from any of the above questions.

Image: Chaiwat


Laundry and Cleaners:

  • Is it less than a year old?
  • Do I use it at least once a month?
  • Is it safe around my kids/pets?
  • Is it safe for the environment?
  • Do I like it enough to buy it again?
  • Do I have more than a years supply?

This includes all household cleaners (even if they are in other parts of the house), any laundry products, and anything else you might find back in there.

Pull everything out that has a ‘no’ from any of the above questions.

Anywhere else in your house:

  • Diapers or baby items?
  • Garage car-care or house-care (like paint)?
  • Home office supplies?
  • Candles?
  • Plastic wear, party things, gift wrap?
  • Supplements, vitamins?

This stuff hides everywhere, go hunting.  Evaluate it like you did the items above.  Pull out anything that is more than a year old for sure.

Now, with everything you have pulled out

This is the stuff that doesn’t have full right to be in your house.  This is the stuff that needs to be interrogated.  If this stuff does go back into the closet it needs good reason and it needs a plan for using. (lots of this stuff can still be kept, but really look at all of it hard)

  • Can any of the unopened stuff be donated to a food bank or homeless shelter?
  • Can any unopened stuff sell at a garage sale?  (I sold a bunch of this stuff on our garage sale last year)
  • Can it be given to a friend who might like and use it more?

It is okay to throw away something that still is perfectly useful…I know it sounds terrible and I love the environment just as much as anyone, but keeping something in your house until it is fully past its useful life and then throwing it away 5 years from now doesn’t help anything either.

Don’t let half used lotions or spices or cleaners clutter up your house just because they ‘could’ still be used.

When I went through last week I found some things that needed to be used that just weren’t handy or in my line of sight.  In the bathroom I have a cute green bucket that holds products I want to have accessible but want to stay hidden and contained.  It reminds me to use things like my scented lotion that I might forget otherwise.   I also found some things that I liked ‘okay’ but had moved around with me and stored for a few years and never really used.  They didn’t make it back into the closet. Holding onto something just because you spent good money for it?…that isn’t a good excuse.

Every few months since we have moved I have gone through the kitchen and pulled out food that has been around for a while and put it on the corner of the counter or the door of the freezer or somewhere else that will remind me to use it up quickly.

I am not against bulk shopping but it needs to be for only specific things that you use a lot of.  I don’t think there is any reason to have anything stocked in your house for more than a year.  If any of these time frames seem to short or too long for you feel free to change them for what you think works best for you, but have a limit.  Some ‘usables’ end up latched on to you for years and years and just clutter different areas of your house.

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