Use It or Lose It

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

I'm sitting on a jackpot, and I didn't realize it until a rainy week inspired me to clean my office closet. Over the course of this year I had easily purchased fifteen boxes of thank you cards for $3 a piece. Yet, there in my closet sat a neatly organized box of blank cards, more than a hundred of them. Further organizing found varying leftover craft supplies and art supplies, easily enough to have made all the posters and projects that my son created this year for school.


If we take stock of what we have, we spend less on what we really don't need. It's the principle of "use it or lose it." Organizing and putting your things to good use allows you to actually use them to make the best use of your money.

Take Stock

Something is worth very little if it is left sitting on a shelf. It becomes completely worthless if you don't realize that you have it. How many times has someone uttered, "I didn't even know I had it." What about, "Now, where did I put that?" These are statements that indicate that value is being lost.

Take stock of what you have. Organize your items in storage boxes and label the contents on each box. Cards should be organized by type, season, or holiday. Paper craft supplies should be kept together and separate from other craft supplies. Creating a tote that holds leftover supplies that can be used for kids' crafts isn't a bad idea, either. Hardware should be separated in compartmentalized storage boxes, and freezer contents should be listed on a sheet of paper. Likewise, read your manuals for electronic products and know their capabilities so that you don't purchase more items than needed.


Look at Things a Different Way

Adopt the environmental model of reusing items in more creative ways. Rather than buying those thank you cards, I can use the dozens and dozens of blank cards for the same purpose. With a simple rubber stamp, I can add "thanks" to the front picture. We also have two or three leftover invitations after each party; why should I buy new invitations for new parties? No one will notice that different styles of invitations were sent, and no one is going to care that the invitation didn't match the party.

Using some items for projects other than the ones they were intended for might be painful initially, but they're actually costing you money if you don't. Expensive leftover scrapbooking supplies seem inappropriate for decorating a child's Valentine box, but the alternative is leaving them to sit on the shelf while purchasing new supplies. Rather than horde them, use them.


What Are You Saving It For?

Ask yourself this question often. With the proliferation of stores, there's nothing stopping you from buying more supplies if they're needed. For instance, you purchased yards of yarn intended to learn to crochet, yet three years later your daughter needs it for a school mobile; let her have it. If you ever pursue your plan to learn the art of crochet, you can easily buy more yarn. Odds are, unfortunately, that if you haven't picked up that needle yet, you never will. Now the yarn is a loss. If your daughter uses it, it's a gain.

If your home is feeling crowded and unorganized, using rather than saving will help alleviate that problem. By putting everything to good use, you'll have less clutter and more responsible use of your money.

use it or lose it

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at

July 17, 20090 found this helpful

I am a pack rat and I am organized. I can find anything I need in that junk pile over there or there or even there :-) The reason I hang on to things is because I think I will need it later. Sure enough when I throw something out, I end up needing to buy it again. Vicious cycle I have. I've started purchasing those clear shoe boxes from Wal-mart. They're $1.00 each here and it keeps things very tidy. Now I just need to figure out what to do with all of these boxes.

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July 17, 20090 found this helpful

I'm not as much of a pack rat as I used to be. When you move into an apartment you learn to get rid of some stuff. My problem is paperwork. I know where things are in my piles of papers, as long as my learning disabled daughter keeps her hands off of my piles. Another problem is lack of storage. Half of my bedroom closet is used for storing my artificial christmas tree and other holiday decorations. In that respect I'm lucky that I don't have a lot of clothes. lol I have two corners in my apartment that have large totes stacked in them. One corner isn't visable guest, maintnance, etc., but one is and I do use matching totes, so it doesn't look trashy.

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May 1, 20160 found this helpful

I have been trying to find ways to use my stash of cards that I have hoarded, I mean collected over the years. You can write recipes on them, and for those many Christmas Cards that I don't even send out anymore, I use as note paper and grocery lists.

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