Find a way to use it up

After waking this morning to my husband’s goodbye kiss, I lay in my warm cosy bed trying to decide if a cup of tea was worth getting out into the cold for. My mind began to wander to the question of what will I have for breakfast. Deliberately, my pantry provides ingredients for a limited choice, rolled oat porridge or toast. Granted the accompaniments to these basic choices vary, so it isn’t as boring as it sounds. This morning, however, I felt like something different. So I got to thinking about what else I could throw together from my fridge, freezer or pantry. This lead me to the train of thought ~ What is there that I want to use up. Once again an intentional limited choice. It came to me in that moment that I had a packet of parathas in the freezer. At that point I stepped outside the box and began thinking how could these be used as a breakfast dish.

So, for breakfast this morning I cooked up my paratha, folded it around a generous portion of banana slices, switched off the burner and allowed the residual heat to warm it through. Once plated up, I added a generous slurp of maple syrup, a dob of cream and a sprinkling of slithered almonds. I have to say it was delicious.

The moral of this story is that all manner of things can be used up in ways not necessarily intended. And sometimes in ways actually intended that you just haven’t thought of. You see I have had banana roti (similar to parathas) on a visit to Malaysia once, so this wasn’t really an original idea, simply a convenient recollection.

Just yesterday I retrieved a piece of black felt from my garage. Thinking that I would probably never use it for a craft project, it was waiting there to be donated to the thrift shop. While putting something away in my buffet drawer it occurred to me that I could use that felt to line its drawers with. I attended to this task immediately rather than just putting the felt back in my craft room for another day.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to send a message here that it is a good idea to keep things because they may actually come in useful one day. What I am suggesting is that if you are considering decluttering something potentially useful, figure out that use now and utilise the item. If you can’t come up with a use then simply let it go. Similarly, if you feel wasteful of your hard earned cash by decluttering such items, do the same. Figure out a way to use them up, outside the box, so you don’t feel bad about it. If you can’t do that, then let them go.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a souvenir.

Eco Tip for the Day

Food takes a lot of resources to produce so never let it go to waste. Have a few recipes handy that are great for using up left over bits and pieces, like curry, quiche or bubble & squeak.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I loved this post! There is always a way to use something, you just have to be creative!

  2. I like your idea here Colleen. I especially see it being used with food. Trying to come up with a use for food so you don’t throw it out is a good thing. Great catch on the felt.

  3. Great idea! Here’s a website where you can plug in the foods you have, and it gives you recipes.

  4. Hi everyone! Just wanted to share how 2 items left my home yesterday by my husband’s hands. Yahoo! I have to say they really don’t fall into any of the mini missions this week, though. Since our move 5+ weeks ago, he hasn’t had time to tackle the garage. This weekend he did. He came across an open box of miscellaneous yard sale items and found he had thrown some heavy iron shelf brackets into it and damaged a lampshade that was near the top. (Hence, the reason for the box being open!) That was quickly trashed. The second item was a dog bed we had kept as a back up for our present dog, Harley. We have a new sofa she keeps jumping onto and so we wanted to protect the light colored fabric by putting a dog bed there for her to sleep on. When my husband opened the bag, he found mold on the cover (which maybe could have been laundered) and on the pillow underneath! At this time, we both decided to use something else we had for the sofa and threw the bed in the trash. Two things decluttered because of damage! Luckily, they were not anything of sentimental value as it would have hurt more! 🙂

    • Hi Kim, your declutter items fall more in line with my Perishable Clutter post from last week.
      Mould can be infectious so best that you did get rid of that old dog bed.

  5. This is another reason that I’ve found the slow and steady approach to be a good one – it allows time to use this process of thinking through the possible alternative uses for an item, which then reduces “declutterer’s remorse”. The trick is, as you said, Colleen, not just to put it aside for “something” – if you can’t think what the something is, it’s time to let it go.

    Your breakfast sounds delicious! In fact, it sounds like it could be a dessert too!

    • Hi Jo H, I agree with your take in this. Also the banana paratha was good for dessert, or at least afternoon snack. I had it again yesterday. I think there might be a problem with this use it up challenge because these taste so good I might just replace the parathas. Ha ha!

  6. Timely post for me! I made cupcakes yesterday because I noticed the box of mix was nearing it’s expiration date. I made them and took them into work with me today to share. For dinner last night we had tacos because the taco kit was nearing its expiration as well. About a year ago I noticed how many little travel sized soaps we had acquired from various trips and made it a point to stop buying bar soap until we used those all up. It took almost a full year! Only now am I buying bar soap again. There’s really no point in holding on to things you aren’t using so it feels good to have used these all up.

    • Melissa – I thought we’d used up all the moisturisers, lotions and potions, freebie creams and sample what-nots, but turns out I’d only used up what was in my ensuite, and the girls had even more spread around their dressing tables and main bathroom. The problem is that teenage skin is unpredictable and they can have overly dry skin one week and oily skin the next, plus stuff for other specific problems but as I have two daughters it amounted to more than I expected. So what we decided to do is set up a small box with everyone’s stuff (even I found a couple more tiny tubes) and we’re using that as a collective ‘bank’ whereby we all help ourselves to whatever suits us on the day and return it when we’re done.

      One of my daughter’s is friends with a girl whose mother works in a pharmacy and has given her sample packs or special offer packs that are no longer on general offer. As it isn’t a regular occurance to give them to my daughter and if the three of us can successfully stay on top of using them up, I won’t discourage it, otherwise I’m sure I can find friends or family who will take unopened stuff.

      • Good plan to use up those lotions, potions etc Moni. This was something I did way back in the first year of my decluttering mission. Hubby used to bring home hotel toiletries when he went on business trips. Now he only restocks his toiletries bag if necessary. We had quite a lot at one point but now it is gone.

        • Colleen, it was initially a little disappointing to see so many (again) they go a surprisingly long way and I thought I was done with that area of my decluttering. However, I do remind myself that I parted with no coin and there is at least another six months worth, and some of the brands are outside of my budget so I should view that as a bonus. The girls like the arrangement too.

      • I think your collective bank idea is brilliant! I bet it works great with three females in the house sharing.

    • Well done with your use it up efforts Melissa. It is very satisfying isn’t it? I get a thrill of satisfaction when using up anything, even stuff we use all the time. I just don’t like waste and when anything is used to the max I feel good about it.

      • Lol. I’m glad you said that Colleen because I thought I was strange for feeling that way. 🙂 Over the past two or three weeks I’ve used up about 4 pairs of socks as they finally became threadbare and sprang holes and it was time to toss them (they wouldn’t make good rags, they were a funny material). I have more than enough socks remaining so I am not replacing these at this time.

    • Recently I realised just how many different bottles of shampoo we have, lots that we no longer use, so we’re using this instead of liquid soap.

      • Smart move Samantha. I have done the same thing with bubble bath in the past. Shampoo I generally just persevere with until it is used up. I have long ago decided that no shampoo or conditioner gives the results they show in their advertisements. Hours of grooming is what it takes for those results and I can’t be bothered with that.

      • I’m glad you said that Samantha as I wondered if I could use it for liquid soap. I also have a lot of those little bottles from a time when I use to bring them home, now I use what is there & if there is any left int he bottle I do bring it home so its not thrown out and try & use it straight away.

  7. I’ve never heard of bubble and squeak…sounds good!

    • Hi Deanna, I have never made bubble and squeak. My mother did used to make fritters from left over corned meat or luncheon sausage (bologne). She put tomatoes and sweet corn in them too. Yum!

  8. Nice breakfast, Colleen! Bananas can make anything better. This I love to see especially since our fridge and cupboards are bare at the end of each week outside a few condiments, spices and oils. Everything gets used up every week. There is no stocking up around here. Have a grand day!!!

    • Hi CJ, my cupboards always have stuff in them but mostly only baking ingredients, spices etc. There are a few canned goods and cereals but that is about it. I was laughing the other day with my husband about the state of our fridge. There were condiments on and dairy on the door and veggies and fruit in the crisper but all the other shelves were bare. And that was Sunday afternoon after we had done our grocery shopping. Clearly we use up our leftovers and mostly cook fresh every day. I am beginning to think that I bought a too big fridge when it has to be replaced last year. If was the most eco friendly one though so I suppose that is OK.

      • Ha! It’s nice to have a bit of wiggle room in the fridge. One can make the foods spacing pleasing to the eye if one so wishes and if it’s all eco-friendly, then so much the better!

      • Our refrigerator is pretty bare too. People think it is weird. then they look and see that our pantry isn’t very full and really find us weird. That’s okay. I don’t mind them thinking that.

  9. Use it up: this is a good practice to keep up on. We use up food–my husband’s mantra is to let the market store the items we don’t need yet. Also, we we re running out of notepad paper but instead of running out and purchasing a new one, I just pulled paper from a different kind of pad that was not being used and now we have notepad paper to make our lists. Simple, I know, but every little thing helps me use up instead of buying more.

    • Hi Willow, I have been doing the not pad thing for years. I donated a lot to the thrift shop as well. I wonder will they ever run out. I am down to only two though. I dare say they will last another couple of years.

      Earlier on in the year I had to replace my not so old washing machine because it sprang a leak and was going to cost too much to repair. Small compensation was that I received a “years” supply of washing powder with the new washer. 12 small boxes of powder ought to last me about three years I think.

  10. It is much easier to be resourceful when there is less around. At the moment my son is complaining the pantry is bare – (I’m on a mission to use up everything that’s been sitting around in the freezer and pantry) but that means he doesn’t open the door and something flies out and throws itself into his mouth, he actually has to make something. I’m finding it easier to whip up something interesting with less to choose from.

    A few months back a friend who owns a butchery shop felt he owed us and turned up with two big boxes of meat packs. Fortunately I have a freezer in the garage and I was very grateful but I must confess that I was actually overwhelmed and suddenly had cuts of meat and types of meat that I’d never cooked before. I have only overcome decades of being ‘cateringly challenged’ this year and had gotten into a nice repitoire and routine of cooking and purchasing. I went into total tailspin! What is more, despite have hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of meat in the freezer, my grocery budget blew out! What I have learnt is that I don’t do well with lots of options, especially not in the freezer.

    • Hi Moni!!! That’s one heck of an observation. Fewer items, more resourceful. The law of intelligent constraints. I use it with my music all the time. Just a few notes form which to choose makes a far more interesting melody than having all the notes from which to choose. Cool, right?

    • I think your son and mine are clones. He was the same when he lived at home. And he still goes straight to the pantry and fridge when we comes over now. I am sure that will soon stop because there is never anything in there for him.

      Less choice sure does simplify things in my opinion too Moni. I your case with the meat I would just get on to and find simple recipes to suit what I was given.

      That reminds me. My son called to say that it was their turn for family dinner this week and they are going to do it on Saturday. He said that would make it easier for them because it is the day that his dad eats anything. (He eats low carb the rest of the week). I laughed at this and asked him if he and his partner could please choose a day not to be vegetarians each week to make my family dinner turn easier. Little twerp just laughed at me.

      • Colleen, be glad your son wants to even get together with you. I think it is fantastic that you still all get together once a week.

  11. I have just discovered this blog and I love it. I’ll be following your de-cluttering advice.

  12. I love the way you wrote this, Colleen, and loved this phrase “simply a convenient recollection.” I often have these thoughts which, upon arrival, seem original. Now I can categories them as Convenient Recollections!

    I”m always amazed at people who can whip something up out of nothing. Your breakfast sounds delightful.

    • Hi Tammy R, I am glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoyed writing it actually. A little story leading to a point is fun to put together and easy when fresh in your mind.

  13. I’d let this set of books out to a friend a year ago and unfortunately she read a mini mission about returning stuff to the owner. That back fired on me! Anyway, I listed on trademe and forgot about it until I got an e-mail from the auction winner, so I’ve just finished packaging it and its leaving on the freight today.

  14. I am reading your fun post after our family dinner where I used up one half a roasted chicken from yesterday, the remaining frozen peas in the freezer, the handful of fresh carrots left, the last two odd cans of soup with other regularly stocked ingredients to make a chicken pot pie.

    Admittedly this is normal procedure for skilled economic home cooks, but having successfully accomplished it myself to rave reviews makes me want to scour the cupboards for dinner “use-it-ups” again!

  15. I especially like to use this method when using up food items in the house. I don’t want things to expire before they are used so being creative and purposeful is a great way to make sure nothing is wasted. I also find that when it comes to school projects it is important to think outside of the box and a great way to use items that normally would not get used up otherwise.

  16. When I head into the kitchen to prepare a meal, you can almost guarantee it doesn’t look like a ‘standard’ meal. I definitely use this ‘use it up’ principle in regard to food. Whilst we may have bare cupboards (in comparison to most), I personally love all of the crazy creations and variations I make. Occasionally it doesn’t always work out, but I would say I have a 97% success rate for yumminess.

    Admittedly though, I have never consciously thought about this concept in regard to all of our other stuff. That is a great idea Colleen. Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Mark, I practiced what I peach yesterday and saved petrol in the attempt. I didn’t want to have to go out to buy pumpkin or a can on tomatoes to make dinner. Usually I would just walk up to the local shops but my chest infection has knocked me around a bit. So I got on and found a recipe to match what I had in the house. I didn’t have all the correct ingredients so I improvised a little. In the end I made quite a nice bowl of chilli. Mixing together my own chilli spice mix. Combined the couple of tomatoes I had with half a can of tomato soup to suffice for the can of tomatoes the recipe required. Used up some frozen corn and other bits of veggies in the fridge. I was quite pleased with myself and it tasted good, or at least that is what Steve said, my sinuses are so blocked up that I can’t taste a thing.

  17. Hi Colleen,

    Hubby has a tray of unused colognes… we are using them up as “bathroom fresheners” in place of the commercial aerosols… Works well, seems to fit the use it up challenge as well as repurposing 🙂

    ps. no longer buying colognes for him!


  1. […] is a dab hand at Use-It-Up decluttering. Read about her efforts here. Also Moni’s response to Melissa’s comment had a good method of using up toiletry […]

  2. […] is a dab hand at Use-It-Up decluttering. Read about her efforts here. Also Moni’s response to Melissa’s comment had a good method of using up toiletry […]