Keeping the strangest of things ~ By Moni

I shudder at the idea of going back to my old ways of having stuff, more stuff, stored stuff, collected stuff and yet more stuff…..and then being very surprised that the house is full of stuff!

But in spite of all that, I still keep the strangest of things. I don’t know why, there is no logic to it, but I have difficulties getting rid of empty cardboard boxes and shopping bags, especially if they are from particularly nice clothes store or from a surf wear shop.

There is a wee corner of my brain that insists cardboard boxes are useful. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not, but I can get as many as I want any time that I want from my local Pak’n’Save. I have no plans to store anything and no need to carry anything in the foreseeable future but I faithfully stack a small pile of them in the garage until finally the rational part of my brain turns up a few days later and breaks them down for recycling.

Shopping bags. I’m not talking about supermarket bags or ones from the mainstream stores, but the rather nice looking ones. I carefully fold them and place them inside a bag in my craft cupboard. There is only ever 5-10 sitting there and every so often I decide that today is the day I will declutter them, but it just doesn’t happen. The only reason I can think of is that when I was a girl my mum used to do the same thing.

At the time the economy was suffering under high inflation, extreme interest rates and a government introduced compulsary car-less day once a week to combat fuel costs. Our town was small and this was before the era of cheap ‘Made In China’ clothing, so mum sewed what she could of our clothing and we accepted and donated hand-me-down clothes, it didn’t bother us and was widely acceptable in our community.

So a pretty shopping bag represented luxury and they were probably still a new thing as I recall a drawer full of folded up paper bags used for everything from lining baking tins to art projects to lighting the fire to holding rubbish. Wherever possible, we passed on our hand-me-down clothes in a nice plastic carrier bag with a shop logo on it. Why I don’t know, as it was only being carried from house to car and car to house and wouldn’t actually be seen by the greater public, but it seemed to be the tradition.

I mentioned this story to a friend over the weekend and she got a smile on her face and told me that she keeps the paper flour sacks, to line baking tins for making fruit cake. The thing is that she has never made a fruit cake. Her mother and grandmother were fruit cake legends but the baking gene completely skipped her, but she still feels a need to keep these paper flour sacks.

Another friend religiously saves seeds from pumpkins and dries them on the kitchen window sill as her mother used to dry hers for planting, but my friend lives in an apartment block and has never had a garden.

So why do we carry on these little traditions from yester year? Who knows? Strangely I feel more of an attachment to these pretty plastic carrier bags than I do towards many other items that I haven’t thought twice about getting rid of.

So what is my strategy to deal with this? Well, the first step is to make sure that no more come into the house, although this is fairly easy as I am not the shopping fiend that I used to be but also to politely decline a plastic carrier bag or if on a shopping trip to utilise one bag for all purchases. Colleen will also advocate that this is good for the environment. I actually had to decline one yesterday – shopping for a school bag – yes, a bag for the bag!

And as for the existing bags? Well, I have a number of items on trademe (like ebay) at the moment, and I will honour my mum’s tradition of passing on clothes and use these for packaging rather than buying postal bags. Ironically this isn’t a cheaper option but it will save me from buying another plastic bag, while these hide in the cupboard.

So does anyone else out there find themselves keeping the strangest of things and if so do you know why?

Today’s Mini Mission

Stationery was another category that I once had a weakness for. I had cute paper, cute paper clips, cute pens, cute erasers, cute push pins and a selection of ordinary stuff so I could save the cute stuff for good. :roll: When the children are in school one does need much more of this stuff but I found that I had so much that three years after they left I gave the excess away because it just wasn’t getting used up like I thought it would. Also as the tech age took over even a little bit of this was too much because we digitised most of our bills etc. Evaluate your stationery and your need for them and declutter the items you have too many of or have no use for at all.

Eco Tip for the Day

Decide what you need from the refrigerator before opening the door. Standing there with the door open while you think about what you want to eat just lets the cold air out. Then the fridge has to work harder and waste electricity to regain its optimal temperature level.

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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  • The endless to-do list Isn't it baffling that no matter how much you reduce your belongings and simplify your life, there still seems to always be an endless to-do list. I think it is highly possible, at least […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I’m a keeper of cardboard boxes, but I also live near an Indian grocery store which usually has a big pile of them out in back. So I’m trying to train myself to pick them up on an ‘as needed’ basis.

    One very good use of cardboard boxes is to flatten them, soak them in water (if possible), and lay them in the garden. Layers of mulch over the top will conceal them and help to break them down while they’re deterring weeds and adding organic matter to the soil. Hey — this is an eco tip!

    • Hi Frances – good idea – I got another idea from a friend who reads these but doesn’t comment, she said, why don’t you take the boxes back to Pak n Save? LOL because its 2 minutes away and I drive past it 4-5 times a day. Good idea. Having said that, I’m working with the using laundry baskets idea at the moment but should I ever find myself needing to do landscaping, I’ll use this option.

  2. Great post, Moni. I’m pretty good in this area. Only accumulating cardboard boxes near the holidays. I used to save special bags to take my lunch to work, but now I have a nice satchel that I use. I suppose if there is one area (just one?!? ;)) that I struggle with is recipe hoarding. I think I’m gonna make a fantastic meal and then end up making the same old dishes, but have a pile of recipes. A few times a year I go through them and recycle them, but there is still the stack.

    • Maybe you could work backwards Michelle. Instead of trying to cull the ones you’ve never made, take out all the recipes that you typically make. Throw the rest away. There are so many recipes on the Internet that there’s not a lot of point saving “maybe some days” in my opinion.

    • Michelle ~ The problem can often be the ingredients. When a recipe asks for ingredients that ones doesn’t typically keep in their pantry it just adds another level of difficulty and expense having to go out and buy them. Then if the result was only so so the unusual ingredients sit their going to waste.

      • I like the idea of working backwards, Cindy, and will try to put that into action.

        Colleen – yep, I agree and I have at least stopped clipping recipes that have unusual ingredients. Someone on here had said that many of the recipes were similar. I had something along the lines of 12 recipes for fetticinni (sp?) alfredo. 😉 How often do I make this dish? I think it has been years ago!!

        • That sounds about right Michelle. I lost my adventurous streak in the kitchen once the kids were born who frankly were terrible eaters. Seriously I think they would have preferred starve themselves rather than eat what was on offer. If only they had taken after their mother. I’ll eat just about anything. And although I love being adventurous with food I still get great enjoyment out of a good old piece of meat with three vegetables. Luckily my husband is the same.

    • Michelle – this year I learnt to cook – I’m a late bloomer on the kitchen front 🙂 I’m a little bit with Cindy on this one, that the internet is a fabulous source of recipes but I do have a slim folder (about 1.5cm wide – half an inch maybe?) which has recipes I’d like to try or have tried and liked. Eventually I’ll move those recipes onto our ipad or similar but as a novice cook I needed something that could sit beside me on the bench and that I could write on if need be. I have discovered that I have some difficulty following a recipe the first time or two, my IQ literally drops by 50%, so I often have to tick the ingredients off as I go. By the 3rd or 4th time I make that particular recipe, the recipe becomes more of a reference than a religiously followed set of instructions.

      I have realised that something that made me a bit fearful of trying a new recipe was that it I had in mind offering that particular recipe for guests, is what if it fails or I don’t like the flavours. I’m a bit of a stressy cook, so decided that the people who are obligated to love me regardless of failures and are the most brutally honest in my life are my husband and kids, and so I’d try it out on them first – preferably on a Saturday – so that I had all Saturday afternoon to take my time without time schedules to keep to. The other good day is Wednesday as the girls get dropped off at ballet at 5.30 and I don’t see them again until 8.30 and Adrian enjoys helping with the food prep, so theres no time pressure or pickup deadlines inbetween or complaints if tea is served later.

      I like to try two new recipes in a month. As Colleen said they can require new ingredients and one does have to be careful that you don’t end up with a heap of redundant ingredients, so a wee bit of caution there. I looked for which had similar-ish ingredients and worked thru those ie I did the curries and Moroccan recipes I’d put aside to try over March and April – it worked out to 4 new recipes tried, 3 are a success and I would do for guests, and 1 I wasn’t so keen on. (January and February was a 4 out of 4 sucess and are now in my regular repertoire). By keeping it two new recipes a month, I can keep within my grocery budget if new ingredients are required and it keeps me nice and calm plus the kids still get their regular favourites and don’t have to stay on “high alert” suspicion levels when something new is put before them.

      So what is my advice for your recipes? Have a sort thru. Split them into categories, and you may find that there are a lot of dessert recipes. Figure out how often you serve a dessert in a set period ie 3, 6 or 12 months and stick with that number for how many dessert recipes you’ll keep. My friend had 50-something soup recipes but only made two types and decided to cull her collection of clipped recipes down to 5 more. She realised that amongst those 50-something soup recipes that she’d clipped……most were almost duplicates or very similar.

      I hope this helps.

      • This is a great method for deciding how many to keep, Moni – thanks 🙂

      • Thanks for the thoughts, ladies. I appreciate them very much. I was thinking about your original post, Moni, and I found my “item”. When hubby and I first married, he would buy me jewelry from one store. I have actually kept the boxes, the little velvet boxes inside the little paperboard boxes! I laid them out this a.m. and I have seven!! Here I was thinking that I was Miss Perfection, being all “high-handed and uppity”, but nope, I have my thing too. LOL 😉

        • Michelle – that is sooooo cute. I can remember once feeling a wave of reluctance to get of some boxes that jewellery came in, I hadn’t actually thought of them since until it was mentioned. 🙂 I’m sure I will forget them again quickly.

      • Good advice Moni.

  3. Moni, what a great post! 🙂
    I’m a sucker for saving wrapping paper, card board boxes, rubber bands and all sorts of fabric scraps. I do go through them though and do use them up, so the stack isn’t growing.
    Actually, I think one can use the same principle as with all decluttering for it as well: “Go with the easy stuff” – and if, for whatever reason, parting with designer clothes is easier for you than parting with the designer bags, then, by all means, keep the bags. 😛 (within reason of course! 😉 )

    • Sanna – it is quite hard to get rid of “pretties” isn’t it?
      I found a small box tucked waaaaaay over the back in the ceiling storage which had pinks and lavendars wrapping papers, cellophanes, tissue paper, glitter organza and ribbons etc. Obviously dating back to when my girls were little girls and pink was the colour of choice. I’m not going to use such items these days so I’ve put them in a box going to my nieces (who are still in the “pink” stage) but as it hasn’t been collected yet, I have to admit that there is a little part of me that pictures the pretty packaging I could do with these and the look of delight on a little face – and then I remember I have teenagers who would rather cash or a gift card!

  4. Good post Moni. Not that this has to do with decluttering, but my Grandmother used to stir the milk to mix it even after homogenized milk became common. Oh how we teased her!

    • Cindy – I can remember when milk came in clear glass bottles with the silver foil caps and the cream was all at the top. It was such a bonus to get first especially in winter when there was porridge. I was telling the kids about a week or so ago how we bought milk in the 70’s. We’d put out empty glass bottles at the letter box and we’d put in milk tokens (cash got stolen so they introduced a system of buying milk tokens at the diary – ironically we could have just bought the milk from there) and the milk arrived either by the milk truck with teenage boys jumping on and off the back of it fill the orders at each letter box or by a boy pushing a milk trolley along. I know a lot of guys who claim that this was the best job as they got fit and earnt money. And the milk sat at the letter box until someone collected it, yes in the sun, though I was pretty good at bringing it in as soon as I heard the truck or trolley go by. Quite barbaric by todays standards of milk cannot be a nano-second not in a chilled environment, but I don’t think it actually killed anyone. Heck, in those days water came out of a tap or the garden hose, never bottled. Never mind, just showing my age here.

      • I remember that too. Only for us we had a milk box on the porch that you could also put ice in to keep something cooler if you weren’t home when it was delivered. We got milk and eggs that way.

        • Deb J – wow we weren’t that well organised, mind you the town I lived in growing up is very very cold in Winter and I can remember once the milk didn’t get brought in until very late and it was almost frozen. Much more sensible to buy it from the shop! Mind you, we probably thought this arrangement got it to us fresher!

          • I’m not sure why we bought our milk that way but it seemed to be the thing everyone did. This was in the 50’s here and things were a lot different here then as to how we bought our groceries.

      • Ok, now either I am going to appear old or Australia is going to appear backwards but when I was young my grandmother used to put out billy cans for her milk and cream to be delivered in. She would put them out on the front steps at night and in the morning they would be full. She used to transfer the milk into a ceramic jug as require for serving at the table. There was a fine lace doily with beads around the edge to weigh it down to keep the flies off.

        • Colleen,
          No you’re not old, just still remembering a simpler time. I arrived here in 1971 with my family from Manchester, home of the milkman! My first holiday in the almost – countryside and low and behold a milk truck that dispensed into cans and jugs left at the door of my new friend in a different world, grandmother’s house. I was blown away, thinking that Australia surely was modern. Oh how ding-batted can you be, my 7 year old brain thought leaving Old England and flying to New Australia, that everything would be totally and thoroughly modern – er!!!! We got milk delivered for years, I still had a milkman as late as 1988. hahahaha!!!! Loved it. Used to have milk every morning at primary school too. Oh the good ole days. I still remember the string bags too for shopping for your fruit or veges.!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • Thanks for the vote of confidence Dizzy. Hey wouldn’t it have been nice if the little bottles of milk were actually cold. So often they were lukewarm.

  5. Moni, my husband calls me a bag lady. I am a sucker for the nice cloth bags from places we have gone on vacation and I have a stash of them in my closet. The other bags that I get from shopping – again from holiday shops, I used to keep forever but recently, I gathered them all together began using them for trash when I am cleaning up. This weekend, I used the last one and now will just use paper bags and other collected ones until they are gone. The cloth ones I have begun to use for craft projects and am labeling them and hanging them in my closet. It saves on those plastic bins that take up a lot of room. Also, when the door is shut to the closet, they are not taking up space in my bedroom. Boxes have been a problem in the past for me, too, but my office ships a lot of small items to our sales staff so I bring them into the office and use them here. If I need to ship something to my daughter or sisters, I can just bring the items to work and package and ship on my way home. Saves cluttering up the house and saves money at work since we don’t have to buy boxes. I’m getting better but bags and boxes are still tempting. I do keep ones from gifts that we reuse every Christmas and birthday. When they get too dilapidated to use any longer, they go in the recycling bin. I have several from shops that have closed and don’t use those – nostalgia, I guess. One day, they will hit the recycle bin, I guess, but not ready to do that yet.

    • Maggie – I used to have a lot of cloth bags too. I thought I’d worn out or donated the majority of these until one surfaced on Monday in the storage room at work that I am clearing – its since been donated. I think we have just the one now and I’m happy to keep just the one.

      Packaging – good idea using your work as your packaging depot. I’ll talk about it more in another comment but I re-read a book on decluttering using feng shui recently – I’m not an over the top believer but this particular book is very supportive of the decluttering themes we read here at 365 – and I picked up something this time reading and it was that empty boxes represent pockets of hollowness. Well I don’t need any hollowness in my life, especially as the area of the house that I kept them in was the self-improvement area of the chart, so that was all I needed to get them broken down and recycled. It may or may not be true but I needed a reason that was “bigger” than my (I don’t know why) compulsion to keep empty boxes. Whatever works, is my motto.

  6. I too have an internal battle about keeping packaging. I keep the little boxes small items come in, telling myself they will be useful for wrapping odd-shaped gifts or for posting gifts to families who live interstate. Same with bubble wrap.

    I ended up stashes on the shelves of my linen press and behind my clothes and in the junk room. In fact every room would have some. Clearly I was getting more than I needed. So I started decluttering them. As I threw them away, I would feel this twinge of guilt. “What if I needed them? What if I had to wrap or post a present and this small box was the perfect size?” Crazy, I know! But the internal dialogue kept taking place.

    And I keep all the large hard paper bags from fashion shops. You know the ones with rope handles? Like you Moni, they remind me of a sense of luxury. But they are not even as practical to reuse as plastic shopping bags!

    This year I have drastically cut down on the amount of packaging coming into my house. I been on a no-spend for clothes and accessories, reduced my online shopping to 4 items this year and said no to freebies that I don’t really need, like a free satchel from a conference.

    Reading this post has made me realise I am copying my mother. But it was a different era! Growing up, boxes, bags, bubble wrap did not enter the house in such copious quantities and were not so readily or cheaply available. (Yes, that cheapness has come at a cost environmentally and because of exploitative labour laws in third world countries.)

    So thanks for the post, Moni. It’s good to have some insight into why we do things. Sometimes you just do it without really understanding why. You think you have a reason, even if the reason is illogical. But there is often a deeper, emotional reason that defies logic.

    So I will start reusing or recycling my stashes of packaging. Can’t say I won’t continue to feel the twinge of guilt when I put packaging in the recycling bin, but at least I will be able to tell myself that I still have enough if I need them, and as I haven’t ever run out as I have hardly use them as “planned”, I don’t need to keep more. Going to get the stash down to only being in one cupboard.

    • Hi Lucinda, I think you hit the nail square on the head with the best solution to the packaging problem. Packaging only comes in the items you purchase or receive as gifts, most of which usually eventually end up as clutter. Keeping the bags only multiplies that clutter potential. I am glad you are curbing your spending this year. With a little luck and an open mind this may well become a new habit that will last your lifetime. Trust me, the freedom from wanting stuff is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

    • Lucinda – at one stage I found I had a box of gift boxes. Why I don’t know. But I realised that I wouldn’t give enough gifts in a year to get rid of these, especially as I’d embraced the give-vouchers-not-things line of thinking, it didn’t seem right to add to my friends and family’s clutter problem by not opting to give them vouchers-and-not-things too. So I kept what I knew would get used short term ie something I’d bought for my niece already and I offered the rest on Freecycle. They were requested by an organisation that takes gifts to the needy and hospitalised at xmas time, so I felt really good that they’d be put to good use and bring a bit of delightment into someone deserving life.

      Yes I do know the paper bags with chord handles – I have two in this collection. I’m shaking my head at myself. Why, oh why? Since I wrote this post, all the plastic carrier bags have gone and now its just the paper ones to go. Ironically, plastic carrier bags represented luxury as a child, whereas to my teenage girls, the paper ones are the cooler ones.

  7. I find that when I have a hard time getting rid of something, I just get rid of one of them at a time. That way it isn’t so painful and you adjust very quickly. I did this with out nice baking dishes. I don’t have to cook for a large family now and just didn’t need as many, no matter how high quality they were. I have only what I need now, but I did it a little at a time. I like having less dishes and they don’t pile up as easily. You could give the stores back their bags, or send your stuff to charity in them or use them instead of packing materials. Good luck!

    • Marianne – that is exactly the approach I had to take with books and dvds, as a collection I faced resistance but one by one it was easy. I too love having a decluttered kitchen, its so easy to find things and also when cooking, I find it easy to find things – especially when my son unloads the dishwasher as he puts things in the most random of places.

      • Funny enough sometimes I do the complete opposite: no more XY in my House! I did that with DVDs and with audiobooks. It was difficult to come to the “no more”-point but from there on it has been easy. I don’t consider buying These items anymore and should I get them otherwise I enjoy them and then get Rid of them.My last Thing to eliminate completely have been Fiction Books and cookbooks have been gone for long. Though I did keep a handful of cookbooks and a Stack of Fiction that I still want to Read those Self-imposed don’ts work wonders for me and my ever spinning Head. Other things I just don’t do: rugs, different silverware/dishes for guests, any hairstyle that requires fancy tools, drycleaning …
        Boxes and bags are a weakness for me, too. I am trying to come to the conclusion to let just all of it go but I am Not there yet alrhough I Know that they mainly represent empty (literally empty As they are) promises. Boxes stand for Organization, for Things sold and shipped, for presents. But they ARE not organizing, selling or gifting. They are just pieces of cardboard.

        • Ideealistin – I refused to have silverware too – too many childhood afternoons spent polishing silver that tarnished again and as far as I can tell, was never used.
          I like that “boxes stand for organization, things sold, things shipped but are not organzing, selling or gifting. They are just pieces of cardboard.” Exactly!
          I was a little bit worried when I wrote this that nobody else would put their hand up and say that they’re a box-aholic or a secret-stasher of plastic bags, but it appears that I’m in good company. 🙂

  8. Ours was boxes, packing peanuts and bubble wrap, wrapping paper, and other gift type containers. I finally realized it was another thing we had always done but don’t need to do anymore. We no longer give gifts much. We don’t ship much out. We no longer need any of this type of thing. So we passed to on to those who need this type of thing. If we give a gift it is either for a wedding or baby and we just have those wrapped in the store where we buy them. It’s no cost and we don’t have to keep supplies.

    • Deb J – I realised recently, just as Colleen teaches that the supermarket can be our pantry, likewise Dollar Value of TWH can be my ‘stock’ for any packaging supplies. I’d often buy the economy size options of bubble wrap or wrapping paper and then it would take years to get thru. Now I’d rather buy a smaller piece – yes it might be more expensive on a square centimetre basis but I’d rather not end up with left overs, especially as an advocate of give-vouchers-and-gift-cards-not-stuff I feel I should practice what I preach. However, vouchers and gift cards aren’t always the best option on the day ie Dayna presented me with a list of exactly what she wanted – and so I bought smaller wrapping supplies to package those. And gift bags are another good option versus wrapping in gift wrap. No left over gift wrap!

      • You are right Moni. I don’t want to buy this big economy size roll of wrapping paper because then I have to store it and use it until it is gone even thought I used it last year and I don’t like it this year. Grin. I think I finally have Mom convinced this is a good way to do things and do the groceries too. She can actually find what she has in the pantry now.

  9. Hi Moni, I must admit that even though I don’t sell much on ebay these days, I still have a box of boxes in the garage. Now the question is, where do these boxes keep coming from? Unfortunately not everyone in our household has the same attitude towards not buying unnecessary stuff that I do. Once a nice size box comes in, that would be useful for shipping, it gets put in the box box. This is a habit I think I am going to break very soon because I am tired of having the box of boxes taking up valuable space in my garage. There are no shortage of used cardboard product boxes at the local hardware store that are there for the taking should I need one.

    My solution to not keeping shopping bags is to not accept them in the first place. I carry a fold up shopping bag in my handbag. I never accept shopping bags on the rare occasion that I do buy something other than groceries which is what the fold up bag is mostly used for. I feel good about myself every time I use that bag and don’t add another shopping bag to landfill. Even if the paper ones are great for putting the contents of our shredder in I still resist taking them. Now that my daughter has left the house I am probably going to have to find a solution for that shredded paper. Even that is getting less plentiful these days because when using eftpos I always check that the transaction amount is correct and decline to receive a copy of the receipt, unless it is something I am likely to have to return (once again rare).

    I remember being out shopping with my daughter some time back and she was buying clothes. One piece at one store one at another. I asked her why don’t you just use the same bag to put all your purchases in. She said “Because it is cool to be walking around with all these bags with the store labels on.”. Oh me oh my! These days she seems happy to allow me to use my fold up bag for her purchases when we go shopping together.

    • Colleen – I was telling my girls about the string bags that were fashionable in the 70’s. Maybe something that compacts down like those did would be the key. To be honest, apart from groceries I’m not shopping at the moment, its my May mini-lution to not buy anything that isn’t cruicial. I figure that I’ve had to learn to substitute when cooking, rather than run up to the supermarket for one item (which turns into 5 items) as per my April mini-lution to only go to the supermarket once a week, I wondered what would happen if the same applied with other purchasing. Only one way to find out! I don’t think we were excessive shoppers but its been interesting watching the family having to think thru their options and come up with alternatives. Of course, there have been a few little ‘back-fires’ with this challenge, but for the most part it has been successful so far.

    • Colleen – is there a local kindergarten which has a pet guinea pig that would appreciate shredded paper for its bed? Unfortunately, my work generates too much shredded paper for anyone but the paper recycling depot at the local transfer station. This is because financial records now past their 7 year archive requirements have been shredded by me. However, as I am in my 3rd year of digital filing and receiving most invoices by e-mail, this problem will eventually disappear too.

    • I have been thinking about the shopping bags. We receive a lot of the plastic shopping bags when we get the major monthly groceries. But we do it because our church has a monthly grocery program for those in need. We need bags for that and these work really well. We tried boxes but we really don’t have the room to store them after they are collected. So we all collect the plastic bags from the grocery. BUT, Mom and I don’t take bags at any other time. We carry our own. I have a nice plastic coated bag in the back of the car that has about 10 cloth “shopping” bags in it. We use these for all other shopping. It works great. The only time we accept a nice shopping bag is when one of these gets ratty and we need to replace it. I’m looking for some plastic coated material or something like that to make my own. Once I do that and get the bags made the cloth ones will be decluttered.

  10. Any extra bags or boxes now go to our favorite thrift shop or to Goodwill. I’m not sure what Goodwill does with them, but they were more than willing to take a bunch we had accumulated. Our thrift store reuses them to package up their sales. I also sometimes take them a bunch from the recycle bin at our grocery store (fine with the store), which means they get used again. Goodwill has their own printed bags, but the thrift store could never afford that. This would probably be true most places and at least postpones the trip to the recycle or garbage truck.

    • Nana – sounds like you have it under control. I notice people sometimes offer or request banana boxes for shifting house purposes on freecycle – they have a lid and holes in the side that serve as handles – so offering on freecycle is always an option too.

  11. Great post Moni! Those “saving” habits our parents had (and we copied) were based on the idea of not wasting something that was going to prove useful in the future. There was a sense of thriftiness and it worked well if things were actually used up so you shouldn’t feel bad about acquiring the habit.
    However times have changed and now there’s a surfeit of everything. We have access to most things we might need – even boxes from the local Pak’n’Save 🙂 The idea of what those luxury bags represent has also changed as we become more immune to the advertising that tries to make us believe those products are the path to happiness.
    I used up the plastic and paper bags I had collected when I de-cluttered and took items to the local charity shop. Now I’m like Colleen. I have two fold up shopping bags in my handbag and so never need to take the plastic or paper bags and my daughter is doing the same.

    • Megan S – do I detect a Kiwi accent in there? I touched on the subject of boxes from Pak N Save maybe last week as I mentioned to a work mate that I ended up with all these boxes when I shopped there and they’d filled my recycling bin. He said that he takes a couple of laundry baskets and packs the groceries from the trolley into the boot of the car directly into the laundry baskets. I have tried it since and I have to admit it worked well and no boxes to deal with.

      For those of you not familiar with Pak N Save – its a bit cheaper but you have to pack your own groceries, but they have an area where they put all the empty boxes that you can help yourself to once you’ve been thru the checkout.

      • Moni, I’m not a Kiwi but I have been to your beautiful New Zealand a couple of times and loved it. The Pak’n’Save reference was because you had mentioned it in your post – but we did have a similar chain here in Sydney (no longer operating) which had the same “box- it – yourself” idea.

        • Megan S – well NZ is almost a suburb of Sydney – LOL – just joking. It occurs to me that I have about a million supermarket bags in the bottom of my pantry that I don’t want to throw out as we do use for rubbish bin liners but I certainly don’t need a million of them. I don’t feel any sentimental attachment to the supermarket bags but don’t want to throw them out either. I alternate shopping at Pak n Save and Countdown week about as there are items in one store and not the other and vice versa, and I havn’t successfully grafted onto one store or the other despite two years of having both stores in my suburb. So one week was a cardboard box problem the following week was the plastic bag problem.

  12. I also save cardboard boxes, nice “classy-looking” shopping bags, and (of all things) Styrofoam packing. (The Styrofoam was difficult for me to admit to.) Many times, the cardboard boxes come in handy because I use them for receptacles in which to place “stuff” that is going to be donated. When a box is full, I take it to a charity, rummage sale, etc. Periodically, I feel that I have too many cardboard boxes, and I break them up for recycling. The shopping bags are a little more difficult for me to part with, however. I have about half a dozen right now. I have a paper shopping bag full of Styrofoam packing for a “just in case” reason such as placing a piece of Styrofoam into the urn on my parents’ grave to anchor the silk flowers. (But I don’t need a shopping bag full, do I?) My mother saved Styrofoam also — just for that same reason. I’ve heard it said that “we become our mothers.” I think I’ll go and clean out that shopping bag right now and save just a few small pieces of Styrofoam.

    • Mary Ellen – I do like to use boxes for donated goods, a plastic bag doesn’t hold its shape and often things can overflow out on the floor. Once I’ve decided something is going, I don’t want to see it again. I got into the habit of keeping too many boxes for this purpose. At one point I had quite a decluttering depot going in my garage – all these boxes lined up under the table but at the time I was working thru a challenging area and stuff was going off to many different places. These days I don’t have quite the quantities outgoing anymore and so I’ve limited myself to ONE box. I almost allowed myself a 2nd box as I have stuff for goodwill and stuff that is going to my sis-in-law but I decided to put the couple of small items for goodwill in a plastic bag to keep it seperate from the stuff for my SIL

      I was doing some rapid blinking reading your styrofoam story. Oh yes, we do become our mothers – but can you think of anyone better to imitate?

  13. Natalie (@NatalieInCA)

    Moni, I am exactly like you! My husband keeps complaining about the stack of cardboard boxes in our garage. Although I only keep different sizes and try to nest them so they take minimal space. I think I keep them to save them from the recycling or compost bin. I’d rather reuse them. I do reuse them for shipping, kids’ project at school -like building arcade games out of cardboard, transporting stuff, holding groceries from moving around in my car trunk etc…
    That is my h-u-g-e problem with decluttering: I have a very hard time trashing items that I feel could be reused or properly recycled. I am still looking for a place that would recycle old fabric from worn-out clothes.

    • Natalie – I have slowed right down the number coming into the house – I don’t know if you read earlier comments but a workmate suggested I use laundry baskets for my groceries rather than use boxes – I don’t know if the supermarket is the source of boxes in your garage, but I have to admit I felt a bit silly that I hadn’t thought of an alternative, or even thought to think of an alternative. I would have carried on for years, complaining about the number of boxes I ended up paying to recycle on behalf of Pak n Save!

      Old worn out clothing often gets made into rags by goodwill and salvation army and sold to industrial businesses that need a good supply of clean rags. Perhaps if you enquired if your local branch sells rags, you’d feel better about donating a bag of worn out clothes to that particular organisation.

      • Natalie (@NatalieInCA)

        Thank you for the suggestions Moni. The boxes come from online orders, one or two a month, slow but definite clutter… My local goodwill does not accept worn out clothing, but I am going to look into it again, there has to be someone in my area. Will try salvation army. Thanks.

  14. I’d like to update that most of the plastic carrier bags are now gone. I just have 3 of the paper variety with chord handles to find a use for.

    Boxes – as I told Maggie above – I have recently re-read Karen Kingstons “Clear your clutter with Feng Shui”. Dizzy recommended it to me last year, and as it got some mention over the last couple of weeks I decided to re-read it. I picked up something that I missed last time I read it, that in Feng Shui empty boxes represent pockets of hollowness. Now I’d like to say that I like a lot of the principles of Feng Shui but I don’t go overboard on it. BUT obviously I do have a superstitious part of my brain that sat straight up and said it didn’t want no pockets of hollowness around here. Obviously the superstitious part of my brain has more say over whatever part of my brain wants to keep empty boxes, because those boxes were broken down and in the recycling bin rather quickly. Do I believe that empty boxes cause pockets of hollowness? Maybe, maybe not, but if running with this idea prompts me to go all anti-acquiring cardboard boxes, then I’m going to run with it. LOL yes I’m aware that I seem to be playing mind games with myself …..again!

    • Moni hee hee!! Don’t have pockets of hollowness, better to have an abundance of ‘Chi’ flowing and meandering around your clear space !! Well done on getting rid of your nemisis and breaking your cycle. Today was the last day of my 49’s haha how those two little numbers helped, apart from everything else I managed to get rid of 4 large decorative boxes, all the stuff that was in them as well, why did I have them who knows!! I’ll call them another ‘what the’ and I also parted company with 4 sets of 5 nesting boxes which I used throughout the house for various things that have also left the abode.

      Just as a thought that may help anyone reading this, all the stuff I got rid off recently (boxes) I took a pic of them and posted them on facebook. The whole bally lot got new owners within minutes. I was astounded. Facebook is my new giveaway site!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. Hi Moni, thought provoking post! I read the comments about boxes and bubble wrap, yes under the house used to have a huge pile cardboard boxes for sending stuff away on EBay ( my husband did this) . Currently in the garden shed is the largest roll of bubble wrap I have ever seen, it is about five foot high and four feet across. Again this is my husbands.
    My sister used to keep her teeth when she was young, no tooth fairy money for her!
    My parents used to keep any container that could be reused , I think Dad had a ‘tower’ of margarine tubs on the bench before he died.
    Recently when I am decluttering items, I have put them on the husband’s desk for him to deal with. It is not that I can’t part with the item, it is just he can usually use it or reinvent a use for it. His curse for being too handy!

    • Wendy F – that is an impressive amount of bubble wrap – what are you going to do with it? I always joke with my kids that bubble wrap is the cheapest form of therapy available ie sitting there popping bubbles is strangely contenting, their eyes just about popped out of their heads once when they came into work and we’d just been delivered a similar size roll of bubble wrap, it didn’t occur to me until later that they assumed I must be having some sort of nervous breakdown.

      Margarine containers – oh yes, my grandma used to have a whole cupboard of those. Why? You can put things in them! And you never know when you’re going to have 30 or so individual things that will simultaneously need storing seperately. 🙂 I think it was a Depression generation thing. I don’t think we can even comprehend how little cash flow there was during the depression to understand how it shaped an entire generation.

      • Moni, loved your post. Particularly your comment on the margarine containers. My Grandmother saved every type of plastic container you can imagine. We all thought it was her idea of free “Tupperware”. When she passed away, thank goodness my Mom had the foresight to open one of them, before recycling them. They were all filled with money. Different denominations, some paper some coin. What was so amazing, was that she didn’t tell one of her children about this “stash”.

        • Kimberly – Whoa! I’m glad your mum checked before hiffing them. That’s got to be the most different variation on cash under the mattress story that I’ve ever heard.

          • Kimberly, my grandmother saved all manner of plastic containers too. I don’t think she put money in them, but when the family was going through her things, they found a few dollars here and maybe some bigger bills there and bills in the pockets of her coats and on and on. I think my mother and I do the same thing. Do you think this is not “putting all your eggs in one basket” perhaps?? 😉

  16. Great post today, Moni. I used to keep all sorts of packing materials, mostly it was shipping materials from items I ordered. I hardly ship anything anymore and I find that keeping cardboard for too long can attract pests, so I have little of it around. I still have a small collection of gift bags which I will use to put gift cards in or on the occasional opportunity that I purchase a gift knowing that is what the recipient wanted. I am in the “use it up” mode of those though. I find it hard to resist a cute tote or bag but I haven’t bought any in some time because I have what I need for now. My problem, as I have mentioned before here, has always been paper items in many forms. I keep the oddest things when it comes to paper items. No matter if it is things that my children have done in school or articles that I want to read. I have gotten rid of some books and some cookbooks. So, in some areas concerning paper items, I have improved but I feel like I could do so much better. It is the one obstacle that I feel I need the most motivation when it comes to decluttering. Every other thing when it comes to decluttering, I feel like I have control over. My paper issue is much better than it used to be and my piles are to a minimum, but I do wish that I could just “get over it already” and move on. I think some of why I hang on to paper items is because as a child, not having a lot of material items, it was the one thing that we had plenty of. Whether it was books or magazines, they were given to us by many people and was always available to entertain when other things were not.

    • Jen – I think you have figured out the emotional attachment to paper and magazines – I have a very dear friend who cannot part with towels. She has about 70 and most are beyond useful life. Her reason is that when she was young, one winter her large family had very little income and for some reason towels became scarce, obviously they all wore out at the same time and couldn’t be replaced. She is afraid of not having enough towels, even though both she and her husband earn good incomes, she can’t bring herself to get rid of the old ones. She was very brave recently – and when I needed a couple of old towels for hair dyeing (Adrian didn’t realise the importance of my dye towel and cut it up for car washing rags) I asked her for one and she sent me six. I was very proud of her, because this fear is very real to her, she knows its not logical but childhood triggers can be hard to overcome.

  17. I too am a keeper of bags and boxes. Because we still have a long way to go, I keep them to make the donation/freecycle/ebaying easier, because I can send it out of the house packaged.

    But I do know that I am keeping way too many… but I find it hard to get rid of them… for now.

    • Mark – good to know I’m not the only one. If you’re on a roll with ebay and freecycle etc, they’ll make the perfect carry bags. I’m going to try and think of more ways to stop them coming into the house in the first place, if you come up with anything, let us know – your “re-set” idea is still one of my favourites.

      • Moni – In regard to boxes and bags coming in, that is not so much of an issue. We almost always refuse plastic bags when offered, and if we haven’t brought our own carry bag, then we will do it by hand.

        I am so glad you enjoyed the reset concept 🙂

        • Mark – it also occured to me that groceries for five adult size people is probably generates a lot more……well, of everything…….than for a couple. My sis-in-law used to marvel at the amount in my trolley at the supermarket, but now she has three young children, she understands. So the plastic bag and cardboard box situation can rapidly multiply for me – my wheelie bin and recycling wheelie bin are up for renewal in November and we have the smallest size wheelie bin available – and the smallest one on the cul-de-sac that I live on – but we still have the largest size recycling bin (like everyone else) – my plan is downsize to the smaller size recycling bin when the time comes, so I’d like to get a handle on all this before then.

  18. Hmm, designer bags, unusual glass jars (I find it hard to part with the large jars our coffee comes in but they take up so much space!), packaging (even though I rarely send parcels), and storage containers. I try to limit the amount of each I keep. Thank you for helping me look at these things with a fresh perspective–I might now find it easier to let some of them go.

  19. OK, I’ll admit it. The strangest thing I have hung on to is the margarine tub in my freezer that holds a few frozen almonds that my late father-in-law shelled. He died in 1991! He was not able to afford to give us much and this is something he did with his own hands. Pretty nuts, huh?

    • Jeni B – that’s actually sweet – earlier this year Adrian found a Banana In Pyjamas gumboot in the shrubbery at our original house (we rent it out) that my son lost when he was two. I have it sitting up on my laundry shelf, it serves no purpose but it makes me smile. I think its ok to have a couple of items like that to remind of us good times past.

  20. I don’t know if it’s strange, but I used to cut off the buttons off of shirts or dresses that were worn out and being cut up for rags. I’d then keep these buttons around in my sewing box. I don’t do this any more. I never used the darn buttons I was keeping, but I did it because that’s what my grandma used to do. I don’t believe she ever used the buttons she was keeping either! lol. Thankfully buttons are pretty small, but the small stuff does build up too if you aren’t careful!

    • Melissa – a button jar – my grandmother had one, my mum still has one and until a year ago I had one. I’d forgotten about the button jar. It was hard to get rid of too, but I haven’t missed it since. I do keep six generic buttons in my sewing kit for emergency repairs, but most shirts come with a spare sewn onto the washing instruction label in the side seam or somewhere on the shirt. I like that arrangement better as it means that the spare button leaves with the shirt and there isn’t a major hunt thru a button jar to find the spare.

    • I am doing this as well. However, I mostly buy my clothes used these days, so there often are no spare buttons on the washing instruction label. 🙂
      Also, I am sewing little pouches and stuff from time to time when a single button does come in handy. I also already bought some shirt or dress for almost nothing with ghastly buttons as details and replaced them by cute ones. I do limit myself though, both space-wise (they have to fit in that tin in the sewing kit) and quality-wise: that means, I only keep buttons I actually like and think I will use. I don’t keep those with awkward brand-names on them or some in colours or shapes I don’t like.
      It did take a while to be honest to myself on that and accept that I won’t ever use that sparkly pink-and-gold button, but meanwhile I think, I am doing quite okay.

  21. I use to keep lots of boxes. I used them to send presents but I have sent fewer and fewer over the years and even recycled some boxes. I still have several of different sizes and shapes incase some day that I need a box just that size and shape. But I know that that may never happen. I’ve changed my beliefs regarding present-giving especially after reading blogs like this. I’ll be brave 🙂 and flatten one to start with to recycle. It’s the usefullness of them that makes it hard to let them go so I don’t think boxes and bags are strange items to ‘collect.’ But you’re right, Moni, if you don’t need them now, it’s best to recycle them. I’m still organising and decluttering possessions after moving house and keep thinking I’ll need them for some category of items that I have yet to discover!

    I. too, have several recipes for the same dish even though I now know the recipe enough not to need to read it. I was going to declutter my recipes but I didn’t even think of decluttering those that I now know off by heart. I have other strange items that I keep but I’m too embarrassed to say what they are. Oh. okay… travel tickets, the luggage tags that are stuck to your luggage at the airport, as souveneirs. I not only keep one of the same place but keep one from most times I go there. Perhaps I am eccentric after all… Another category to look at.

    • My reason for keeping the luggage tags? As part of my record of my life, where I’ve been, what I’ve done. I do that with other items but haven’t thought seriously about what I’ll keep long-term. I suppose I kept those just in case I want them as part of my history, when I get round to sorting them ‘some day.’ This post is prompting me to examine the reasons more closely and decide what to declutter. I have yet to go through all my souveneirs and sentimental items.

      • Lena C – they sound like a lovely momento of your travels. I assume they don’t take up much room and I feel you aren’t ready to discard them. Have you thought of making them up into a piece of art? I saw that on someone’s wall recently and it was a great conversation piece for the owner and guests. If you want to keep them as they are, perhaps focus on something else until next time you encounter them, maybe you’ll feel differently then.

        • That’s a good idea about the art work of art. I thought of putting things like that in a scrapbook or display book instead keeping them buried in a drawer. Funnily enough it was only this year that I considered that, after years of saving similar items. I’ll go through them, very likely cull some and decide how better to store them. (They’re not all paper items and so won’t all go in a display book or scrapbook!) I want to get rid of the piece of furniture they are stored in. I’ll concentrate on easier stuff first so will leave them for now. But then again, I might suddenly get an urge to do the souvenirs first and wonder why I didn’t do it before. It often happens that way! Oh, I just quickly, bravely, tore up a tiny cardboard box for recycling. I got courage from your post and knowing that some 365ers have the same difficulty doing that! 🙂

          • Lena C – I’m actually surprised at how many of us have a problem with cardboard boxes. Is it a variation on the idea of buying plastic storage bins? Who knows!

    • I think, I wouldn’t declutter recipes I know by heart, because I know that I can forget even those. There may be a time when for some reason or other you don’t make that recipe for a year or two and when you feel you want to eat it again, you may have forgotten that special trick about it. Maybe others’ memory is better than mine, but I know that I can forget even what I thought I’d never forget.


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