Thoughts on the Use It Up Challenge

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Colleen has issued a Use It Up Challenge several times. The most recent one I can find is in September. I’ve been thinking a lot about this challenge recently because we are finally coming to the end of it here at the Bogard household. Along the way, I consumed all the multiday vitamins and calcium I had in the cabinet, and we used all the various extra bottles shampoos and conditioners along with several toothpaste tubes that the girls had not squeezed down tho their last drops.

Those items were quickly finished in comparison to the soap challenge. I had no idea we owned so much soap! I tried a couple of times to give away the Mr. Bubble then put it into the dispenser with the kitchen soap. (Not the best idea, according to my husband. He feels it lacks any grease cutting ability.)  The rest of it, we have been using up one shower, one bath at a time. We had soap the girls had made, soap their friends had made and given as gifts, chunks of soap left over from when we made soap, fruity smelling bath bars that had been given as gift, little soaps from hotels, and at least a dozen smallish bottles of bath gel that had been gifts. Obviously, the trouble with even a useful gift is that it’s clutter if you don’t use it, so using it is what we’ve been doing, apparently since September. That’s eight months ago!

As we’re approaching the end of the soap supplies, I’ve started thinking about other things that can be used up. The only thing I’ve really latched onto is plastic bags, specifically the sturdy plastic bags that mulch comes in. The last time I did a big mulching, I neatly cut open the tops of the bags and saved them, all stored inside of one bag. I found them when I was cleaning the shed. I decided that since I’d saved them, since they were still intact, and since they really can’t be recycled despite the recycling symbol on the side (too many bits of mulch still clinging to them), I would use them as kitchen trash bags.

I typically only use one kitchen-size trash bag a week, and it holds everything.  These mulch bags are quite a bit smaller than my kitchen trash can – not as wide nor as tall. I had to consciously decide to use them. Because they don’t hold as much, I’ve been using one and a half or two bags per week and am very gradually making my way through them. (I also reuse the large bags my toilet paper comes in as well as dog food and bird seed bags, but those I have much less frequently.) I am packing for a camping trip this weekend and decided to put a couple of the bags in with my kitchen things. They’ll make sturdy camp trash bags. (I am also taking a recycling bin.) If I hadn’t consciously chosen to use the bags, they’d have been wasted when I was dumping the mulch out – it’s a lot easier to get the mulch out if I split the bag down the center than it is to cut just the top – but I chose to Use It Up. (Or, to be more truthful, in the past I decided to Save It Up. In the present, I decided to Use It Up.)

What do you have that’s consumable and in excess to your needs? Food? Check the pantry and the freezer. Toiletries? Check under the sinks and in the bathroom drawers. Craft items? Check your supply drawers. Or is it something more creative like my reduce and reuse mulch/trash bags? Let me know what you’re using up.

Note from Cindy: I am driving the 5th graders on an overnight field trip Tues and Wed (US) or Wed and Thurs (Aus), and I likely will not be able to respond to comments. I have asked Colleen to try and keep up with them if she has time. If not, I’ll jump in when I return.

Today’s Declutter Item

In keeping with Cindy’s subject today I have chosen an item that I have used up as my declutter item for the day. I have now reached a point where I no longer have backup supplies of my craft adhesives. I have made all my birthday cards for the year in an attempt to make a dent in my craft supplies. Now in order to use up all my paper supplies I just need to continue this yearly habit for the next 50 years. That should see me out. Just kidding, I have a plan to get rid of it, I really I do!

Craft Adhesive (Use it up)

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ An amusing email response to my ki-ai story yesterday. I will not embarrase the author of the email by revealing her name or the details but needless to say her story was way more hilarious than mine and Ki-ai has forever had a special significance to her from that day onward. To be able to laugh at yourself is a good quality to have to give someone else permission to laugh at you is a special gift.
  • Something Awesome ~ When you are late for an appointment but they were running late and you arrive just in time.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ The opportunities that life continues to deal out to us whether we are expecting them or not.
  • Something that made me happy ~A wonderful unplanned day of eating, chatting and laughing with old friends and new.
  • Something I find fascinating ~ The things women talk about when we get together. I wonder what men talk about when we aren’t around. I bet they don’t have nearly as much fun or are as open as us females.

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

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.
  • Mini Mission ~ Wednesday 20Dec2017 Declutter by recycling some items. That mound ofused takeout containers, old newspapers and magazines, paperwork that needs shredding, glass jars you set aside in case you have a use for […]


  1. I really laughed when I read the 8 month saga of using up soap! I will never give soap as a gift again LOL. Our latest use it up involved latex paint that was unusable and that had to be solidified to throw away. We have a partial bag of sand in our shed from some long ago project. Usually I buy kitty litter to harden paint but this time I had DH pour some sand in the can and it worked.

    • Hi Juhli,
      nice to hear from you again, it has been a while. Last time you wrote you commented that you like the gratitude list, I was wondering do you like the new formula for it.

      Stories and experience of how it take months to use up excess toiletries has put me off ever buying them for gift also. Thats usually what gets us into these situations in the first place.

      I have only recently heard about solidifying paint before throwing it away. I found a can that the tradesmen had put in my garbage bin the other day and I got a stick to make sure it wasn’t liquid. Just as will it was or they would have been hearing from me although I am still not happy about tradesmen working on the townhouse complex and not taking the rubbish with them to dispose of.

    • Juhli, thank you for the tips about solidifying unusable paint – this could come in handy. We have a paint swap and drop off point once a year, but I don’t think they take unusable paint.

    • Where I live, we can take left over paint the the hazardous recycling facility. They mix all the good paint together and give it away free. No matter what colors they add to the mix, it always comes out brownish/tan and they have named the color “Balcones Canyonland” after the Balcones Fault Line that runs through Austin. (No earthquakes here despite the fault because of the composition of the soil. I find that interesting.)

      • Hi Cindy,
        what a great way to use up unwanted paint.
        That is interesting about the fault line sans earthquakes, who’d have thought that was possible. There was an earthquake in the city I live twenty years ago and there is no fault line here so anything is possible I suppose.

  2. Soap can be hard too, I had 9 pieces of soap and I succesfully used up 6,5 since febuary. I cut the soap into little cubes, and then put them into an organza bag. Works like a charm, and it goes quicker. Love it!

    I’m almost close to have finished up 50 items (including the soap) but I haven’t reached the bottom of my toiletries yet. 🙁 But well, I carry on, so it will be gone sometime.

    • Hi Nurchamiel,
      I know this is a big achievement for you because you have a love of all things make-up and toiletries, so well done you. ☆

  3. Women’s shelters can often use toiletries, especially individual ones. We used to belong to a congregation that kept a large basket for such donations in a conspicuous place and then the contents of the basket was delivered monthly.

    • Hi Pansy,
      what a wonderful idea. I love love more access to this kind of specific donation/decluttering options. Maybe I should start to investigate my local churches and school to find out their needs and then I could post it here on by blog.

  4. A crucial element that defines soap opera is the open-ended nature of the narrative (sorry, couldn’t help some copy and pasting here 😉

    As a lot of products just cause me rashes (I wish I’d found out earlier, before hoarding hotel soaps and samples and trying out new products every now and then which often ended up only partly used) so there was no other way to either give or throw them away (depending on how fine and full they still were). Looking at it now from a distance, I can’t understand anymore why I was so fascinated with samples and mini sized bottles anyway. If I am happy with my product why try something else? And why take mini bottles of some cheap crap home if you have a big bottle of something nicer (and gentler to your skin) there? Today I take a (reused) mini bottle with me TO a hotel instead of from a hotel …

    • Hi ideealistin,
      I couldn’t work out where you were copying and pasting from but I liked the resulting comment. You are also right about the open-ended nature of narrative especially when being too specific can draw the reader too far down a trail instead of giving them enough freedom of thought to find their own personal related experience.

      Curious as I was and as tempting as the cute looking bottles were at the last hotel I stayed in, I also had brought my own product and left alone the ones provided. Even if I am not so happy with a product I have bought I use it up anyway. In the search for just the right product I make sure I buy ones of small quantity regardless of how uneconomical that might be because I would rather waste a few dollars than waste a few months extra trying to use up a large quantity.

  5. Carol Henshaw

    I am using up old sunscreen – too old to be effective so if you have any left over from last year’s holiday it makes good body moisturiser and handcream

    • Hi Carol,
      you appear to be new here so may I extend to you a warm & hearty welcome to 365 Less Things. I hope you are enjoying and learning from what we have to say here and look forward to lots of comments from you in the future.

      As for that old sunscreen, there is probably a chance that it is still effective to a certain degree so now not only are you using it up as a moisturiser but you are doing your skin a double favour by having sun protection everywhere you go. It is amazing how much sun damage your hands an get just driving in your car. I personally hate the feel on sunscreen on me but being a fair skin red head I am forced to use it so this time I bought one that feels drier on skin. I think whatever element in it that makes it that way is probably drying to the skin as well so it is a bit of a trade off unfortunately.

  6. Hi Colleen,

    just wikipedia (sorry to be so lame 😉 )

    Tipp: If you want to find out, where a specific quote is from, just put it in google in quotation marks and it’ll most likely find the source – at least, if the quoter did not put mistakes in the sentence …

    okay, mhh, testing my advice on the soap sentence I admit it must be a definition copied and pasted lots and lots of times. But the little trick works wonders if you are trying to find out whether someone is stealing your texts or is cheating …

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      I must admit I am no less confused. I understand where you got the quote from but what was the inspiration for putting it there? I have been having a busy week and my brain feels a little addled at times but I am completely lost on this one. Please enlighten me further.

  7. Last week, we were in a hotel and I was SO tempted to pop those little bottles in my bag when we left. But I stopped myself and thought that since I didn’t use them at the hotel (we bring our own toiletries for allergy reasons) why would I want them in my house?? Even if they’re ‘free’, they’re still clutter.

    I’m also happy to report that we came to the end of the left over dental floss, and in fact, we had to buy another packet. Now we’re on a roll to work our way through the NEW ones. (Does this count? We had to restock!)

    One more item: I quit eating white flour pastas a few months ago but we still had some packages of penne, noodles and macaroni. My husband has been valiantly and sacrificially eating his way through them for his lunches, and now he’s down to one portion left to cook up!

    • Hi Willow,
      good effort with the use it up challenge. I can relate to the dental floss we have had a plethora of that in our house for a while too but I think we are finally getting to a stage where we may be about down to the last few. The worst part was that we forget to bring some with us when we went away at Christmas and the boys went out and bought a double pack of it. One would have been more than enough. 🙄
      I think you need to reward your hubby for making sure a valiant effort to get through the pasta. We got spoiled buying fresh pasta from Whole Foods when we lived in the US and the habit stuck so we only have a little standby dry pasta in the pantry. In fact my husband has cut out pasta altogether and that didn’t affect the pantry at all.

  8. My trick to using stuff up and not having too many versions of whatever it is around (especially toiletries) is to not buy a new one until every last one has been used up in the house. That means not buying new shampoo until the last shampoo bottle has been dropped into the recycling bin. Now this sometimes means that we will have NO shampoo (or whatever it is) for a day or so until I go out and buy a new bottle, but it does ensure I don’t overstock items. The only item I won’t do this with . . . is toilet paper!

    • Hi Eve,
      i don’t find I need to go this far although I do by accident sometimes. Though, I generally only buy the replacement when the one being used is nearly at its end. I fear my hair would be a bit of a freak show if my conditioner ran out. Running out of toilet paper, now that could get messy.

      • I’m reading this on Friday (the five fab…) and just have to post a comment, because the story line in all the reader comments and Colleen’s responses are getting funnier and funnier…I too, don’t know a darn thing about the quote, but it did make me laugh, and this part about ‘not doing that with toilet paper’…’it could get messy’ just about made me split a gut!!!! This blog is great for de-clutter and (de) laughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Hi Annabelle,
          now you have me laughing too! I might have to go back and read it all at once and see if I can get a good laugh out of it also.

  9. Eve,
    I like your approach of not having soap or shampoo or whatever for a day or two until you get around buying a replacement and I think it can probably be applied to everything – except the toilet paper of course (and I personally would add tooth paste). Makes me think we probably should get used to running out of things a bit more and see that it is not such a problem. I mean, we go on camping trips or other vacations and afterwards pretty much always are surprised by how little we really need. Why not putting a bit of that relaxed feeling of being able to do without (at least for a while) into our daily life, thus ridding us of the pressure of having to be prepared for every profane situation, every single day, and ridding us of the compulsive buying of overstock we probably never use up or at least don’t enjoy using up.
    I am not at the point to try Eve’s tactic out to it’s full extend (still some back-up bottles in the hair care section …) – but I certainly will!

    • Hi Eve and Ideealistin,
      I do this with items in the pantry, fridge and freezer. It serves two purposes, for one, thing are usually fresher and two, sometimes the family get sick of the same things over and over again so if they disappear for a while and no one mentions it then I just don’t replace it. If the selection is limited products get used up faster, there is little waste and we can move on to something different sooner.

  10. Just another thought on the freebies we may collect from hotels – they aren’t really free when you get right down to it. The hotel has to pay for them, and considers that cost along with all the other costs when pricing their rooms 🙂

  11. I read somewhere to use shampoo to clean your shower while you’re in it. It is designed to remove oils from your hair; it does the same with build-up on the walls. I’m currently doing that with some facial cleanser that’s too harsh for my face. One wall a day, and my shower thanks me for it (not to mention my husband!). I have gifted bath gel in our hand soap dispensers currently, since it irritates my skin. It’s taking forever since I water it down, but it’s going!!

    • Hi Lynn,
      I am always looking for the most effective way to clean the shower so I will give that a try.

      • Me, too!!

        • I think it was Andreia who suggested cleaning the shower with the soap left over in your “puff” if you use one. I’ve been giving the shower a little cleaning nearly everyday, until the soap is gone from the puff. I like it!

          • Hi Cindy,
            someone suggested using shampoo which sounded feasible but soap scump is the thing that causes showers to get dirty so I can’t see that that would be advisable.

          • I actually read the suggestion for shampoo in a book (just don’t remember the name of it), but someone else’s suggestion of a wall a day is what I’m doing now!

    • Lynn, I tried your suggestion for the shower, and it is amazing!!! THANK YOU!!! 🙂

      • or Andreia….whomever, YAHOO, THANK YOU!!! Yes, the puff/washcloth/hand gloves w/ soap, AMAZING!!!

  12. Hi! I just found another bottle of liquid soap… 🙁 . Just when I thougth I had moved things along…Oh, well, let’s use it up! I am sure I am not going to take 8 months like Cindy, but I have other use up challenges starting with my body lotions.

  13. For me it’s using up my craft supplies…quilt fabric, floss, thread, wool for rug hooking, rusty bells and pins, batting, books, patterns…no matter how much I’ve given away, sold or scrapped it seems my stash is endless…

    Just this week I finished the hooking on a small rug using strips from the leftover baskets…now to find someone to buy the rug! Next up is to piece some fabric for the back of a quilt and get quilting…

    • The problem with craft supplies is that it’s easy to buy three years worth of materials in a one hour shopping trip, but hard to find the three years in which to use it up! Good for you for both giving your supplies away and for using them.

    • Hi Kelley,
      even if it is slow you are making progress and that is the main thing. I hope you find someone to buy the rug you just finished.

  14. Hi Everyone, The trip with the fifth grade class was really, really fun. I’m so glad I went! When I got our the toiletry kit, I had to laugh and roll my eyes: three more bars of soap were hiding under it! Plus I brought back two from the hotel in Dallas. It was nice soap, and I hate that it will be throw away. Since soap is something I will have to buy after (when??) I Use It Up, I brought it home. Left the little bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion though. I don’t care for those.

  15. Hi Colleen,

    actually I was just so literal to think of soap. Soaps. Soap operas … pretty much always the same story, still endless tales to tell – and though so profane so appealing to the audience 😉

    By the way (actually totally off the path): Did you know that “Neighbours” was the first daily soap aired in Germany? We had it from 1989 till the mid-Nineties, so we got Kylie and Jason and all the scary hairdos 😉

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      Neighbours really did do the rounds didn’t it, what a scary thought. That show is still being made and aired in Australia and it gets worse every year. Needless to say I don’t watch it.

      Didn’t Germany also have Skippy the bush Kangaroo a thousand years ago. They were actually airing that in the USA when I lived there.