The Pantry Challenge Isn’t Just For Pasta

The past few months, Mr. Green and I have been making a conscious effort to eat out less, and, more specifically, eat down our pantry and freezer. It’s not quite as restrictive as our Not Eating Out in November challenge, but we’ve been diligently chipping away at the quarter of a cow stashed in our freezer and the dry goods in our cupboard. We even managed to make it through the Labor Day holiday weekend only eating out once. Small victories!

This got me thinking about other “pantries” we have in our homes. Those of us who are uncommitted minimalists probably hoard things to some extent – whether it be food, office supplies (free conference pens, anyone?), craft supplies, clothes, etc. (Not “Hoarders” level hoarding, but you know what I mean.) Sometimes our closets absolutely need a good decluttering, because they are full of stuff we don’t use and will likely never use. However, there’s a lot of stuff I’d feel very wasteful donating and probably doesn’t have a whole lot of resale value if I tried to liquidate it. So my goal for the fall has been to identify those stashes and be more conscious about using them instead of buying new stuff.

What are my other pantries?

Yarn – I’m a knitter, and I often (or, at least, used to) buy random yarn with no intended project. For years, yarn has been one of the few souvenirs I allowed myself to bring home from traveling. (The others being cool t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, which I also have a problem hoarding. Am I sensing a trend?) Being in my 30’s means eeerrrrbody having a baby, and so I decided to try and make baby gifts using supplies from my “yarn pantry” as much as possible. So far, so good, and I even found a few more projects that I think will use up half skeins of yarn from other projects.

Shoes – Last weekend I gave my closet a good once-over and found a few pairs of shoes that I liked, but weren’t getting a lot of wear. I’m sure I still have too many shoes (although not as many as Penny once had), but I’ve managed to cull most of the cheapie, uncomfortable, and never-worn pairs over the years. Instead of donating the pairs I rediscovered over the weekend, I took them downstairs to the shoe rack by the door so they’d make their way into a more regular rotation.

Clothes – Same goes for clothes. I think every time I clean out my closet I find a few pieces that got shoved to the back of the closet that I am able to re-incorporate into regular wear. A lot of frugality/minimalism bloggers will encourage you to “shop your closet” instead of buying new stuff when your wardrobe is starting to feel a bit stale. (I even learned from Leigh about an app that helps you organize and sort the pieces in your wardrobe.) And for the stuff that is nice but I don’t envision ever wearing again, I’m going to list those pieces on Poshmark in the near future.

Bar soap – This is a bit of a weird one! A few years ago, some friends started making soap as a hobby, and we purchased a few bars and received several other bars as thank-you gifts for dogsitting or what have you. The only problem was that we didn’t really use bar soap! So a dozen bars of handmade soap sat in our closet for about a year. I didn’t really want to get rid of the soap, but we also didn’t have a soap dish to set it in. I finally picked up a soap dish and now we are slowly making our way through our soap stash.

Kindle books – I’m sure I’m not the only person guilty of buying a few Kindle books here and there, especially when a popular title goes on sale for $1.99 or less. As much as I love library books (and library e-books!), I can be a slow and easily distracted reader, and it takes me longer than the library’s 2 week e-book lending period to get through a book. This has lead me to occasionally indulge in those Kindle deals when I see them come across blogs or social media. As summer has waned in the last few weeks, I’ve tried to dig into some of those impulse purchases while enjoying the backyard hammock.

There’s a lot of other stuff I need to cull more extensively this winter. The first things on my list are cookbooks – I know there’s a few recipes in most cookbooks that I love and can be ported to my Paprika recipe app, and the physical cookbook can be passed along to a friend, donated or sold. (I almost exclusively use Paprika on iPad or phone while cooking in the kitchen, as opposed to a physical cookbook on the counter.)

Cull – Organize – Use

The key to this type of decluttering is to make it so your stuff is easily accessible so you will actually use it. How many times have you bought a new thing because you couldn’t find the thing you were looking for, the thing was broken or damaged, or the thing was not accessible?

For example, Mr. Green was convinced we were “out of ground beef” a couple of weeks ago, and bought a package at the store, even though we got 50 lbs+ of ground beef with our 1/4 cow purchase this spring. In reality, all of our ground beef was all at the bottom of the deep freeze. Since then I’ve gone back and rearranged everything so the more frequently used cuts of meat are near the top and sides of the freezer.

I think this type of decluttering is easier than KonMari or other more aggressive methods, because you don’t have to get rid of stuff you kind of like or think will probably be useful in the future. Not everyone can afford to throw out everything that “doesn’t bring them joy,” because it could be financially challenging to replace those items should they be needed in the future. On the whole, this method feels much less wasteful. It helps you combine lots of odds and ends, evaluate what you have and what you need, and brings those forgotten items to the front of your brain so you can be more conscious about using them. I think, especially if you are prone to a little hoarding, coming face to face with exactly how much of a particular item you have in your home makes it much easier to avoid buying more of that thing in the future. 

My steps for LittleGreenMari:

  1. Combine items so you can actually see how much of each item you have. All of the pens in one drawer, all of the cleaning supplies in one closet, all of the winter gloves/hats in one basket, combine multiple half-full jars of spices or bottles of soap or what have you. My most recent cleaning of the junk drawer turned up 5 rolls of Scotch tape – those will be handy at Christmas time! Just be careful when combining cleaning supplies and DON’T combine bleach and ammonia products because you can generate toxic chloramine fumes.
  2. Cull stuff that’s not worth keeping or totally used up. Dead pens, ill fitting shoes, expired pantry items. You probably know what you’re “hoarding” in your household.
  3. Organize the stuff you want to keep so that it’s easily accessible. One of my tasks here was buying a soap dish. Another task was reorganizing my wrapping/shipping supplies – I neatly folded all of the gift bags and saved pieces of tissue paper and put them in one container.
  4. Make a conscious effort to use your pantries instead of buying new stuff. Plan projects or gifts with your freshly organized craft supplies, plan meals around the pantry items you want to use up, plan an outfit that coordinates with the shoes you want to wear more often.

Looking for more inspiration? There’s a Facebook group, A Make Do and Mend Life, that I have found to be full of useful information and inspiration for creatively using, repairing, and repurposing things that are already in your home. (It’s mostly British ladies, but I think it makes it even more delightful.)

What are your pantries and how do you plan on using them?


6 responses to “The Pantry Challenge Isn’t Just For Pasta”

  1. ::hangs head in shame:: HA! I love this post. I feel like my decluttering mission is never ending. But I did make two more Poshmark sales this week. So that’s a plus. Donation bins going out next month for whatever doesn’t sell!

    Good luck with your journey. Thanks for updating us here.


    1. Everyone’s journey is different, that’s for sure! And your journey has been very inspirational because you’ve come so far! I feel like my journey is a bit boring because I was never at one extreme of consumption/debt, nor do I hope to achieve “true” minimalism. But it’s obviously working and my budget & closet/pantry shows that!

      Hoping now that the days are shorter and the weather is cooler to keep making strides in my closet & finishing crafting projects! Always love to hear your progress as well. 😀


  2. I’m doing a lot of the same! I cycle through one area and do some decluttering each week, usually, so that we don’t have too much piling up in any one place but if I have to skip a few weeks, whoo! It seems like the clutter breeds even when we’re really not buying anything.


  3. My wife is on a huge decluttering kick. She is upstairs right now putting things on ebay to sell.

    We have a pretty good policy of one in and one out when it comes to buying clothes but my wife still thinks she has too much and wants to clean out her closet.


    1. I certainly need to thin my closet a bit more! I had so much stuff hanging outside of it, that I’m only just able to fit everything in there now. (It’s a pretty small closet that I share.) Progress!


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