The joy of using things up is important in our journey of frugal minimalism (frugality pairs exceptionally well with minimalism). Using items until they have nothing left to give allows us the opportunity to fully experience each item. Because if we tire of an item quickly or buy new things frequently, would we still be able to experience the benefits of each item and fully use them? Probably not. While this mostly applies to consumable products (think lotion, toothpaste, food, etc.), the same can be said for clothing, kitchen wares, electronics, cars, and other consumer goods.
There comes a certain satisfaction when I use something up. Like a tube of toothpaste. We squeeze out every smidgen of paste that we can before we toss the tube. Do I have to roll up the end and press down the tube to get it out? Yep. But eeking out that last little bit brings me great joy. But why? When I use a product to it’s fullest – personal care items, food, clothing, other consumer goods – I know that something useful isn’t going to the landfill. I also save money because I use things up rather than tossing them when I tire of them or when it’s tough to get the product out. And if there are three things I love the most, it’s saving money, reducing my waste, and having a clutter free home.
Why bother using things up?
When you use something up, you use it until it has nothing left to give. Squeezing every last bit of life out of something like lotion, toothpaste, and other body care products can bring you satisfaction knowing that you “completed” something. Other benefits of using things up include:
- Saving money
- Reducing waste
- Less clutter
Those three benefits sure sound great to me! I save money by using a product completely rather than tossing it when it’s almost gone or hard to get out of the container. A reduction in waste happens because you aren’t throwing away perfectly good product. And less clutter comes into your home because you use something up before you buy anything new. Say good-bye to that cabinet full of half used products!
Using things up can curb impulse purchases
Have you ever found yourself wondering through the aisles of a mega store looking for something to purchase? Maybe it is to try it out, maybe it’s because you aren’t happy with what you already have, or perhaps shopping makes you feel better. Whatever your reason for casually shopping, you can curb your impulse purchases by asking a simple question:
Have I used up what I already own?
If the answer is no, then move along.
If yes, then dig a little deeper.
- Did you like the product that you used and would you re-buy it?
- Are you ready to try something new?
- Do you actually need to replace what you used up?
For more on curbing impulse purchases, these nine questions that help you decide if you really need that item in your life.
Think about your next purchase
It’s important to curb impulse shopping (more on that HERE). When you are at the end of your product’s life, you have the opportunity to think about your next purchase. Are you going to replace that item with the exact same thing? Or are you going to find something better?
Thinking about and planning your next purchase allows you to find the best deal if you goal is to save money. It also allows you the opportunity to find the item locally or a locally made option if you like the idea of using something more sustainable (and supporting a small business!). When you plan out future purchases, you are more likely to buy something that you will love rather than something “just to try out”.
An example of this is my soap. A few years ago, I was running out of body wash and had just learned from my dermatologist that my highly fragranced body wash was causing my skin to break out in rashes. I needed to find something different. We found a local Oklahoma soap maker and purchased five bars of their soap. It has far less ingredients than manufactured body wash and a lot less packaging. Lo and behold, my skin no longer had a bad reaction and I’ll never go back to store bought body wash. Another benefit is that bar soap lasts much longer than a bottle of body wash.
Because I had the opportunity to look for something I actually needed instead of impulse purchasing something new, I supported a small business, did my body some good, saved money, and reduced my waste all in one go!
Get to know what you actually like
If you only half-use things, do you know if you really like it?
Like my soap situation, because I used up all of my body wash and other soaps, I knew that I did not like them. And because I knew that I truly didn’t like these products, I now know to never purchase them again. But what if I only half-used them? The likelihood of me purchasing that same half-used product is pretty high – because I didn’t really know if I like it or not.
Once you become accustomed to using things up, you find what you truly like. When you find what you like, you won’t waste your time, money, or space on things you don’t need or want.
Indulge in the sense of accomplishment
When I finally get to throw away the completely empty tube of toothpaste, bottle of lotion, or whatever it may be, I feel very accomplished. I believe that this sense of accomplishment comes from getting my money’s worth out of a product, but also sticking with the same thing until the end.
Using things up gives you that sense of accomplishment because you’ve reached the end of the product’s useful life. That’s the finish line. Almost like you won a prize for finishing the race… except you just intentionally used a product.
While this sounds corny, this sense of accomplishment, think of how your feel when you throw away what once was something perfectly good. That tube of foundation that you opened two years ago, a bottle of honey now crystalized, lotions are perfumes that don’t smell good anymore… It sucks when you throw it away! Because you could have used it up and found joy in it before it went bad. If it just wasn’t to your liking, offering it for free on your local Buy Nothing Group keeps it out of the landfill and saves someone else money.
Using up everything
Writing this post, I immediately began to think of all the consumable products (lotion, soap, etc.) that we use on a daily basis. But what I didn’t think of at first was literally everything else in our house.
Everything you own has a lifespan – whether it gets used to its fullest is up to you.
Clothing, luggage, cookery, furniture, lights, décor, cell phones, computers, electrical cables, cars, outdoor equipment, and the list could go on. All the things that you buy, intentionally or not, have a lifespan. It is up to you to take care of it and use it during this time.
Clothing as an example for using non-consumable products up
As an example, let’s take a peek at the dress I’m wearing for 100 days in a row. I purchased this garment knowing that I would get loads of use out of it. At the time of writing, I’ve worn this dress for the last 78 days. Even at this point, I’ve gotten far more use out of this garment than the average person.
According to a study completed in 2015, each person acquires 68 pieces of clothing annual. Yet, on average, each piece is only worn 7 times before being discarded (in China, the average wear is only 3). This number doesn’t surprise me. Many people have closets so packed that clothing flows into other areas of the home. Because so many new pieces are acquired year after year, the average wear for each item goes down. There are only so many days in a year!
The average lifespan for clothing ranges from 1 year to 5 years. Natural fibers last longer than synthetics. The more you launder the garments, the faster they wear out (see more on making clothes last longer HERE).
If you have lots of clothing with lots of life left, consider decluttering your closet down to your favorites so that everything gets used like it should! Donate or sell the rest.
Having (and being happy with) enough
We are very privileged to say that we have enough of everything in our lives. Food, clothing, shelter, and other consumer goods. However, I can vividly remember a time when that wasn’t enough, but I was over-consuming.
The Diderot Effect happens when we acquire something new, say a new phone, and immediately all of our existing things feel a little less wonderful and bring us less joy. So to go along with this new phone, you buy a phone case, extended charging cable, wireless headphones, and everything else to replace what you used with your old phone. But soon, you notice that the resolution on your laptop isn’t what it used to be, and you start to plan to purchase a new one. The list could go on from here of what feels a little less awesome now that you have your new phone and accessories.
Diderot was correct to state that the process of new consumption (purchasing new things) will lead to spiraling consumption. This spiraling, over-consumption of goods is what puts people into debt and completely cluttered house, and perhaps leaves them less happy than they were before.
When we experience the joy of using things up, we don’t fall victim to always wanting more. The intentionality behind using something to its fullest brings a certain joy and tells our brain “I have enough”. Not giving in to our consumer driven world allows us to find joy in simpler things, connect with family and friends better, and find hobbies and activities that bring us happiness.
Hey Amanda, great article 👍 As someone on a minimalist journey for the past five years, now I know I am actually an eco minimalist after reading your article! More power to us.
Great article to a fellow Oklahoman. Would love to know the name of the local soap. From a girl that grew up in devout poverty to one who now lives in affluance, I have loved my minimalist journey. I too use everything to its fullest. I even cut off the ends of my tubes of body cream to swipe out any that I cannot squeeze out. Once again the first entry of my daily gratitude journal is EFT (enough for today).
I love that sentiment “enough for today”! It’s an amazing lens to look through.
This is the soap company (https://www.tallgrassprairiesoap.com/). I’m not sure if they still do craft shows in person or not. And if you’re local to NE OK, Farm Hippie has a soap vendor that is equally amazing!
Thanks for the soap name. From reading some of your other articles, I live in the Tulsa area as well.