Minimalism Myths: Just in Case Items are Bad

"Minimalism Myths: Just in Case Items are bad for Minimalists" overlaid on white rectangles on a photograph of an entryway to a bedroom.

In this part of Minimalism Myths, we talking all about “just in case” items. All minimalists think just in case items are bad. Right?! Yes and no. It is true those just in case items can clutter up your home, but it’s also good to be prepared… just not for every single scenario!

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Minimalism Myths: Just in Case Items Are Bad

What is a just in case item?

Just in case items can look like:

  • An extra pair of tennis shoes in case you need to do dirty yard work
  • Clothing in multiple sizes in case your weight fluctuates
  • Crafting supplies for projects you might want to complete
  • Multiple pairs of pants just in case your favorites rip
  • OTC medications and first aid supplies even if you aren’t accident prone
  • Worn out items that you could repurpose
  • Items you’ve decluttered but might want to sell

Just in case items are items you keep for hypothetical situations (like maybe one day repurposing things to resell them or if you get invited to a fancy dinner party). It’s also items you keep for real-life (like running out of pain reliever but you have a headache or plates for when you have guests over).

Evaluating what your real life actually looks like will be a great determining factor if an item is a “just in case” item you should or could keep.

Just in case items for hypothetical scenarios

If you ask a minimalist if you should keep a fancy dress because you might one day go to a dinner party that requires something of this grandeur… you’ll likely get a resounding “no”. Because really, how many times in the last five years have you gone to a fancy event?

Hypothetical scenarios are based on possible ideas or situations rather than real life ones.

If fancy dinner parties are currently a part of your life, then fancy attire may be warranted. But if you’re hoping that this one day might be you, you likely don’t need to hold onto that dress.

What if…

“But what if a special occasion like a wedding comes up?”

Life events happen as they are a part of… life. We don’t need special outfits for those occasions! Dressing with what you already own works out well in most scenarios. For most of life’s situations, simple pieces can be combined and layered with accessories to make them appropriate. Like my Wool& dress I wore for 100 days – it was so versatile that I could have worn it anywhere!

This can be applied to most hypothetical situations.

What if my decor style changes?
That thing that’s broken can totally be fixed or repurposed… one day!
I will totally get around to that craft project! (guilty)
What if I gain or lose weight?
Don’t I need lots of options so I don’t wear out my favorite?

Part of minimalism is using up what you have first and getting rid of the excess. If a project has been on your to-do list for far too long, make the deadline within the next week. If you don’t get it done, it’s time to let it go. Same for clothing and other home items. Make it a point to use it within the next week (exception being seasonal clothing and items when they’re not currently in season). If you can’t or don’t want to, doesn’t that mean you should let go of that just in case item?

Helpful Reading >>>

Just in case items for real life

It would be silly for me to buy a new bottle of pain reliever every time I have a headache. I keep the remainder of the bottle just in case I have a headache in the future, which is likely to happen.

There are loads of different “rules” on the Internet about what you should keep and what you should let go. As a frugal minimalist, my rules or boundaries are centered around the financial cost of keeping or letting go of a just in case item.

First let’s determine if your item is for a hypothetical situation or for real life.

Not sure if your item is a hypothetical or real life just in case item?

There is a big difference between hypothetical situations and situations that are likely to occur in real life. Let’s take two categories of just in case items: craft supplies and over the counter medications.

Craft Supplies

I have spent the majority of my adult life as a Pinterest user. Therefore, I am no stranger to what looks like a very simple DIY that could also turn out really wrong. (PS: if you search on my blog hard enough you’ll find some of these!) I amassed quite a craft supply stash before our son was born. Even though I knew I was the person that accidentally hot glues their phone to poster board (true story), I thought that I would “one day” get to all these Pinterest projects that I just had to do.

While I do enjoy crafting, I have to be “in the mood” (well-caffeinated) to accomplish anything craft related and have it turn out okay-ish. That mood doesn’t happen very often! So if I have a closet full of crafty things, shouldn’t I make crafting a part of my life?

My craft supplies were part of my hypothetical life. I would love to be a Pinterest crafty mom but that’s just not me. If that’s you – great! But for me, holding onto dozen of different types of supplies and paints didn’t serve me in my real life. I was keeping these items just in case I wanted to make something.

Now my main crafty passion is sewing. I sold handmade cloth napkins in a local store and in local craft fairs. These days, I like to make things I’ll actually use (more cloth napkins) and things for others. I do keep fabric on hand (mostly inherited from my Grandmother) and I’m working to whittle down my stash.

In my hypothetically very crafty situation turned to “crafty on occasion”, I now have just enough supplies that I can whip up a gift, mend a shirt, complete a school project, or hem pants on the spot. This amount of supplies makes sense for my current life – not a hypothetical one.

Over the counter medication

Let’s be clear – I’m not a medical professional, so ask you doctor or pharmacist if you have questions. However, if the label says it’s expired – it’s probably best to toss it out (safely). It’s also probably safe to say that you don’t need to keep your house stocked on OTC medications so that your pantry looks like a Walgreens.

OTC medications that we like to keep on hand include:

  • Pain reliever (acetaminphen, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Bain-Aids (the jumbo variety pack because we’re all accident prone over here)
  • Neosporin
  • Thermometer
  • Tummy trouble meds (Pepto, Tums)
  • Dramamine
  • Allergy Medicine/Itch relief lotions/Bug Bite Thing

There are a few one-off medicines or remedies like ear drops or eye drops that we need on occasion, but we only purchase them when we need them.

Things like headaches, scrapes, the flu, and other illnesses we could pick up at work or school happen often enough to warrant a *small* medicine cabinet for us. Because I know if I purchased a lesser used medication, like swimmer’s ear drops, we would use them once and they’d go bad. Or I would try to stock our cabinet with every type of pain reliever *just in case*, and it would like expire before we could use it all.

My mindset on keeping medications just in case or purchasing medications just in case is “If I needed this, would I feel good enough to go to the store to get it?” or “Do I use this regularly enough to warrant purchasing a whole container of it?”. For the items on the list above – I absolutely keep those “just in case” because it actually makes my life a bit easier being able to use something I need right away.

But if I don’t have a spare just in case, won’t I ruin my favorite [fill in the blank]?

We all have our favorite things to use and wear. And it’s true: our favorite things will eventually wear out. That shouldn’t keep you from using it.

For example, I have one brand of dress that I love. One. They’re high quality merino wool, well constructed, and a little on the expensive side. But I wear one of them every single day! I let go of the dresses that didn’t suit me or I didn’t love and held onto my luxurious feeling wool dresses. I literally get to wear my favorite thing everyday. If I didn’t allow myself to wear my favorite thing in fear of it wearing out, I would miss out on feeling good wearing it as often as I could.

There are certainly ways to make your clothing (and other possessions) last longer. Taking care of your favorite things makes you appreciate them more and will help you let go of those “just in case… really not my favorite” things.

But what if your favorite thing wears out beyond use? Then rebuy it or find a replacement that is the same caliber as the one you are discarding.

So just in case items are… okay?

Just in case items are absolutely okay! Make sure that keeping those just in case items suits your current life. If it isn’t within reason that you would use that item in the next six month or the next time that season comes around, it is safe to say you can let go.

Frugal minimalism for us is about have our favorite, daily use items and then items for just in case scenarios – getting sick, missing laundry day, hosting a birthday party/wedding/gender reveal all in the same day (yes, that’s a real life example!). Having those items on hand saves us money and time, but having too many just in case items would cause us stress and waste our time as we “stuff shuffled” and cleaned around it.

So keep what you need and want, but don’t get crazy 🙂

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