Am I allowed to “waste” things?


Given my interest in decluttering, today I found myself pondering over a dilemma. At what point is it acceptable to get rid of something which is useful, but which you don’t like? For me, this issue tends to arise particularly around toiletries. At the moment, for example, I’m using some Dove body moisturiser which was given to me as a Christmas present. I don’t particularly like the smell or the texture, but not to the extent that I refuse to use it. More subtly, I don’t enjoy using it. That has a knock-on effect with my moisturising regime, in that it removes an incentive for me. It’s not enough to make me actively procrastinate on moisturising, but if it’s a bit cold when I get out of the bath, or I feel like it’s a bit later than usual, I’m less inclined to bother, and having something unenjoyable to use seems to push me towards skipping it for a day.

Compare that to my current bubble bath, which is marshmallow-scented and which I absolutely love. it becomes a reason to look forward to having a bath. A more accurate comparison might be with my current hand cream. Again, I love the smell of it, so if I’m teetering on the edge of putting cream on, that might just push me over.

Now, body moisturiser is fairly cheap anyway, and this specific one cost me nothing as it’s a present. Therefore, in concrete terms I lose nothing if I throw it away. In opportunity terms, I’ll have to buy a replacement moisturiser sooner, but again, that’s not the kind of expense that’s going to break the bank. If I didn’t like it at all, I could have happily given it to the charity shop unused, and the cost wouldn’t have been an issue in any way. Still, I feel some resistance to throwing it away. Perhaps it’s the waste element. I feel bad that neither I nor anyone else will get any benefit out of the remaining part of the bottle. However, if I take into account the disbenefit to me – the reduction in moisturising regularity – that would seem to outweigh the benefit of using up the rest of the bottle. Environmentally, the unused moisturiser will go in the bin and end up somewhere undesirable. But I suppose that even the used moisturiser gets washed off when I bathe, with the chemicals going down the plughole. So it doesn’t seem to make a big difference to anyone or anything, except in terms of my enjoyment level. Yet I still feel some level of resistance to throwing it out.

I’m sure a professional declutterer would tell me to throw it out if I don’t like it. I suspect an environmentalist would tell me that the damage is already done when the moisturiser is produced, and that I should switch to more eco-friendly products, like soap nuts. I can’t think who would tell me to keep it and use it up, except perhaps an older person with a “waste not want not” attitude carried over from the Second World War and rationing. So how have I internalised this message that I’m giving myself?

It’s an interesting question, and even after writing it all down and giving myself all the logical reasons to get rid, I still feel like “Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow and see how I feel then”. What would you do? Do you know of any uses for half-empty toiletries that I haven’t thought of, and that would mean I could put mine to good use?


October 2015 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • 1 knitting magazine
  • 1 meerkat toy

Given away

  • 4 cloth napkins
  • 1 book
  • 3 mugs
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 sets of dividers in wrappers
  • 2 folders
  • 7 notebooks (one in wrapper, 5 unwrapped but completely brand new)
  • 1 cloth bag
  • 4 unused pens in wrappers
  • 2 lanyards
  • 3 rubber balls
  • 1 set of headphones and carry case

Recycled/used up/thrown away

  • 1 sellotape dispenser my husband brought home from his work
  • Tub of butter which my husband bought and doesn’t like (I don’t eat it)
  • 2 lettuces he bought which are going off
  • Saucepan with broken handle
  • Crumble mix – I think my husband got it off his mum, it’s been in the fridge for over a week, neither of us are going to eat it…
  • 5 hanging files – my husband keeps bringing these home from work. We already have stacks which he doesn’t use so I now have a zero tolerance policy. Until he uses the old ones, any new ones go straight out the door!
  • 6 packets of yeast – out of date and I don’t eat flour anymore
  • 1 pack casserole mix – as above

Total 51 items

Not bad going this month, I got quite a lot done one day at the beginning of the month and that set me up for the rest of the month. It’s not quite two items a day but it’s getting there. We are at a really high clutter point at the moment, my husband has filled up the majority of the rooms in the house with his stuff. We had a gas engineer come to the house, and I was genuinely ashamed to have a stranger see how we live. At the same time, I feel like I don’t have control over my husband’s belongings and the right to just get rid of everything. I’ve asked him to think about getting counselling for his hoarding and he’s said no, so I’m not sure what the next step is from here.

August 2015 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • IPhone 3
  • Magazine

Given away

  • 4 tops
  • 1 pair pyjamas
  • 1 pair socks
  • 1 pair faulty glasses
  • 1 vase
  • 1 plant
  • 1 mini cross-stitch kit
  • 1 dress
  • 1 rolling pin
  • Various writing paper
  • 1 brooch
  • 1 bag

Recycled/used up/thrown away

  • 1 jar of pumpkin jam with mould
  • 4 balls of wool (made a hat for my niece and a cocoon for a friend’s baby)
  • 1 tin of chai tea received as a present
  • Wrapping paper
  • 5 cardboard envelopes
  • 1 carton of pepper (combined with another)


  • unwanted birthday present for a gift card

Total 31 items

May 2015 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • 1 magazine

Given away

  • 1 fan
  • 2 exercise tops
  • 1 pair exercise socks
  • 1 pair exercise trousers
  • 1 pair exercise shorts
  • 1 pair gloves
  • 2 necklaces
  • 3 unused lipbalms
  • 2 hairbands
  • 2 alice bands
  • 2 toiletry bags
  • 1 jumper
  • 1 small tin shaped like a suitcase
  • 1 set of make-up brushes
  • 1 top
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 umbrella
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 tissue holder

Thrown away/recycled/used up

  • 1 pack of straps for Japanese bento boxes
  • 1 she-wee; bought when I was going to try camping with my husband, but it turns out I hate camping
  • 1 belt; it came with a dress I wear but I never wear the belt. I was keeping it so that if I eventually get rid of the dress, the belt could go with it, but now I’ve decided to let them go their separate ways.
  • 4 boxes sanitary products; I switched to a mooncup last year
  • 1 old bottle of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 open packet amaretti biscuits
  • 1 open packet seeds and corn snack
  • 2 tubes of wasabi from 2008!

Total 39 items. This was a steady month, with a total of more than one item per day, which always makes me feel better. One really helpful thing this month was that my husband cleared the living room, and has kept it clear for over two weeks. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to walk past the room and see it looking clear, with space to sit on both the sofas, and no computer equipment on the floor.

September 2014 declutter total

Sold on eBay

  • 1 pair leather gloves
  • 1 tatted brooch
  • 1 Japanese scarf

Weighed in as rags

  • 1 hand-knitted jumper with a sleeve missing
  • 1 vest with a large hole
  • 1 coat with tears along back, sleeves and lining
  • 4 branded work tops

Given to the charity shop

  • 2 towels
  • 1 elephant ornament
  • Assorted plastic bags

Total: 14

I brought in two things this month: a large ball of red wool which was free from a friend, and a cloth bag from a presentation at work. We both use these bags and now that plastic bags are no longer free, I hope we’ll use them all the more. As for the ball of wool, I think I was influenced by having looked at a knitting book full of red patterns. I resisted buying the book but then succumbed to the free wool.

July 2014 declutter total

I was expecting July to be a slow month for decluttering, as I had a major deadline to work on which was taking up most of my time.

Sold on eBay

  • 1 bag
  • 2 patterns
  • 2 Nintendo DS games

Donated to charity shop

  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 pair swimming goggles
  • 1 swimming hat
  • 1 short-sleeve top
  • 1 timer
  • 3 jumpers
  • 1 scarf
  • 3 necklaces
  • 1 nail varnish
  • 3 sets of matching underwear
  • 1 fancy emery board (still in plastic)
  • 1 running jacket with a broken zip
  • 1 mug with matching pottery spoon
  • 1 dress


  • A really old bottle of Angustura bitters
  • Assorted recipe magazines

Total 29 items

Not quite an item a day, but not bad after a few months of big numbers. I find that one stumbling block at the moment is that my husband tends to jump in and fill any spaces which I clear. This means that while I could get rid of more recipe books, for example, if I don’t have something else to go where the recipe books were, then the shelf will get filled with random items which don’t particularly belong in the dining room, so I won’t feel any better off. Does anyone else have this problem and if so, how do you get round it.