Managing the Consumables

This post is in response to reader Beatrice’s request for ideas on what to do about stationary and plastic bags and how to keep them to a manageable state.

I have two (how simple is that?) strategies.

First: do not invite unneeded objects into your home, even if they are free.
I do not use plastic bags. I carry my reusable shopping bags in my car at all times. If I am going on a walking shopping trip, I get them out of the car. Here are three of them.
2014-04-28 07.21.02
If I am just buying one item, I tell the cashier that I do not want a bag. Often times, I get a 5 cent discount for not using a plastic bag.
I do not take free items at conferences, unless it is a pen for this same reason.

Second: If it is an object that we do use, I just obtain enough for a preset period of time. Number 2 pencils? They are on sale in August and I buy a package or two for the year. Here they are in the desk drawer, along with enough tape for the year and enough staples for a decade.
2014-04-23 16.20.31
Stationary? Same strategies….reduce the variety of what is needed and keep just a reasonably small amount. I have one box of business envelopes, one and a half packages of printer paper, a partial package of blank note cards.
2014-04-28 07.03.23

I like the blank note cards, as I can draw a quick picture on the front and make it a birthday card, a get well card, a Valentine card. Personalized and frugal.

If you live a two-hour jeep ride from your store, you will need to stock up more than this. I’m a ten minute walk from a 24 hour pharmacy/department store. I can let them store my inventory.

13 thoughts on “Managing the Consumables

  1. Jane says:

    Thank you so much for showing this to me! What a brilliant idea of buying blank cards, and decorating them for the occasion. That is going to save me so much work in the future.

    I wanted to let you know, I sent you an email a while back. My husband and I have been actively downsizing for 3 years and 4 months, but I just feel so stuck. I’d love to hear any tricks you’d have to offer to get us motivated to continue.

    Thank you so much for letting us into your life and for sharing us ‘the minimalist way!’ =)


  2. Diane says:

    I’d like to know what people use for their garbage. I always get plastic bags at my grocery store (5 cents each is cheaper than buying non-brand kitchen catchers) and reuse them for garbage. I recycle everything I can but can’t compost because I live in a condo, so what do others use for garbage?


  3. Fawn says:

    Diane–good question. I do buy plastic kitchen-sized trash bags at Aldi–I’ll do some research on the cost of them and follow up. Even with four people living here, we only use about one per week. We do recycle everything allowed and compost. Mostly what we throw away is the plastic wrapping that food comes in, and that doesn’t take up that much space. [edited to add: 4.99 for 80 trashbags, with tax that comes to 6.7 cents/bag.]


    • Diane says:

      When I retire I’ll be buying a house (mainly so I can have a dog and a large garden), so I’ll be able to compost then and probably will only fill one plastic garbage bag per month!


  4. Patricia says:

    After reading, I cleaned out the desk drawer immediately and it looks so much better with lots of free space. Fawn, I love the idea of using nice blank cards for every occasion .


      • Béatrice says:

        I like it a lot as well! It is so expressive. I did not think it was yours because in that case I though there would be 1-2 chicks more 😉 otherwise, the mother bluebird is totally you as she looks much more as a “gardener parent” than a “potter parent” 😀


  5. Tatiana says:

    Oh! I like the birds very much! I’m delighted to know that this drawing is yours! Thank you for telling about storing your stationery. I can’t say it is minimalism itself (so many pencils!), but your drawer’s so neat and your shelf has enough free space. The idea of using cloth bags for shopping is also great. Actually I use plastic bags, but the same bags for a long time; I buy a new one when the previous one’s really dead. But I use lots of plastic bags to wrap food, and this is a problem! May be I should buy more plastic containers to store food in the fridge? I saw in one of your posts about kitchen stuff a plenty of food containers of different shapes and sizes.


    • Fawn says:

      Well, the pencils are not mine, they are the kids. If I’m doing a crossword puzzle, I favor a mechanical pencil. If you are reusing your plastic bags then they would fall under the strategy of “keep a preset amount.” I would not recommend wrapping food in plastic bags. Some of the plastics leach into food and play havoc with the body’s hormones.


  6. Béatrice says:

    About the cost of trash bags versus the bags sold at grocery stores: where I live, if you buy a bag where you shop, it will cost you about 40 cents. that’s much more expensive than buying trash bags for about 10 cents. My problem is that, since I don’t have a car and I don’t always plan my shopping (I usually shop on my way home from work) I need to carry a reusable bag all the time with me. I solved that by using a foldable bag that I could even carry in my pocket (like this one – I am not advertising here, it is not even the one I use, it is just to give you an idea).
    My ultimate goal is to buy biodegradable trash bags, but they are a lot more expensive, so I have not made up my mind yet if my environmental conciousness is more important that my love for frugality.
    However, for some reason, I still feel the need to “hoard” a pretty large number of used plastic bags “just in case” I would need them. I really need to ask myself why, to sit down and reflect about it because it is just a hassle to keep them organized, to store them etc….I feel so stupid to let that take energy and time from me!


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