Make a Fresh Start – Day 4

Seana holding a free packet of sauce in her mouth.

Welcome back to our month of “Make a Fresh Start.” Few things feel as good as clearing away clutter. It empowers us, and instantly gives our space a feeling of order and calm. Today I am continuing with ideas for starting fresh by challenging you to tackle your collection of “free” items.

A couple of years back I wrote a song about stuff (you can watch it here if you are curious). The chorus of the song reminds us that there actually is a cost to owning things. We are either cleaning them, storing them, insuring them, maintaining them, walking around them, moving them around, digitizing them, or in some other way taking care of them. Free, as it turns out, can be expensive!

Nonetheless, most of us accumulate a lot of free items. Some common “free offenders” are:

  • Phone books
  • Hangers/pins/collar stays from the dry cleaner
  • “Free Gifts” from the makeup counter
  • Toiletries bags from international flights
  • Brochures
  • Children’s clothing “handed down” by a friend or family member
  • T-shirts
  • Company promotional items
  • Inherited clothing/furniture/décor
  • Party/wedding favors
  • “Happy Meal” toys
  • Trophies/awards
  • Prizes
  • Promotional materials
  • “Freebie” food items
  • Greeting cards
  • Address or gift labels
  • Cups/mugs/sports bottles from events or activities
  • Catalogs
  • Chop sticks and plastic ware from take-out meals
  • Packets of ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, etc.

Much of this kind of stuff ends up clogging our drawers and cabinets because we don’t have a designated place where it should go. We tell ourselves, “Well, it was free!” or, “It was such a bargain, I have to keep it.”

As it turns out, the cost of acquisition should have no bearing on whether or not we choose to keep something. Ownership should be reserved for things that are useful or bring us joy. Starting today, and perhaps going forward throughout the month…

  1. Whenever you open a drawer or cabinet and see a freebie item you aren’t using, let it go.
  2. If you bump into furniture you inherited but honestly don’t like, make a plan to move it out.
  3. If someone gave you clothes that you don’t like, donate them.

Anything that is in good enough condition to be used by someone else can be donated. Otherwise, recycle or pitch it.

* * * * *

Keep reminding yourself that “because it was free” is not a good reason to keep anything.

Do you think you can find any freebies to shed?

26 thoughts on “Make a Fresh Start – Day 4”

  1. Playing a bit of catchup as I took off over the holidays from work. But while I was off we actually did some spring (or winter) cleaning. And we went through our kitchen junk drawers. Totally just purged quite a few of what you mentioned above. Felt good, but will also keep your advice above in mind for the future as we begin to accumulate again. Thanks and Happy New Year!!

    1. The kitchen is one of the BEST rooms to find some freebies to pitch. If I could leave a GIF of my cheering you on in this comment box, I would. Way to go! Happy New Year friend!

  2. Great advice, Seana! Many of my clients get sucked up in the Buy one get one Free campaigns at stores. I ask them to buy only what they know they can use and disregard the rest – even though it feels like a bargain, it is clogging up the drawers or pantry shelves. I’m loving your posts each day!

    1. Those “free ones,” if unopened, make wonderful donations. I read that idea on one of the blogger’s sites to get the free one, but then put it immediately into a donate locations. Great tip at the grocery store as well, as many now have collection bins at the store so you can drop it off on your way out at no extra cost to you!

  3. My parents lived in Las Vegas, – the land of casino giveaways. You can’t imagine how much free stuff I got over the years. Yes, we kept and used some and a whole lot was donated to make some lucky person very happy. The key is to *quickly* assess if it’s a keeper to be used or needs to be donated for someone else to use.

    1. I completely agree on “quickly.” Don’t let the unwanted stuff get into your drawers and cabinets or it will likely be there for a long time!

  4. Letting go of clutter is so liberating. The “freebies” can be significant contributors, like your fantastic list highlights. As I read it, I asked myself if any of those categories applied to me right now. The first one, phone books, made me laugh. We received a phone book the other day. My husband and I had the conversation immediately, where we questioned if we needed it anymore. Because like many, what do we do when we need to look something up? We “Google it!” So guess what? We recycled the phone book immediately. Most items on the list are not an issue for me. I get make-up freebies, but I keep the ones I use and pass the rest on to family and friends.

    The main takeaway is that free stuff can create clutter, one sample, one yes at a time. So being away BEFORE you bring it home is one part. But if it’s already taking up space, then doing a “freebie clutter check” is a great idea.

    Happy and healthy, 2021, my friend!

    1. I pretty much recycle the phone book right away myself. I think you bring up such a good point with your example: it is easier to decide when the item first appears, rather than to stick it into a drawer or cabinet. Once a freebie enters our storage locations, odds are it will stay there awhile. Better to do that mental evaluation upon entry, and of course, to always have a donation bin and/or trash can ready to receive whatever you decide you do not want.

  5. I think we do. I remember my grandparents used to have a “junk drawer” with all stuff exactly like this! If it got too full, they’d get rid of some, or all of it, and start fresh.
    I always loved that.

    1. As a grandchild, you could probably cull through and take whatever you wanted – how fun! It’s all about keeping those items from taking up precious space, and also from letting them make it difficult to find what you REALLY want.

    1. Wow, I guess I didn’t realize that soy sauce has gluten. That is an extra motivating factor to clear out those freebies. I was just searching our chip drawer and found an old bag of the chips you get with Chinese take-out. Out it goes!

    1. I am so glad that this thought resonates, Janet. It seems to be one we need to keep reminding ourselves of, over and over! Glad you liked the song, it was fun to put it together:)

  6. Seana,

    I’m still chuckling from the “Stuff” song. You should be entered into The Voice competition. That was so brave of you! You did a great job.

    I really liked your list of the things that we tend to collect. When you stop to evaluate, it’s so easy to accumulate and have clutter everywhere. I can add one more. How about shopping bags and ribbon from gifts?

    1. Oh yes, shopping bags and ribbons are two terrific additions! I’m sure the list could go on and on, right Ronni? Thanks for the affirmation on the song. I think I’m old enough not to care too much how I sound. Just finding fun ways to get the message out there:)

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