Frugal Family


The 80-20 rule. On average only 20% of household items are used. The remaining 80% hangs around gathering dust.

So, it’s pretty set in stone that we shall be moving within the next few weeks. The house we are going to has a much bigger garden but the house is slightly smaller. In the 2 years that we have lived in our current home we have collected quite a lot of useless crap. Possessions just seem to breed, and hide in every corner of our home. I am also a self confessed hoarder for memories sake, keeping every item of clothing or each toy that holds a special memory of good times. But, we have learnt that it’s just not practical to take everything with us. The house move has to be done as cheaply and as quickly as possible, with no big removal vans to hire and all completed in one day. But even if we weren’t moving house, a serious declutter was definitely needed anyway.

Have you decided that enough is enough? Maybe you are sick of constantly tripping over toys, or having piles of unworn clothes cluttering every surface in your bedroom. What are you holding onto this stuff for? Memories? Or maybe you just think you might need certain things one day, but that day may never arrive? With a clear house and minimal possessions, your stress levels shall decrease and you wont spend so long dusting your home. Learning to live with less shall eventually lead to living a much cheaper life. You won’t feel the need to buy every gadget on the market, you will wear your most cherished clothes more often and you’ll soon discover that if something is broken and can be fixed you will try your hardest to fix it.

Reducing the living room

  • Is a 60 inch TV necessary? Truthfully, no. Go for a smaller telly, it takes up less room and costs less to run.
  • Does the coffee table serve its purpose for being a place to sit your cuppa or does it just gather junk paper, toys or dust? If you’re anything like myself I am too scared to place a cup of coffee on the table for fear of my children burning themselves. Instead the kids just leave their drawings all over it, and it gathers sticky hand prints. When we move the coffee table isn’t coming with us. Instead it will be cut up for fire wood as it really is not nice enough to pass on to anyone any more.
  • Ornaments, ornaments and more ornaments… and the odd dusty candle. It’s all stuff you have to dust and just because your nan gave you that blown glass ashtray-come-odds-n-ends-holder, it probably isn’t worth anything other than a brief memory. Do you honestly love it or is it just there because you’d feel bad giving it to the charity shop? Have a serious think, and if it’s the latter it may be time to say goodbye.
  • DVD’s appear to multiply like crazy. Most of us now have Netflix (or similar) accounts, so most films can now be found online at the touch of a button and streamed onto our TV’s. If they haven’t been watched in a year, or you know you won’t be watching it again, pass it on to someone else or make a few quid by selling it onto one of those online swap-shop type sites.
  • I’m terrible for collecting books. If I borrow a book, read it and love it I will then go out and buy the darned thing just to display it on my shelf like a crazed badge of honour. I like reference books for gardening, but novels and autobiographies can be easily picked up from the library. One of the best bits of tech I gained was my kindle. It’s tiny and holds thousands of books (most of all were free too, because there are always free books to be grabbed via Amazon). I’ve learned that while books look superb on the shelf, they really don’t need to sit around gathering dust. Most charity shops are inundated with books so have a look at the Amazon Trade-in option, and create some cash back. Or donate them to the local hospital or book-swap group. And if you don’t have a local book-swap create one!

Reducing the kitchen

  • 3 potato peelers, 2 bottle openers, 25 tea spoons and 50 million takeaway tubs (or at least it feels that many) are not needed. 1 potato peeler, 1 bottle opener, 4 tea spoons and 5 tubs is about right for my family of 5. I wash up several times a day, so I really do not need so much cutlery. Takeaway tubs are a nightmare, and while you may think you need lots of them, the chances are you don’t. When will you ever cook so much food that you need that many tubs? And where will you store it, before it goes off? The fridge soon becomes cluttered and food goes off. Only cook what you need and food won’t be wasted.
  • Think about what gadgets you use. Some stuff is really useful, but a lot of gadgets you buy on a ‘wow-what-a-great-idea’ whim will be used once, then never again… or at least not for the next year or 2. Kitchen things easily gather dust and grease and become a sticky mess before they are next needed. I own a garlic crusher, and I honestly can’t remember the last time it was used. I tend to use dried garlic these days, or just crush a clove with a knife. When I get around to sorting the utensil draw, it’s going.
  • Microwave… seriously. Ours went. We only used it for heating bottles (tut tut) and blitzing food on a rare occasion. It took up space, it needed cleaning and it just annoyed me. Now if something needs heating I just chuck it into a pan. I have vowed never to own a dishwasher for as long as my hands work. This stuff costs money to run and maintain. And unexpectedly, we don’t even miss these items.
  • I thoroughly believe that baking and cooking from scratch should be the main focus of the kitchen. Children can learn so much about science, maths and homemaking through simple cooking. With baking comes utensils. So many cake tins of different sizes, cookie cutters in every shape, letter and number. But how many times has that dinosaur cutter or number 1 cake tin come in use? Pass them on to friends or even local schools (nursery kids love cutting out playdoh with dinosaur cutters FYI). You only really need the basic trays and cutters and if a party pops up where you need a special shape or size tin, put out a ‘wanted’ on your Facebook page. I bet at least one of your mates has it and can lend it to you.

Reducing the Bathroom

  • How many razors do you need? How many moisturisers? How much make-up is sat at the bottom of your make-up bag being unused? We had loads of lotions and potions that had been opened once or twice, and never used again. Most were binned as you can’t really pass on opened cosmetics, but do ask your mates first because you never know. Open a beauty item, use it until it’s gone then buy another. Don’t stock pile for ‘another day’, unless it works out thrifty, such as buying bulk loo roll. We don’t buy toilet roll any more, instead we make our own reusable toilet paper, but this is for a money saving reason more than anything.
  • We seemed to gather loads of towels. Which is strange because I don’t actually remember buying any. Keep a big towel for each person (even if you do share each others) and a couple of small towels for hair etc. I like a hand towel in each toilet, and one spare for when I’m doing the laundry.
  • Bathroom cleaning items also build up. If you don’t have the option or patience to make your own, remember that bleach is good for everything. Its nice to own a special shower spritzer and a purposely created toilet cleaner but bleach really does all round cleaning wonderfully. One bottle for lots of jobs, rather than lots of bottles for just a few jobs.

Reducing the bedroom

  • Bedding is addictive to buy. You spot so many patterns and colours it can be hard to resist splashing the cash. But in all honesty you only need 2 nice bed sets. One to wear on the bed while the other is being washed. You can still have pretty cushions but bed sets take up space in the airing cupboards and we always seem to end up with odd pillowcases. Donate old bed sets to animal shelters, or cut them up to make a rag rug or draught excluder.
  • Clothes take up so much space. I’m now playing the ‘6 months game’. I turn all of our hangars one way, each time I take an outfit to wear I turn the hangar the other way to show myself that I’ve worn it. If after 6 months there are any clothes that haven’t been worn I donate them to charity. I do keep 2 really decent dresses for special occasions though.
  • Clear out your bedside draws. Condoms 2 years out of date tucked in a box? Yeah, they are definitely no good for anything. Shopping receipts, pens, and unclaimed charging wires that you have no idea of their purpose. A place for everything and everything in it’s place my dear old nan used to say. If it’s been chucked in a draw, and not touched for the last year or 2 it really isn’t needed any longer. Get nice tidy draws for stuff you need and use regularly, plus it saves time finding the items you do need when rummaging through the stuff that you really don’t.
  • There is scientific proof that the more electronic devises you have in your bedroom the more likely you are to suffer from broken sleep or even worse, insomnia. Your bedroom should be for sleeping only and as a safe sanctuary to wind down and develop your bedtime routine. Get rid of the TV (save that for downstairs time), ditch the games console (take that downstairs too… but only if its played. If it isn’t, you know what I would suggest doing with it, by now) and keep iPads and phones at minimum use and for downstairs only. Same goes for children and their bedrooms.

And as for the rest…

  • Garages, cupboards and outhouses are the perfect place for practicing the ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ rule. There may be lots of items hidden away that you forgot you had, and if you forgot you had it, there is a near certainty that you don’t need it in your life.
  • Babies grow up, and if you know you don’t want to extend your family any further it’s time to clear out those tiny baby clothes. I’ve just done this and I did cry… a lot. So many memories were held in those tiny items, but there are more babies in the world that can wear them and create more memories for other new parents.  I have photos of the kids in those special clothes that I can always look back on and reminisce. Baby bouncers, walkers and breast pumps all hold the same rule. If you are not interested in making money from those items, stick them onto Freecycle and give another family a helping hand.
  • Garden tools, plastic plant pots and garden toys quickly gather cobwebs in the shed and turn to rust.  If you no longer use them, because you have no need for 3 garden forks (etc etc) donate them to local community gardening clubs or allotments.

I know this post may read samey-samey, if you don’t need it get rid of it, but the more you think about the stuff you own, the more you realise what is really sat being unused. It’s not just about minimalizing, but also about clearing space in your life for other things and also giving to others those items which you no longer use. It’s nice to give to others. It teaches children a valuable lesson in life, and gives you something to smile about too.


Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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