Shelley wrote in with the following dilemma:
My mother-in-law recently moved to a nursing home. My husband was the primary person to clean out her senior apartment and we have accumulated a lot of junk (her overwhelming QVC purchases) as well as stuff which will save us money (mounds of toilet paper, cleaning supplies etc.)
She had boxes and boxes of regular light bulbs. I had been using our own current supply down to the point where I was ready to start buying the CFLs until this happened. Now, I have at least 2+ years worth of incandescent bulbs in my closet. Do I donate them and go with money saving CFLs or do I save my $ (and yet continue to pay more in energy costs) and use up her supply?
I know this is a pretty minimal issue, but we have received a lot of items that I have this same issue with. Toxic cleaning supplies (instead of the natural ones I use in my home), good towels and linens that will overwhelm my storage closets, shampoos and soaps, stuff like that. By using them I will save money by not buying them for a long time, but storage is becoming an issue.
First of all, let’s look at the light bulbs. Under normal usage, a CFL pays for itself in energy savings in about four months, so putting regular incandescent bulbs into your sockets is simply a bad move.
What should you do with them? If they’re functional, I would give them away to people that would use them. Maybe you have neighbors who use incandescent bulbs – stop by and offer these bulbs to them with the explanation that you cleaned out an apartment and there are way too many for you to keep.
What about the chemicals (cleaning supplies, soaps, shampoos, etc.)? I would go through them, select the ones you will use, then give away the rest in much the same fashion as the bulbs. Even if you don’t wish to use them in your home, they will have to be used or disposed of in some fashion, so find a place for them.
As for the items that are non-perishable and might have value (linens, towels, etc.), I would again save what I could potentially use, then donate the rest to Goodwill or a similar store and get a receipt which you can then use on your taxes. I would probably do similar things with much of the QVC stuff, depending on what it is.
I would strongly recommend not loading up your storage with stuff that you probably won’t use – or won’t use for a very long time.
Frugality isn’t about buying what’s cheapest, it’s about finding ways to maximize every penny and also simplify your life. These items have no value to you – you can’t (or don’t wish to) use them, so find a place where they will be used and where you might potentially get some benefit as well – good neighbor relations, some tax deductions, and perhaps a bit of cash if some of the QVC stuff can be re-sold.