Use-It-Up Challenge

The Use It Up challenge isn’t, on the face of it, about money. Sure, everything around here is kind of about money, and the money-saving part does happen, but the focus is on extending the lifespan and usefulness of things we bring into our lives and homes so as not to just mindlessly consume and buy and consume and buy in a never-ending cycle of habitual consumerism and brokeness.

The challenge has two main parts:

1) Use the very last of things you already have, and

2) find new uses for things you would normally throw away.

{{There is also a super-secret third part to this challenge, which I will share with you now because you are listening so closely: 3) don’t become a hoarder. This step is kinda hard because if you follow the tips below you may well end up with about a million crappy little plastic containers, none of which are the same size so not at all stackable, screwing up your kitchen feng shui and tumbling out on you each time you open that cabinet.}}

USE THE VERY LAST, examples:

  • Cut open the toothpaste tube to get the very last bits out.
  • Water down the shampoo, conditioner, body wash, laundry soap, dish soap (really anything that comes in a bottle) to get the very last bits.
  • Use those little haircare and lotion bottles that you know you take from hotels and have a tub of somewhere.
  • Use a little spatula to get the last of the peanut butter (I’ve done this and it yielded about 2 Tbsp of PB!).
  • Put the last 1/4 cup of rice, lentils, macaroni, or whatever into your “freezer soup surprise.”
  • Cook the meat in your freezer before buying anything new. Thanks to decent meat sales this Oct-Dec, we currently have enough stockpiled in our meat freezer to survive a low-scale and short-lived zombie apocalypse.

FIND NEW USES, examples:

  • Before you throw away, donate, or recycle something, ask yourself: can I get more use out of this thing?
  • Keep and reuse plastic forks and such if you end up with them.
  • Keep plastic containers (sour cream, butter, cottage cheese, etc.) and use to store or pack leftovers for lunch.
  • Or use those containers for nails, screws, twist-ties or whatever in the garage. Or for pompoms, googley eyes, and other craft supplies for the kids. Or save them out in the shed or garage to plant seeds in come March — they make great seed starting cups!
  • Turn worn-out shirts (flannel works great) into “unpaper towels.” Cut around whatever nasty stain you’ve managed to inflict, then sew into rectangles roughly the size of a half-sheet paper towel, then stack up next to the sink for drying hands.
  • Turn worn-out sweaters into scarves, cowels, and leg warmers. You just need to be able to sew a semi-straight line.
  • You shouldn’t be going to Starbucks during January if you’re doing a no-spend month, but if you somehow find yourself in possession of a paper coffee cup, just use it until it wears out. I can typically get another 4-5 uses out of these before they start falling apart and leaking.

DON’T BE A HOARDER, examples:

  • You probably don’t need more than 5 or 6 plastic containers and 5 or 6 plastic spoons/forks etc. (unless you’re saving containers for a mass usage, like seed starting for your garden). Take a couple to work and recycle the rest.
  • You probably don’t need more than 2 or 3 paper coffee cups that are halfway falling apart. Take one to work and recycle the rest.

The Use-It-Up Challenge is a great way to refocus our energy away from what we want, need, or don’t have, toward what we already have. It also sparks our creativity and ability to Make Do.

I like to run this challenge concurrently with a 30-day Fiscal Fast challenge, because they work so well together.

Do you have any awesome ways to use it all up? Please share in the comments! I’m always ALWAYS looking for ways to be better at this!

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