Extras, Extras, Read all about Them

Just so you all don’t think I’m advocating some kind of impossible austerity from that last “Just One” post, I’d like to talk about having extras!

There are some good reasons to have extras of things:

  • It’s something you use regularly
  • It’s something that gets used up
  • It won’t go bad or expire before it gets used
  • It’s less expensive overall to buy many of something at a time

And finally, it needs to be stored effectively:

  • It fits easily into the storage space
  • It’s accessible enough for how often and immediately you need it
  • You’re consistent about putting it away in the same place


So, for instance, here’s what we regularly buy in bulk from Costco:

  • Toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues (we use cloth napkins, or we’d buy those there too)
  • Boxes of chicken stock
  • Cans of tuna
  • Multi-packs of organic ground beef, chicken breasts or thighs (we freeze these and cut off a pack as needed)
  • Cleaning products that we use all the time (floor cleaner, scouring powder, dishwashing detergent, etc.)
  • Pet food and kitty litter
  • Toiletries that we know we like and will get used up (shave gel, shampoo, soap)

It’s tempting to buy lots of extra frozen food to have on hand for emergencies, but in my experience at my own house and with clients, the food in the freezer doesn’t stay on our radar very well after the door is shut. And even with two freezers, a Costco run can easily leave them overstuffed.¬†We keep a (mostly accurate) running list of what’s in the basement chest freezer, and when cooking, we often make an effort to incorporate stuff in the freezer that has been there a while. (I really need to use up those bags of cranberries from two autumns ago, but it requires some creativity to go beyond muffins or sauce.)

Another category of extras is items that need to be represented in more than one place at a time. For instance, here are some of mine:

  • Flashlights (in each bedroom, plus bathroom, kitchen, and basement)
  • Lint rollers (with two cats and a dog, I keep one in bedroom, one in front hall, and one in car)
  • Eyeglass cleaning cloth/sprays (one in desk, one in purse, one in bathroom)
  • Duplicate cleaning supplies for different bathrooms, plus kitchen
  • Water glasses (one in my bedroom, one in kitchen, one in bathroom)
  • Cat toys (yes, they are strewn all over the floors, but they have baskets both in my bedroom and in the living room in which they can be put away)
  • Clocks
  • I don’t need these yet, but many people need reading glasses in more than one place

The important thing with these sorts of extras is that you always know where to find them, in whatever room you’re in. I keep my kitchen water glass on the windowsill above the sink. The front hallway lint roller is in the drawer with the hats/mittens or sunblock/picnic blanket. And when we run out, the item is replaced in the same spot.

A common reason clients tell me that they keep extras of something is that they keep losing them. That can’t end well. If it were only one type of item, like reading glasses, that might work okay. In an otherwise tidy and organized house, keeping several pairs of glasses scattered around makes it likely that you could find a pair in any room at any time. But what happens when there are extra glasses, umbrellas, pens, nail files, pads of paper, scissors, AND cat brushes? Then things are much more likely to get lost amid the clutter, and having extras make things more difficult, not easier.

You probably have only one set of everyday keys. You may sometimes have difficulty finding them in your home, but you eventually do. This is because they’re important and very hard to replace. So that means that the only thing preventing you from keeping track of any particular item in your home is the way you think about that object. If you only owned one pen, you would damn well keep track of where it was, wouldn’t you?

Please comment if you found it interesting or useful, or if you disagree with me, or if you feel like sharing your experience with keeping extras of things.

One is Enough

This morning in the shower I was using my shower cap, the only shower cap I own. I started thinking about how I only needed one shower cap, since I can always find it (it lives under the sink with the towels), it’s unlikely to fall apart any time soon, and I could walk to the drugstore in five minutes to get a new one if necessary.

That got me thinking about how people often feel the need to have backups of things, in case something gets lost, breaks, or just runs out (in the case of consumables). And I wondered what other things I only have one of. I’m not talking about big-ticket items like a house, computer, or car. But I’m thinking of the kinds of things that someone might be tempted to own extras of “just in case.”

So here are some things I only have one of:

  • Purse
  • Pair of glasses in my current prescription (I save the most recent old pair as backup)
  • Pair of sneakers
  • Nail clippers
  • TV
  • Wristwatch
  • Comb
  • Bathmat (although I’d like to get one more so I could have one in the laundry and still have one to use)
  • My iPhone has eliminated the need for a digital camera, alarm clock, notepad, and GPS (can I have negative numbers of things??)
  • Cat brush (for two cats)
  • One face powder container, one mascara brush (I have two eyeliners but I mostly just use one).
  • Floor mop
  • Fever thermometer

I’m sure there are more, but that’s just a few things off the top of my head. I’m curious to know what you only have one of, even though a person might easily have multiples.

[Later edit] I’m thinking about the psychology of “only having one,” and I think it comes down to a matter of trust in the universe, and in your own strength.

When you put all your eggs in one basket, you become vulnerable. If you lose that one thing, you lose it all. But the important question is, “and then what?”

Being completely out of toilet paper really sucks, especially if you discover this while on the toilet. But doubtless it has happened on more than one occasion to the people reading this, and life has gone on. Your source of strength is your self, not your stuff. Also, to have only one of a thing implies a trust and faith that after a thing is lost, broken, or runs out, that it can then be fixed, recovered, re-bought, (without damaging expense), or re-found.

If something is vital to one’s survival, then of course having some extras makes sense. My daughter’s diabetic friend recently misplaced her blood sugar testing kit at our house, but she had a backup one at home that she could use until we found it. Anyway, moving on….