Inside: Learn what frugal decluttering is and how to practice it in your home.

For those on a tight budget, decluttering can be a little different. It may not feel as easy to let go of things.

With rising gas prices and the increasing cost of food and goods, more people are cost-conscious these days. Replacing things has become less simple. These circumstances can make decluttering a bigger challenge.

However, it is still possible to simplify. It may just look a bit different. Keep reading to learn what frugal decluttering is and how you can practice it in your home.

How Frugal Decluttering Is Different:

People who choose to declutter frugally desire to live a simpler life and also have a strong desire to save money. Trying to balance simplicity and frugality can be a challenge, but frugal decluttering works to do both.

Frugal declutterers are concerned about finances and try to save or make money when possible. Some of the choices frugal declutterers make about what to keep and what to get rid of are different.

When you declutter frugally, you have a different perspective on stuff. You focus on function and practicality above all else. You don’t want to get rid of anything you may need to replace later.

While you may want a simpler lifestyle, you’re not willing to let go of being frugal in the process.

How to Practice Frugal Decluttering

Frugal decluttering takes a bit more time and effort. Here are some things to think through and some tips to help.

Questions to ask when decluttering

Following Marie Kondo, many people ask if their items spark joy when they are decluttering their homes. If you want to declutter more frugally, your focus isn’t solely on how much you do or don’t like everything you own.

Being able to declutter at all is a privilege because it means you have excess. People who have tighter budgets may not feel as free to get rid of everything they don’t love.

While you want to keep what is beautiful, you also keep what is useful. To declutter frugally means focusing more on use and function rather than having the ideal version of all the things you own.

You might buy nicer things in the future if it’s within the budget, but there isn’t a rush to have the best of everything or to get rid of things that are perfectly functional.

These decluttering questions can help you make decisions but when you are trying to get rid of the excess as well as save money, your perspective may be a bit different.

Evaluating what you keep

When you declutter frugally you are not getting rid of functional items you know you would have to replace immediately. Frugal declutterers are more likely to get hung up on keeping clutter because they think it may be useful at some point.

The 20/20 rule

Frugal declutterers may not be as extreme due to their desire to save money and not have to repurchase items.

People who declutter this way don’t follow the 20/20 rule of it you can replace it in 20 minutes or less for 20 dollars or less, it goes. Twenty dollars to a frugal person is a lot.

My tendency toward frugal decluttering is an aspect of why I focus on simplicity, not minimalism. Frugality is part of what keeps me from getting more extreme with simplifying.

It can be a fine line to balance, but our desire to be practical keeps us from being more extreme in how we’ve decluttered.

Duplicates

When you choose frugal decluttering, you don’t feel the need to get rid of all duplicates. You may keep a backup of certain items should something break or get ruined.

When you already own the backup, you know you don’t have to go buy a replacement right away. Frugal declutterers find security in that and don’t feel the need to eradicate every duplicate item from their home.

In our home, we have duplicates of many office supplies so we backups when the paper or pens run out. We have extra towels for when others get too worn.

I also opted not to get rid of jeans that fit when I decluttered my closet. That way when a pair gets worn out or stained, it isn’t a big deal. I already have replacement pairs.

That doesn’t mean frugal declutterers keep every duplicate item, but they are ok with not getting rid of all their back stock of supplies. They want to make use of what they have on hand if that saves them from some repurchasing in the future.

Along those same lines, they’re more inclined to store items for the future that they think will be used again, such as saving clothes for siblings.

frugal decluttering

Repurposing items

When you practice frugal decluttering, you may also try upcycling or repurposing items. It’s particularly attractive when it can save or make you money.

If you enjoy upcycling, there are a myriad of projects you can find on Pinterest. If you have extra coffee mugs you can upcycle them into a planter. Have a dresser that is missing a drawer? You can add baskets and turn it into a media console.

The danger for people who enjoy this kind of thing can be thinking EVERYTHING can be upcycled into something cool. While that may be true, the reality is many of those projects take extra time and sometimes extra supplies you may not have on hand.

This desire to repurpose items I got for free or at a deep discount led me to eventually pursue simplicity after being overwhelmed with all the upcycle project pieces that took over my garage.

While I still enjoy a good DIY project, I got rid of all of my project pieces and very rarely pick things up off the side of the road anymore. Now that’s progress.

Getting rid of clutter

Frugal declutterers may be more prone to sell their clutter. While this can hold people back from getting things out of their house in some cases, it can be done well as long as you set deadlines.

In getting rid of the clutter, frugal declutterers will focus on how to save or make money. Frugal folks often become good at negotiating in order to make more money or get a better deal.

While donating everything would be simpler, when you’re practicing frugal decluttering and are on a tight budget, you’re willing to trade some time and inconvenience in an effort to get some money back.

Frugal declutterers don’t like clutter but also really don’t like wasting money. They figure out creative ways to make do with what they have to prevent buying new things when possible.

Frugal decluttering

Frugal declutterers focus on the function of their items as they declutter. They may not get rid of as much as people who can easily replace items in their homes.

They may keep more things just in case or to reuse it in a new way. When frugally decluttering you may also try to sell the items you are decluttering.

There is no right or wrong way to declutter. It is about figuring out what works best for you and your home and financial situation.

Choosing frugal decluttering may mean your process is a little less aggressive and a bit slower. It’s not the right answer for everyone, but it’s worked well for us.

Do you practice frugal decluttering? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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31 Comments

  1. I really appreciate your article about Frugal Decluttering. And $20 IS a lot of money to many people! I think your article should be right beside any other article about decluttering. People need to be smart about what they get rid of and not just follow along blindly. I enjoy decluttering and can’t think of anything I have missed after it’s out of here!! And decluttering is an ongoing chore! Thanks again!

      1. One thing to remember is to carefully store extras in easily identifiable ways where they won’t get ruined. So all spare kitchen items can go in one box, with an inventory of contents. Same for clothing, which can be packed up by size and season. Too much of clutter is people holding onto things “just in case”, being unable to find them quickly and easily when needed, which results in either a mess as you hunt or buying another anyway.

  2. This really speaks to me. Unfortunately, I was/am a fabric hoarder. I have successfully been a fashion seamstress since I was only 15 years old. I have been making pillow cases for the homeless shelter that I volunteer at. This has helped me to reduce my fabric stash. The $20. rule is difficult for me since I have retired. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get ruthless and donate
    frequently. We really do need open space to function properly.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda. That’s wonderful that you are using your skills to help and declutter too!. I recently started destashing my fabric (I used to sew baby blanket sets). I got realistic about how much I would use and downsized from 5 bins to 2. I may decide to go to just 1. It was hard thinking about what I’d spent on it, but I don’t sew as much anymore so I wanted someone to have it who could use it. And you are totally right on needing open space to function.

      1. I have a ridiculous amount of fabric, which I’ve recently been trying to declutter. I’ve brought some fabric and kits that I’ll never use to my quilt guild to share and given fabric and my serger (which I never used) to a friend whose church makes dresses and tote bags to send overseas. And my scraps I give to another friend whose church uses them to stuff beds for shelter animals. I still feel I haven’t made a dent in my stash.

    2. Fantastic article! I am in the midst of frugal decluttering, for I am one that need the cash. With a kid in college and another going soon, every penny counts! I have found our family struggle is clothing. By barter and trading, we have accumulated many pieces of clothing for t 4 of us, and I would keep the best pieces from my oldest for my youngest. This year I said no more! Our community has a clothing give away run by our school, and I have been downsizing our collection for a good cause. Feels so good to gain space, empty totes, and bless others at the same time!

    3. i love your work with the pillowcases. have you heard of the pillowcase DRESSES for little underprivileged girls?
      i think they are just very basic, simple dresses with straps. the idea is that if girls look like someone cares, they are less likely to be mistreated. i think it’s an African idea. great work💕

  3. Loved your article. Thank you. Simple is my goal. After years of being a collector of way too many passions. I appreciate being respectful of everyone’s choices and options of how, when and where! Do what’s best for you and yours!

    1. This is spot on!
      My significant other and I are moving to a Tiny home. When we met, we both liked and long desired this life style.
      Now we have the opportunity to make it happen!
      He is a minimalist and I… have tendencies in both directions.
      I never pay full price, love thrifting and always see the repourpose possibilities in everything.
      I love being frugal… and yes it definitely changes the decluttering process in my brain.
      The 20/20 in our future is very possible, but my frugal roots twist my reality.
      Thank you for this wonderful article !!!
      I am grateful for this prospective ♡
      It will help me to let go and be brave moving forward.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. As someone who loves the idea of minimalism but really struggles to balance the reality of these concerns, it’s like a lightbulb went off! I always felt like a decluttering failure when trying to practically do these things, but now I realize that a lot of minimalism doesn’t really address those realities. And that it’s okay to not have to discard some of the systems that you know work for your situation. And even more valuable is how you talked about ways to do that with balance and practicality so that you don’t get stuck in the other extreme. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  5. Thank you! This sounds just like me. I am – slowly – de-stashing as I have realized for a couple of years now that I am more of a wannabe-craftsperson than a proper one. I came from a line of hardworking craftspeople (hobby and/or livelihood). History weighs on my shoulders. I am more a books person. At my age I am becoming aware that I no longer have enough time or, more importantly, interest. I am just trying to make more space around me. I feel better already but still have quite a way to go.

  6. Love this style of decluttering! This is for me and my life style. Not as aggressive but still getting it done. Glad to know I’m not the only one that feels this way. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for this post, I feel somewhat “validated”. As I’m starting to simplify my life, starting with decluttering my house, I’m looking for great blogs to inspire me, and so far I’ve been… well… not impressed. I guess those blogs were just not for me. But The Simplicity Habit might just become my new favourite blog.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again! ♥

    1. You might also enjoy A Slob Comes Clean by Dana K White. She has addressed a number of issues that have resonated with me. However, I also embrace this Frugal Decluttering. Like Julianna, I really can’t see getting rid of things that I will just have to buy again a little while later, like clothes that will fit me when I reach my goal weight (about 5-7 more pounds – planning to accomplish by end of year.)

  8. $20- can be a lot for some, but many times it’s not about the replacement value. It’s about the uniqueness of the item and the fact if you can really find another. I like to repurpose and restore old furniture/things and have created some great pieces that you’ll never find in a retail/box store. The quality and craftsmanship are so much better than some furniture today. One example: I acquired an antique make-up dresser (with beautiful details). My husband was not happy b/c it was all paint stained and water stained, etc. I refinished it. I took all the hardware off, sanded-scuffed it and used a neutral smokey blue-gray tone stone-textured spray paint that went well with the room decor. I use it as a TV stand – perfect for a 45″ flat screen! I use the drawers for the remote and Play Station, controls and game cassettes (yes, that’s right, another antique lol). My husband was impressed and so happy with the outcome. It looks great, it’s unique and one of a kind antique piece. I decluttered a small storage area as an offset! lol

    1. Congratulations on refinishing the dresser! I agree about some items being hard or impossible to replace, even small items that would seem to be readily available. I thought I had lost a bag of hair accessories and looked them up to reorder, only to find that they were no longer available. I was quite disappointed, but later found my originals. Big sigh of relief!

  9. This is truly who I am. As an artist I always struggle with decluttering as I can always find another use and repurpose for things. This is both a gift and a burden. I eventually become overwhelmed with all the “projects” or things to sell I have for that one day that never comes. I’m to busy. I know their value but now time and space is valuable to me now.

    Your blog made me have an “aha moment” I often take things from thrift stores home to resell as I find the “beauty in everything” but then I realized if you find the “beauty in everything” I’ll have everything at home – and it’s to much.

    Just because it’s beautiful and I can change repurpose or resell something does not mean I have to. More opportunities will come again.

    It’s hard, but now I pick up an item, put in in my cart….then eventually put it back.

    Even though I – know I can sell it or alter it and make it more… I don’t have to. I now try to leave it for someone else to find that maybe needs it more.

    I remind myself how happy and excited I have been in the past to find some treasure or items for cheap… Maybe they need that more. It’s little but it helps.

    This also helps me let go of items I know have value or cost as once you are thrifty it’s hard. Now I donate stuff and know I let someone else have that exciting storey of finding that incredible treasure.

    It’s little – but this has been huge in me letting valuable stuff go.

    Also when donating it helps me to align with a school or charity or “free stuff for daily needs” site helps me know it’s moving into others who need it more. As a frugal person it really helps to know it’s moving on to someone who will treasure it more.

  10. Thank you. This speaks volumes!
    I am in the UK and as someone who has been made redundant a couple of times, then had to take contract work to make do – with lean times in between – I have had to resort to selling stuff in the past to pay the mortgage. The mortgage protection company were vile and even though I was claiming unemployment and the terms were met because I couldn’t show exactly what I had done (this was in the days of paper booklets about 10 ys ago) they didn’t pay. So I got used to keeping stuff to sell for a rainy day. And buying from charity shops to sell on at times.
    I’ve been working now since Oct 2020 now nearly 2 and 3/4 years and though on a rolling 3 month at a time contract I should be made permanent soon. I worked for a year and a half in COVID-19 communications exclusively, absolutely no time /energy to sell.
    This has made it easier to get rid of some stuff, I have way more to go , and am always more likely to keep some stuff with perceived value, but less. I’m working on the stuff which isn’t vintage clothing.
    and I’ve taken some to a charity shop, a hospice for kids and just got a letter saying they have raised nearly £500 and can claim the tax back too – gift aid which is a quarter again. That was one car load – boot (trunk) plus some on the back seat. I had gift aid when they had a shop in my home town, but I realised there was a store in a reasonably affluent area where I go to wild swim. No way I would have got what they did for it and I am so happy to be helping really poorly kids and their families. Hospices get no funding here even though we have national health service.
    I’m really fortunate I now have the relative security, which makes it slightly easier to let things go.
    I don’t think I will ever have a minimalist mindset, but letting stuff go so other people can benefit from it and enjoy it is certainly something I can do. Stuff that went in that car load was stuff like kids novelty cake tins, used, kids around me enjoyed them, time for them to go for other kids to enjoy.

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