What she saves today could save dollars tomorrow

Why I Save Different Things

by Lynn Bulmahn


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Most organize-your-home experts say, "If in doubt, throw it out!" To reduce clutter, they suggest that you rid your home of all excess.

I beg to differ. I've saved money keeping extra items. Often, it's cheaper and more practical to re-use items than to buy replacements.

If you move a lot, certain items can be used over and over again. They may be put to different uses, but it still saves money.

It's really important for homeowners to save items. Older homes contain decorative fixtures no longer made. If you save the extras, you can match something that's now off the market. Otherwise, you'll be searching eBay for an identical item for a very long time!

For example, our 1960s home contains unique recessed light fixtures with small milk glass squares. When the bedroom lights were replaced with ceiling fans, we stored the old fixtures in the garage.

I almost dropped one glass square when changing a light bulb. Had I broken it, we'd be out of luck. I've yet to see anything remotely resembling these fixtures at any store. But the stored extras will supply an exact match for free!

Our den ceiling has half a dozen of these fixtures. Let's say one gets broken. Had we not saved the extras, we'd have to replace all six with new ones that matched each other, which would be very costly!

Besides light fixtures, other things in your home may need to match. What about hardware items? Paint for any touchups? Extra wallpaper in case something is torn?

When our master bath got remodeled and painted, the workers lost a single drawer pull. This required having to buy 16 drawer and cabinet knobs, so all the bathroom hardware matches. (Always buy a couple of extras "just in case.")

Disliking plain covers for light switches and plugs, I've taken decorative switch plate covers from one home to another for years. They add a finishing touch to the decor. Why buy new ones? Reinstall the originals when you move.

When my roommate moved in, we used her microwave and I gave away mine. After I moved, I needed another microwave. I should've just stored mine.

I didn't make the same mistake moving into my current home. The washer and dryer came with me from with my old home, and since I have a huge garage, it didn't cost a thing to keep my old set.

One weekend, the washing machine "inherited" from the former homeowner quit spinning. The repairman said it was definitely worth fixing, but would cost $400. Instead, we paid two college boys $25 to switch out the washing machines. Was I glad we'd kept my spare pair!

Furniture and furnishings also can be saved and reused. For instance, consider shelving. You almost never see used shelves or bookshelves sold secondhand, so you pay full price. But, that's not necessary if you save your old stuff!

If you don't need it in one apartment, disassemble and store shelving under the bed or in the closet. With the next move, it may come in handy.

The metal shelves my grandmother purchased in the 1960s for her African violets have served me as pantry shelves inside a walk-in kitchen closet, as garage shelves, as bookshelves in four homes, and as office storage. They work well wherever they go. And they're free!

Fluorescent lights are rather pricey, but they last a long time. I have one circle-shaped fluorescent purchased in the 1980s. It's still burning, and yes, I take it from home to home. (I also save the replaced incandescent bulbs in an upper cabinet to put back for the next tenant.)

Don't forget window treatments. I've used the same valances and curtains in numerous rentals over landlord-furnished mini-blinds.

You don't always have to use window treatments in the same way. A tab-top drapery panel used in my old den is now a makeshift "closet door." The lace curtains that came with a valance used in my old townhouse now grace our current front door's frosted windows, providing more nighttime privacy.

Again, don't overlook the hardware. I took down a very old set of draw drapes and discarded the threadbare fabric, but I saved the perfectly-good drapery pins for later. That'll save $20.

Sometimes, landlords only have a tiny piece of chain that is too high to easily reach on ceiling fans or closet lights with pull chains. The longer chains I bought were used in several homes. Again, I take them with me.

There are some caveats to keeping extra items. If something is stored too long, it may deteriorate. That happened to an upholstered chair once kept in a garage. By the time I was ready to use it, the fabric had rotted. I would've fared better had I loaned it to someone to use inside her apartment.

You also must have a good system of storing and labeling items. For example, "John" was the biggest pack rat in town, but anytime he needed something, he'd have to buy a new one. That's because he couldn't find the other 15 dozen items stashed "somewhere." You have to know where an item is for it to be of any use!

Does this mean you should keep everything? No, but it does suggest that you consider if you might need something later before you throw it away.

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