The Clutter Cost of Buying in Bulk


Shopping for groceries and other household supplies is expensive. There’s no denying that. The stores entice us with sale notices and the BOGO (Buy One Get One) stickers on certain items. I’m all for getting something for free but is it really free?

When we buy in bulk, buy more than what we can realistically use, there is a cost to us beyond the actual monetary one. It is the cost of clutter.

It’s so tempting to go to a big box store and buy lots of the things we use at a lower price point. It’s a great way to save money. But what is the cost to us when we get home and have no place to put all of the extra supplies?

Some people have big pantry closets where they can store lots of supplies. For these people there may not be any clutter cost because they will be able to put the extras they buy away. They have the shelf or cupboard space to house the extras.

What about those of us with limited storage space? Our cupboards and shelves are small. They already hold our necessary supplies and can only be refilled when our current supply (the one we actually use) runs out. There’s no room to store extras.

We can get creative and use the open space above the cupboards to store things like extra rolls of paper towel and toilet paper. That space can also be used for extra boxes of cereal or power bars. If there is no space above the kitchen cabinets then these supplies typically land on the kitchen counter or on the floor!

I bring this up because recently I was working in a home and the home owner had been shopping at a big box store. The home was a small one. The kitchen was tiny. It was perfectly adequate for this single person’s needs but did not have space available to store extra snack food, paper towels, toilet paper and light bulbs.

These items all landed on the living room floor leaving little room for the home owner and her dog to move around.

We ended up moving many of the paper goods to a spot in a corner of the living room. We put the extra snack food in containers and stacked them in the extra bedroom. These are fine temporary solutions.

My advice to my client was to find a friend to shop with if she wants to continue buy in bulk for the cost savings. The two of them could share the cost of the food and divide the things they bought. A win/win for everyone!

Do you buy groceries in bulk? Do you have a great way of storing the extras? Write me back and let me know!


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12 Responses to “The Clutter Cost of Buying in Bulk”

  1. Jonda Beattie Says:

    great blog! couldn’t escape the irony that the email right under your blog was for toilet paper coupons – so I could stock up and save

  2. Alison Lush, certified professional organizer Says:

    Great post Diane!
    We live (by choice) in a small home, and I love shopping at Costco. My solutions include;
    1) Buy in bulk for sure bets only and experiment on small scale
    2) Buy the next bulk package when the current one is ___% finished (I calculate depending on frequency of use)
    3) I ONLY allow myself to buy in bulk what we can comfortably store. Everything must have a home. No exceptions.
    4) If I’ve made a mistake or changed my mind, I pass on an unwanted product to someone who can use it. I looked at that big unopened box of OxyClean for a year before realizing I could simply give it away. What a relief!

  3. Linda Samuels Says:

    I’m not a “big box” store shopper, but many of my clients are. I agree that this works well when we have room to store the extras and for the potential cost-saving aspect. For me, I find those types of stores too overwhelming to shop in and also too tempting to buy more than I need in sizes we’ll never use.

    As you’ve mentioned, IF you’re going to shop in bulk, having a storage place in mind to keep the extras is a good idea to consider ahead of time. That way you’ll benefit by the cost savings and not create a clutter or house flow problem.

  4. Nacho Eguiarte Says:

    I used to buy at Sam’s Club big bulks of everything. I don’t do that anymore, I discover how dumb was that because is some cases the savings don’t worth the storage space, That was the other issue, I we live in a small house son every inch is prime real state to me, so having bulks of TP or napkins or huge bottles of bleach wasn’t smart. Thank you for sharing your winsdom Diane.

  5. NACHOrganiza Says:

    Reblogged this on nachorganizablog and commented:
    El costo en desorden de comprar en bultos | The Clutter Cost of Buying in Bulk 1 @DNQuintana

  6. TheSeanaMethod Says:

    You definitely have to “think before you buy” on this one. I do buy some items in bulk, such as toilet paper and tissues. But I can split these across bathrooms, so they don’t overwhelm the space. Definitely be cautious and have a list when you go or you end up with large quantities of stuff you can’t possibly consume!

  7. Janet Barclay Says:

    We gave up our Costco membership when we became empty-nesters. We just don’t need that much stuff anymore!

  8. Sabrina Quairoli Says:

    I agree. It can get overwhelming if you don’t have the space to store it. I make sure I don’t buy too much at the wholesale store. I buy certain things like cereal. It becomes an issue when I have to buy toilet paper because they give you so much. So I try to buy that somewhere else if possible.

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