What to do with "Just in Case" Items

How many times have you said those exact words as you declutter your home? “I should keep this just in case…”
It’s hard to get rid of something if we think we can use it at some point.
And there are many useful things in our home. Someone can use them, right?? Should we get rid of perfectly good items?? What if we have duplicate things like staplers and markers, well, we could keep one and have the extra just in case first one breaks, right? Then we won’t have to spend money later…

Saving things just in case is saving me money… right??

Well, maybe.
If you can find it when you need it. Or if you remember it when you need it.
But for the majority of us, we don’t remember all the things we have, and so, when we come to something we need well if the one we kept isn’t remembered or found, we just go buy another one.
The Minimalists have a rule that I have used often when I teach- the 20/20 rule. If something costs under $20 and you can easily get ahold of one within 20 minutes of your home, don’t bother keeping it just in case.
When we look at the things we want to keep “just in case” it is typically very inexpensive items that we think we should hang on to. In fact, most of the items we fret about keeping aren’t even worth $5. What are the types of things that you keep just in case?

Extra screwdrivers? Coffee mugs? Expired spices? Worn-out clothing, pots, and pans that you already bought replacements for…?
We keep so many things that cost very little to replace, most, in fact, can be picked up at a second-hand store for pennies. So what exactly is it saving us? Do we need 20 extra coffee cups just in case one breaks?

It’s not saving us money, it’s costing us space!

There are negative consequences when we focus on the “in case” part of that sentence. How does that affect our outlook if we keep “fat clothes” just in case we need them again? Is that really a healthy reason or thought process? Does that help you stay focused on your health and where you are happiest with your body? Or does the thought make it so that the idea that you probably will gain weight again hang over your head?
How about those kitchen items?

“Maybe I should keep these 10 pie pans just in case I have to make pies for the family Thanksgiving meal. (I’ve never had to make all the pies… but it could happen.)”

Does it warrant keeping 10 pie pans in the cupboard, does it warrant them taking up all that space if you use them once in 20 years? Should they really belong there? Is there a better use for the space in the cupboard?
And if we can’t bear to get rid of them, we talk about ourselves into storing it somewhere… “Let’s put them in the garage, then if that time comes, I can go get them and make all 10 pies and it will be worth it to have kept them.”
Think through it: will they be an accessible place so that you can easily get them if that time comes? And if not, will you want to dig through all the boxes to figure out where those pie pans are so you can use them? Or will you just say “hang it!” and buy a bunch of foil pie pans or borrow them from family members? Wouldn’t it just be easier to keep things that you use regularly now and deal with whatever comes up later… If it comes up?
I have no doubt that someone out there can use those pie pans and be thankful that they found them cheap or free and didn’t have to buy a new one.

Let things go, and don’t worry about “Just in case”

As a Christian, I believe this falls into “don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of its own.” If we trust that God is capable of taking care of us, why do we want to store things up? Are we afraid He’s going to be too busy doing more important things to take care of our simple needs? Doesn’t He care for a sparrow?
Also, think through: what is the worst that could happen if you get rid of those just in case things? What is the absolute worst?

  • If you only have 3 coffee cups and 1 broke, how bad would that be?
  • If your stapler stopped working and you didn’t have an extra, how much of a bind would you be in?
  • If the family called up and said “we need you to make 10 pies for Thanksgiving” would you really care about having to attain pie pans? (Honestly, my thoughts would be: “Do you never even realize how much time it takes to make a pie??? Let’s buy them!!!”)

Addressing the just in case issues is a process of learning to be honest with yourself: what you want your home to be like, what your comfort level is, how you actually spend your time.

What if the item is worth way more than $20, but it’s an extra?

Sometimes we keep things because we spent a lot of money to buy it. Consider the Rainbow Vacuum…  If you bought it, but now hate using it and you have a Dirt Devil that you like better, every time you reach into the closet and get out your Dirt Devil you see the Rainbow vacuum sitting there, taking up space, but it was expensive and you feel bad getting rid of it and hey, if the cheap one breaks down, you have the rainbow as a backup.
But if you hate using it, it’s a safe bet that you will go out and buy yourself another Dirt Devil instead of pulling out the Rainbow. If you are honest with yourself and find that true, why on earth do you give that Rainbow vacuum space to stay in your home?
Is it useful to you? Do you feel it deserves that space it takes up?
Take some initiative today and get rid of a few of those just in case items you honestly know you won’t use.
How many times have you said those exact words as you declutter your home? “I should keep this just in case…” But is it really saving you time, money and energy?


About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Tony W on 08/29/2017 at 7:35 am

    I like the 20/20 rule. It reminds me of the rule I use to help me travel light. If my destination has the inexpensive items I need and enjoy easily available I don’t pack it. I just purchase it when I get to my destination to save space.

  2. Bethany @ CuteCapsuleLife on 08/29/2017 at 10:03 am

    I really struggle with this but recently got rid of my just in case clothes and have had NO regrets in the couple months since. Great advice!

  3. Vicki H on 09/20/2017 at 12:21 pm

    I don’t have much trouble with “just in case” items. I’ve found it pretty easy to get rid of extra supplies and things I don’t use. There’s a lot of info out there given to this topic and also to sentimental items. The thing I have the most trouble with that I rarely see addressed are the things that I just really like–for example, my music box collections, my cat figurines, vintage and antique items from flea markets. clothes I like, . . . Those aren’t “just in case” items, but they’re items I really like looking at. I have too many, though; how do I deal with that? And I have tons of coffee cups–NOT just in case I break some, but because they’re cute, cool–I really like them! I can easily get rid of boring coffee cups. I’ve downloaded your workbook course, Rachel. Is this issue something that they address? Just having too much decor/collectibles, even coffee cups, etc . . . that I really like?? I sure hope so. Thanks for listening!

    • Ame on 03/13/2019 at 7:35 pm

      When too many things “spark joy”, it can be overwhelming. Consider this approach, define the space available for your collection to live. Decide how much space will be dedicated to your coffee cups, for example. If they all fit & you’re not crowding out other needed items, it’s all good. If they take too much space, it’s time to cull the herd.

      • Helen on 01/12/2024 at 2:14 pm

        Great solution. I have certainty used this for various items. Eg Christmas decorations have to fit in 3 boxes that store on a shelf in the wardrobe. No fit no keep!

    • RGL on 08/25/2019 at 8:13 pm

      I have had this problem, too. I have learned to appreciate the beauty of things and not need to own them. I’ve learned to see it in the store, think about how much I love it, and leave it at the store. Just because I love it doesn’t mean it has to take up space in my home. I can go back and visit it at the store. I’d rather have the money in my bank account now. I still struggle on some days, though.

  4. Eileen on 09/20/2017 at 1:09 pm

    Hello. I enjoy reading your blogs. When I saw the title of this blog, “just in case”, I thought it would be about emergency preparedness. With the recent floods caused by hurricane Harvey and the eathquakes in Mexico, I have been worried because I have not prepared my family for disasters. I am trying to adapt to a minimalist lifestyle and I don’t store excess ‘stuff’, like extra water and food. I live in California, so our main threat would be earthquakes. As a minimalist, what are your thoughts on emergency preparedness and do you prepare for disasters?

    • Becca on 09/04/2018 at 12:26 am

      Hey! I have a thought on this, the “just in case” items she is referring to are exclusive to everyday items that wouldn’t be an actual problem if you didn’t have them (see the 20/20 rule). Being prepared for a disaster is an entirely different ballgame, have extra stuff on hand that you would need in an emergency situation in a place that is easily accessible, but not an eye sore! Basements, storage closets, a spare cupboard in the kitchen even! Hope that helps 😘

      • Ann on 02/24/2022 at 8:06 pm

        For those living in hurricane and tornado areas, or disaster floods I always have wondered how they actually can prepare for them.
        How likely is it the wind or water is just going to take your home and all the contents.
        Wildfires can also take out communities to the ground.

        Most definitely we/I should be letting go of excess and trusting that Yahwah knows my needs and will and has always provided. I’ve never gone without what I needed. Ever.

  5. vicki on 12/07/2017 at 8:03 am

    I love the scripture reference and your Christian outlook on this subject. I want to simplify because I believe that is what Christ teaches us. I am looking forward to more of your blogs. I just found you and I am so happy I did!

    • Rachel Jones on 12/13/2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thank you Vicki! ❤️

  6. Cheri nielsen on 02/05/2018 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you for addressing the issue of trusting God. I struggle with this all the time, I know I truly need to work on trusting Him and knowing he cares enough to supply all my needs. Thank you for your article.

  7. Delana on 02/20/2018 at 1:18 am

    Yes! I am glad you brought up the issue of trusting God. I used to feel guilty for not hanging onto things I might bee able to use someday because I thought I was being a bad steward! Scripture tells us to give, and I was feeling guilty if I didn’t keep! It feels so much better to know I’m not stashing things away until they are of no use to anyone.

  8. Jennifer on 03/05/2018 at 11:34 am

    This is the best Clutter Clearing article that I have ever read! It makes the most sense!!!
    I’ve read hundreds about all of the different boxes, and labeling & them,donate, sell, keep, and so forth…
    This is what I needed though!!!
    I have some excess kitchen items that I feel I can now part with now! Thank you so much!!!

    • Rachel Jones on 03/06/2018 at 1:02 pm

      I’m so glad Jennifer! ❤️

  9. Michelle on 12/18/2018 at 7:47 pm

    This was a great read..thank you ! I like the 20/20 rule 🙂

  10. Nancy Spaulding on 03/13/2019 at 2:43 pm

    Where do I find your workbook course to purchase?

  11. Amanda on 03/13/2019 at 2:52 pm

    Hahahaha. The rainbow vaccum! Good example!

  12. Charly Fowler on 03/13/2019 at 2:52 pm

    I am a “sentimental keeper”, too. Coffee cups that remind me of a trip I took, a favorite friend who gave it to me, one that my Mother had (I pretend we are having coffee together when I use it!). I don’t have any plain ones. Of course, I don’t need many but…how do I decide which to keep and which to toss? I have used a few as storage for pencils, paint brushes, etc. but I still have too many in my kitchen.

    • Crunchycon on 03/28/2019 at 1:39 pm

      Just a suggestion, and I think I read it in The Minimalists..look at the array of mugs, decide how many is a reasonable number and keep your favorites. Which mug or couple of mugs do you reach for always, given all the options (I bet your mom’s mug makes the cut)? You may have to do some serious thinking, but the “reminder” mugs — aren’t there other ways to remember a great trip? And I’m speaking as a person who formerly loved to buy fun and reminder coffee mugs, so I know where you’re coming from, really. Good luck!

    • Renae Thompson on 08/08/2021 at 3:07 pm

      How about just taking pictures of things you think are cute or that spark a good memory before weeding them out? Pictures don’t have to take up shelf space these days, but they’ll still bring a smile when you look through them.

      • Leslee on 02/24/2022 at 8:31 pm

        Yes! this is my new answer to parting with “treasured” items. (I haven’t begun yet, but when I do, the photos will go into a Shutterfly book or two! I’m still thinking of the book title…”Treasures I’ve Parted With”??)

  13. Erin on 03/13/2019 at 5:15 pm

    This article was so helpful to me! I love the 20-20 rule. I am very frugal so sometimes I hold onto things out of that, but thinking of it in this way really frees up my thinking. I’m off to throw away most of the the half colored $1 coloring books I’ve been keeping for “just in case the kids are bored and don’t like the other 10 they have.” 🙂

  14. Michelle on 03/13/2019 at 8:55 pm

    This is true 20/20 rule, in my decluttering I got rid of excess cords and cables for electrical item, 5 months later I needed a Ethernet cable, and borrowed one the next day only 20 minutes away!! I feel this will work with most things, and having less clutter reduces any anxiety about the what if’s!! Love your articles ❤

  15. Juile on 03/13/2019 at 10:45 pm

    i keep my skinny clothes because once before I was fat so I got rid of my skinny clothes , then I lost the weight and found it expensive to replace what I had tossed out that is one mistake I wont make again I cant afford to $$$ wise

  16. Sarah on 03/28/2019 at 12:28 pm

    This! One exception. Chronic illnesses sometimes cause rapid cyclical weight fluctuations that cross a few sizes. My solution is that most of my clothes fit me in all my phases, 18-22 because they’re either stretchy, loose, or have things like laces or buckles for cinching. But I keep a pair of trousers and a pair of jeans in size 18 and size 22 just so I’m not feeling gross while my body is misbehaving.

    • Rachel Jones on 03/28/2019 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing how to manage that Sarah!

  17. Miranda on 09/29/2019 at 11:54 pm

    I’ve been purging for almost 3 years. My family says I don’t have anything else to declutter. Lol. My cute mother actually got upset at me for getting rid of “just in case item” I just giggle cause I know she has enough “just in case” things for she, my sister, and I, maybe a neighbor, too. Meanwhile, I’m making another sweep and had to stop in for some motivation. Thanks!

  18. […] What to do with “just in case” items […]

  19. Chris on 05/24/2021 at 1:04 pm

    Just in case is wasted space

  20. jstam on 02/18/2022 at 6:00 am

    the bible says “sufficient for the day are the troubles therein”, not “tomorrow has enough worries of it’s own”.

    • Ken on 06/04/2023 at 3:36 am

      🙂 Excellent!

  21. Joan on 01/29/2023 at 10:11 am

    Just sharing an idea here–I repurposed my cake pans and pie pans by using them under my larger houseplants to catch the excess water. If I ever need them, I may be able to run them through the dishwasher and scrub them clean–but I don’t anticipate that happening. I can’t remember the last time I made a layer cake or a pie.

  22. Rose on 05/04/2023 at 3:02 am

    Topic to address please:
    My adult children are at all different places in their lives – one living at home, one in a small studio apartment, one traveling a LOT. Many of their belongings (I.e. bedding, kitchen things, clothes for all seasons, etc) from college apartments are piled up in our basement. The plan is for them to be out on their own “some day” but for now finances, very high rents and lack of housing in our area are preventing them from doing that. I feel like I can’t live in my own house because I am buried in my kids things.
    I think adult children are moving back in with parents all over the place. I have triplicates of EVERYTHING!

    • Wendy on 05/19/2023 at 4:08 pm

      I darent apply the 20/20 rule because I’d have to keep everything.😂There are no shops within a 20 minute drive of my home.
      When I clear out a cupboard I get super ruthless , pack everything in boxes and bags and put it in the spare bedroom or garage until I can get to the charity shop.
      Im often over enthusiastic and find myself needing things that have been donated but hey ho ! If I haven’t got it I can’t use it so no point worrying about it
      I love that you do blogs as well as videos because I’m deaf so thank you for that and for such a down to earth approach to making life changes

  23. Jo Ann on 01/15/2024 at 2:30 pm

    I like the 20/20 rule. I have found that keeping things “just in case” often means you keep so much that you end up not being able to find things – and then you spend money on something you already have hidden somehwere in your home. I kid you not, we once bought a dupicate set of expensive crutches (the only kind my husband could use) because we had so many “just in case” items in the closet that we couldn’t find the original pair. Just get rid of the inexpensive “just in case” items so you can find the more expensive ones!

    Also, regarding the pie pans, three options:
    1. Buy ready-made pies.
    2. Buy ready-made pie shells in aluminum pans.
    3. Borrow pie pans from those who are not tasked with baking pies.

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