Clear the Clutter: Take It Back

I have a little pile of things I need to return that have been stacking up, waiting by the door until I can run errands. The stuff is worth more than $100 after I return it. That’s our challenge today: to return things that have been borrowed, or bought but that didn’t work out.

I want this stuff out of my house, but mostly I want money to be going into my checking account, not out of it.

Speaking of, we’re going to do a No Spend Month again in July. It’s 31 days of spending money on just the basics. (Example: potatoes=yes, chips=no.) It will be my family’s fourth year to take on this challenge, so I’m not worried about it. I know we can do it. I’m looking forward to the free time we gain, and we’ll be finishing up some house projects using supplies we already have.

(What I am worried about, as a side note, is the P90X workout we’re starting soon. That’s a different story.)

To read more about No Spend Month, you can find the story here: The No Spend Month. I’ll be blogging about it, too. It starts July 1. (I think I’ll increase the spending limit over past years since our family has grown. I receive a lot of questions about what budget you should choose, but it’s up to you.)

Do you have any returns to do, too? Anyone willing to join in for No Spend Month?

clear the clutter

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Just last week I returned some clothes Dave had bought but never worn. When I was cleaning out some of his things, I found them and returned them via UPS. Along the way, some of the company’s employees were downright rude…after a couple of lengthy conversations, one employee told me they…as if *they* were the company!…would send a check but it would be in Dave’s name. If I could cash it, good and if not, my problem.
    All righty then. I’ll make time this week to write a letter to the President of the company. Then, I’ll blog about effective letter writing which, usually, works for me. Especially when the State Corporation Commission gets involved -smile-.

  2. I used to keep bags of clothes, books whatever around forever. It drove me crazy. I’ve been focusing a lot more on follow through the past year and it feels so much better. If I’m packing up goodwill bags that means we’re driving by goodwill within 48 hours.

    On the no spend challenge. I’d love to do this but we’re traveling and doing vacation stuff so July is the opposite of no spend month for us! I would love to do this in April or something like that. Have fun!

  3. Kimberly says:

    I have lots of donation items that need to be dropped off. Also, I’m looking forward to joining no-spend month this year. My husband and I are moving at the beginning of August, so this will be a great way to preserve funds for the move.

  4. I have what I call “donation day”. I take clothes, fabric people give me that I have gone through and will not use and household items to the local second hand store, I drop off magazines and books at the library (while trying to stay clear of the rack offering free items to replace the ones I am shedding!) and I take back returnable bottles and cans. I feel very virtuous when I do all this! Now if only I could get the rest of the family to throw out “anything at all”!

  5. This is a very timely post as it reminds me to return some shoes that I bought that don’t fit! I agree that it is important to return things and donate things, but I also think that it’s important to think about why you are returning/donating them so that you avoid dysfunctional shopping habits. I have some friends who shop because it makes them feel good, but then return things because they can’t actually afford them, and they rely on the fact that they can return stuff to feed this habit. Better than keeping stuff and going into credit card debt, but it doesn’t seem to bring much pleasure, and it’s a waste of time for both them and the store owners. I just don’t understand that urge! But everybody has their own foibles – don’t mean to judge, only to point out that if you (not you, Rachel, specifically, as I’m pretty sure you don’t do this), find yourself returning/donating a lot, it’s probably time to reevaluate why you are buying stuff. And . . . seems like a no-spend month might be a good way to start that re-evaluation!
    Bronwen´s last post…Convert PDFs to a more pleasing format for your ereader using Calibre

    • I know exactly what you mean! My husband is a store manager, and people will come in and buy things, only to return them the next day, or sometimes that afternoon! When we want something, we favorite it if it is online, and then wait a month, to see if we really can’t live without it. If is is something to buy in store, we have to save the cash to buy it, so since it takes a few months to save the money, we get to think about living without that too. No buyer’s remorse, and no returns! An easy way to stay out of debt too.

      • Susan Price says:

        We pretty much go along those lines. Waiting it out and not allowing yourself to impulse buy saves lots of money! It definitely helps when the husband and wife work together on finances.

  6. shahnnen says:

    P90X is great. Don’t be intimidated [don’t get me wrong–it’s hard as hell, but very doable!] You’ll be great, and feel great, too!

  7. I have a stack of returns too! My problem is finding time when I do not have to take the (5) kids with me. The no-spend month sounds good. I’ll have to go back and refresh my memory on it. I’m sure my husband would be thrilled if we did that. :-)
    Joy´s last post…Allison and Asian American Dance Company

  8. I often save up returns to run as one big errand sans kids (for some reason returns with kids seem harder even than shopping with kids). Right now I have a piece of fabric that I bought in the wrong amount that I need to return. And then I need to decide whether to take the plunge and buy the correct amount of fabric or to “just use what I have.” (I need to make curtains for my living room.)

    I love your no spend month idea and have often thought of trying it but am incredibly undisciplined! Time to give myself a pep talk…

  9. I’m going to run no-spend month by my husband. It’s about time we did it too!

    Funny that you mentioned returns today, because I have a pile of my own, including a couple that have to be returned via mail. (The worst!) Must get on it!
    Erica {let why lead}´s last post…Salsa Chicken & Black Bean Soup

  10. We are going on vacation in July and August so not really great times to be doing a no spend month. But I think I’ll try to do it this year maybe in the early fall : )

  11. Melissa Q says:

    I’m all for the challenge of a no-spend month! It’ll be tricky, since we have a large family get-together in July, but it’s possible (maybe even more-so with Grandparents around – tee hee)

  12. I was just thinking about a no-extra-spending plan the other day – Hubby and I have been doing a lot of building and crafting and projects in the past 6 months and it just keeps going and going and going. They’re good things – clothes for our kids, hammocks and other camping and Boy Scout gear, etc … I also recently spent over $100 on books for our homeschooling. That’s all well and good but we’re supposed to be GETTING OUT OF DEBT right now.

    So I’m putting the brakes on any more project and book spending until we reach a certain amount in our savings account, and get one of our student loans also to a certain amount. We need to read the books we already have or use the library, I have plenty of fabric to sew with and don’t need more, and Hubby won’t be camping until this fall anyway (we live in Mississippi so it’s too disgustingly hot and humid to camp right now).

  13. jerilyn says:

    we were just talking about doing a no-spend rest of summer! Except for a few things that need to be purchased within a certain time frame!

  14. i just returned borrowed maternity clothes and sleepover stuff my nephew forgot here 2 weekends ago. i love returning stuff and getting it out of here!
    charis´s last post…what an opportunity!

  15. I’m big on returning things we don’t use or that didn’t work! Having just moved into a new house we’re constantly returning things! We’re not sure about a No Spend Month this year as it seems every month is a no spend month! We still don’t have a well stocked pantry or freezer so eating out of that for longer than a week won’t work for us. Not sure how much more we can cut back at this point without using candles in place of electricity, lol!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…A Blur

  16. This sure was timely. I am in the middle of returning a hoard of things purchased that just didn’t work out. Most of them were bought in conjunction with other items purchased. I’ve really been trying to “walk away” from things this year. We just had a garage sale, and now that I’ve moved clutter, it’s easier to move more. Suddenly, “things” don’t seem so significant anymore. We’re also in that time frame when the kids seem to be growing out of certain playthings.

    I have been doing a “no-spend” month, usually March, as it is the full month during lent. It’s my spending fast each year. At the end of it, I feel calmer. I don’t limit our groceries or gas or certain household items because we have special diets and special needs. I just don’t let myself “shop.” This is hard in our “one-stop” grocery store. No lattes just because it’s quicker, no clothes at a “the lowest prices of the season” sale, no wandering through the mall or bookstore (painful for this book lover).

    It’s amazing how easy it is to hoard. Even on a small scale. All the videos of the latest character your kids love. Every tool and trinket to start a new craft that caught our attention. All the books by a favorite author. Every color in that great t-shirt style I just found. It’s painful. Why do we do it? We aren’t starving, or destitute, or have that much time to waste. At least I don’t, although I do.

  17. Again the dilemma! I always want to do No-Spend Month in July, but that’s when our anniversary falls. We’re definitely getting away for a weekend this year…so I can’t decide if I “cheat” and do no-spend month except for the anniversary getaway, or if we wait and try and do it in the fall.

    It seems more fun to do it while you are though!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…Speedreading and Audiobooks

    • I like doing it in July because we don’t have a lot of other obligations like school or birthday events. There’s a lot of free family local events, and no one needs new clothes in the middle of the summer. It works even if you take the weekend off to celebrate your anniversary.

  18. My husband and I participated in No Spend Month a few years ago and we look forward to trying it again this year. Last time, I set my budget too low and really had no clue where to begin. We went over by $50 but we still saved a lot and followed all of the rules (the extra money was spent on gas and food). Now we have a standard budget every week so it will be easy to calculate our food budget for the month and making everything else fit. I do plan to schedule ours for August since we already have a few things scheduled in July that I do not want to cancel. Looking forward to it. We saved a lot of money last time. It also gives you perspective on how much you spend and how much time you spend in stores. I have been so busy lately that the no spend month should be a mini vacation, lol.

  19. Monique says:

    I went back and read your “No Spend Month” posts. At first I thought it would be a great idea for us and several families we know. But, Rachel, this is how we and our friends live *all* the time. We spend as little as possible so that we can pay down debts and set aside a little bit to buy gifts at Christmas and birthdays. Ironically, my husband and I have paid off the debt we had when we were first married. Now it’s the hospital bills from the baby and the mechanic’s bills for repairing vehicles. Just as we seem to be ready to get did if one bill, 2 more pop up. We just keep chugging along and trusting in the Lord. He’s in control.

  20. I’m so excited for a no-spend/low-spend month. I will absolutely be in on it, with one small exception which is our ‘end of school/toddler’s birthday’ festivities on the 22nd. But I’m setting a limit on that too and it’s going to be a very homemade enterprise. We already have a few presents picked up second hand and there is only one more I want to buy. I’m aiming at £40 a week plus £30 for birthday and £50 for petrol to visit grandparents.

  21. Yay for No Spend Month! I started following your blog right after you did your last one, and then you didn’t do one last year, so this will be my first year along with you.

    I have no problems spending less, but I do have a question. We are finally (Finally!) going on vacation at the beginning of July. Is it really cheating if the money is already set aside and planned out. We already have a vacation budget that we’re sticking to (as in paying for hotels and citypass beforehand and bringing cash for food and souvenirs), so can we just use the No Spend method for the everyday discretionary funds the rest of the month?

    I know there are no hard and fast rules, but I’m curious to see what you think.
    Jennie´s last post…A New iPhone!

    • I would go on vacation and have fun, and then let it be No Spend Month when you get back.

  22. This is good motivation – I have a pile of stuff to return to the home depot in my trunk. Rather than driving it around another day, I’m going to return it tonight.
    Meghan´s last post…Indulging

  23. A self imposed moratorium on spending, when you don’t really have to, takes a lot of discipline. But it’s definitely better than waiting until you absolutely have to. July wouldn’t work for us, but I’ll have to run it by my husband for a different month. Great idea.

  24. I found your posts about your previous No Spend Months on Pinterest a few weeks ago and was contemplating doing it. We found out about a week after that that my husband was losing his job, so we decided to live on $200 for the month of June. There are 3 of us and it’s going well so far! Thanks for the idea and inspiration. I’ve been blogging about our journey if you want to check it out!

  25. Perfect timing. I’ve been thinking about a No Spend July on my blog too, so I’ll just showhorn in on yours. ;)
    Erica / Northwest Edible Life´s last post…Stop Fetishizing Small Producers (And Start Fetishizing Good Ones)

  26. Right now I have a bag of clothes and other items that need to go to Goodwill, but I’m waiting until it gets more full first. Maybe I should just put it in the car, and the next time I’m there, just get rid of it!

    A month of no spending sounds really great to me, but I think my husband would have a hard time with it. I’m interested to see how it goes for you!
    Emily´s last post…A Horrible-Stinky-Rotten-No good-Miserable Day

  27. I am so excited to follow your journey with a No Spend month. You are awesome!

  28. I am bad about returning things! But, today I returned something that didn’t fit and used the money to buy something else I needed. I also boxed up some things to return to my mom and sister that had been piling up in the house. No money involved, but my house will be neater because of it. Sometimes I’ve waited too long to return things, so I have been putting those items on Ebay, little by little.

  29. I always feel better when I return something that didn’t work out or I’ve decided I don’t need. I also love those donation bags – it’s great for others who can use the things we’re not using and great to help clear out the clutter. What an important lesson for our children to see us being good stewards!

  30. Returning or donating things always feels like a big relief. Thanks for reminding me!

  31. I’m pretty conscious about initial purchases these days, so returning items to stores is uncommon for me. But somehow I do tend to collect things, books, usually, that other folks are all excited about and want to share. I have a hard time saying “no, thank you,” and then am too remiss about returning those timely. But this post will help me be more aware about accepting those in the first place. Always love hearing about no-spend month!

  32. I’m actually doing No Spend Month THIS month and haven’t blogged about it yet. So I might come back next month and share my thoughts. :-) I have done these in the past and they’re always enlightening as well as useful.

  33. Yep! I totally have things to return since we just finished up “kids birthday season” around here. Thanks for the nudge. ;)

    I think a no-spend month is just what we need, too! especially because there are so many fun things to do during summer that cost nothing.

  34. Ugh. I always feel like I am returning things. It’s a pain, but I guess it’s better than keeping them around, taking up space and money and being useless! The trick would be NOT to buy these things in the first place. Sometimes you don’t see the item doesn’t work until you get home, but in general a No Spend policy would help with this!

  35. We’re looking at No Spend Month in August and I’m having a trial run by not buying any clothes or shoes this month, just fixing up ones we have.

    So far, so good. And instead of lunch hours at the hospice shop or store, I’m taking hour long bike rides along the nature trail. Very peaceful. I take pictures, write in my journal, read one of a million books I have from the library, and just watch the swallows zip along the pond.

  36. Jessica says:

    I’m spoiled- my fella drops off my returns for me. I appreciate it so much. I try to choose retailers with free returns, and it means I get to try stuff out in privacy and comfort. I just pack it right back up as soon as I decide I don’t like it. I think all the shopping may save money in the long run- I always order enough for free shipping, don’t keep stuff I don’t like, and make sure I avoid the “nothing to wear- going to the mall” thing. It’s amazing how much cheaper things are online!

  37. Thank you for the reminder (although I know you aren’t necessary write the article for me). I have an item that I need to exchange for the longest time. Will put it into my goal list for this week.

  38. Yesterday, I sell off some of my clutter, like old papers,magazines, plastic bottles , though I got very less money, but still, I am happy.

  39. Thanks for the reminder!! I actually have returns sitting on my counter that I’m going to do today!! Will net about $75!

    and, for good measure I’ll take back the library books!!

  40. I *finally* returned a bike lock that has never worked, and replaced it with one that does. Thanks for the motivation!

    On a related note, the weather had been so nice we’ve been biking just about everywhere we can, which has dramatically reduced the money we spend on gas.

  41. It is definitely great to see that money coming in rather than going out. I enjoy claiming medical rebates, selling unwanted books, and returning items that aren’t suitable for that reason. I also like to keep a pile of items that I’ve borrowed ready to go back to their owners the next time I see them.
    Kim @ Extra Organised´s last post…Download your mind

  42. Rachel!, YEAH! I love reading about your No Spend Month! I’m thrilled you’ll be doing it again!

    I’ve done several no spend months, but most recently I take a week at a time and do a fiscal fast. (I spend nothing). July is tough, as we will be doing lots of stuff as a family. August might work for me, and besides I’ll get all the motivation from your successful month! :)!

  43. I am intrigued by the idea of a no-spend month. Hmmm… Wonder if I could pull it off?
    Lauren´s last post…Mint julep

  44. Ha! Rachel, we’re doing No Spend Month right now for June…we totally got the idea from you a few years ago and have been doing it once or twice a year ever since. You are completely right about the free time…it’s gotten to the point where we actually look forward to it, as it’s our time to really jump off the hamster wheel and enjoy one another and the “little things.” You are terrific! Love your blog; keep up the good (and inspiring) work!

  45. I found your blog some time ago Rachel, and you’ve been inspiring me ever since. Good ideas and honesty are a winning combination, not to mention the fact that you’re a good writer.

    I’m very glad to hear you’re doing ‘No Spend Month’ in July.


    There. That’s my accountability sorted out. Thank you!

  46. Thanks for the reminder about no spending July. I’m joining! I feel like it will be such a freeing month. No worring about shopping, what to buy, can I afford it, do I need it. None of those thoughts. A perfect summer month.

  47. Marnie Byod says:

    Oh, this situation reminds me of my friend Annie. I borrowed books from her when we were in junior high and up to this time, I haven’t returned it and its on my pile of books. Kinda insane!
    Marnie Byod´s last post…click here for blog

  48. Hi there, Just wanted to say I took your no-spending idea and celebrated “Minimal Spending March” this year – $80 for my personal spending as a single person. That included gas, food and any purchases. I didn’t spend any money preparing in advance as I felt that would defeat the purpose, I read your blog about it at the end of February and dived in with what I had. It was challenging and required some lifestyle adjustments and was very freeing. Eye-opening as well as I noticed more of what I really need to live on. Thanks for sharing your journey! Blessings, Laura