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Spare Me: The Seven Rules of “Spare”

I woke up somehow this morning with thoughts of spares… spare stuff, spare time, picking up the spare, spare ribs, spare some change, spare parts, can you spare a square… Welcome to my randomness! Let's spin it into organizing gold, shall we?  🙂

Spare stuff means having extra… having an alternate or auxiliary item…being prepared when something runs out or gets broken or lost. Having spare stuff is really smart, efficient, and useful, but you have to be careful to not take it too far and crowd out more important items.

Examples of things that are useful to keep as spares:


  • Tires
  • Cleaning & laundry supplies
  • Anything that's a "refill" or "concentrate"
  • Canned goods
  • Spices & dry goods
  • Frozen food
  • Favorite wine
  • Batteries & chargers
  • Keys
  • Glasses
  • Sheets
  • Pens and pencils
  • Toilet paper & tissues
  • Toiletries/Cosmetics
  • Sticky notes
  • Printer cartridges
  • Backup hard drives
  • Reams of paper and other office supplies like envelopes

And here are my "Seven Rules of Spare:"

  1. Keep spares for things that are consumable but not perishable (things you use up frequently but won't go bad quickly).
  2. Spare stuff has to actually be used eventually by you and your family— it's not there just because it was a bargain.
  3. Spare stuff has to fit in your space. If you live in a tiny apartment you probably will just need to shop more often.
  4. Keeping spares cannot crowd out prime usable space better used for more important, more frequently needed items. Don't fill your pantry with a case of wine for a "someday" party when you really need it for everyday cereal and soup.
  5. When you access your spare, mark it down on your shopping list to buy a new spare— this way you'll never run out.
  6. Buying in larger containers can sometimes substitute for buying multiples as spares. Investigate buying in bulk warehouse stores for larger quantity containers of cleaning supplies, for example.
  7. Maintain spares if they are mission-critical. If spares are extremely important for safety or crucial operations (like tires or backup hard drives), add maintenance tasks into your calendar to check on them and make sure they are at the ready.

So, what do you stock as spares in your spare time? Care to spare a word or two for our comments?

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Jeri Dansky

My spares, besides the things you mentioned:
1. Light bulbs.
2. Cat food.
3. Plastic bags for disposing of kitty litter (bought at a store I don’t often go to).
4. Consumable items I buy online (because I can’t find them locally), where paying the shipping for a single item doesn’t make sense: certain soaps, my particular brand of floss, etc.
5. Business cards for people I often recommend to others.
6. Surge protector. I once had one blow out, protecting my computer. But when the power came back I wanted another surge protector, in case there was another surge. Fortunately, the stores were still open, and I could go get one. But since then, I’ve always kept a spare.

Craig (@TMNinja)

Love this post, Lorie!
Stocking up on items that often need to be replaced can save lots of time, effort, and stress. Every have to run out in the evening to get dog food or trash bags or lightbulbs? (or printer ink!!!)
I agree with your thought on non-perishable items. I have seen people “squirrel” away items for a rainy day only to find out they are expired when they go to use them.
– Craig


With two little girls a spare hairbrush is on or essentials list. The girls tend to walk around while they brush their hair and I am at a loss as to how to get them to remember to put the brush back once they’re done. (Any ideas?) Since they really don’t want to brush their hair to begin with they’re not too motivated. We also have a “homing” problem with certain similar items: nail clippers, sunscreen, scissors, tape and glue, pencils/pens and sunglasses (not all of which are used by the girls !) I recognize that these are NOT part of you list of “legal” spares as it is not their consumable nature which is motivating us to have spares. The problem seems to be that these are used in various areas of the house…not just near where they are stored…so perhaps it’s their travelling nature that’s a problem.

Michelle K. Grey

I have two teenagers and our household wouldn’t be the same without our stock of extra school supplies such as: 3 Ring Binders, Poster Boards, Index Cards (3 x 5 and 4 x 6), Dividers, and Notebook Paper.


Great post, Lorie! I’d love to hear your suggestions on where to store spares. Do you recommend keeping them with the in-use items, that is, spare laundry products right next to the open packages you’re using, spare paper towels package next to the open package in the pantry, etc., versus a designated “back stock” area in, say, the garage or a closet, where you group most or all spares. (Not an issue for small items like toothpaste, but could really clog up your system if you end up with double of many items in your normal A/B storage areas…)

Eva Wallace

Great post, Lorie – thanks! I think the oddest thing that I stock up (and keep spares in every room of the house) is reading glasses. Target has them in their dollar bins every so often and I buy several at a time. My husband misplaces them almost as fast as I can buy them – ha!


A hint for the woman who’s girls walk off with the hairbrush – use a long shoe lace with one end tied to the brush and the other end tied to a drawer pull in the bathroom – they can’t walk away with it because it’s anchored!


Paper towels and toilet tissue–we buy large quantities at a warehouse store and when we get close to using them up, we buy more. Its great knowing they are on hand!


My grandson’s Grade 3 teacher came up with the idea of a homework box. Just a shoebox filled with everything needed to do homework—pencils, crayons, coloured pencils, glue, scissors, ruler, etc. He decorated it with stickers, drawings etc. Soon my 2 year old grandson was asking for a homework box too, and he got one!

Jacki Hollywood Brown

I have spares in my travel bag. When the face cream runs out in the bathroom, I get the spare from my travel bag. I buy a new one & keep it in the travel bag. Whenever I travel I know I’ve got full bottles and they are not out of date. The system works with deodorant too.


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