Maybe buy an extra

We have come to the point in summer where we go through a lot of sunscreen.

Theoretically, we could just keep a giant spray bottle and tube in the mudroom, since that’s where we generally exit the house. But over the years, I have learned that the sunscreen is more likely to make it out of the bottle and onto bodies if it is ridiculously convenient. And so, we now have a stash by the backdoor, ready for anyone going into the back yard. We also have a bottle on the back porch, in case anyone made it out the backdoor without noticing the stash. We have bottles in the cars. Kids going to camp? They get tubes in their bags. A little extra means we’re not hunting around. We’re not moving the sunscreen from place to place. And so it gets used.

Same with other things. A booster seat or two in each car (even if children rarely travel in it) means we’re not scrambling on the way out the door. The baby likes white noise while he sleeps. He moves back and forth between the bassinet in my room and the crib in another bedroom. I had been moving the white noise machine back and forth when I realized this was quite the headache with a sleepy fussy baby. I bought a second machine. Problem solved.

Of course, I realize this may be obvious to some people. I’m a chronic under-buyer. I have a strong tendency to make do. Sometimes this reaches the point of ridiculousness. One of our kids went through a massive overuse-of-toilet-paper phase, continually plugging our toilets, and my husband and I were squabbling over where exactly the plunger had gone in the house, and was it upstairs or downstairs, and someone else who walked in on this situation said “um, can you go to Target and get another plunger?” Oh yeah. Turns out they sell them.

There’s a point of diminishing returns here. A plunger near each bathroom might be helpful. More plungers than bathrooms, not so much. But sometimes buying an extra of something can actually cut down on clutter. We bought an extra laundry hamper to put on the first floor of the house. Now, people are marginally less inclined to leave dirty laundry lying all over the place when they’re too lazy to carry it up to the second floor laundry room.

In any case, if you find yourself carrying something from room to room, or car to car, or from home to your office, or if you’re constantly saying “hey, where’s the…?” consider buying an extra. A little bit of money might save a lot of hassle.

27 thoughts on “Maybe buy an extra

  1. My goodness, this is me! Definitely a chronic under-buyer. And closer (meaning I will fully use something up before opening new, while my husband is an opener and starts a new bottle at the half way point). A few conscious duplicates I’ve added to my life: scissors to open diaper box in baby’s room, clip tags in my bathroom or cut stick pops next to garage freezer; chap-stick in all purses and coat pockets; dish soap next to the laundry sink; cleaner and cloth under each bathroom sink; a broom in my sewing room for a quick tidy; a full set of essentials (like pacifier) for the day care bag; a set of cheap silverware for work (I hate plastic) and my greatest hack of all (duh!) was buying a neutral sweater specifically for my office so I didn’t have to carry one back and forth every day. One side benefit of being an under-buyer perhaps, is that I fully appreciate and get a spark of joy every time I use one of my conscious duplicates! Even though I’ve been doing some of these for years, I still think “so glad I did this!” and feel like a genius every time :o)

    1. UPDATE: I had gotten used to using headphones to listen to music while working from home and for zoom calls with friends. Now that I’m back at the office, I’ve been carrying my headphones back and forth so I can use them at work and at home. Had a brilliant idea this morning to buy a second pair for work. $9 will solve so much headache!

      1. Yes!
        I learned this from my mom. Chapstick in every place you need it. Car (if you live somewhere not too hot), purse, desk, kitchen sink, nightstand, etc.

        Reading glasses: piano, desk, bedside table, bookshelf

  2. What is it about kids and toilet paper? Over the years at least two of my 4 children have loved to use gobs of toilet paper!

  3. My big duplicate buys are:
    * chargers and plugs – an outlet in almost every room with multiple USB ports and cords for my phone and e-reader
    * nail clippers – key for a former nail-biter! (Er, current nail-biter given world events…)
    * Socks. I go through athletic socks FAST and it’s better to just have a ton.

    I’m considering buying a second hand-vacuum, too–my apartment is pretty clearly divided into halves separated by a hallway, so it would be nice to have one in each!

  4. Yes! My husband is great at this … when we met, I couldn’t understand why anyone would have so many gym bags… but he had one with all of his toiletries and extra clothes in his car, his desk at work, and his closet at home. Turns out he had 4 toothbrushes, 4 deodorants, 4 soaps, 4 changes of sports clothes … because each bag needed 1, and then his bathroom. It was like an AH-HA moment for me! He was never scrambling. He always had what he needed & never had to figure out where any of it was, because he always had it at the ready. It then made sense with 4 kids now to have a set of toothbrushes & paste, plus camping bedding in our camping trailer… everyone has fresh breath and I never have to worry about packing them!

  5. I did most of my new-baby shopping in a fit of coronavirus panic, which led to a lot of overbuying (just in case diapers or formula went the way of toilet paper). This included a second changing pad and diaper pail… Which turned out to be really useful. Now, on the rare occasions when one child is sleeping in their crib/bassinet, the other kid’s diaper change doesn’t wake them.

  6. I’m a very precise buyer. There’s usually a specific reason behind the quantity of any item I purchase. I know how many of each toiletry we go through in 6 months, so I order 6 months worth of supplies. I reorder when we open our last bottle of mouthwash. That gives me a 30 day window the place the order before we run out of mouthwash, which I know will be the item we finish first. My wardrobe has about two weeks worth of clothing because I do my laundry once a week, and two weeks worth of laundry is enough to gives me some slack if I’m behind, plus it gives me all the variety I need. The work/casual clothing distribution is based on 4 days in the office and 3 days at home, though a lot of the clothing can be dressed up down and works for both. My one year old has about 10 days worth of clothing- also timed based on how frequently I wash her clothes (weekly). As for household things – if something is used in more than one place in the house, I will get one for each place it’s used, if I have a place to store it where it’s used. So we have 3 brooms – one in the kitchen, one on the second floor (stored in unfinished attic space, and one with the rest of the cleaning supplies in the stairwell to the basement. We don’t have room to store the appropriate cleaning supplies all over the house, so they’re in a basket, which at least makes it easier to take the supplies around the house and have everything needed together. Every single bathroom in the house has always had a plunger. No one should ever have to hunt down a plunger when they need one, especially not a guest.

  7. I find this works well for communal/family items like sunscreen, beach towels, boxes of bandaids. It staves off the “mooooooom, where is the…” calls.

    But for personal items, I find it’s the exact opposite: I’d rather have a single lip gloss, a single water bottle, and (perhaps ridiculously!) a single pair of socks. Having extras just means I’ll lose them, or fail to use them up before they go bad.

    Anyone else like that?

  8. This is not related to this post – but to your Before Breakfast today – Read a Poem. There is an amazing podcast called The Slowdown (5 minutes daily on weekdays) where Tracy K. Smith, former US Poet Laureate, reads a poem and talks about it a bit. I have come to believe that like Shakespeare, most poetry is meant to be experienced, not just read.

  9. I am a total underbuyer as well. I see the convenience of having a bunch of sunscreen, but I also hate having 10 half-used bottles of something. I really like to use something up all the way because it makes me feel frugal somehow, which I do realize is a little silly.
    My husband annoys me sometimes with overbuying, particularly groceries. He buys food items that he likes but he never does the cooking, so they languish in the fridge (because I don’t like them and will cook something else).

  10. Yes! I keep sunscreen everywhere, by the front door, in my purse, in my bathroom. We started keeping our sun hats by the front door as well so we remember to wear them when we walk the pup… even if I do hate having things out, it is worth it. I keep scissors in our entryway console table as well, to open all the packages that come inside.

  11. I love this!

    After reading this post I realize how often I do this.

    Some examples:
    – a spare toothbrush/toothpaste/floss in the downstairs bathroom
    – Chapstick in the car/purse/bathroom drawer/cupboard near the house entry
    – Scissors…everywhere
    – I don’t mind re-using my workout clothes as I don’t sweat very much, but I always hate re-using sports bras. I just bought some great ones second hand. While I’m an under-buyer, this makes me SO happy to have a drawer stocked with 5 sports bras!
    – a spare pair of sneakers left by the treadmill. They don’t get dirty, I never have to go looking for them.

    Then there is the flip side to this, where I try to really streamline and limit the number of things. Like cleaning supplies; I try to find multi-purpose supplies that will do everything and limit it to 1-2 of these items per bathroom. Likewise, when my kids were little I decided (on my doctor’s suggestion) to use a rice-sized amount of regular toothpaste for them. We now all use the same toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. There are some great gentle all-in-one shampoo and body washes at health food stores/online. I pick neutral scents and it is SO nice to not have a huge jumble of different products for different people.

  12. This post came to mind today as I prepare to send my kids back to school next week. Each kid (9 and 13) will have to submit a form with health questions every morning prior to going to school. One item is a temperature reading. Pre-COVID, we have had one working thermometer in the house and it served us just fine. Since COVID, the one we have is in our bathroom since my husband and I need to submit daily temperature checks too. Today, as I put shortcuts on each kid’s phone to the daily health form, this post came to mind and I ordered two additional thermometers. One for the kids’ bathroom and one for the car “just in case” they forget to take a temp before we head to dropoff. It’s stressful enough sending them back to school right now; we don’t need to add to the morning chaos by all trying to find where the one family thermometer is!

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