Rotate, Restock and Declutter During Winter

Winter is a great time to get organized. While the weather is dreary or brutally cold, it gives you an excellent guilt-free opportunity to go through your preps, see what you need to replace and what you are lacking. It’s also a terrific time to declutter the house before the beautiful spring weather takes hold and it’s time to enjoy the outdoors.

This post aims to help you rotate your preps, find out what you are lacking, and get organized so you have more time to enjoy life.

Even just taking a few of the steps outlined here will save you time and money in the future.

Set aside any food within six months of expiring

One of the biggest problems a lot of people have stockpiling food is that they do not rotate their stock enough or go through their pantries to ensure they use the oldest food first.

Ideally, you would have racks and other storage setups where you could have the oldest food in the front so that you don’t have to think about rotating as much. Another option is the for anything you put into storage that you may not use within a year, write the month and date of expiration on top of the container with a Sharpie. It may seem time-consuming, but it is better than wasting time and money on food that never gets consumed by your family. You can also have totes with dates to help out with rotating if that works better for you. There is no one method that works well for everyone, so figure out a system that you think you can manage and stick to it, and you should be fine.

[caption id=“attachment_720954” align=“aligncenter” width=“800”]

Many people keep long-term storage food (canning or dehydrated) in their basements. Unfortunately, out-of-sight can mean it’s easily forgotten. Use bad weather as a great excuse to take the time to evaluate, upgrade or rotate the food you set aside for an emergency.[/caption]

If you have more food that is set to expire than you or your family can eat, then donate it to a family in need, so it doesn’t just go to waste. Plenty of charity groups and food banks will take your donation and distribute it within the community.

Make a list of items to replace

It is easy to use up items you have stashed and not replace them soon enough.

At the start of the pandemic, we stocked up on a lot of household items. Some of these items you don’t use up as fast as others, so it is easy to forget to buy more over a year or two. I try to evaluate what we have on hand about every six months or so. I don’t necessarily go through everything, but I perform a brief survey and take note of items that need to be replaced so our provision and household supplies stay at the level we find acceptable.

If your list is lengthy and you are on a budget, then just try to replace items gradually over three months or whatever time frame you can manage.

Check medical kits for expired medications or damaged items

It is inevitable that you have expired medications at some point if you don’t regularly take the prescription or rotate your them. If an emergency happens, and your medicines are expired, you have take the loss because the alternative is not having medications and medical supplies.

Keep in mind that some medications are effective past the expiration date, but they will not have the potency of fresher batches. Antibiotics and pain meds don’t just stop working when they hit their expiration date, but they can be less effective. Just how less effective is impossible to tell. It depends on how meds were stored and the type of medication.

Make sure to dispose of meds correctly. Don’t leave a trash bag in your house with a lot of pills in it. Even mild meds like Benadryl and Aspirin can be very dangerous to children and pets if consumed in quantity. Police stations and pharmacies sometimes have drop boxes where you can dump expired meds too.

Steps for a Better Declutter Experience

Write down organization ideas and must-haves as you declutter

Sometimes you get a good idea of what you need to stay better organized as you examine the space you have and what is in it. For example, when I get frustrated with my small kitchen, I organize and clean some extra pan racks and pantry storage containers to help keep things from getting messy.

A few weeks ago, we gathered up food preservation items like canning jars and rings that took up space in the kitchen. Now I make sure these items go in a storage tote to await next year’s harvest.

Having a system in place means not letting things get to a frustrating level. If you eat a lot of home-canned foods, it is so easy to have a dozen empty jars in your cabinet or under your sink taking up space.

Spend time in each room and try to get rid of anything with little or no sentimental value.

Donate usable items in good condition to charity, take the tax write-off

Charities are really starting to crack down on people donating things no one is going to want to buy. Don’t waste time donating threadbare items or things that are not sanitary to reuse.

If you have any questions about what is acceptable, call the charity in question and ask if your item is usable. Really outdated electronics should be disposed of or recycled. For example, no charity in our area will take old-fashioned televisions. If it is not a flat-screen, then it needs to go to the nearest recycle center or landfill that takes appliances.

Rethink rented storage space

Some people live in apartments, rent rooms, or other small living spaces without adequate storage. When I was in college, I rented a storage unit a few times over the summer when I didn’t stay on campus to work. A few other students paid a few dollars to store a couple of items in the unit, too, so the cost for all of us was minimal. There are times in life when rented storage makes life a lot easier and keeps your stuff secure.

Unfortunately, rented storage space often becomes a place to throw things you don’t use but cannot bear to part with for some reason. If you must rent storage space, you may at least be able to rent a smaller, less expensive unit by clearing out the clutter. If you have roommates or neighbors in a similar situation splitting the cost of single storage units will make it more affordable.

It also is a good idea to add up the storage cost and consider if you have enough space on your property to add a storage building. If you own a home, renting storage can be a real waste of money when you could just buy a shed. Many places offer payment plans comparable or less than the cost of renting a unit. Even if you are paying some interest, you own the building free and clear eventually. Five years of renting storage adds up to a big chunk of change.

Involve the whole family, don’t take it all on yourself

Older kids and teens are capable of helping out and making some decisions about what to toss or donate. Teens can typically handle their own space with a bit of encouragement from you.

Offer incentives to entice help from family members

All work and no fun is not encouraging. Plan some rewards at the end of the day or the end of the entire decluttering project. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Something as simple as ordering pizza from a favorite restaurant is far better than nothing.

Sometimes a little bribery can go a long way towards getting a job done faster. I don’t think there is anything wrong with offering something in exchange for some help on bigger household projects.

Decluttering, simplifying possessions makes you feel better

Having too much stuff is more stressful than you might realize. Keeping a home nice and clean takes time, and the more stuff you have crammed in it, the greater the battle with dirt and grime.

Top Items To Donate, Trash, or Sell

This list consists of the most commonly stored and rarely used items. The vast majority either need to be donated or thrown away, but you may have items of value that could generate a little cash flow via eBay, a consignment shop, or Craigslist.

Exercise Equipment

Large pieces of exercise equipment take up a lot of space.

Unfortunately, unless it is newer, you may not easily sell it. Also, exercise equipment is usually large, so shipping it is not an option. If you are still storing a Bowflex from the 90s, the best destination is likely a landfill.


While it is smart to keep extra clothing on hand, keeping a lot of old clothes that are too small or too large is just a waste of space. There are exceptions, of course. For example, if you have kids or plan on having more, you may want to store their hand-me-downs.

Nice designer or vintage items in good shape could be sold via eBay or consignment, but it may take a while for them to sell.

Too many items from your children’s childhood

This is tough because who doesn’t want to hang on to some mementos? There is a big difference between saving some important things and saving everything.

If you still have all the clothing your baby outgrew, all the toys, and more, then maybe you should consider reducing. The exception to this rule is if you plant to have more kids. Hand-me-down items for younger siblings is a time-honored tradition that saves money. IF you think other parents won’t want the donation, think again. There are a lot of mothers who would be happy to receive children’s items that are in good shape. Some higher-end items you might be able to resell.


I love books. I have more than a hundred at any time, but I get rid of a big box every few months.

After reading them, I don’t keep books unless they are a reference book I think I might need later. If you read a lot of recently published titles, you can usually sell books back for a bit of the purchase price, or you can sell them on eBay if you want to take the time to ship books one by one.

I resell my books via Sometimes I get ½ or more of the original price, while other times it may just be a dollar or two. Regardless they pay for the shipping. You just input your ISBNs, accept the price, and then box up the books. The site provides a FedEx or USPS shipping label. When they process your box, you can choose to get your money via check or PayPal.

Libraries often take book donations too. If titles are newer and in demand, they will put them in circulation or sell them to raise money. I always put the newer titles in a separate box for the stacks. Older books go in a donation box for the annual book sale or their used bookstore.

Yard sales often don’t pay off unless you have a great location and lots of attractive merchandise

I remember manning yard sales when I was a kid. You could spend days getting things together and pricing them, and then another 1-2 days sitting outside and make a pittance.

With COVID-19 still on people’s minds, yard sales are not as popular as they once were. eBay and Craigslist are far more popular and reach a lot more people.

If you choose to have a yard sale, you may do better if you coordinate with other neighboring families, so there are multiple sales and many items to attract buyers.

Declutter drama

Many people hang on to items they don't like or need just because a family member gifted them or passed them on. This can result in a lot of clutter and it can be difficult to handle these situations, especially when the item in question has been passed down. Giving it to another family member who might appreciate it is often the best solution.

It is hard for older people to let go of things they acquired over a lifetime. Menwhile, younger people may not want all of those things in their households.

Years ago, I had to clean out many items from my grandmother’s house so it would be safer for her as she suffered from dementia and other health issues. It was pretty dramatic dealing with relatives that acted like I was just throwing away a lot of precious items when in truth, I was throwing out damaged items and donating items that they did not want or, in some cases, acted like they wanted but never picked up.

There was no way to handle some situations without some level of drama. Sometimes decluttering is like that.


Going through your preps and making lists of what you need to replace or buy helps avoid waste. Decluttering your home and storage buildings can make it less time-consuming to keep your home tidy and avoid wasted time looking for what you need among items that you don't really use anymore. In some cases, you might be able to generate some extra cash at the same time by selling items that you don't use or need but have value to others.

Decluttering takes time. Tackle one room at a time and get the whole family involved, so you don’t get overwhelmed and frustrated at the very beginning.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I believe one of the biggest fallacies is the use of best before dates. I have no doubts that these tie in with the highly profitable corporate love affair with “planned obsolesence”. In addition to the serious unnecessary waste, there are tremendous other costs attached to this awful policy that feeds the corporate greed. How much precious energy has been and continues to be wasted producing goods with short useful lives, from mining the raw materials to manufacturing to retail to home to landfill? How much resultant pollution and environmental degradation, from start to finish? The total cumulative impacts of the consumerist lifestyle, which we have been manipulated & trained from cradle to grave to take part in, is incalculable.
While one must continue to be safe and vigilant with foodstuffs and medications, all that I have read and viewed indicates that most things are good far beyond the recommended best before date. I recall Dr. Lee Merritt saying in one of her videos that lab testing showed many drugs still maintained good efficacy after 30 years. Likewise most canned goods last far, far longer than the best before date. There may be slight flavour or colour degradation, but my experience is that it is minimal. At present I am still eating canned salmon (that I caught and had canned) that is 8 years old. My vacuum sealed dried strawberries & blueberries from 2016 are still great! In my fridge is a tub of sour cream with a December/21 best before date that is still just fine. For most storage I do use a good labeling and rotation system that helps immensely in reducing waste.
As for dried goods like flour, oatmeal and other grains, vacuum sealing in smaller portions helps maintain freshness for longer periods of time while reducing risks such as insect infestation or spoilage. I tend to package things like flour and dried veggies in sizes based on often used recipes. When I do find any dry goods that have a stale taste, I grind them if/as needed and add them to the mix of bird food for my feeders. For those who have pets, other types of stale tasting foods can supplement their pet food. Alternatively, it can be added to the compost as well, provided one is sure there are no health risks.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learned through trial and error is more diligent purchasing - meaning questioning if I really need something, how much I need, and will absolutely use it. And this means always thinking about ‘where am I going to put it?’ before I buy it! I once had one of those large balls for exercising. Big mistake… after two years, where I grew to hate the thing, I finally took it to a nearby kids playground and gave it to the kids. It was fun watching them play with it, while also knowing I would no longer have its presence disturbing the tranquility of my living space.


I desperately need to sort through my clothes. 2 years of the COVID nonsense has left me slightly larger than my clothing and with my most used items worn out. I’m thinking it’s time to shop the end of season sales for some good quality winter items for next year. Layers seem like a good idea rather than heating the house to be comfortable wearing a thin tee-shirt and jeans or leggings. I’m trying to lose a few pounds but clothing is easily taken in, not so easy to let out. So I’ll avoid the impulse to buy in my usual size rather than what currently fits well.


I am not sure if anyone has mentioned this previously, but the website is a resource for figuring out what "out of date’ products might have useful life in them. check it out


If you struggle with keeping up with items and best-by dates, I HIGHLY recommend the “food storage app” - the icon in the app store looks like a little brown house. You can scan bar codes, classify items based on type, and enter quantity, location, and best-by dates. There is a list of items that need to be used soon. This has dramatically cut down on food waste in my household and lets me track my entire inventory very precisely.
As for decluttering… I’ve been struggling to let go of things, especially when worried about supply chain collapse. But a resource that’s really helped is Dana K White’s youtube channel and recent book. Forget “sparking joy,” her method is not emotional and very practical. It doesn’t promote minimalism and makes you work with the space you have.
I hope these suggestions help.


All the comments here are awesome and have some great information. Can’t wait to try the apps. And while I agree in principle with Jan (as usual) and argue her point all the time, I do think there are good reasons to not test the corporate “best used by” fallacy. If I’m capable of keeping everything as fresh as possible I will. Mostly, I don’t want to test the fallacy when and if things get desperate. Nothing would make morale worse during hard times than finding good food gone bad when you’re hungry. So currently, I don’t sweat it if some food is a month or three late…but my preference is not go that route if I can avoid it.

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I went to a Mennonite store this morning where I buy in bulk. Bought a 50 lb. bag of organic rolled oats for $65 and a 25 lb. bag of Lundberg organic basmati rice for approximately $70. There was a line of people requesting bulk items as opposed to just the stuff off the shelf. While waiting, I chatted with another woman who was also buying in bulk “because our government is trying to deliberately crash our economy.” Stock up now because we’ll definitely be facing shortages. The cat is out of the bag for all but the most fervent Kool-ade drinkers. 
Also, I belong to another “tribe” that’s metaphysical, not data driven. But the message this morning is to make sure you have a bit of cash on hand. Just take that for what it’s worth.


Dealing with family when decluttering:
When I needed to declutter my parent’s house, first I had my brother, nieces and nephews walk thru the house and decide what they wanted or could use. Those with young children split up the vintage children’s toys, often remembering how much fun they had playing with them as kids.
One of the problems we had is that most of the family already has much of the stuff they need for their homes. The saddest thing was my mom’s old fancy dishes, some of us already had dinner sets from another relative. The main problem for the rest is that you can’t throw them in the dishwasher or microwave, and we don’t do huge family meals like my grandmother did. Two young nieces with small children just couldn’t justify filling 1/3 of their kitchen shelves with these beautiful sets.
There was enough stuff that they were happy to trade off with each other and share based on who could used things most effectively. [I also did NOT invite the one family member that doesn’t play well with others. She’s still mad, but you can’t do this with a toxic person involved.]
We also have some local give-away Facebook sharing sites. Things like mattresses, which a lot of charities won’t take, I was able to handle that way.
I’m still looking for a way to recycle old, damaged clothes around here.
We recycled 700 lbs of scrap metal from my granddad’s old garage (worth $40, about $0.10 per hour). I also used the FB sharing site to give away old, usable shop stuff.
Just a warning, watch out for toxics. I’ve had to take a couple loads to the toxics recycling site, some because my dad and granddad tended to store stuff in reused plastic containers and I couldn’t be sure what was in some. If you do reuse containers, use markers to clearly label contents. Unlike food and drugs, chemicals often don’t have expiration dates, but they often decompose into toxic byproducts, especially when subject to temperature fluctuations.

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I live in SW Florida. We don’t have basements. Our attics reach temps no doubt over 100° F in the summer. Our closet spaces are only fair. Our garages are for cars and some lawn equipment and tools. We are in an association and no outbuildings or sheds allowed. I considered buying a freeze dryer years ago but it is out of my financial range now and I can’t find any kindred souls who would join with me to purchase and prepare our own meals. Any suggestions? I would love the problem of having to thin and reorganize.

There is a hospice store in a town near me. Very good quality clothing and other items for not much money.

Over time the soluble vitamins in canned food will ‘migrate’ into the liquid they were canned in. So, while the nutrition in the food may be a little less by virtue of being heated in the canning process, nearly all the vitamins are still there, over time more evenly distributed between the solids and the the liquid. Canned food that has been on the shelf for several/many years is still edible, even if a bit less full of vitamins. However, the frugal solution, which we may all be in need of in our uncertain future, would be to save the vegetable liquid for soups or to cook rice or other grains in. I usually can fruit in its own or a complimentary juice to keep vitamin C at a better level. Home canned food in glass jars usually keeps its quality and taste better than commercially canned food, especially acidic food.
The ‘use by’ dates are a wonderful marketing scheme. Both corporation profits and landfills have been enlarged by this practice.