Pandemic Clutter: Empty Store Shelves = Full House

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Admit it, we all kind of panic-shopped when the pandemic hit. Some people took it to extreme levels, buying up everything they could get their hands on. Others prepped like we would be in lockdown for years. We simply didn’t know what to expect. Even I'll admit I bought a bit more than usual at the store when it first began.

I didn't buy any extra toilet paper and I didn't run out and grab every last bottle of hand sanitizer, but I did stock up on food and crafts supplies. With the uncertainty of store openings and availability, I admit I was worried about being stuck without food or something to keep my kid busy. I didn't go crazy with it, but now I have a pantry stocked with pasta, beans and rice.

Then when school went virtual, I was worried about having supplies on hand for my daughter. I went and got a few more things without checking to see if I had any first. This has happened before: You Gotta Show Them What's Up! - Getting Started on the Track to Clean (

However, now that the world is settling back in its routine, and mentally we are starting to calm down, I am left with some extra food and supplies. I no longer want to eat pasta every night nor do I remember exactly what is in the pantry. I do know that the food is now over a year old and it must be quickly approaching its best-used-by dates. I also have more school & craft supplies than my child can use for the next few school years. So, what do we do with all of the extra we have obtained? My suggestions are below.


  • Eat it: That's right. Even if that means you'll be having rice and beans for a few days. Try to get creative with what you have. Sure, you can still buy foods to go with what you have, but use the pasta and rice, or whatever it was you stocked up on as the base. Recently, I learned how to make Spanish rice. It came out so good that I made it twice in one night and gave some to my parents. Which leads me to the next suggestion.

  • Cook for others: The night after my Spanish rice success, feeling inspired, I made baked ziti and invited the whole family over for dinner. One box of pasta down, about eight more to go!

  • Donate it: So many places would love to have your food donations. I found that some of the items I bought only because they were on sale and not something I would normally eat. I brought it to the local homeless branch and even asked some neighbors if they wanted any.

  • Let the kids experiment: My daughter is just learning to cook and when I give her free range of the food pantry, she can make whatever she wants. I allow her to use up anything in there. And if it doesn’t come out that great (or edible) it’s not that big of a deal.

The house will start get cleaner and bellies fuller as you begin to declutter the food from the past year. It's a lot better than it all going to waste. Look in your own closet or pantry and see how much is in there because of the pandemic.

School & Craft Supplies

  • Use the supplies up: Have fun making projects with your children. You can go online and research how to make anything with the supplies you have. And if you happen to have a collection of toilet paper rolls (we know who you are) there are lots of neat crafts you can make from them.

  • Donate the supplies: You can take any unused items and donate them to a school, thrift store, church or local charity.

  • Sell them: If you have an abundance of supplies that are still in good shape, you can try your hand at selling them. Online marketplaces are a great place to start. And if you make a craft from them, you can sell them too! My daughter made a bunch of magnets during our time home and was able to sell them at our yard sale.

Household Supplies

If you find yourself face to face with a mountain of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer or (cough cough) toilet paper, there's still hope for cleaning out the clutter. As with the above items, you can always donate or ask around to see if anyone you know needs them. You can use them up, sell them or give your kids free-range of anything child appropriate. Think bubble baths with multiple bath bombs!

It is my hope that we never have to panic-buy again or be left with the aftermath of over-buying. However, we can be more prepared next time. Take inventory now and see what it is you and your children actually needed and used, then start from there. If you find out that no one in the house likes goldfish crackers anymore (because there's still a giant tub of them in the pantry that you bought in 2020) you can keep them off the list next time. You'll start to realize what makes your household run smoothly and what is just extra clutter.

Even in the midst of a natural tragedy, we can learn something about ourselves and our families. It's a great time to assess our own needs and show our children that we can get through adversity together. By showing our kids that we can control our responses to impulse buying, we will hopefully raise children who leave some toilet paper on the shelves for the next person.


What did you buy during the pandemic that you usually don't? Did you buy way too much of something and now you have extra?

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