For many families, shopping at Costco is a regular part of the grocery routine. Driven by the prospect of saving money by buying in bulk, or so we assume, we stock up on all sorts of things. However, bulk purchases require more storage room than the average grocery shop, often adding to the clutter in our homes. Older urban homes in particular are notorious for lack of storage space. So, products get piled up on counters, deposited in corners and stashed all over the home.
Despite the fact that shopping at Costco can be a tremendous source of clutter, I do think there is a place for it. I got my membership after the arrival of my first child to buy diapers in bulk. There were also other products that interested me because of price point or availability of a brand. For a while, shopping at Costco was a monthly happening for me.
Here’s how I learned to avoid and control the shopping at Costco-related clutter in my home.
1. Create Costco specific storage space
I have a dedicated Costco cupboard in my home where I store all the extra food products that are unopened and do not need to be refrigerated or frozen. It doesn’t have to be in your kitchen. Mine is on the lower level of my house. I find this separation works well because it creates a clear distinction between the products in use and their back-ups. It also prevents the visible pile up of food products in my kitchen. Added benefit: if family members cannot find an item in the kitchen cupboard, they know exactly where to look – the Costco cupboard – before adding it to the grocery list.
2. Think storage when doing your shopping list
Make a list specifically for shopping at Costco, and think about where you can store the things you need in your home. The quantities of most Costco items are large, so make sure you have a place to store them. Things that you seldom use or only use in small quantities should not be on this list. For example, I don’t buy spices at Costco. Also ensure you can and would use them up within a reasonable timeframe and most definitely before their expiration date.
I found that using a weekly meal plan that repeats itself and identifying purchase patterns let’s me work off the same list each time, with only a few changes for special events or needs. Tip: noting your storage plan on the Costco list can help you deal with impulse decisions at the store.
3. At the store separate list and impulse items
Probably the hardest thing about shopping at Costco is avoiding extra purchases. You start with a list, but then you find a great deal or a new product you’re excited about. If you have kids with you it’s “I want this mom/dad.” Let’s face it, most people leave the store with all sorts of things they never planned to buy. I have found a way to deal with this quite successfully—but you have to be disciplined. When shopping, items that are on the list are placed into the larger section of the cart, and items that are not on the list go in the smaller section. Before checkout the non-list items must be handled and reviewed individually. For each item ask “why it is needed” and “is there space to store it?” Most impulse grabs get left behind. Occasionally I am left with a happy find that has been thought through.
4. Reward yourself for sticking to your list
If you like food, like my family does, there are always lots of interesting and different products that catch your attention during the shop. Some may even end up in the non-list section of your cart. Pick one to buy as a reward for sticking to your list. My kids love this. They start talking about this item before we even enter the store: what might it be? It’s fun and it changes the dynamics of the shop. It’s no longer about ‘I want this and this and this”. Rather it is about “what is that one special food item we are going to take home that is not something we usually buy”. Try it! Insight: I suggest food because it is consumable and therefore doesn’t add to your clutter.
So when it comes down to it, shopping at Costco can provide value when managed thoughtfully. But, if not planned for and kept in check, the stressful clutter it adds to homes devalues the perceived savings in not so obvious ways. For example, you don’t know where to look for an item in all the clutter when you really need it and lose valuable time searching for it.
For other tips to start keeping clutter out of your house, read Five Starter Steps To Simplify Your Home. If you have other tips about how to shop at Costco and avoid a clutter build-up in your home, I’d love to hear them.