Declutter Food Storage Containers: 15 Minute Mission

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Today's decluttering mission is to declutter excess food storage containers.


Obviously, don't get rid of them all, you need to be able to save your leftovers and other food items.

But if you're afraid a huge pile of them will fall out each time you open up a cabinet or the drawer won't close well because it is so stuffed with them you most likely have too many.

You know, if it looks something like this:

cluttered food storage containers cabinet


I want to thank a reader, Tanja, for being game to show her plastic containers, when asking for help on how to get control over them.

What's The Right Amount Of Containers To Keep?

Keep a reasonable amount only -- enough to hold the amount of leftovers you and your family actually eat before they go bad, for example. That is a week's worth of containers, or less.

Which Containers Should You Get Rid Of?

Prime items to declutter are those containers which are warped or stained badly, or that don't have lids (or lids that don't have containers anymore).

In addition, if you've got a lot keep the quality stuff, not the junky ones.

Special Note About Re-Used Food Containers, Like Margarine Containers

And also a word on food storage containers like old yogurt and margarine containers, etc.

Yes, these can be good to use, in moderation, and are cheap since you already bought them with whatever food item you got.

The danger, however, is that you save every. single. one. of. them.

That is too much! Once you have a reasonable amount, no more than a week's worth to use for leftovers, just like the criteria above, then begin to toss (or recycle) the rest.

If one begins to look bad, or becomes damaged, just toss it and then the next time you empty another such container, just save that one.

Once you get it decluttered down to a reasonable amount practice the one in, one out rule to keep these containers from slowly re-accumulating and becoming a big mess again.

What To Do With Containers You're Decluttering

There are many things you can do with these containers, and I'd love to hear more of your ideas for them in the comments.

As much as possible, try to recycle your containers, to the extent that is possible, and they cannot be reused by someone else.

But typically, unless you've got a full set in extremely good condition, it is not worth your time to try to sell these, at least in my experience.

So consider donating them. I'd love to hear your ideas of where to donate them in the comments below, to help anyone that's stuck trying to figure out a good place.

Make sure anything you donate has both has a matching lid and container though, otherwise you're not donating something useful, which is a big no no!

Below I've shown some of the pictures shared by readers who've done this mission, showing their before and afters for inspiration for you. So let's cheer these ladies on!

Top photo courtesy of Jeroen

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I Got Rid Of All The Containers That No Longer Had Lids

by Ferris

After

After

After Before

Ferris from The Hamman Family Blog shared before and after pictures of her plastics cupboard.

She said of the after picture: "The middle shelf is my plastic containers and what I did with these was make sure they all had matching lids before I "saved" them.

If they didn't, in the trash they went. (Well, until I knew that I didn't need them for anything)

So the lids are in a small box to the right. That is where they will go after they are washed.

(I have a ton more plastic containers but think about the time of the year... my refrigerator is filled with them! I know those all have lids though!)"

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I Got Rid Of All The Lids That Didn't Have Containers!

Jennifer had the opposite problem that Ferris had. She found all kinds of lids that didn't have the container anymore, so she got rid of all those extra lids instead.

She said, "Here's the missing extra lids I stole from all of you. Lol."

Similarly, another reader, Jenni said, "Somehow I had this many lids without matching containers. They all go to the recycling bin. There's a lot more room in my cabinet now."

Plastic food storage containers lids decluttered as part of the #Declutter365 mission on Home Storage Solutions 101

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Went From Three Cabinets Worth To Just One!

by Jan

Before - 1

Before - 1

Before - 1 Before - 2 Before - 3 After

Jan from The Crafty Mermaid's Grotto shared these before and after pictures of how she stores all these plastic food storage containers.

Basically, she needed to do a major purging, because she had three cabinets worth of them.

She said of the first before picture, "Underneath is one of my plastic container storage places. I have three! I can't believe that the plasticware has spread out that much! Definitely needing a purge there."

Of the second before picture she said, "This is under the microwave cart. It is the only spot where that spinning plastic storage set will fit."

Finally, of the third before photo she said, "Here is the third plastic storage cabinet. This one, we had put a pull out three-tiered basket to hold the lids. Well my plastic container collection had grown so much over the past few years that not all the lids fit in that basket anymore. It will be repurposed."

Of the after picture she explained, "I purged a lot of plastic containers. I only kept the more expensive ones that were still in good shape, and a handful of the Ziploc disposable ones. I have all my plastic containers except the spinning rack in this cabinet. I bought those red file folder containers from Target's dollar section to hold all the lids."

Similarly, another reader, Kelly, down-sized her collection as well, choosing what to keep versus to recycle:

What Kelly decided to keep versus to recycle when doing the food storage containers decluttering mission on Home Storage Solutions 101

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Plastics Cupboard Winnowed Of Some Containers

Before

Before

Before After

Bec from 2012 - The Year of Challenges shared the before and after of her plastics cupboard.

She did a great job, don't you think?

Here's another photo, this one from a reader, June, who explained, "Here's the pic of the items from the food storage containers' cabinet that were in excess."

Excess food storage containers and plastics that June decluttered in the #Declutter365 mission on Home Storage Solutions 101


Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

declutter 365
I hope seeing these pictures has inspired you to declutter your own food storage containers.

When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

How to declutter your food storage containers, including rules of thumb about how many containers to keep and which to get rid of {part of the #Declutter365 missions on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
Bottom before and after photos courtesy of a reader, Kerry

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Kitchen Clutter Hall Of Fame

Kitchen Drawer & Cabinet Organization Challenge

Go From Declutter Food Storage Containers To Home Page

Comments for Plastics Cupboard Winnowed Of Some Containers

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where to donate
by: Jennifer

Donate extras to community food kitchens. (Used for clients to take leftovers).

number the bottom and lids
by: Amber

I numbered all of the lids and bottoms that way my kids, and hubby, just have to match up the numbers!

another place to donate
by: Kayla

Churches would appreciate donations of nice containers as well.

let guests take away leftovers in them and not expect them returned!
by: Christine

I keep a plastic bin of extra containers in the basement. When we have family get together everyone can take leftovers and I don't care about the container!

just did this!
by: Donna

I just did this two days ago! Tossed out anything without a lid and straightened the drawer I keep them in. Love this decluttering site, keeping me organized!

give them away with gifts of food in them
by: Deb

I downsize containers I use them to give food to neighbors etc. I tell them I don't want the container back. They can toss.

Where to donate plastic containers
by: Chris

Consider donating them to a local day care center. They can use them for food storage, as well as storing different items in the classroom such as crayons, beads and buttons, and small toys. Elementary school teachers use all sizes of storage containers as well.

kids named containers and lids
by: Linda

When the girls were younger I had them name the containers and lids with black sharpies. It was fun for them and it worked. They mainly did conventional names, but if I had it to do over, I would do Disney character names.

clear containers
by: Linda

We recently decided that we would stick with clear containers for things stored in the fridge, so that we could easily identify what was in them.

We found Rubbermaid has a nice collection. Clear, sturdy with lids that snap on the bottom of the container if you wanted to organize that way. Sam's store had a great collection at a good price. We kept what we wanted and gave the others away to mother in law.

Sometimes they do sell
by: AK-momkatt

I put last year's purge in a box at my garage sale for something like 2 for 25-cents. One person who bought some said he was going to use them in his chicken coop, another to keep in the car with dog kibble when they go to the park.

more ideas of where to donate
by: Anonymous

Maybe animal shelters and rescue groups could use these also. I have a rescue in mind to ask for my area.

Idea for the "extra"
by: Anonymous

Day cares and nursery schools are usually looking for low cost items to store things. Great place to donate.

Reusing & recycling plastic containers
by: Kris

I'm always looking for ways to save money, time, and the planet--so I pack my lunch in containers that can be reused or recycled. My employer has an extensive recycling program allowing me to bring my lunch in these recyclable plastic containers (cottage cheese, margarine, yogurt)--throwing those I don't need to return home into a bin. It's nice not to have more dishes to wash up at home.

A use for unmatched lids ...
by: Anna

When I have unmatched lids or bottoms, or the seals don't work any more so the containers don't shut - I use them to line shelves and cupboards that hold messy items like oil and vinegar. I stand the bottles and packets on them or in them. Then if the bottles leak they don't leak all over the shelf. I now also use old ice cream containers to hold the lids of the containers that made the cut for food storage.

Less food = fewer containers
by: Ruth

Being mindful of the portions of food you make reduces the amount of containers you need for left overs. If you have a meal in the fridge for more than 5-7 days you are making too much food to begin with and should edit your recipes to better fit your family's needs, and/or take better advantage of the food you now have ready made in your fridge. (ie: leftover night, lunches, half meals, etc.). If you correct this, it will equal compounded savings: less money on food, less money on Tupperware, less money on home storage for those said containers. Not to mention your fridge will feel/be cleaner without all those containers of food rotting for days/weeks.

I sometimes save plastic containers from take out meals
by: Julia

When it gets close to a holiday or party time at our home, I save plastic containers from take out meals. This way when sending food home with guests I have something more sturdy to hold the food. I put these in an open spot in my laundry room and when the party is over the space is empty again.

plastic storage "extras"
by: Darcy

After I match up the bowls and lids, I stack/nest some of the mismatched ones and store them in a box in the basement or garage. We have used them for science projects (chemicals), paint, garage chemicals (gas, oil) and then can just toss them when we are done.

Where to donate
by: Jen

Our local thrift shop sells craft supplies and old jewelry that has been donated. A lot of that stuff has many small pieces (think beads, embroidery thread, single earrings, etc.) and they need containers to sell the material in. I've bought plenty of these tubs to restock our craft supplies for the kids and always send back the old tupperware, etc. that I brought home. So sending your surplus plasticware to a thrift store is a great way to repurpose your extras!

leftover containers
by: trish

We host Thanksgiving so need to have extra leftover containers for that day but I didn't want to keep that many in my kitchen all year. Previously had decluttered a cabinet saving room for the extras during the year. Love the idea of donating extra containers to daycares and churches.

take to church
by: Dawn McCollough

What I don't need I take to church to use AFTER a potluck dinner.

idea for margarine, etc. containers
by: Linda

Regarding repurposing empty margarine/dip/whatever containers we keep a stash separate from our container cabinet to send leftovers with family after a family gathering; that way we don't need to get them back.

multiple use containers
by: Anonymous

I only keep containers that you can use multiple places, like microwave / dishwasher / refrigerator and freezer. Keep them and you don't need a lot.

just set out as free!
by: Galadriel

I know that donating containers without lids or lids without containers is not recommended. However, I have found that setting a box of them out by the curb of your home and marking it as "FREE" is one amazing way to get rid of the odd things you own like that. I put a box of lids for pots and pans and whatnot out recently, along with a very old waffle maker and toaster oven and an old stove-top coffee pot with missing lid and the next morning the box was gone.

My brother plans to take Mom's cast iron cookware to a place where he can get a little money for the scrap metal as we clear out her home (she is in assisted living). It is not worth the time to clean them up to donate.

donate to church for leftovers from meals
by: Tanya

I take my clean butter, sour cream, cool whip, etc. containers to my church. They are always having meals and have plenty of left overs. The containers are used to take food to people who can't get out to come to the meal. It's a great way to help others and help DE clutter your containers.

donate to wildlife shelter
by: Anonymous

We donate ours to the local wildlife shelter. They use them to take food to the animals in the various cages. I would think they might be useful at domestic animal shelters as well.

Tupperware may replace cracked items
by: Anonymous

All of my local thrift stores happily accept food storage containers - but I would not burden them with damaged items since they will probably have to pay to dispose of them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have Tupperware - some cracked items can be replaced for free, so before you throw out that broken lid or container contact your Tupperware Consultant or call Customer Care at 1-800-TUPPERWARE to find out if you can get a free replacement (or credit towards new merchandise if your item is no longer being manufactured).

alternative uses for old food container lids
by: Niki T

I've found a few good uses of those old plastic food storage containers (namely the lids, but sometimes the bottoms too).

#1: plastic lids make great paint palettes. Whether you're a pro, or you have kids, you can quickly and easily squeeze paint out onto a plastic lid, and even if the paint dries on it, most of the time it will peel off in one sheet. Reuse it over and over again, and if it gets cruddy; recycle it.

#2: I do a lot of sewing. Plastic lids (and sometimes the bottoms) make great reinforcement for certain projects. The plastic can be cut to size and inserted between two layers of fabric to provide a rigid bottom to a bag or tote.

donate to schools and daycares
by: Cindy

I donate my containers to the local elementary school or daycare. They can always use these for doing projects with the kids. Another place is a senior center for the crafts they do as well. Always be sure you have container and lid.

holidays is only time I collect these types of containers
by: Janet H.

The only time I collect and re-use margarine and food containers is before and after a holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) My son takes some leftovers home with him and I don't have to worry about getting my containers back. My good containers are the ones that the bottoms attach to the tops.

ideas for recycling or reusing old containers
by: Anonymous

Several suggestions for your overflow (ways to recycle)

*contact a homeless shelter: ours has a supply closet for soaps, shampoo, etc. They can use some containers to repackage bulk items for individuals and families.

*know of someone who is ill, has small children, shut in? Share a meal with them and pkg. in the containers. They can recycle them and do not have to return them to you.

*Our church gets a few for those luncheons when someone doesn't want to take home leftovers and will share it with another.

give to daycare
by: Tara

I donate my storage containers to my nearby pre-school or day care center. The items are great for arts and crafts, toy storage or during the warmers months they work great for sand castle building.

consolidated all my containers into one spot
by: Jessica

I moved most of my storage containers from various spots in the kitchen to my pantry. This pantry also holds most of the canned and boxed food items as well. When I cleaned it out on Saturday the outdated cans told me the job had not been done since 2009. YUK!

Container madness
by: LG

I have three small sets of containers. Two are in the kitchen - a set of glass containers with plastic lids (my prime go to), and a collection of various plastic storage containers with lids, for our leftovers. The other collection of containers are kept in our pantry and consist of empty recycled food containers that I use for food that is going to someone else - care packages of leftovers, and sometimes lunches. No one needs to return them and we seem to have an steady supply.

The Dreaded Plastics' Cupboard
by: Anonymous

I took out every plastic container we owned and named it Mount Tupperware. From here I sorted all those with lids. Anything without a lid was put in the recycle bin and lids without containers went to the recycle bin. I still had too many. Next step was to recycle all the stained, warped and hard to put on lids. From there I STILL had too many. Next step was to take them to a family member in a large box to see if she wanted any containers with lids. I had kept only those I needed (and a few spare just in case!!) Her first reaction was I don't want your rubbish, until she looked inside and saw that EVERY container had a fully working lid. She promptly pulled out her own plastics, rather large draw and tipped the entire contents into the recycling bin!! Her comment was, "I can never find a matching B&%**y lid!" So she had a whole new set of containers WITH LIDS and my containers all sit in the "plastics cupboard" with their lids ON! Making for a very happy kitchen :)

Disposing of containers - make sure to recycle!
by: Drusilla

In our community all plastic is recyclable. So when I have a storage container that doesn't have a lid I just pop it in my recycle bin. Check with your community's recycling rules. It beats filling up the landfills!

keeping track of lids
by: Michal NK

I don't have a lot of containers but I have three sizes (large square and rectangle, medium jars and small round tubs) and in each size category they don't have interchangeable lids! They can stack because they are the same volume but the lids are one of kind for more than half of them.

The worst part of putting food away was finding the exact lid for the container.

Finally I went through all of them and got rid of the ones that really didn't have lids, or were damaged in some way.

Then I took all that remaining containers matched them to their lids and put matching colored stickers on the lid and container. So one square box/lid has a blue sticker and another has yellow.

I can find the lids now in seconds instead of in 10 minutes of trial and error seeing if this lid will fit!

I use glass containers, with lids kept on them
by: Anonymous

I switched from plastic containers to glass ones to help them last longer since my plastics always seem to get discolored right away and I like to microwave leftovers for lunch in them. I also keep all the lids on the containers so that I don't have to try and search for a match. Yes this means no nesting so they take up more space but I don't need to have that many containers anyway because then it just makes it easier to end up with way more then you need.

repurposing idea for containers
by: Anonymous

Containers, with or without lids, can also be used as drawer dividers or storage for small items (I'm thinking nails, screws, etc.) rather than buying more expensive storage containers or dividers.

Donating plastic containers
by: Anonymous

I gave a stack of bowls to a neighbor who was getting ready to move into a college dorm. She was happy and so was her mother!

re-use plastic containers
by: Sandra Cook

I have a scrapbook room and large messy shop to declutter so those icky containers with or without lids are great for sorting things in those kind of places.

switching to glass, and repurposing plastic ones
by: Lin

I am trying to replace my plastic containers with glass ones. My husband gladly took over the plastic ones for use inside the garage. Costco is a good place to find the glass ones. My plastic sets were from Costco as well, from over 10 years ago.

Donation Idea
by: Anonymous

Animal care centers are usually looking for plastic containers to hold food that they cut up and use for the animals. Our science resource center is always asking for them.

Plastic containers
by: Anonymous

I order Chinese food then keep the plastic containers from them instead of buying them. Also hubby buys ice cream in a plastic container and we reuse that one. Then if they go bad we throw it away and use the new ones that we just bought. But having a problem with the ones I keep to not clutter and make the cabinets look terrible!!!

Ideas for donating plastic containers
by: Anonymous

Preschool teachers may want these for use them with painting. The flat Chinese food containers with clear lids can be used for craft supplies, for example taking a set of markers on a car trip.

Reduce Reuse Recycle
by: Megan F.

I have been purging my storage containers regularly. We have been switching over to glass/lids. When I have containers without lids I will place a few in my craft room for painting or beading projects or in the garage for use in painting projects around the house. Also I use a deep drawer to store my plastic ware - this way it stacks/nests neatly and does not fall out of a cabinet. I also only use clear containers - otherwise they become mystery items in the fridge. As one of the other comments noted, being more mindful of meal sizes reduces leftovers and hence the need for excessive amount of storage containers. I also look for ways to use containers missing lids in help organizing other areas of the home - i.e.: junk drawer, bathroom, home office, garden, etc. Love all the ideas - thank you for the inspiration!

Take extras to share at potlucks
by: Shirley

I take excess containers when I go to a potluck meal. There are always lots leftovers, and most people don't want to take their own dish home again. I take the containers for anyone to use for taking home extra food. Obviously you want to be sure it is ok with the person who brought the dish. My friends are always appreciative of the containers, and they do not need to be returned to me.

family swap
by: Krista

I had a bunch of lids that I think belong to my mother-in-law, so I sent them back to her house! That way she can see if they match and if not, toss them.

Lego storage - use for excess containers
by: Anonymous

We used a whole bunch of excess containers to sort and store lego.

giving away my old ones as I give friends meals
by: Linda

I bought a matching set of containers. Using my old containers to give away to friends that are sick when I take meals to them. I tell them I don't want them back.

Plastics
by: LaniB

One thing I have found is buying "sets" of containers! Five teeny containers, 1 big one, 5 round ones, 5 square and finally 5 rectangular, and all only $20. What a mess to try to store. I suggest you buy quality ones you need, take care of them (no microwave!) then you won't have such a messy storage.

Donate those plastic containers
by: Sharon

I taught high school for 34 years, just down the hall from the art room.

One day I was throwing away one of those "butter tubs" and the art teacher asked if she could have it. She took it to the art room, washed it, and put it in a laundry basket with a few other containers. She said she uses these to mix paints or for students to have small amounts of paint to share. She also used old pill bottles.

After that, teachers at our high school started saving our containers & pill bottles. The art teacher said we saved her a couple of hundred dollars a year.

Check with your local school and see if they can use them.

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