Decluttering with my mum

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  • The easy things to declutter In order to write this post today I took a look back to Day 64 of my declutter mission. This was the day that I first began to blog about my resolution to declutter 365 things. Since […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I love how you helped your mother! Great before-and after-shots!

    • Thanks Sanna. It still seemed like such a lot left in the drawer but as I said she still uses it all. She’s a great cook. Between my mum and my dad so much in my childhood was homemade, good food, clothes, some toys and even home renovations.

      • Oh well, you should see the kitchen drawers of my grannies – they’re very much the same.
        Personally I have simplified my utensil drawer a lot. I once had cardboard deviders like Scrapabbey mentioned as well, but it never fit quite perfectly and actually I prefer things loose in there (it’s just one layer nowadays, so it’s easy to handle). An anti-slip mat might be nice though – though I’m not sure how much bother it would be to clean it. Actually the additional cleaning effort made me get rid of the deviders (I still have one for the cutlery drawer though). My drawers ALL are underneath the main workspace in the kitchen and I don’t know how often I spill something (coffee) there that then proceeds to trickle down the front and leaks in every single drawer it encounters on it’s way. Anyway, I need to wipe down the inside of my drawers often, so no fancy cardboard deviders for me any more. πŸ˜›

  2. Wow! What a good job. You can sure see the difference and the pictures are great. This is something I am still working on with Mom. She hangs on to things I don’t understand like a bunch of cookie cutters when we don’t make cookies in shapes. We have things in a couple of drawers that she has not used in over ten years I know and maybe longer. Ah well.

    • Hi Deb, the cookie cutters were an interesting part of this declutter I thought. The large white cutters were for cutting just the right size pasty for the pie maker mum uses, so they had to stay. However the smaller cutters had different uses, two for scones, one of the red fluted ones would be be mini tart shells but I don’t know about the rest of that set. I must ask her. I am not sure what the yellow one is useful for. I too have two fluted cutters which I use one for tart shells and one for scones. I would rather have less clutter than concern myself as to whether my scones are cut with a smooth edge. My set came in three as well but it occurred to me not that long ago that I was keeping the third just because it was part of the set. I had never used it so I put it in the donation box.

      • We have a set of 10 fluted round cutters in descending sizes, a set of hearts in descending sizes, a set of Christmas shapes, a hummingbird, a saguaro cactus, and a couple of leaves. We have used 2 of the hearts. That was about 8 years ago.

        • Yikes Deb J, that might be a good thing to work on with your mom. Just a little gentle suggesting and let her mull it over in her mind for a while. I am sure she will come to a sensible conclusion since she is now such a whiz at this decluttering thing. πŸ˜‰

          • Colleen, I think I will give it a little while and then see what I can do. I finally got her to get rid of the tiny cutters. I’m going to work on the others as we talk about what we want to do.

        • I’d love leave-shaped cutters! πŸ˜‰

          • If I can talk her out of them Sanna, I will send them to you.

          • Deb J, I’d love to take them, but given I live in Europe, it might be too expensive to ship them. Thank you for the offer though!

            Strangely, I hardly ever see cookie cutters in thrift stores.

          • Sanna, I will see what they will cost once I see if I can get Mom to give them up. If it isn’t too much I will send them. They really don’t weigh much.

  3. The original photo looks like my microwave drawer that houses all the misc tools for cooking that don’t fit anywhere else. It’s obvious I need to take another look in here and see what I can move along. I know I have more than one of a few things so perhaps it is time for purging. Thanks for the reminder that even a drawer where you use most things still could be cleaned up.

    • Hi Maggie, you get on to that. πŸ˜‰ I have been through my kitchen over and over again in the last three years. That probably sounds tedious but it has actually been a delight because every time I do it I am prepared to part with a little more. My kitchen is quite nicely decluttered now except for the things I will be taking to my daughters new home once I get home from my trip away. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to find things in that drawer of yours once the clutter has been removed.

  4. Love this, it gives me a really good example to use for my down-sizing! I suggest using empty bank check boxes and lids, cut down cereal boxes and other “freebies” to divide the drawer? It would be so much more user-freindly that way. I have to say I am one of those that loves “pretty” organization.

    • What a great idea for free drawer dividers! I have been wanting to purchase some plastic ones for my kitchen utensils, but I couldn’t justify the cost as we’re planning on moving in a year and there’s no guarantee the dividers would fit in whatever new space we end up in. But after reading your idea I could totally make free dividers and use those for the next year!

    • Hi Scrapabbey, that is an interesting idea for making drawer dividers. I will suggest it to my mum.

      What never ceases to amaze me is how much more expensive plastic becomes depending on what it is moulded into. Any basic plastic container is as cheap as chips but call it a drawer divider and the price quadruples. Go figure. And they aren’t always necessarily well designed.

    • I had a utensil drawer with no dividers and it ALWAYS seemed stuffed with weird junk. Then, I remembered my mother’s utensil drawer in the house I was reared. My dad had made simple wooden dividers the size/depth of the drawer. I proposed the idea to my husband and he made me simple dividers from wood. Since then, my utensil drawer has been great! Each “section” has it purpose. For example, all the cooking knives fit in one section, cooking spoons/spatula’s fit in another. I love always being able to find what I need without digging!!

  5. I like Scrapabbey’s idea, alternatively – it may not work in your mum’s drawer though – we recently put anti-slip stuff in each of the drawers as we converted the 2nd knife and fork drawer into our knife drawer. We put it in our other drawers too and its quite nice not having everything moving around now.

    My friend doesn’t have cupboards in her kitchen only drawers and she put me onto this as she needed to find a solution to stop the coffee mugs from crashing into each other and breaking handles etc.

    Another friend has all her spices in a drawer, so maybe if I could whittle down things in the other two drawers I could have some area for to do that too.

    • Good tip Moni. I have used this myself in different areas of the house.

      I am envious of your friend with an all drawer kitchen. That is my idea of a dream kitchen.

      • Colleen – yes she planned it meticulously and to make sure she hadn’t missed anything she drew drawer shapes in chalk on a couple of bed sheets and lay everything in her kitchen out on it. And most things like her baking gear and pots etc are single layer not stacked. Fortunately she doesn’t have an excessive amount of stuff. So yes lots of drawers, yes it was a pricey kitchen but I’d buy her house on the basis of the kitchen alone!

  6. Thanks for the idea, Moni. I have put dividers in my drawers because now I have less stuff, it shifts around. The dividers shifted too and it eventually occurred to me to put the non-slip stuff under the dividers, but I never thought to release the dividers and just try the mat alone.

    A few years ago I was foolish enough to attend a home sale party and bought a couple of kitchen items: an apple corer and a crinkle (fluted) cutter. Neither has been used so I offered them to a friend. Not only did she enthusiasticly accept but she also said any time I wanted I could borrow them back. Win/win. Yay!!

  7. Oh wow! I no longer keep those sort of things in a drawer. They have pride of place on a hanging rack across my window. Makes it easier to grab them if I need them and has reduced the amount of useless stuff I have. Plus I don’t have to search for them.
    When I make scones I use a small juice class, this came about because I could never find the scone cutter to use.
    I use a Pyrex jug with cup measurements instead of individual plastic measuring cups, because it has multiple uses and I can use it in the microwave.
    My daughter just bought a set of ice block makers to put home made juice in and freeze .

    Colleen, Can you imagine every drawer and cupboard in your Mum ‘s house having around a third of the contents going into trash? Then another third that she won’t use or someone else could use? Leaving just a third of her house with useful/used stuff. If I was your Mum, I would let you go through a few more drawers ;).

    • Hi Wendy, I didn’t realise how decluttered you were with your kitchen utensils. WARNING WARNING!! I’ll be checking that out when I come to your house.

      My mum is thinking of moving into a retirement apartment and for that she will have to declutter. I went for a guided tour with her yesterday and the place she is looking at is lovely. I wish I could get a two bedroom apartment with all the amenities this place had for under $400,000 in Newcastle. I be moving out next week.

      • Did your Mum like it? I know what you mean about amenities ! Trouble is , you have to be 65years old to move into some of them. Would be nice to go to one as soon as the kids leave home ;).
        I am sure you would be there to help her Declutter .

        • Yes she really did like it. This one you only have to be 50 I think. They said the average age was 70 but they had couples as young as 55. It is the strata and exit fees that are the killer tough.

      • Oh, I wish we could do that. Either they are ones we can’t afford or they are ones that won’t let me in until I am 62.

  8. It is always great to see real life examples. Your use of photos really helped too.

    Yay for you helping your mum. I hope to do the same in the future, when she is ready.

    • I would be more than happy to help more with her decluttering. If she and dad move into a retirement apartment they have some work ahead of them. Their house doesn’t look cluttered but they are considering downsizing so stuff will have to go if they do that.

  9. Great post today and it was great that your mom was willing to let you tackle her drawer. It is so much easier to find things once there is less in there to look thru. The result in your photo (thanks for including those, I really like when I can see the results) was certainly a tremendous reduction. I have not had the opportunity yet to work on someone else’s things, although I have offered. Until then, I will continue to apply the things that I learn here to my possessions, which are getting less and less everyday.

    • I think it is much easier to work on your own possessions. So long as you don’t mind making the decisions to let go of things. It is much harder to convince others. This was just some gentle decluttering with my mum as her place doesn’t look cluttered.

  10. I just did this very thing about two weeks ago. It’s so much more pleasant to open that drawer and immediately see whatever I’m looking for πŸ™‚ Good for your mum, for being open to your assistance. I bet she’ll enjoy her decluttered drawer too.

  11. Wow, that is a lot of kitchen utensils before AND after, but well done! I actually feel a bit better now, as I was thinking my drawer was crowded. That is a lot of stuff, Colleen!

    We need a post on toys soon…or perhaps I will write one! The toys are killing me!

    • You are right Tony, there were a lot of kitchen utensil before and after. My own utensils drawer looks nothing like that. To give you some idea what she is like ~ it is 8:26pm as I type this and she is in the kitchen making a batch of cup cakes because we are going on a short road trip to her brothers home about three hours away tomorrow. She is making the cakes so we have something for a snack on the way. She will fill the thermos flasks in the morning to make cups of tea or coffee with as well. She is 73 and shows no signs of slowing with this behaviour. Go MUM!

  12. Now that it’s finally spring over here, I’ve sorted my wardrobe again. It’s funny how I still think it’s abundant, although I decluttered about half of it over the last two years. I might let go of more, but I think I rather wear things out and don’t replace them as I actually like what’s left. πŸ™‚

    • That sounds like good self advice to me. Once you get down to a certain level it is financially wise to wear some things out rather than declutter them for the sake of decluttering. That is what I did. Once you are down to a minimal quantity of clothes they then tend to wear out quicker because each item is being worn more often.

  13. Hi Colleen and 365ers,
    Ooppps this is another area that I didn’t even consider in my own home but my mother and two sisters absolutely blow your mums drawers out of the ball park!!!! My cutters, piping bag and fiddly bits which I use quite often, although not totally weekly, are stored in a container which holds everything just nicely! It is a rectangle Tupperware container and it is fabulous. When in use everything is there, when it’s not it sits on the shelf with room to spare, in the pantry and is accessible. My drawers only contain what I need in there although I would like a new Cooks Knife. I broke my favourite paring knife so I have replaced it, I could only get it in a set of 3 so I purchased it, we each have a knife now to use when we are all in the kitchen, they will get a lot of use, and to keep the in/out going I got rid of Salad servers and 2 cake slice/lifters that I eventually learned I don’t use!! That’s my drawer & storage for utensils, now my Mum has ‘DRAWERS” FULL TO THE BRIM SO YOU CAN’T EVEN OPEN THEM. MY SISTER HAS 2 DRAWERS THAT IF YOU OPEN THEM THEY FALL APART. MY OTHER SISTER HAS 3 DRAWERS FULL OF CHOCOLATE/CAKE/BAKING/ITEMS TOO NUMEROUS FOR ALL YOUR TENDER EYES AND EARS TO HEAR ABOUT. Sorry to shout but OMG!!!! I have already told them that if they are worried what will happen to their stuff when they get infirm or die, I will donate and trash the lot, each one of them, they were horrified, so I said instead of telling me I’m OTT and want to have nothing around that is clutter, sort out your drawers, cos if the horrible happens and I’m still here, WELL!!!! YOUR STUFF WON”T BE!!!! Love them to bits but seriously, I so want to get into each one and have a good rummage and toss it to the donate box party.

    I know the cooks out there will squeal but my Mum has a beautiful set of cutters that are fantastic and I would use one of them no worries, they are great, no sticking, no warping, clean up instantly, and are very ergonomic for the hands!! She said she loves them!! SO WHY DOES SHE STILL USE A WATER GLASS TO CUT HER DOUGH WHETHER SHE MAKES SCONES, TARTS, PIES OR MINI WHATEVER’S!!!!! LOL!!!!! She doesn’t even use different glasses, same one for EVERYTHING!!! hhhuuummmpppphhhh!!!!!

    Other areas of great concern for my lovelies are, wardrobes, books and bookshelves, CD’S and DVD”S, ornaments, ornaments oh and a few ornaments!!! I am slowly getting through with some aspects, their homes are not trashed with junk or messy, just very organised to a point EXCESS!!! I can’t go on about DVD’S and CD’s because I am still dealing with mine, but I will say, mine will find new homes and my scraproom is on the verge of being properly used again, any crafter will know what I mean. I sometimes feel I’m the pot calling the kettle black, but I know I have one drawer and one knife block and one little pot of serve spoons and that is it. All being used and all useful 365 days of the year.

    I feel harsh but I kniw I’m right!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  14. I like how you disguise your decluttering as “needing something to write about.” I must say, that’s still a lot of stuff in one drawer. Good going, though, Colleen!


  1. […] Moni shares with us a good tip for keeping kitchen drawers tidy in this comment. […]