Fight or Flight

Once clutter has built up in ones home there is no doubt that it is going to take some effort to expel it all. This task can appear  monstrous, frighteningly so,  which is likely to set off the fight or flight reflex in our minds.

Most people have either one tendency or the other, fight or flight. If their natural reflex is to fight then they will likely just knuckle down and get on with the task. The most distasteful outcome facing these kinds of people is being beaten, so watch out clutter, here they come. However, there is a chance that, approaching this task in an easy come easy go manner will not be very thought provoking and it is likely that, these brave folks may be back to square one soon enough. So don’t feel bad if you are not the fighting kind. I used to fight my clutter but it always used to return for a rematch.

Then their are the people who tend mostly towards the flight reflex. In this case they can’t very well run from the clutter so instead decide to just try to ignore it rather than confront it. Naturally this option will be totally unproductive unlike the attack mode which at least for a while will yield the desired result. It is also highly possible that the clutter situation will only get worse while these folk drown their sorrows by buying more stuff, only making the situation worse.

But never fear there is a third alternative. It is kind of like the one a stage performer might deploy to alleviate stage fright. In this case though we aren’t going to pretend our clutter is naked, that won’t work. 😉 But we can convince ourselves that it isn’t as scary as it might originally appear. Lets face it, you are the one who fed that big scary clutter monster so you can slowly starve it to death as well. Firstly you stop feeding it and then you quit looking at it as one big scary thing but instead as small individual battles that you can fight and win. Then one day you will realise that the big scary clutter monster has shrunk in size to something not quite so foreboding. No longer appearing that it might swallow you whole.

A similar defence can be used against those occasional frightening individual items that the thought of dealing with fills you with dread. Items like that thing your mother gave you that you don’t want, you never liked, but you are afraid to get rid of for the fear of upsetting her. Don’t beat the object up to be something it isn’t. It is just an object. You don’t like it, you don’t want it, it now instills fear in you. Is that the sort of object that any sane person would allow to linger in what should be their tranquil living space? No of course it isn’t. In this case the monster is either your mother or your own mind playing tricks on you. Either way the goal is a tranquil home and this object is not contributing to that. Worse still it is having the opposite effect. Take your chances and let it go.

So as you can see clutter doesn’t have to be scary. A tweak of your mindset can make all the difference. I am not going to pretend this is as simple as I make it sound. Perhaps a revolt against ones default setting would be more accurate, but if that’s what it takes then it is worth the fight.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter and reshuffle a drawer that is such a shambles you can never find what you need in it. Junk drawers are not a necessity, in fact they can be a nuisance.

Eco Tip for the Day

Today I will share a recipe for a friendly all-purpose spray. I put this together using two recipes/ideas from a great web site called One Good Thing by Jillee. You will need…

  • A 500ml Glass Jar
  • Skins of a least 3 lemons (collected from previous cooking sessions)
  • 250ml (1 cup) white vinegar
  • The 600ml trigger spray bottle from your last all-purpose spray.
  • a good squirt of dishwashing liquid (environmentally friendly of course)
  • 1 cup of water
  1. Put the lemon skins in the 500ml jar and top it off with the cup of vinegar.
  2. Leave this to steep for a few days. This softens the vinegar smell to a nice lemon fragrance and I dare say the lemon also adds grease cutting power and more.
  3. Strain the vinegar from the lemon skins and pour into the spay bottle.
  4. At this point prepare your next batch of lemon vinegar reusing the same skins. I have been using the same skins for months now.
  5. Add the dishwashing liquid to the the spray bottle and top off with the cup of water.
  6.  Put the lid on and give it a little shake. Now it is ready to use.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Large area declutter ~ Minimal disruption This post is all about breaking down, into steps, the task of decluttering a large cluttered area of your home without causing undue disruption. I am going to use the kitchen as my example […]
  • You can do things differently Doodles blog post yesterday got me thinking about how out of character my decluttering method is to my usual behaviour. Of the seven sabotaging behaviours Doodle mentioned in the post, I […]
  • To be perfect ~ By Andréia We all are taught that perfection does not exist. What we fail to do is to believe that. I don’t really know about the rest of the world, but I am tired of seeing in all places the […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Since I am new reader, let me just say that I love the “mini missions”! As a performer (trombone), I am very familiar with fight-or-flight syndrome. It is easier to run, but you can’t hide! Ahhh..fear. Great post!

    • Tony – I would love to see you trying to run with the trombone!

    • Ha ha Tony. It would however be easier to hide behind the trombone than behind a flute or a piccolo. That being said you certainly would have to declutter a large space at home to store the trombone than you would the piccolo as I suppose that makes it a catch22 situation.

  2. Great post Colleen. Fight or flight is very real. I think that this is definitely what happens and that we can be ambassadors for the middle road–contemplated, coordinated slow reduction.

  3. Great post today. For the majority of my clutter I have been in fight mode, some of it though I must admit, I am in flight mode. With the things that I am avoiding for the current moment in time, I will deal with eventually. Like you wrote, it does ultimately come down to what your overall goal for your home is and it’s effect on your life and well being. It does get easier though, once you start noticing the difference in your home and how your mind reacts in a positive way to having less. Just like you have always said, it gets easier as you go, and you become ruthless over time with your clutter.

  4. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 🙂 (our elephant’s in the basement but he’s missing a few limbs now)

  5. I have often wondered if the people on TV shows who are helped to declutter their excessively cluttered homes in a very short space of time revert to their spending/cluttering tendencies because of the sudden loss of so many possessions. As you have often said Colleen, one has to stop acquiring clutter if the problem is ever going to be resolved. The benefit of the slow and steady approach is that there is a gradual appreciation of having less stuff and I would say in most cases (certainly mine:) ) a desire not to acquire any more. I often say to my husband when we are at the local mall (food shopping or having a coffee) “look at all the stuff we don’t need!”
    Thanks for the eco tip – I’ve been using the vinegar and water spray for quite a while but the lemon skins for fragrance is a brilliant idea!

    • Hi Megan S, I wonder the same thing about those hoarders shows.

      The lemon is great I was using it without the lemon to begin with and I wasn’t keen on the smell. Then when I saw the lemon vinegar and combined the two it made a huge difference. No only is this spray good for the environment it is also way cheaper than buying the other stuff.

  6. Colleen – I like the idea of starving the monster to death. That is an excellent analogy.

  7. Something very new happened to me today: I was able to put away all my t-shirts and tops in their assigned place in the wardrobe without cramming anything inside. It had been a long while since that had happened (if ever). Before I just wanted more space, because I needed to put my things away. Now I have a long term plan and I am trying very hard to do it slowly so I get my results.
    I am in between fight and flight. Sometimes I want to forget the clutter altogether and, at other times, I just want to tackle it all and get it over with.

    • Hi Andréia, when things are easier to put away it is more likely to happen. Ahhh, the joy of living with less.

      Keep up the good fight Andréia you can do it, yes you can. 😉

      • Hi Colleen! Yes, it is a joy to be living with less. I barely started on my wardrobe and my bedroom but I am happy with my initial results. I have made a decision that I will only have in my wardrobe things that I am currently wearing. It seems odd to say this, but as I have said in earlier comments I did keep and still do keep things that I no longer wear, that do not fit me, because I am afraid of gaining weight and needing those clothes again. I have put a stop to that. I am taking care of my health and I am confident I will not gain weight again. And if my life conditions change I shall have used all the clothes I have, because I have a lot less. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I can do it! 😀

  8. Such a great analysis – I was definitely in the “flight” pattern for awhile, but now in slow & steady mode instead.

    Appreciated the wonderful humour in this post, too, Colleen 🙂

  9. I make the cleaner using orange peels, but didn’t realize we could reuse them again and again. I have a jar “steeping” in my cupboard right now, and am glad to know I can get more mileage out of the orange peels.

    Thanks for the tip!