Habits ~ A guest post by Wendy F

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. We travel a lot, sometimes by air with suitcases or backpacks but mostly with our truck and trailer. We used to come home, dump everything on the guest room bed and put it away bit by bit. Some things would stay there for months – or until the next trip. We now have a Murphy bed which is folded up until needed (for sleeping!), doing away with that horizontal clutter-catching surface. When we come home we have an unpacking blitz and everything is taken care of that day, leaving only laundry and the mail to deal with later.

    We do the same after our weekly shopping trip. Everything is distributed to where it belongs, bills and receipts to the correct spot, packaging to the recycling, before I wander off and get involved in other things. I often don’t WANT to expend this extra energy when I’m tired from the trip but the discipline does have its payoff.

    • Wendy B, we are like this. Get it done and over with is our motto. It seems to go faster if we do it right away too.

      • Right you are, Deb. I also make a habit of cleaning out the car or truck whenever we return from a jaunt. Saves a lot of running around looking for jackets, umbrellas, binoculars and trying to remember when/where you had them last.

    • WendyB I like your post holiday habit , dealing with it ASAP is the best way.
      I think it makes the prospect of going away less daunting if you aren’t reminded of the the pile of stuff that has to be dealt with on your return. You have good habits 🙂

    • Yes, I find if luggage and shopping is not dealt with immediately it hangs around for ever! Witness a pile of papers/news clippings etc which came home from NZ with us at the end of March – still waiting to be dealt with on a chair in my bedroom ! They can’t be important enough to keep surely? Should I just throw them out without looking at them?!!!

    • yes! I am also unpacking as soon as I get home. I hate leaving things in bags, because I forget them. or I remember incorrectly. either way I end up searching. and boy, do I hate that.
      the only thing that is always packed and stays as it is, is my tiny little toilet bag for travelling. I just have to grab it and I know I am good to go. I used to pack and unpack it always, but that made me forget my toothbrush several times (packing for the trip next morning). I decided to have a home set of toiletries and a little travel set and just keep it all togehter.

  2. Wendy F, this is a good post. We do all of this except the lanyard. I had to wear one of those at work all of the time and I now dislike them.

  3. I’m a big fan of hooks too! I am a chronic mis-placer of my purse and keys (lord knows where my mind is when I walk in the door – I have found them in the STRANGEST PLACES!). Now that I have a key hook by the back door, the keys are easily located 99% of the time. The hard part was getting used to using it. My key hook also has a letter box on top. But I use it for hooking my sunglasses to it (mail in it was promptly forgotten – not good for us, straight to the keyboard of my desk is much more reliable). So my keys AND sunglasses are waiting by the door. My purse is still MIA about 60% of the time because it’s too bulky to hang on the key hooks, but I’ve narrowed it down to 3 regular spots.

    Like your lanyard trick, my car keys are on a large bracelet, easy to find in my purse, or wear on my wrist as I shop, I pride myself in carrying as few keys as possible at a time (for example I never need my shed key at the same time as my car key so it’s on the house-only ring. I also have a ring specifically for the camping locks and another ring that holds the “spare keys” of friends and family)

    I’ve been wanting to colour-code the family towels for years, but no one else wants to do it. Ah well.

  4. If your credit card has an annual fee, look into a different one.

    I hardly find my credit card a source of clutter–I find it much easier than keeping track of enough cash (and getting to the bank to get it during banker house) to do things like grocery shop or put gas in the car. Pay at the pump is much faster and keeps me (and the kid) away from all the attractive stuff lining the areas to pay inside.

    Having cash in my wallet leads me to wondering where the cash went. Having a credit card is better, because I won’t use it for little stuff, like vending machines or pop, so I just don’t buy or bring my own.

    • Hi Kayote
      Is your credit card linked to you savings account? We have Debit cards that access our own money and Credit cards that have a limit and a hefty interest charge 16% upwards. Automatic Teller Machines are everywhere in Australia so accessing cash is not a problem. Almost all retailers in Australia accept debit and credit cards as well as cash.
      I have copied a piece from Wikipedia which may help explain what I’m saying.

      EFTPOS (pronounced /ˈɛftpɒs/) — electronic funds transfer at point of sale — is an electronic payment system involving electronic funds transfers based on the use of payment cards, such as debit or credit cards, at terminals located at points of sale. In Australia and New Zealand it is also the brand name of a specific system used for such payments. The Australian and New Zealand systems are country specific and do not interconnect. EFTPOS technology originated in the United States in 1981 and was quickly adopted by other countries.

  5. I use many of these methods too. I am really starting to love hooks and have employed hanging shoe organizers on the back of closet doors for sometime now. I have found that things stay so much more organized with a home to go. I also use fold-up storage boxes with labels for household and schooling supplies and this has done wonders and I find things much more quickly. I am investing in a fanny pack as well for outdoor activities, and I no longer see such things as frumpy.
    I am done with so many distractions in my life that either at one point sucked me in or I quickly recognized as a time-suck as I felt it’s vortex beginning to woo me. I don’t do social media, which in my age group seems to be a scandalous transgression from the responses I have gotten from people. My sister is my liaison with Facebook and Twitter. This may not be an option for most but I have no regrets.
    Freedom from junk mail (via Opt-outs), spam and even emails from the places I shop online (even though I unchecked the little box! ) gives me more brain space to focus my time and attention elsewhere. If I take advantage of a 20% off promo code when I don’t need something then I lose 80% in the purchase plus shipping costs. Same with television. Unhooking from cable was the best thing we ever did for our little family. I am still working on our Youtube viewings though, so I am far from perfect in that respect!

    • I never mean for my comments to look like a novella, but somehow they always do…

    • ‘If I take advantage of a 20% off promo code when I don’t need something then I lose 80% in the purchase plus shipping costs.’ Spot on Jean!! Maybe when a deal is advertised we should think ‘SPEND $800 to save $200’
      The book ; Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough by Clive Hamilton describes how we have to spend money to save it, very strange.
      I love your ‘time suck’ description too! I can list a few of those in my life for sure. 😉
      It is great when you can list things that have benefited your family, like disconnecting cable opting out of commercial emails and using a fanny pack :). Makes life good. Cheers

  6. Having active credit is one of the easiest ways to boost your credit score. Closing all your cards can actually hurt your score! Keep one or two and just use them once a month to get gas or socks or something and pay it off immediately.

    • Nikki – I have seen mentioned credit scores mentioned a lot on personal finance blogs. I live in New Zealand and our system is different. Here, if you are applying for a loan or a mortgage, the bank does a credit search on you and the number of credit cards you have can actually work against you even if they are at zero. If the bank works out the max you can afford in repayments is X and you can potentially clock up in credit cards is XX then it can work against you. Sometimes the bank will ask you to reduce a limit or close a card to finalise the loan application. Could you explain how it works in USA?

    • We have a different system in Australia ( probably same as New Zealand ). Credit cards have high interest rates and offer no real benefit just debt.

  7. I nodded my head at so many of your tips, Wendy–thank you! We’ve given away so many of our old towels and blankets to the local animal shelter, so they go to good use comforting the needy animals, instead of piling up in our linen closet and laundry.

    I do have to take issue with two of your tips, though. I agree with Kayote above that my credit card with no fee is a lot easier for me than running to the ATM and worrying about cash in my wallet.

    Also, as a blogger myself, it pains me whenever somebody recommends unsubscribing or not subscribing or “liking” blogs, because it’s a tough business and it’s hard enough to build an audience. I try to support the blogs I enjoy by subscribing to them or “liking” them, because it’s quite easy enough for me to just delete any posts which aren’t relevant or interesting to me. If I’ve gone to the trouble of subscribing, it’s because I like the author and her/his content and it’s usually worth a few minutes of my time. For me, the blogs I subscribe to provide better reading matter than the latest sensationalistic headlines in the newspapers or repetitious and cluttery magazines. They usually offer me advice that helps me improve some aspect of my life–or they just plain-old entertain me (unlike most of the garbage shows on TV). Plus, they save me repeat typing trips to the same blogs, which makes it worthwhile subscribing in the first place. I guess I just don’t view blogs as “clutter.” But to the rest of your post: Amen! 🙂

    • Joy@JoyfullyGreen – I can appreciate that blogging is hard work and it must be disappointing having ‘itinerant’ readers. If it is any help to I’d like to explain why I join and unsubscribe from blogs. Because 365 Less Things had such a huge impact on my cluttered household, I decided to search the blogosphere for personal finance blogs, reasoning that a regular message and being amongst a community with similar journey and goals would have a similar effect. So I threw myself out there, subscribed to a good 10 or so. Long story short, I found that some I really didn’t relate to, some I related to but were poorly written, so those were the early cut. Further down the track I found some ‘changed’ and some became very sporadic in their posts. In the end it felt a bit like being on The Batchelor, every week someone would get the cut. In the end I now only have one of the original ten or so, and I enjoy his links to his favourite posts from around the blogosphere that week. His circumstances are similar to ours and its a good fit. So yes I do feel bad hitting the unsubscribe button but if a blog isn’t going to be read, better to let it go.

      • Thanks for explaining your side of it, Moni! If you’re never finding any enjoyment in a certain blog, then by all means, let it go! I was talking more from the perspective of “Hey, what can I get rid of next? How about blogs!” 🙂 I have unsubscribed myself from a couple of blogs that completely changed directions or were grammatically a mess (because I’m picky like that!), but it does take a lot for me to hit that “unsubscribe” button because I know there’s a real person on the other side of it. I am thankful that it rarely happens to me, and I try not to take it personally. I also make sure a blog is a good fit before I subscribe, so I’m not put into that awkward position of cutting it loose. I appreciate hearing a reader’s side of it!

    • Hi Joy,
      I have been reading your blog for some time now! I also oversubscribed to blogs and slowly but surely started unsubscribing to get it down to an amount that I can manage and love to see in my inbox, the ‘can’t wait to read’ blogs! So you will be pleased to know I am still subscribed to your blog!
      Jenni Baxter

    • Hi Joy,
      I agree with everything you said here ;
      ‘For me, the blogs I subscribe to provide better reading matter than the latest sensationalistic headlines in the newspapers or repetitious and cluttery magazines. They usually offer me advice that helps me improve some aspect of my life–or they just plain-old entertain me (unlike most of the garbage shows on TV). Plus, they save me repeat typing trips to the same blogs, which makes it worthwhile subscribing in the first place. I guess I just don’t view blogs as “clutter.”
      I think Moni has hit the nail on the head with her explanation. Thanks Moni 🙂

    • I agree with your comment regarding subscribing to blogs. If I subscribe to a blog it’s because I am interested in the content so I want it to be in my email box.

  8. Thank you for all these ideas Wendy. Habits are such powerful things that we should indeed put them to good use, and it is nice to focus on our good habits rather than beating ourselves up for our bad ones. I like your idea of using a phone alarm to remind you to check on tasks. I should start doing this as even though I keep a running list of quick chores to do in odd moments I often forget to look at it.

    One of my habits is to make sure that the kitchen is clean and tidy last thing every night. I remember reading some advice about not starting today doing yesterday’s work and it stuck in my mind, and even though I don’t always feel like dealing with dishes last thing at night it is preferable to having them there waiting for me the next day.

    • I like the kitchen to be tidy before I go to bed as well , unfortunately the ‘nights snackers’ don’t feel the same :(.

      • Wendyf – I have night snackers too. I’ve even come out in the morning and it’s been obvious that someone has cooked a meal. A friend has this sign that she puts out on her kitchen bench saying “kitchen closed – any dishes or cutlery used must be washed, dried and put away, all mess tidied up – failure to do so $20 fine”. I am considering doing something similar.

        • Funny about the late-night snackers. Glad to hear this isn’t just an American problem! My son is one of those kids. He doesn’t cook meals, but I find cracker and cereal boxes and paper, cheese stick wrappers, etc. He also has a terrible habit of pouring himself a glass of water, not finishing it, and leaving it on the table. Twice in the past couple of weeks, the cats have knocked the glasses over and spilled the water on the table AND on library books. Last night’s victim was my daughter’s Helen Keller biography from school library book! I suppose we could stop leaving our books on the table. . .

          My husband has had the late-night eating conversation with some of my son’s friends’ dads, and it seems to be the age. Most of them eat late at night (they often are not home from hockey practice until after 10, but the post-practice “meal” doesn’t seem to hold them, and in an hour, they are hungry again) and also leave the proof strewn about the house.

  9. I wish we had the option to put a “no junk mail” on our post boxes in the USA. What a difference it would make. By not buying any of the products from catalogs, it still takes several years for the companies to stop sending the catalogs.

    • Calla – can I ask why you can’t put a sticker on your letter box?

      • I think it’s because in the States the junk mail is addressed to you. Here in NZ, and many other countries, the junk mail is delivered to everybody with no address label. Best thing I ever did was put on that little “No junk mail” label on our letter box! We still get a few items in our local free newspaper but I simply put them in the recycling immediately.

        • Janetta – yep the “No Junk Mail or Free Newspapers” sticker was the best thing I ever did. I included free newspapers as our area bisects about 4 areas big enough to have a free newspaper and I was just over having all this newspaper in the recycling.

          Wow that would suck having junk mail personally addressed to you. I wonder would doing a ‘return to sender, no longer at this address’ would help?

      • Hi Moni. I once asked why we couldn’t have a ‘no flyers’ sticker and was told that it had to do with the mailing contracts — if someone paid to mail something, the Post Office was obligated to deliver it. From that perspective it makes sense, I guess. In Canada this has now changed and I CAN get a sticker for ‘no unaddressed mail’ in my mailbox. Maybe the American folks can check and see — rules are changing with the times. Perhaps is IS possible now but it might mean more than just sticking up a sign.

        Regarding credit cards: My understanding is that your credit rating depends on how much ‘available credit’ you use. For example, if you have a combined credit limit of $5,000 on all your credit cards and you generally use about $4,000, you are using 80% of your available credit. On the other hand, if you have $50,000 in total available credit on your cards and you charge $4,000, you have only used 8% of your available credit. Same $$ amount, but one counts as good and the other as bad. Makes sense to THEM, I guess!

        • Wendy B – I have heard so much about credit scores from reading personal finance blogs and how often a person is required to ‘fess up ie job applications even. Here the bank wants to know what is the balance on your cards and what the credit limit is. So if you have cards which total to $20k facility, the bank factors in the monthly repayment on $20k being used. Which I guess is a possibility from their perspective. So here credit cards have had a reverse from being considered an ‘asset’ to being a liability.

          I was in the bank the other day with my older daughter organising money for an overseas trip she is going on. The banker said that the ones who went thru the recession as teenagers are the most reluctant generation he has come across to get credit cards now that they’re young adults. He said he’s personally pleased at this change in thinking.

      • I have a big locked box that contains 12 boxes for the neighborhood and are accessed by the post office by the back. A now deceased friend had asked to use my address for her mail for a few months and even marking her mail deceased return to sender hasn’t worked, over a year & I’m still getting it.

        Besides not knowing where to place the sticker so the post office would see it & not have it affect others mail, I feel like based on my experience with a deceased friend that it wouldn’t work.

        • Calla – is there a re-direction form or a similar form that can be filled in at the post office? We have such a form here in NZ?
          The only other thing I can think of is, do these companies have a free phone number on their mail? It’s a bit of bother to you but if you put a call thru to them it might be more effective.

          • In the U.S. you can’t redirect mail unless you are the person or the the executive of the estate, & in the case of my deceased friend I’m neither. I started calling the places to have the name removed. One bank wanted me to fax or bring a copy of the death certificate to a branch. I told them that I had neither, and was calling as a courtesy before recycling.

            The long & short of of this saga is not let anyone use your address for mail for even a short time. I have enough to deal with my own junk mail let alone a deceased friends.

        • Calla – that is a very inflexible system especially for junk mail. Here in NZ laws were made about spam e-mail, it is illegal for an NZ Company to generate unsolicited e-mail to an NZ address. Of course, it doesn’t stop outside countries but its nice to have such firm courtesy rules in place for the majority of companies we deal with.

          If by any chance you know who her executor is or the legal firm who tied up her estate…..I’d re-direct to their address.

          • I have forwarded the mail to the executor of the estate, and have been doing so for over a year. I even emailed & called them to take of of the junk mail. The important first class mail stopped coming to this address, now I just get junk mail addressed to the person. I think the problem is that it’s addressed to the person.

            My advise is to never let someone use your address for even a short time.
            The whole experience has been very frustrating for me.. not only losing a friend of 35 years, but dealing with the junk mail for over a year.

    • Calla, I so agree with you. I have placed my name on as many junk mail lists as I can but I still get some. I wish all it took was a sticker on my mailbox. Wouldn’t that be sooooooo nice.

    • It sounds kinda mean, but I got so fed up with junk mail, I started tearing my name label off of it, putting in on the self-addressed envelope that came with it, mailing it back to them with no stamp, & using their name & address as the return address. & I had written ” Remove me from your mailing list” on the part I had enclosed in the envelope. It’s cut way down on the amount of junk mail.

  10. I also make my bed every morning. If I forget (usually weekends), everything feels messy somehow.

    I made it a habit to decide about the fate of books, once I finished reading. loved it? keep it or give it as a present to someone – hate it? get rid of it any other way.

    I do a quick tidy up often. not more than 5 minutes. the only thing that gets left behind are the dishes. I wonder when I will learn to do them right away…

    I keep a grocery list on my kitchen shelf. everytime I think of something I need to buy next time shopping goes on the list. I usually go shopping with this list.

    I am emptying my bags/purse very often as well. receipts are going to the box they belong and the change goes into the big saving jar.

    funny thing about the different handling of credit cards. I am still amazed at the amount of credit cards some people (especially from the US) have. I have one credit card and I used it maybe 15 times in my life. I have a bank card that is directly linked to my account, which I normally use it for getting cash and in emergencies…
    I usually go to the ATM twice a month and I always get a big amount (around 300 Euros) so that I always have cash at home. I feel very out of control when I pay everthing by card, because I dont see the amount of money I spend. I think here in Germany I am not very special in this way. we usually pay cash and I know several people who dont even own a credit card.

  11. These all sound like positive changes that have decluttered and simplified your life. There are a few here I keep meaning to do, but I keep putting them off. Time to do them I guess!