Tolerating your stuff

I received a comment from Willow on Day 365 which really got me thinking. Her comment read…

Congratulations, Colleen! Your perseverance has been an inspiration to me. What is the biggest, most important lesson you learned this past year?

And my response was…

Hi Willow,
it is really a combo of all the lessons but I suppose the biggest one was to stop shopping and don’t replace the stuff with something else. Hardly a thing has entered my house all year and what has replaced something old and worn, which wasn’t included in the 365 things because it was being replaced. Learning to let go of the bindings to things is key too. We hold on to things for all sorts of reasons and none of those reasons are good enough to make you live in a situation you no longer wish to tolerate.

My response could have been more long winded because there was so much going through my head at the time. Mostly the crazy reasons why we keep things when we know that not so deep down we would rather let them go. We wouldn’t have been considering decluttering them in the first place had we not become at least partly detached from them. My thoughts went kind of like this…

💡 If you don’t love it set it free – This one speaks for itself, if you are just tolerating certain stuff then you really need to consider why it is still in your home.

💡 If you love it let it show if you don’t then let it go – If it is worth keeping it is worth using or displaying so don’t hide it away somewhere that you can’t enjoy it properly and regularly.

💡 Do you have a bad relationship with your stuff – are you keeping certain stuff out or guilt, obligation or fear, that you would really rather part with. Like a boyfriend who you fell out of love with over time but you don’t seem to be able to end the relationship for fear of hurting his feelings or regretting the decision later on. Or Like that visitor that came for a short time but twelve months later is still sleeping on your sofa and you just can’t tell them to leave. Reasons for keeping stuff that come under this category might be…

  • So and so gave it to me.
  • It belonged to (insert loved one) who has now passed.
  • I got it while I was on vacation in (Insert place).
  • I might need it someday.
  • The children may want it when they grow up.
  • It’s been in our family for generations. (There is always another family member)

Sure there are going to be certain things that you will keep regardless of what your relationship with them are but they should be things of real importance or use to you. If you have a whole house full of these items you really have to question your decision making process. If you are miserable being surrounded by and shackled to your stuff then you need to get past whatever less important reason you are clinging on to it. Just imagine the freedom you could enjoy.

Today’s Declutter Item

This item used to hang in the kitchen of my grandmother’s house. It was there for as long as I remember. She and I shared our middle name and I gave my daughter the same name. The saint in the picture is where we got the name from so the picture came to me when my grandmother died. I don’t think it has ever adorned a wall in my house. Her name is not even spelled the same as ours. I have never had any real loving relationship with this item and I will always have my name tie with my grandmother so I don’t need this hidden in a box in my house any longer.

Frame 060132011

Things I am grateful for today

  • Getting off my butt and framing some art that has needed doing for some time – Especially since they were items of Steve’s and it is his birthday today.
  • Also finding the time and inclination to run some other errands I have been putting off.
  • Refreshing afternoon showers.
  • Enthusiasm – It sure makes doing otherwise unpleasant things a lot more tolerable.
  • Know I don’t have to cook dinner tonight because we are going out with friends – I love birthdays even when they aren’t mine. 😉

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

Like that visitor that came for a short time but twelve months later is still sleeping on your sofa and you just can’t tell them to leave.
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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Transient Stuff Much of what comes into my home these days is transient. Aside from groceries much of what does come in is free, secondhand, or both. And I have to say it makes it a whole lot easier to […]
  • What do I do with my childhood paper keepsakes? By Deb J I was reading through the posts from my friends on Facebook and came across one where the poster said, “I think I can truthfully say that I kept every award, essay, art project, homemade […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. This item must have been a bit of a struggle for you, but you say and demonstrate so well how we can still make the tough decisions and let go. After all, things are only things – it’s the people in our lives, past or present, who count.

    • Hi Jo,
      actually I didn’t find the item difficult to part with at all. I just happened upon it while I was intending decluttering something else and wondered why I have kept it all these years. My husband is starting to think that I am getting a little too ruthless but I don’t feel that way myself. I have other items from my grandmother that are on display or used often and that is more than enough. Even if I had none of these things I would still think of her often. As you say it is the people in our lives past or present who count not stuff.

      • Nothing to do with stuff, but it’s amazing how often I think about my mother’s parents, who have been gone 7 and 10 years.

      • Glad to hear this was not a problem item for you – it is the type of thing that could be a problem for me! But I find I am getting better about those kinds of things as I think about them more. Your comment: “We wouldn’t have been considering decluttering them in the first place had we not become at least partly detached from them” is helpful for me.

        • Hi Jo,
          sometimes it is hard to put into words that feeling of being convinced in your mind you should keep things when your heart is screaming out to be freed from the burden of stuff. Mostly it is common convention that is playing with our minds convincing us it is abnormal to want to part with things that “should” have great sentimental value. Well I am quite happy to take freedom over being normal because it feels so good.

  2. My husband and I spent 4 years living in South Korea and accumulated quite a bit of “stuff” during our travels.

    I’m quite happy with letting it go, but he isn’t 🙁 .

    Maybe some day…

    P.S. Your blog inspired one of the challenges I’ve given myself for this year. The series I’ve created is on my blog and is called “The 21-Day Challenge Series”.

    • Hi Marnie,
      that is the biggest fly in the ointment when decluttering – having a partner who is not on board with the mission. I have been very lucky with this.
      I checked out you blog and I liked you list of 21 day Challenges. I have written before way back on Day 87 about the how quickly you can break a bad habit. I really liked the article/blog where you got your idea from and will feature it next Friday in my favourite five post of the week. It really makes the thought of trying to break a bad habit more achievable when you think of it as a three week effort rather than a life time.

  3. Re your grandmother’s picture: I have been able to let sentimental things go if I take a picture of them. Then I have the visual memory and reminder without the object. This actually works well for me. The photo goes in the appropriate spot in the album and I relive the memory then!

    • Hi Jessiejack,
      that is a good idea especially if you are having difficulties parting with an object but really don’t want it taking up space any longer. I guess I have done this by accident because of my blog and the photo I have posted everyday.

  4. I’ve been adopting a ‘1 in 1 out’ rule as I declutter because this helps prevent things build up again. I’m nowhere near perfect at this, but it’s something I aspire to. I love your response to the question and of course letting go in the first place is the thing most people struggle with when they first declutter, but as one of your commenters wrote and it is so true – the more you flex the decluttering muscle, the stronger it gets 😉
    Thanks for another great post 🙂