What is right for you?

I often get comments from people contradicting my suggestions regarding what to declutter and pleading their case on why they keep certain items or collections of things. Avid readers love their books, baking enthusiasts love a good range of pans and utensils, crafters, like myself, will cater to their craft, perhaps even over cater. There are also shoe lovers out there, fashionistas, modellers, family history caretakers, plant enthusiasts, collectors of all sorts of things…

The purpose of my blog is not to insist that we all live a completely minimalist lifestyle. I don’t, so it would be totally hypocritical of me to suggest such a thing. My intention here is simply to draw your attention to areas of your homes that may need considering when it comes to culling of unused and unloved items. And I am sure your intention here is to consider that advice in a bit to declutter your homes, which is why you read my blog in the first place. I don’t explain this in every article I write because I presume my readers are all aware of this however it doesn’t hurt for me to reinforce this, every now and again, in a post like this.

So lets talk a little about what decluttering is to each individual, because I would hate for people to spend time regretting decluttering items that they loved or were still useful to them, just because I suggested it in a post.  So here are a few examples to explain the concept of what is clutter and what isn’t to the individual.

I have one bottle of perfume is that too few? Some women would think so because they like to mix it up a little, something floral one day, something oriental the next. Some may even think I am very unsophisticated for this. I care little about their opinion because one is enough for me. I am sure also that they would have the same opinion of me because I only use one handbag and it doesn’t match all my shoes. Once again, I don’t care. I find life simpler with less choice.

On the other hand I have a plethora of craft supplies. And although I have way less than I did prior to my decluttering journey there is still an overabundance. To the less creative person my collection would seem ridiculous but to me they are a good variety that allows me to achieve the creativity I desire. It really is my only vice so I am happy to live with that. And I continue to use up supplies that I have no intention of ever replacing.

Someone else may only have two towels, two pair of shoes, one set of sheets but a display cabinet full of china handed down from a relative long passed. So what, minimalism is one thing to one person and something else to another. It is not up to anyone to decide what you care about and what you don’t, what is too much and what is too few.

Anyone reading my blog is here because they want to reduce what they own in order to free themselves of the restrictions that clutter can cause. Space restrictions, time restrictions, cash flow restrictions etc. Having the intention to declutter will set you in the right direction, then I am sure you are all capable of deciding in what areas you want to reduce and by how much. As momentum takes over you may get more adventurous but that is up to you. Be an individual and do it your way.

At the same time, if you are here reading my blog and defending every little thing you own as precious to you, while you home is cluttered to the rafters, then perhaps you need more help than I can give. Hoarding can be a serious issue and professional help is require to overcome such an issue. And in that case I would strongly suggest you seek medical help. Your GP is the first person to turn to and they will refer you on to the professional that can help you best.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown


Continue reading with these posts:

  • Love it or heave it (Revisited) As you may have guessed, due to the lack of them, I struggle to come up with new posts these days, mostly because I declutter much less now, therefore the inspiration for posts isn't […]
  • Mini Mission Monday ~ Perishables Mini Mission Monday is about finding ten minutes a day to declutter. To make it easy for you, each Monday I set seven declutter missions, one for each day of the week for you to follow. It […]
  • It bugs me so I’m over it ~ A post by Peggy W I have begun to look at a lot of things in my home through a filter of “does it bug me”?  It’s kind of the opposite of “does it spark joy”.  Like the embellished sweatshirt that I had […]
About Colleen Madsen

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

Comments

  1. Your blog has helped me obtain the decluttered life I was striving for. I still have more than enough handbags, shoes & handmade gifts (mainly table runners & quilts). I love them, so they remain. Having fewer possessions makes those that I do have stand out more, giving me enjoyment. My house & yard is now filled with things I truly get enjoyment from owning.

    Right now I’m in the maintenance mode, which take daily resistance. My neighbor is always trying to give me stuff. Lol
    Thanks for you insights & encouragement Colleen & the 365 Community.

    • “Daily resistance” is what I feel. Thanks!

    • Colleen Madsen :

      Good for you Calla, you know what is right for you and are happy with what you have. Struggling with “Daily resistance” is definitely a thing but I am sure that too shall pass. It is especially hard when the stuff is free.

  2. Raesha de Ruiter Zylker :

    This is a great post and a great reminder!!! Contradicting your suggestions makes no sense at all to me! This blog is to help us THINK about our stuff and THINK about what we truly want and need and to THINK about what really make us happy. That is different for each person. A crap ton of quilting fabric makes me HAPPY. However, that crap ton of quilt fabric drives my husband bonkers:)

    • Colleen Madsen :

      Ha ha Raesha, I feel the same way about some of my husbands stuff while I have a tonne of craft supplies. Funny thing is whenever I say it is time to go through the craft supplies again and get rid of stuff I haven’t used in a long time my husbands says don’t get carried away. He thinks it is important for me to be creative.

  3. I feel that this blog is like tv or the radio…if you don’t like what’s on, change to another channel or site. I agree contradicting the suggestions makes no sense to me either.
    My 2¢ worth

  4. Love your blog, and agree we each have our own way of being minimalist. I don’t have perfume or a handbag, but I realize other people need/use them. I put everything essential in a pocket…driver’s license, medical card, and cash…I’m sure a lot of people would not feel comfortable doing that. I admit though, I have too much yarn!, but not a crazy amount. I really do have to work on resisting the urge to buy, which I can do most of the time, so I’m okay with it. It brings me joy and I like the creativity and the challenge of it.
    Thanks for all you do for the community. 🙂

  5. I think you are doing an outstanding job with the decluttering process and I have no complaints! I’m leaning more toward minimalism on my end but to each his own. Keep up the great work!

  6. A great reminder Colleen. I also agree that contradicting the suggestions doesn’t make sense. I”m just glad I get these reminders to help me remember to keep vigilant so I don’t have clutter returning to my home. I like keeping things simple and uncluttered.

  7. Hallelujah! THIS is the true definition of minimalism, not being held to some arbitrary number of possessions just because someone else says that’s the way to go. That’s why I call myself an enoughist rather than a minimalist–because what is enough will be different for every person. Your “perfume and craft supplies” example is a great one–it shows that one of the former is enough for you, but you need a lot more of the latter to have enough of that. The beauty is that we each get to decide for ourselves. So more power to you and your so-called “vice,” Colleen. 🙂

    • Michelle, I love your term “enoughist”. Very original and just right!!

    • Colleen Madsen :

      Michelle, I like you “enoughist” I used to call myself a moderationist (everything in moderation), so I know exactly what you mean.
      I worries me when people tend to defend all sorts of excesses in their homes not just one or two vices. There are definitely categories of clutter that set off warning bells in my head that suggest people don’t get the whole philosophy behind letting go of the acquiring and hoarding habits. For example craft supplies are mostly consumables, they come and go, while designating the label sentimental to all manner of stuff already owned and incoming is a recipe for a hoarding habit. Buying stuff for the sake of the shopping high, whether realising that is the case or not, is also not a good habit to be in, for the person involved, the state of their home or the environment. Being gullible to advertising, trends and sentimentality is a problem that definitely leads to too much clutter. Combine them together and one has a real problem. “Enoughist” or “moderationist” sounds a whole lot more sensible.

    • Michelle – I love the enoughist!

  8. Well said Colleen.
    Until someone experiences life with less, any advice on reduction is like water off a ducks back.
    Even as they justify every item they own , you have patiently advised that maybe there are other issues they need to address.
    Cheers

    • Colleen Madsen :

      Exactly Wendy F. You and I both experience the amount of stuff that comes through the thrift shop system. I just goes to show that even if you declutter and donate it is still even a problem if you keep on acquiring only to realise soon after that the stuff isn’t that useful or its novelty wears off quickly. Learning not to acquire in the first place, having simple needs, is a far better place to be.

  9. I have a quote by Hans Hofmann that says:

    “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

    What is necessary for one is different from another. It all depends on what your passion is.
    No need to contradict the wonderful suggestions of Colleen! Take what you need and leave the rest. Personally, I am always thankful for the reminders, am amazed at the things she can continually write about, and love all the comments. It is all very motivating and relaxing at the same time!! I hope it never ends!

    As for myself, I am FINALLY getting ready to have the ” first of the last” yard sales this weekend!!
    It is all moved to the sale site and I will have sales till I am SATISIFIED with what is gone!!! Whatever is left then will be donated. I think I will sell at intervals through this years fall festivals since I have gotten such a late start. NOTE: I haven’t missed anything that I’ve hauled out!!!!

    • Colleen Madsen :

      Well done Brenda, I can’t wait to hear the results of your yard sales. Make sure you share them with us.
      Reading you comment had me thinking that people need to be aware of the meaning of necessary in order to come to the realisation of what is unnecessary. As I have said before, I have have plenty of craft supplies, however I know that they aren’t necessary at all. Which is what makes it easy for me to go through them on a regular basis and get rid of the items the haven’t been used in a long time and probably never will.
      Things like kitchen gadgets usually aren’t a necessity and in a lot of cases aren’t even time savers. Something that speeds up a process is only really useful if that process is performed on a very regular basis. While at the same time one needs to be logical about the whole concept of timesaving to be able to ascertain as to whether the gadget has a time consuming assembly process, disassembly and complicated cleaning that cancels out the time it saves. It is amazing how many of these gadgets don’t pass this test.

  10. I so enjoyed your blog Colleen. With less stuff I can feel the difference in my mental attitude.

    Less things to worry about which were always on my growing To Do List. Now it is shorter.

    Thank you Colleen for your reminders and others who post their ideas and experiences.

  11. Dez Crawford :

    Beautifully written article, and I love the responder who coined the term, “enoughist.”

    The bottom line is this: the authors do not expect readers to discard valuable family heirlooms. The authors are trying to teach readers to sort WHEAT from CHAFF. And nobody needs chaff, or needs to save it by the sack – full in case they can think of a creative use for it one day. The only place chaff belongs is the compost heap!

    I grew up in a hoarded home. My mother would refuse to discard old newspapers, for example, because SOMEWHERE in that particular heap was her former coworker ‘ s niece’s wedding announcement. Of course she would get around to finding it and clipping it out …. someday. But “someday” never came.

    Those who insist on saving such snippets must resolve to join the Do It Now Foundation. Clip it immediately and put it in a simple, all purpose scrapbook. When that scrapbook is full, buy another. Meantime, recycle the rest of that newspaper.

    There can be no set of rules which fit everyone. I knit, so I keep a well organized supply of yarn to inspire me, rather than deciding that I want to knit a pair of gloves, going out and buying only the exact amount of yarn for the pattern. That is just the way I knit, much as a painter who wishes to paint a waterfall does not go out and buy one canvas, one brush, and only blue, white, green and grey tubes of paint. But the key word is WELL ORGANIZED. Chairs, couches, and tables in my home are not rendered useless by heaps of random yarn.

    There ARE some things that no one really should keep….The plastic “fork” which holds the greeting card on a delivery of flowers, for example. Or lids from plastic ware whose bowls are gone. No one needs the envelope after the bill is paid — recycle it. If you need the address of a friend on the envelope of a greeting card, do it now! Write that address down in your address book and recycle the envelope.

    Most people I know who have excessive clutter find themselves in that bind because DISORDER came first. Then one day, because of the disorder, they cannot find the stapler and go buy another one. A few months later, that one disappears in the chaos, and once again, buying a new one is easier than finding one of the two you have.

    Unfortunately for those who cling to each item they own, imposing order means sorting things out. Use the lawn if you must. And when you find your three staplers, keep the one you like best, and donate the others. Always keep it in the same place. ..along with all the other things that few people need more than one of.

    Decluttering does not mean owning nothing. It means keeping what you value, and TREATING it as though you value it (if granny’s quilt has so much sentimental value, why is it rumpled and down there under a pile of newspapers and magazines?)

    A tidy home also is easier to clean, particularly if you have pets or kids, and a tidy home tends to attract less vermin.

    Think about these things. No one wants readers to ditch all they own. Just to have clear, orderly, healthy places in which to live.

    • Dez – that is a post worthy comment!

      I love the keeping what you value comment especially.

  12. It is odd they would be reading a decluttering blog. 365 has helped me think of a lot of things I once used that I no longer need, and I am always glad and feel like I lost weight when we donate to the thrift store that we also buy from. Also whenever some deep cleaning happens, something always hits the radar and leaves. The first pass through doesn’t register everything on my brain that should go, but the weekly challenges makes me think of something new.
    At this stage I have about 50% of the sewing material and supplies that I once had, and I got completely rid of rug making supplies, a quilting frame, and a lot of fabrics, buttons, zippers, etc., since I have enough arthritis in my hands that I no longer enjoy hand sewing and rely on my machine even for sewing on buttons. And like Dez, if I need to make something, I can find something suitable in what is on hand, which saves time, money and energy. Most of it came from garage sales or thrift stores or from a store going out of business.
    My mother in law wasn’t a hoarder, but she did not throw away junk mail, church bulletins, never worn clothes, etc., so there must be kind of a step between being organized but with too much stuff, and being a hoarder. I guess she was unorganized with both completely useless stuff and too much stuff.
    We have a large family but I seldom offer them anything since they all have way past enough, and I don’t want to clutter their homes. I don’t feel that responsible for thrift store customers–if they want to clutter, they will.

    • Well said Molly. And it seems you know your limitations and declutter to suit. I can very much relate to the decluttering of craft supplies and I too have let go of quite a lot. I learn more and more all the time what suits my taste and style and stick to that these days. My craft supplies take up a fraction of the space they once used to.

  13. Ann in Boston :

    Colleen,
    Yours is the first website where I felt that “gentle” push to reconsider the items I had in collected in my home.
    It always amazed me how you could come up with the weekly lists of things to consider.
    I thought that removing one thing, one day at a time felt empowering. It was a “fun” challenge.
    Also, the community of readers who share their stories here are almost always kind and encouraging to others.
    Keep up the good work! If folks don’t like your approach…they should move on….but, please know that to me, they are missing something special.

    • Thank you Ann, I see 365lessthings in exactly the same way you do. I am really happy with how it has evolved. Mind you I can be a little lazy about it these days but that is probably a good thing because once I was a little to obsessed with writing too often and responding to everything. Now it is very doable.

  14. Last I heard, participation in 365-ing was completely voluntary! If a post or a set of mini-missions doesn’t apply to me I am quite able to opt out. The purpose of this blog is not to suggest we must give up this thing or that thing but simply to put our relationship with our stuff into perspective.
    What I have found is that over time our attitudes towards what is important changes. We are both book people. That will never change. Until recently we had a huge stockpile (NOT a collection) of throw-away novels for travel. We also noticed that it was growing rather than diminishing as there is no shortage of books out there. Boxes full of books have left here in the last weeks. On the other hand, we have no intention of giving up our library of birding reference books as birding is our passion, the books are used and add much pleasure to our lives. The point of this blog is the eventually we learn to tell the difference between what we value and what is just taking up space.

  15. Wendy B’s “eventually we learn to tell the difference between what we value and what is just taking up space” really sums up the 365 experience.

  16. So many wonderful ideas and suggestions from you and the 365 community.
    I am reminded of this quote from the Dalai Lama with the ( ) being my addition.
    “When you talk (e-mail/post) you are only repeating what you know.
    But, if you listen (read what other’s say), you may learn something new”

    That pretty much sums it up for me!

  17. So true.

    I keep the Pre-Raphaelite ethos as mine “do not own anything that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. That can cover a tatty old postcard because it was from a loved relative who is no longer here, to the owner that could be beautiful. It could include a spiraliser because you spiralise every day and it’s useful. Each to their own.

    I have done a lot of work with people who want to declutter and have seen what we have done. Essentially what we do is talk, because decluttering is essentially just removing stuff you don’t want or need from your home, in theory anyone can do that! The core is not how to do it but why, to have an idea of where you want to be and then how you are going to get there. The people that aren’t ready to talk and discover where they want to be but just want to get stuck in and chuck stuff out immediately are rarely the ones who stay the course.

    • I agree, that tatty old postcard could be more important the nearly anything else you own.

      A also agree wholeheartedly with what you say her about “being ready to talk”. I have a friend who at the moment is considering moving due to a pesky neighbour making it uncomfortable to live near. She has been talking for a long time about decluttering and I have helped her with this at time. She even has a friend (who has aa bad if not a worse clutter habit) who is on her case about the issue. However it is clear to me that she is not ready to let go and I am sure that what we have gotten rid of in the past has since been replaced. I told her I was happy to help when she is ready because stressing her even more now is not helping anything. I do hope she calls.

  18. Just to add when I say “work” I don’t mean professionally, but I have talked a lot of friends and friends of friends and so on through their decluttering process. I love seeing how people change and take on a new lease of life, although sometimes not before an almost period of grieving.

  19. A comment received via email
    I appreciate you writing this and always surprised this is necessary. There’s an unclutter course going on right now and every once in a while I’ll read some posts on Facebook. I’m always surprised when people say ‘they’re behind’ in the course, or they ask complete strangers what they should do with their possessions and find it necessary to justify their decision – again – to complete strangers. It’s as if they are going to be given a grade at the end instead of absorbing this behavior of minimizing into the fabric of their lives. I love getting your emails once a week and they always give me ideas about what I might want to do that week.
    Gale

    • Hi Gale, I agree the idea of absorbing the concepts of decluttering/minimalism. It isn’t just about letting go of the things we have now but actually changing our lifestyle to a more minimalist approach. However I do understand how those timid about letting go like to get some reassurance from strangers of a like mind. My blog has become more about the community here and than interactions than anything else. We support one another and it inspires us to change our ways permanently. It is only irregularly that I receive emails or comments from someone who seems to be clinging desperately to their stuff. I just hope the with enough time and reading here that they are also inspired to realise that stuff is just that, stuff and letting go of it does not erase you history or destroy you future.

  20. Mrs Pat Schneider :

    Hello from Colorado! I am new to this arena and to the challenge of downsizing in this manner. Since retirement 10 years ago, I have sold furniture, had yard sales, and sold items at the local Flea Markets. It has been a challenge indeed to load up our car some weekends to only bring most of it back home. Now I ask friends and neighbors if they can use things: an extra table? Any clothing? Sheets and towels that have been overflowing in our cabinets?
    I am always surprised and very happy when I get a ‘Yes, I can use this item’. It has certainly made me less timid to inquire. Local churches often have lists of people who need items. I check with three churches monthly (plus a women’s shelter) these days to see what I can donate to families in immediate need of items (due to fires, flooding, other disasters that seen to hit the local areas these days. Yes, this is my ‘stuff’ to give away as I choose. So this blog will be what I need to meet my goals: I don’t wish to manage so many things at this point in my life. I prefer these days to interact with my husband, dog, and friends more. If anything, retirement has taught me this. So thank you for these daily challenges to keep my thinking cap on to analyze what really do I need these days. Thanks, Colleen Madsen! And I am enjoying reading the comments from everyone.

    • Hi Pat and welcome to 365 Less Things. Good to hear that you have realised the a life with less stuff is a simpler way to live. I also was inspired by oncoming retirement to downsize in the first place. And like you I used to sell stuff, mostly on ebay, but for the most part am over that and donate most of what I declutter these days. I wish you success and reaching your goal and am glad the mini mission posts are helping you with that. Cheer from Colleen