Other People’s Stuff

My daughter is home for a ten day visit and according to plan I have her decluttering the stuff she left behind when she went off to university four years ago.  She is being very cooperative and I am grateful for that. Knowing me as she does she was fully expecting to have to comply with some decluttering tasks before she even arrived.

I haven’t bombarded her with stuff, just every now and again I will pull out some things and hold up for her to adjudicate on. A quick “keep” or “no” is all it takes. She has done well so far eliminating quite a few items, making it possible for what is left of be contained within the boxes I have set aside for her. Before she arrived the stuff was overflowing into other corners of my house. Hopefully before she leaves we might be able eliminate a box or two.

Each time she visits she eliminates more stuff. Quite often stuff that she chose to keep the last time she was here. One thing I have noticed during this exercise is that you can tell she is a traveller. Her only concern about the things she had to choose from was where they came from. For example the Elvis number plate she didn’t care about unless we got it when we were visited Memphis. The Mark McGwire baseball had the same effect, “Where did we get that?” was her only concern. When I told her a garage sale she was happy to let it go. So all I need to say when she’s not sure whether she cares so much about somethings is that we bought it at a garage sale. 😆 She forgets how cunning I am.

But seriously there are two things I take out of this. One is that when sentiment is tied to things people find them harder to part with. And two, communication is key when it comes to decluttering. I have found that nagging and insisting will not work when you want cohabiters in your home to declutter. Being silent and just putting up with the status quo will only serve to make you feel bitter and dissatisfied. You need to let those around you know what you would like to happen and that it is important to you and then allow them to comply at their own pace.

My daughter is aware of my needs when it comes to decluttering and she complies to whatever point she is prepared to.  There is no pressure forced onto her to give up things she isn’t prepared to part with. I make it as easy as possible for her and that makes it more likely to happen. I know she is not in a position to take all her stuff away right now and she probably wants to reduce it to a reasonable amount before that time does arrive. We are both happy and that is what matters.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here is my daughters decluttering effort so far and she had only been here 24 hours. I have to admit she, her brother and I did have a bit of fun playing Crocodile Dentist before we put it in the thrift shop box.

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Having fun with my kids.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Day 167 Take your time, learn as you go. If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that my take on decluttering is " slow and steady wins the race". One of the advantages to this approach is that you can start […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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 […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. It is hard to find a good balance sometimes between what you would like done by them and what they are willing to do, but the fact that you set up proper expectations and communicate makes it much easier.

  2. Absolutely right, Colleen. Substitute the word “husband” for “daughter” and this is almost exactly what happened in our house. From being ‘dig-in-the-heels’ uncooperative when we officially started (about Day 59 of your blog), he’s now looking up prices on the internet of things he might sell, he tells folks we’re downsizing, and admits the the loud squawking he makes about my getting rid of his toys is just in fun. I think he’s actually ENJOYING the process now!

  3. It’s great that you have figured out how to work with your daughter so that she will declutter with you. I think it is wonderful that Wendy B’s husband is into decluttering now and having fun with it.

  4. Hi Colleen,
    I hope your daughter is not only playing along but that she is (secretly) glad you teach her these skills of letting go and being reasonable about what to keep early in life. Not only will you make her next and all the following house moves easier (and cheaper) she’ll also save a lot of her time and energy and maybe money for the rest of her life. I am coming to terms with my parents not teaching me these skills well. I am getting somewhere in my decluttering. But I feel that every year that lies behind me literally weighs me down with its accumulated stuff.
    I am happy for everyone who starts this journey of reasonability early. And double thumbs up for everyone who starts late and has a load to deal with but keeps chipping away.

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      I am not sure she is learning the lesson too well. She can still be very materialistic. She will tell you that we have two words for her whenever she wants to buy something. They are need and want. We have said it to her over and over again since she was in her early teens “Need want need want.” I am sure she hears those words every time she is considering buying something she doesn’t need but them ignores them.

  5. That’s great Colleen. My 11 yo daughter’s problem (or *I* see it as her problem!) is that though she doesn’t have a great deal of stuff, she doesn’t look after the things she DOES have. The “precious things” that she couldn’t bear to get rid of (eg mainly stuffed toys) are just thrown on the floor or shoved under her bed. I’ve warned her many times that if she doesn’t arrange them on her bed, or find a home for them on her wardrobe shelves that I’m going to confiscate them for a month. Well, this morning I finally did it. I wonder if she’ll even notice when she gets home from school!

    • Hi Loretta,
      I think following through on your threat is a good step. She will either learn to conform or realise she doesn’t want these things after all. Make sure you do keep them from her for the whole month as going back on your threat teaches them the you will weaken under pressure. Not a lesson you want her to learn.

      • You bet! I’ve just written a reminder in my diary to give the stuff to her next month. You know, she noticed her stuff was gone but didn’t even care! Sigh. We did spend some time sorting her room after school yesterday and it is pristine now:-) We’ll see how long it lasts.

        • Good for you Loretta. Perhaps at the end of this exercise she won’t want the things at all. That will be a big pile of dust collectors and untidiness gone from her room.

  6. I regularly ask my kids to go find one or two or three things in their rooms they can get rid of. They never complain about it, and never have difficulty finding items to shed. I’m hoping they’ll learn to let go of stuff and not have to struggle with piles of clutter as adults… probably just wishful thinking.

    • Hi Julia,
      one thing you can be sure of though is if it doesn’t turn out that way it isn’t because you didn’t try to teach them that possessions don’t matter. You can only do your best to teach them good habits. After that it is up to them.

  7. Don’t be too hard on your daughter, Colleen. She might be ready to go more minimalistic and less consumerist in five or ten years and at least then she won’t have to deal with loads and loads of stuff from her teen years, boxes of school papers, former favourite clothes that don’t fit anymore, stuffed animals, unsorted fotos, papers you actually need mixed with other papers, souvenirs … I find paperstuff the hardest to sort through and decide about and the older the things are the more emotionally attached I am. If you can teach her good paperwork mantainance and not to get too attached to objects (and that out of sight doesn’t equal done ;-)) she’s a lucky girl – and has good chances to figure out the rest without greater problems in her own time.

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      my girl has been doing a great job of decluttering this week. One day I am sure she will learn to be more selective about what she brings in in the first place. But when I was her age I loved to shop too.


  1. […] Less Things shares her opinions on Other People’s Stuff. How I would love my daughter to declutter her stuff, but she has resisted all attempts so far. […]