A collection of thoughts

I’ve been racking my brain today, trying to come up with an idea for a blog post, without success. I thought of a few experiences I have encountered during the week in reference to clutter. However these thoughts didn’t amount to enough content for writing a whole blog post. So I decided I would just put these thoughts to you and see what comments ensue. The conversation in the comments section is often as stimulating and inspiring as a post anyway due to my clever and engaged readers. So here goes.

  1. I was thinking of how I hold on to some things longer than I ought to, because I just hate waste. Last week I finally put an old t-shirt in a bag to become rag at the thrift shop. The problem was that, from a distance, the t-shirt looked perfectly good, but get up close and tiny holes were visible in the lower front. I hate this about t-shirts, the way those wholes wear through. The general theory is that it is from being sandwiched between your pants button and hard bench tops. Which for me is very possible because I craft so much at my kitchen bench. But I digress, I felt inclined to continue to wear the t-shirt because it was mostly good, but I had to admit that, up close, I probably looked like a bit of a slob. Who else has trouble parting with things that are mostly good but in reality “mostly” isn’t good enough in public?
  2. Another area in which I hate to see waste is when crafting. I like to use up materials until what is left is of no use to anyone. At the same time I find it hard to turn down the offer of free or near to free materials that I know I could use. As a result I have snippets of ribbon, card stock, patterned papers etc just waiting for that little element of a project that will see them used up. Meanwhile more stuff comes in the door. As a result I sometimes feel like I am taking two steps forward one step back. So lately I have been tailoring my projects with the goal to use up lots of little bits and pieces. For example I might make a batch of six cards. While the design is the same, each card will be slightly different than the other due to the fact that I am making the elements for the card from scraps. I have also been expanding my product range, at my retail art space, by creating small items that are perfect for using up scraps. At the same time I refuse to purchase any new materials, it is make do or go without. Now I finally feel I am making inroads into reducing my craft supplies. Do my crafty readers also have issues with lots of little bits and pieces of scrap materials and what do you do to declutter them from your stash.
  3. Do what you can to find ways to responsibly declutter items that you think are of no use to anyone. There is always a charity or company out there who has a use for your stuff, by either rejuvenating it or recycling it. Let Google find such places for you or use good old word of mouth. You might be surprised what you can learn from conversations with others. Sometimes it is possible to just stumble on to such information when you least expect it. Today I arrived home to my apartment building to find a folder sitting on the ground near the entrance. It belonged to a bedding recycling/reconditioning company. I looked around and, sure enough, saw two guys loading a mattress into a truck. I thought “Good for you!” and also “Kudos to the people who had the decency and initiative to find a way not to let that mattress go to waste.” Has any of my wonderful readers found great ways to send their unwanted stuff to be repurposed or recycled? If so tell us about it.

So that is what I have been pondering when it comes to decluttering this week. So now I am interested to hear your ideas on the subjects.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you wear.

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

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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
  • You just never know. Firstly I would just like to apologise for my recent extended absence from the blog this month. Unfortunately my mother took ill and I rushed off interstate to visit her in hospital and to […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I deal with #1 by having two sets of clothing: one indoors and one outdoors. I have to have this anyway, because I have cats, so I keep my outdoors clothes safe (mostly) in the closet, free of fur. When a piece of outdoor clothing gets ratty, it moves to my indoors shelf. When it becomes even too shabby for that, I cut it up for rags.

    • Thanks Doeraymee, I have no need for indoor and outdoor clothes as I have no pets or garden or job… which may contribute greatly to how quickly my day clothes wear out. They are simply being used a lot because I don’t have a vast range in the first place.

  2. Well, I think this is a fantastic post!! Most of my t-shirts that I wear on the weekends around the house and yard also have tiny little holes in them. I notice that these days, it can be difficult to get a good quality t-shirt. I finally threw one away that I had worn when painting the house for the 25th time. Not only were the sleeves and neck line out of whack because it was so poorly made, but it had paint and holes. LOL

    A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around Pinterest and there was a picture of a lazy susan, with round cake pans painted and glued with narrow candle holders or vases in between the cake pans – multi-tiered craft supply storage. I thought, wow, what a great idea. So I hit several thrift stores and gathered my items, but I didn’t put it together. I went through my supplies that I had been planning on storing in my little lazy susan doohickie. Once I had gone through everything, I see that I really don’t have a need for this nifty storage. I thought Colleen would kick my butt if I just let this all sit. Last weekend, I managed to sand the lazy susan and use wood filler where some dowels had been, and then primed the LS and the pie plates. That’s as far as I got. I have the epoxy to assemble and I have the spray paint to finish painting, but I am dragging on it. I’ll finish it and then donate it, I guess.

    Who’s next for telling us a good declutter story??

    This could be a problem with crafty sites. Gets you all excited to make something fun, but then you really don’t need it or want the finished project.

    • Oh I hear you on those craft thoughts Michelle. I only wish you lived here. I probably use that lazy susan as a merchandising piece in my art space. It sounds lovely. I have the same issue as you when it comes to seeing the potential in random items. I just want to bring them home and make something. I am getting better at walking away.

  3. Colleen – what about using an apron?

    • Good point moni. The thought had never occurred to me. I never had this issue in America because I had a kitchen bench that was tiles and had a timber surround. Timber is softer and kinder on your clothes. That being said I would rather holes in my t-shirts than live with another hideous tiled kitchen bench.

    • Oh, wise old sage, Moni!
      I don’t know when aprons became such a thing of the past. I grew up wearing them and still do.

      You deserve better than even thinking about wearing a tee or anything with holes in them unless you are painting, gardening or playing auto mechanic. It’s not like you are crafting in Chanel. Treat yourself and wear things in your home that you would be proud to wear outside of your home. Keep in mind that simple tee shirts are at a price point that makes them not “built to last”.

      • Hi Kimberly, it have to say it is sad that things aren’t made to last better than they do. It is only in the last eight years that I have even noticed this issue with t-shirts so I am guessing that, as you say, the quality has just slipped. All part of our throw away society.

  4. These are probably my top three reasons for clutter! I, too, dislike wasting something that still has some “good” in it, I have an endless supply of crafting/sewing bits and pieces, and I get stuck finding a way to dispose of items responsibly. The way I deal with them is not ideal, but it’s the best I’ve found: I wear clothes as long as possible, then use them for crafts, stuffing and rags, in that order. I challenge myself to make crafts that are useful and/or attractive (so buyers are more likely to keep them longer) and to do it without buying new materials. I am always on the lookout for new ways to dispose of items.

    On that last topic, I find the options can be very different depending on where you live. A few years ago our town did a one-time curbside giveaway week followed by a pickup for anything left on the curb at the end of the week. It was amazing what was taken away by metal/junk dealers or members of the public, leaving not very much to go to landfill. I was hoping it would be an annual event but it was a one-time thing to celebrate no-waste week and won’t be done again in the foreseeable future – crazy, no?

    • Hi Jo H, I am intrigued, what sort of craft do you sell and what method do you use to sell it? I would love to see some of your handiwork. Please tell me more.

      I think you are going to have to find a way to get the curbside pickup thing to become a yearly event in your town. It sounds amazing. Surely there were enough people who enjoyed it to make it worth the effort. Right a letter to your local government and see what you can do.

      • I belong to a craft group whose mission is to keep alive the traditional crafts like sewing, knitting, woodworking, etc., and I feel that re-using fabrics and other items fits in with this quite well. I have made:
        – draft blockers from the fabric of large skirts or from trousers, stuffed with cut-up clothing that is worn or out of date (similar here: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/craft-ideas/how-to/g2074/door-draft-stoppers-draft-snakes-460109/?slide=18)
        – button snowmen Christmas ornaments (see similar here: http://www.marthastewart.com/270662/button-ornaments)
        – zippered pouches from the fabric and zippers from discarded clothing (similar: https://chicenvelopements.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/easy-zippered-pouch-tutorial/).

        Future plans include:
        – hotpads (similar: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThriftatHome) (that etsy site has other good ideas for reclaimed fabric as well)
        – baby quilts from scraps
        – Christmas ornaments – from fabri,c and from empty thread spools and buttons

        … the list of things I want to try is long! Our craft group has a sale each fall where I sell my stuff. Sorry for lack of photos of my stuff – I never photographed anything because I was selling in person.

        There are many good ideas on the internet; one needs a little patience to weed through the dreck but there are nuggets here and there.

        You’re right about the curbside pickup – it should be an annual event. However, when I spoke to the people responsible for the previous one, they agreed it was good but it was not a source of revenue, only expense (picking up the leftover items, which was not coordinated with the regular annual pickup, so it cost extra) … therefore, it was only done the once, to promote no-waste. I think that’s a bit short-sighted. Maybe you’re right, it’s time to write a letter and try again.

        • Hi Jo H, love all those items and the fact that you make from pre-loved fabric is great. Looking at those pictures makes me want to get off the couch and make something. Too bad my sewing machine is at the repair man at the moment. Talk about reuse, that machine is at least 40 years old and I hope it will last me out as it is a beauty. And Bill my repair man is a champion because he does the work for beer money so charges way less than all others. He get old machines cheap, fixes them up and sells them too.

          And yes you are right it was a bit short sighted of them. I am sure they could procure some funding to make it happen if they put some thought to it.

      • Colleen, would you like me to reply again without the links? I noticed my original reply is in moderation, and I assume that’s why.

  5. I am new to read this blog but have been working on it for a few weeks. However, I found I am having trouble trying to figure out how to responsibly dispose of some obligational clutter I have. It is too personalized to go to a thift store but I feel bad throwing these items out (engraved wine glass, metal sign, and a photo on canvas). I think they will probably end up in the recycle bin but at the moment they are all in a box until I figure out what to do with them. This is my biggest problem with this type of clutter. Any ideas? Thanks

    • Hi emcknits, I have encountered this problem in the past. I had a lot of trophies I wanted to get rid of and found I could donate them to a local trophy shop who striped them down to use the parts. Not all would be used but it was better than putting them in the trash. My husband also had trophies in the form on pewter mugs, I repurposed those in the plant holders for some succulents. They look great on my balcony. We did what you did, just put them aside until the opportunity presented itself to repurpose them. Of course you can’t do that forever but putting them into the recycling bin is better than sending them to landfill.

  6. Some good thoughts Colleen.
    1. I don’t seem to have the problem of holes. My problem is “pilling” that seems to happen and eventually I can’t stand it. I then turn it into rags. I need some new clothes. I have not been replacing the few things I have as they wear out. I have heard about a place that has new, department store brand clothes for cheap prices. I plan to go check them out soon. Mom needs new clothes because she has lost weight and everything is hanging on her. Getting her out and looking is hard as it wears her out. I HATE to clothes shop and she does too.
    2. I SOOOO understand this one as you know Colleen. I still have a bunch of cardstock cut to card size that I need to use up. I wish you were here to give it too. I have some tools I need to get rid of too. I just need to find the time to do it. It is just too easy to get caught up buying supplies/tools when you see them used or advertised. Some I have never used.
    3. I have started having a collection area for things I want to get rid of. I am using on of the square sections of our large Expedit bookcase from Ikea. We just lay it there and when I get enough to make a load I take it to Goodwill. If there are things I think a friend can use or that I can sell I use another square for that. My friend sells things on eBay all the time and she sells things there for me and I give her a commission. It’s working out great. She sold my old Kindle, a Cuttlebug and a bunch of folders and dies for it, and some other scrapbook tools.

    • Deb J, why dont you order the things that your mum likes in relevant sizes and then try them on at home. then you can keep what you like and just send the things you dont need back! just be sure to consider the size (taking measures can help a lot), fabric (you dont want see through) and check if there are any details that you dont want.
      I usually dont approve of online shopping, but it is people like you who actually gain a lot of life quality…

      • Lena, thanks for this idea. We used to do this but the cost of shipping back and forth has become an issue. I have talked to Mom and we are going to find a couple of shops where they have clothes we think she would like. We will go there and while she sits I will go find things I think she will like and bring them to her. We will see how it goes.

    • Hi Deb J, I don’t like clothes shopping either so I can sympathise. I hope your mom is doing well. As for the craft stuff, I find it exciting to try different things so I suppose I just have to accept that stuff will come and go. I was just saying to a customer at my art space that it is a double joy when I am crafting. First because I enjoy creating and second because I love using things up. And especially so if they are reclaimed items like the calendar from from daughter-in-law that I just made into twelve cards and envelopes. Her daughter had to have one when she saw them to give her from her birthday soon. I might give her one too.
      I have a space in my bedroom closet that I use to store the stuff I am getting rid of. I just take it to the thrift shop when I go to do my shift each week. And how great it is that you have a friend who will sell stuff on ebay for you.

      • Colleen, I miss some of the crafting but I seem to have so little time and when I do have a bit of time I find myself just wanting to read or rest. My back and hips are giving me fits right now so I can’t stand sitting where I need to sit to craft.

  7. Hi Colleen,

    First things first: Great post!!!

    #1 is an issue for me… I have “favorites” that I don’t want to stop wearing… then I realize I look raggedy… or sometimes the item is just this side of raggedy but no longer right for me… then I don’t know whether to donate or not (whether the item is “good enough”)… I don’t make rags from clothing ever, because I don’t like the texture for cleaning. I’m not a crafter either. Sometimes I remove the buttons before discarding the item and donate them in a Ziploc bag as “shirt buttons” for people who sew. I’m debating what to do with one of my cardigans. It has “jeweled” buttons but one of them lost its jewel… It’s not an obvious flaw or that sweater would be gone by now… I keep thinking I’ll look at the craft store for a replacement jewel but it’s been months and I haven’t done it yet 🙂

    #2 At different times, I have had little bits of paper or fabric ribbon, the odd bead or piece of jewelry that I can’t use for anything. Once I took a box of these type of items to a local art school (with their okay). Mostly, I give these to my best friend for her dolls and the church crafters she and her sister are involved with. I always tell her to get rid of anything they decide they don’t want, just don’t give it back 🙂

    #3 I am a bit impatient to be “done with” items once I decide I’m done with them… So I am challenged in this area…

    • Hi Peggy it sounds like you have got a lot of good methods in place to responsibly pass on bits and pieces you have no further use for. And you put a bit of effort into it to, so good for you.

  8. I have read that some large cities have textile recycling for clothing that is not good enough to donate, but the fibers can be recycled to new.

    • Hi Kimberley,

      I don’t donate “for rag” clothing because I read that it either gets tossed in landfill or sent overseas as is. In Peter Menzels photojournalism book “Material World: A Global Family Portrait” there was a photo of a “bed” made of such clothing… It seemed like such a waste… Not that they shouldn’t have beds, just that there wasn’t any translation from “clothing” into “textile” into sheets and blankets… Too sad in every way 🙁

      • Hi Peggy, I work for a charity who deal in donated clothing and I can assure you only a small percentage goes to landfill. Only about 25% gets sold here in Australia, some gets used as rag (I have seen the process for this at our warehouse) and the rest does go overseas. Sometime back a lovely lady from Guinea in Africa wrote in to say please keep the clothing coming as it is much appreciated where she is from. All her clothing was bought that way at local markets. What difference does it make what they use the textiles for so long as they aren’t just going to waste. It is better that we, in more affluent countries, were less wasteful and overindulgent with such textiles in the first place and used our money to do more good in the world.

        • Colleen,
          I so remember that lovely post.
          At the time, it made me feel really great about the clothing I would donate to charity. If it didn’t sell, I knew it would end up being put to good use. As I have mentioned before, I am one of those crazy people that makes sure everything I donate is washed, pressed and either fold or hung on hangers.

      • Peggy,
        I don’t donate for rag clothing either, however, I have read about communities that do have textile recycling. Other than that, I don’t know much about the process other than what I just learned from Colleen’s reply.

  9. Good timing, Colleen. Back in the day when I made crafts for sale I worked in miniature so tiny pieces of things were my stock in trade. And, of course, I still have them. Or, HAD them. I was sewing gift bags the other day and going through my stash of cord I found many little bits which I can’t use for anything. Tossed them. Today I went through my box of lace. All the small pieces have gone in a bag for the thrift store. Tomorrow I’ll tackle ribbons. I have admitted to myself that my eyesight is no longer young so it isn’t as though I will return to the crafts of earlier years.

    Almost my entire wardrobe consists of t-shirts and sweatpants so they simply cycle from good to not-so-good to painting/yard work and then rags/garbage. Same with my running shoes. By the time I’m finished with them there’s no suitable resting place besides the garbage. The clothes that stay in the ‘perpetually good’ category are the ones I obviously don’t wear so I’ve been sending them to the thrift store.

    Wanting to find the best possible solution when disposing of things is a common problem among 365ers. My sticking point is sheets. Too worn to want to sleep on them, too worn to give to the thrift store but too good to toss…. I have earmarked the worst to use for packing when we move and then I will toss them when I unpack.

    • Hi Wendy B … animal shelters can usually use old sheets and blankets – just a thought.

      • Thanks for the idea Jo. I take towels to the wildlife rehab center but they can’t use sheets and blankets (too big). There’s no shortage of animal shelters, unfortunately… W

    • Hi Wendy B, you can use those sheets for weed matting in your garden if they aren’t good for anything else. Or find a local professional painter who might want them for drop sheets.

  10. If I have clothing/sheets/towels which are past their best and shabby I put them in my suitcase and use them on my next seaside holiday. Then at the end of the holiday they can be dumped and I have a lot less washing to do when I get back. This year I have a pile of old socks and past-it undies to take and throw away at the end. Of course this would not work on a cruise or any holiday where you dress up! But fine for a just sitting around on the beach type holiday. And of course I only dump things that are not good enough for donating.

    • Hi Puddlekin, I did this with a few things on my last vacation. We were gone six weeks and had to find good outfits for our son’s wedding that we of course would bring home. So to ensure we could still carry on our luggage I just packed really light to begin with and then tossed a few items along the way. It worked out great, and I have worn the wedding outfit twice again since coming home.

    • I love this 🙂 I am currently bringing together those kind of items for my next holiday, in a month’s time. It’s an extra thing to look forward to, getting some final use out of these almost worn-out clothes, remnants of odd toiletries etc, then letting them go.

    • I have commented on the same thing many times before. My daughter and I call them “wear and toss” apparel. Those things that you loved and are just seeing better days. Plus the bonus is that you have room in your luggage for any local purchases or chatchkes (just kidding, Colleen) to bring home.

  11. Hi everyone! I encourage all of you to visit TerraCycle.com. For the past year, I have been involved with a group of volunteers who collect, sort, and ship “trash” to TerraCycle. We are then awarded points which are converted into cash rebates which are donated to our designated charity. Corporations sponsor the various product brigades and provide pre-paid shipping labels for shipments so it costs nothing but time to participate. All sorts of items…cereal bags and cereal box liners, Brita pitchers and filters, drink pouches like Capri Sun, cosmetics containers, used toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes, floss containers, #6 rigid plastic cups, and many, many more items are accepted by Terracycle and kept out of landfills.

    From their site, “Founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, then a 20-year-old Princeton University freshman, TerraCycle, Inc. began producing organic fertilizer by packaging liquified “worm poop” in used soda bottles. Since the inauspicious start, TerraCycle has become one of the fastest-growing green companies in the world.

    More than just a recycling company, TerraCycle strives to be a driving force behind increasing environmental awareness and action. Our goal is to be a trusted resource for families, schools, communities, and even corporations to find tips, stats, facts, tactics, and news to help them live a greener, cleaner lifestyle. Together, we are Eliminating the Idea of Waste®.

    Today, TerraCycle is a highly-awarded, international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products. TerraCycle is widely considered the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable, post-consumer waste.

    TerraCycle works with more than 100 major brands in the U.S. and 22 countries overseas to collect used packaging and products that would otherwise be destined for landfills. It repurposes that waste into new, innovative materials and products that are available online and through major retailers.”

    For our version of TerraCycle, area residents drop off their TerraCycle donations at a couple of locations. Volunteers meet once a month to sort, pack, and ship. In the last few months, our small county has earned $1400 for Feed My Starving Children. Since each FMSC meal costs just $.22, we have provided MANY meals from TRASH! Individuals and groups can donate their rebates to the charity they choose. If you don’t want to be part of a group collecting TerraCycle, you can always donate your trash to a group in your area. TerraCycle is located in many countries and is always expanding.

    • LCM, thanks for this information. I intend to look into it more to see if we have a local group and if not what it would take to start one.

    • That sounds fantastic LCM, I will take a look at the site and hope that they include Australia in their project.
      PS. I love your username it is my son’s initials.

  12. I have a hard time throwing anything that might be used in a “crafty” way also. As I continue to declutter, I have a bag marked “misc. craft supplies” set aside and when it is half full (it takes a little time to fill it and I don’t want to keep it too long!), I take it to my local elementary school and donate it to the art department. They have a fabulous art teacher who uses all sorts of mediums in doing projects with the children. It’s amazing what they can turn bits and pieces into! Depending on what you are getting rid of, that might be a viable solution for some!
    Your blog is now the only one I am reading as I have “decluttered” the blogs loaded with advertisements!! 🙂

    • Hi Karen, good for you. There is always a use for this sort of stuff.
      And thank you for not decluttering my blog. I get emails from people wanting to advertise here all the time. I just hit the spam button and go on reading more important emails.

  13. good thoughts!

    I am so glad, that I am not a crafty person, apparently you are always dealing with this danger of clutter… I do however know the clothes problem. I usually wear my clothes in a special circle: first job, then spare time going out (a bit shabby is ok for me), then home, then dirty work (like doing floors, gardening, painting), then they go in the trash. For example I just reactivated my summer shirts, and there are a couple that are on the edge of going out/home, and one is already close to get used as a “work shirt”.
    Because I actually hate clothes shopping, I need to force myself to go once in a while, because then I dont suddenly run out of clothes.
    If I want to get rid of clothes before that circle is completed I always give away to charity (oxfam or red cross)…

    the other thing of mindful decluttering is nowadays not so bad anymore. I usually ask around for items that someone can still use (like a printer, or a coffe machine, or something like that), I bring spices to work, someone will take it there. for the other strange items that happen to be decluttered, I have “the box” – I usually give it away as a fleamarket box. the for free sign is always a good thing as well. and just today I saw online that we have a “givebox” in our city. I will for sure check that out.
    I usually ask the question: do I want someone to have this item and use it/wear it? if the answer is no, I throw it in the bin.