A previous life

How much space is taken up in your home with clutter from the person you once were. Do you still have…

  1. Sports equipment the will never be used again.
  2. Clothes that no longer fit.
  3. Musical instruments that you never really learned to play.
  4. College papers that are long out of date.
  5. Supplies for a hobby that you lost interest in some time ago.
  6. Music that you are embarrassed to say you once loved.
  7. Love letters from a faded romance.
  8. Books you read once and will never read again.
  9. Enough linen, crockery, cutlery etc to cater for your family of five when now it is just the two of you.
  10. Shelves of bric-a-brac that you no longer have the energy to dust. Or haven’t got the time to waste maintaining because you have more rewarding and enjoyable things to do.
  11. Tools in the garage that you no longer have the dexterity to use.
  12. Eyeglasses from when your vision was much closer to 20 20.
  13. Business suits from the job you retired from years ago.
  14. Supplies to put on those elaborate dinner parties you no longer could be bothered catering for. A simple meal with friends is now more your style.
  15. Gardening tools from a era gone by when you had the time to garden.

Like most lists of clutter this one could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

I know I will never play softball again, my shoulder is already damaged enough from that previous life. I have let go of items of clothing that are not really suited to me now that I am in my mid forties. I have let go of my cross-stitch fabrics because there is little chance that I will go back to that craft. I prefer sensible shoes to high heals that kill my feet (Give me comfort over vanity any day) so I only keep a few pairs for special occasions. I have downsized my dining suite because 90% of the year there are only two of us eating at it. The ski equipment is long gone because we no longer live near ski fields.  Even the storage containers I once had an abundance of have dwindled to only a few because I refuse to go back to the level of clutter I once owned. And there are many more things that I have let go of that no longer fit with my current life.

There is no shame in moving on to the next phase of your life, as life is more fun when it is varied and interesting. So there is no point desperately clinging on the the past or it’s accoutrements . Be happy with the person you are now, embrace the new you. Let go of the items from your past that, if you are realistic, you know you no longer need. They are just cluttering up your life and holding you back. And also don’t over cater to the next phase that comes along because that is how our home become all cluttered in the first place.

I am still occasionally shedding things I no longer need and, given how life changes, this will go on until my last breath. Just this week I sent off numerous old Tupperware containers to my daughter. I no longer need them because, when catering to only two people for meals, I no longer find a use for so many containers. Recently I had two pair of high heal shoes fall apart on me. I threw them away and didn’t bother to replace them as I wear heals so little these days. On the other hand I sent a pair of flats to the cobbler for repair. And at the moment I am, once again, going through my craft supplies in a bid to purge them once again of items that haven’t been used in a long time. And clothes will be the next thing on the agenda, although some of them are just shabby and will need replacing.

So take a look around your home and see what you have that you no longer use from your previous life, and as Marie Kondo suggests, thank it for its services and send it on its way.

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

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Katie from USA

    Thank you for this post! While I don’t struggle so much with the ‘who I was’ part of life, I constantly struggle with the ‘who I’d like to be’! Buying supplies for all the crafts that I think I’d love to do…only to realize later it’s the idea – not the execution that caught my imagination. Plus the whole business of working full time, taking care of all the home chores, etc. It’s a constant battle to remember to focus on the things I enjoy now. If I want to try something new I need to make a commitment to myself to bring home the supplies for one project (not 4 or 5 of the same project). If I truly enjoy this new activity, I can always get additional supplies.

    Thank you for all the words of advice!

    • Katie from USA, I like your statement, ” Buying supplies for all the crafts that I think I’d love to do…only to realize later it’s the idea – not the execution that caught my imagination.” I have done this in the past. I finally realized what I was doing and stopped.

  2. The Other Christine

    This makes up a big segment of the things I own, and some of the hardest to get rid of because there is emotion attachment. Some are things I think I might like to do again, and might be worth keeping for a while.

    A similar source is activities I thought I might take up. I collected so much stuff so I would be prepared, but never or barely used it. And it seems like the less likely I was to actually use it, the more I collected. Maybe if I was really keen I would have started with what I already had and preparing with stuff was a way of procrastinating on something that appealed more in theory than in reality.

    • I can relate to your issue here Christine. I still bring home craft supplies at times with aspirations of using them. They are generally given to me or they are someone else’s cast offs that I can acquire for next to nothing. I suppose the difference for me is that I do craft all the time so the likelihood of my using them is relatively high. However I am vigilant and if these items linger too long unused I send them on their way. I am in the process of doing that again at the moment. My crafting this week has been a real use it up challenge.

  3. WOW!!!! Colleen, this was like an inspired sermon or motivational speech!!!!! It was like your heart just poured out your mouth onto paper (or rather cyberspace!). I will definitely move this into my decluttering folder to read again and again. All your posts are good, but this one is just beyond exceptional. It hit practically every area that people likely have clutter in and the reason why.

    As you know I am working on all these areas. In fact, I have worked so hard moving things that I am physically exhausted and yet to have my first yard sale. But, I will get there! It is very addictive because the more you get rid of the more you want to get rid of more. Yes, it hurts a little at the moment, but then it feels so liberating!

    I no longer own any heels. I have problem feet anyway and let them go many years ago. I just tell people I am a danger to myself and others in heels so I don’t have any. Like you said, comfort over vanity ANY day.

    My house is still wall to wall furniture but, even though I never counted, I am sure I have literally eliminated thousands of articles. And, as you said, I will be doing this till my last breath because I don’t want to inflict my mistakes upon someone else.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Colleen, for such a fun blog. It isn’t that I NEED constant encouragement to rid rid of stuff, but it makes it so much more exciting to read and interact with all the blog family!!

    • And just for fun, did you know there’s even a Bible verse that says ‘regard not your stuff’? Well, it is just part of the verse, but that is what it says. Genesis 46:20. KJV. I’m likely taking it out of context, but hey, if the comfy shoe fits, then wear it!

      • Brenda, I looked up your verse and found that it is 45:20. I think it is a good verse to use for this.

        • Thank you, Deb, for correcting that! I was looking at the verse when I wrote, but obviously hit the wrong number on my iPad and didn’t notice. I often think of that verse when I am not sure about letting something go. And then I will think, “Regard not your stuff” and I let it go.

        • Brenda and Deb, thank you for this!
          The whole chapter of Genesis 45 is perfect for a blog newbie who has yet to start the journey. The story is terrific for leaving your previous life. (Thanks, Colleen!)
          In short: Joseph became lord of Egypt, reconciled with his brothers, told them, “Don’t be angry with yourselves… God planned this deliverance ahead of time.” He asked them to go get his father and their own families, and leave their life (of undesirable famine) behind. Pharaoh told the brothers, (45:20) “Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.” They were given the best food, clothing, money, and transportation for the journey, all that they needed. And Joseph added, lol, true to human nature, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”
          And so it was that they left behind a life of famine predicted for five years, and all their old belongings, and were reunited with family, in a new land of plenty and safety, with the very best of everything. Wow…

          • Hi Mannas7mom! I don’t remember you before—are you new to 365 or just now commenting? Anyway, you did a great summary of that Genesis chapter! Here’s wishing you Godspeed on your decluttering journey………
            And please do comment often!

    • Well thank you Brenda. You are living proof that decluttering is very doable. Since you do it with enthusiasm even though for health reasons it is hard on you physically. I hope all those perfectly healthy folk out there will use you as inspiration. Well done.

  4. Ann in Boston

    Dear Colleen,
    What a great post!! It’s a keeper to save and refer to many times over.

    We’ve gone from a family of 5 to 2 of us, with a son in grad school, who lives here on school break!
    It’s time to adopt a new mind set, with cooking, dishes, linens and such.
    It time to bake less too….(gives us more to eat ourselves…not good!)

    But, you are right. It’s a good change, as we have more time together.
    Now I have to de-clutter the excess we no longer need. Give it to someone who can use it, and
    share my blessings.

    Thank you for the reminders. By the way, my high heels are in the donation bag!

  5. I agree with Brenda, Colleen, this is a keeper. I think for me it is especially so for the part about keeping things we thought we would do. I just have to really stay on top of this. I have a big skein of yarn I need to get rid of when I actually unpack from my move. I thought I was going to learn to crochet but have given up on that as I just don’t seem to have the time to learn.

    • Ooh Deb J, if I lived closer to you I would love to spend some time with you and help you learn to crochet! I have done this with a couple of ladies from my Jazzercise class and we have become dear friends. It is a wonderful hobby and really is quite quick to learn.

  6. A great list Colleen. I know I have several such items around the house. It was a big relief to me to let go of my tennis things some time ago. Tennis was a huge part of my life for several years after I moved to the US, and through it I made many friends, but I no longer want to play and keeping the equipment and clothes was just making me feel bad. Anyway, it was all so outdated that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed using it.

    My sons have a lot of things that also are part of their childhood and teen years. I hope to spend some time with them this summer and have them clear out old books and games and hobby items. All those things served them well and taught them a lot but they’ve done their job here now, maybe they can now give joy and entertainment to some other young people.

    • The Other Christine

      I’ve been doing this with my mom and sister gradually over the last year. We went through the kids books and toys 6 or 7 years ago and kept almost everything, but now that my sister has kids (and she and my mom are discovering decluttering), we’re applying much higher standards. Less than 20% of the kids books were ones that we loved so much that they were worth owning and storing. I enjoyed reading most of the other books growing up, but they aren’t special enough to keep storing these particular books rather than using the library.

    • Well done Christine. Sport is often something that changes for us over time. It is up to us to know when the time is right. I know I will never play softball again because my shoulder is no longer up for it. However I have kept my mitt as a souvenir. I keep so few memorabilia items but this mitt has also been signed by several major league baseball players so it is more than just from my ten years of playing. Everything else from my softball days has long gone.

  7. Idgy of the North

    Loved the post, Colleen. Just last week, we got rid of our paddles. As we no longer own a canoe and can easily rent paddles, it seemed a shame to keep them. I also donated my knitting needles yesterday. My grandmother gave me them and taught me to knit as a young child. While I knitted several scarves in my childhood, I have only knitted one in the subsequent decades. If I want to take this up again, I can always acquire more again.

    Agree with the high heels – I swear whoever invented them was a misogynist! I have a nice pair of dressy flats that I can wear with a business suit and dresses. They also pack smaller than heels for business travel.

    • Hi Idgy, smart move getting rid of the paddles and doing it when you were ready. As for the knitting needles, I have often looked at mine over the year of decluttering but they are always something I go back to. Now I am knitting again and they are being well used. I will admit I had been tempted at time to get rid of them but they don’t take up a lot of space and craft is my thing. And heaven know I decluttered plenty of other craft stuff to make up for keeping those.

  8. Hi Colleen,
    What a great post! I do not comment as much these days, however I read the posts every week. I still do some of the challenges. I am always looking for additional things to go out and try to not let things come in, unless they are needed or are replacements!

    Today I smiled when I accidentally dropped a nice, functional, glass disk that you put a candle, or several candles on. It broke! Yesterday, I used it, but I had been thinking I could get rid of it. Today, it got taken care of. It is now in the recycling bin:)

    This week-end I had planned to go into work to clean the papers in my office out. Today I decided I did not want to, but have spent several hours this w/e taking care of things on my “to do” list that have created mental clutter, as well as cleaning stuff out. Jeff’s post makes me want to tackle to closet again, however it is mainly the DH’s stuff that needs to be thinned down and he is out of town. Maybe next w/e:)

    • Hi Sheryl, nice to here from you. The candle holder became the subject of some natural progression decluttering as I like to call it. Sometimes life happens and helps stuff on it way, like a simple case of the dropsies. I, on the other hand, decided to declutter a few candle holders myself this week. They were perfectly fine but I decided they were excess to my needs. They are off to the thrift shop tomorrow.

  9. Super post and so relevant to my wife and me. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Mt 6:21. This has helped me clear out my clutter and my inherited clutter. I don’t want to be judged by what surrounds me.
    My dad was a ham- amateur radio operator- and he left many QSL cards (like post cards) exchanged with fellow hams over the world. I estimate about 500 total. Last night, I got them out for the first time since he died over 8 years ago and threw about all but about 40 or 50. I saved ones that looked unusual or from overseas. Many were from Australia as well as from South America, Europe and Asia. A great legacy, to be sure, but a what a burden that I had avoided for these many years. I put them in the trash for pickup today so I wouldn’t have second thoughts!
    Jeff in Oklahoma