Avoiding Regrets

The best way I know of to avoid decluttering regrets is to not let go until you are truly ready. This advice may seem counterproductive to reducing ones belongings, but trust me it isn’t. That is because there is usually something else that you are prepared to part with instead. Making hasty decisions can be the cause of those later regrets. And regrets in turn can put you off decluttering, so they are best avoided.

Just like I said in yesterday’s post, there are things you don’t question keeping, there are things you don’t question letting go and the things in between are the ones to pass over for now until you are ready. Sure ask the question every time you encounter them but if the answer is to, as Lena commented in an email yesterday, not to decide then a decision is actually made.

Lena’s words “…not deciding is deciding. If I decide to “decide later”, I made the decision to keep it for longer.

To stay on track in the meantime set your short term goal, for example a thing a day, and stick to that. Find something you are happy to part with now and decide to decide on the other things later.

That sounds like a lot of double Dutch but I am sure you know what I mean. I am still parting with items that I passed over again and again. Now I am ready to let them go but a lot of stuff has left my house in the meantime and I have no regrets about any of them.

However if you keep bringing things in and can’t let go of anything, no matter how much advice you read, then it is time to seek professional help.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter five small makeup items that you don’t really like.

Eco Tip for the Day

Buy secondhand rather than new where possible. This tip is usually easier on your wallet as well. That is the beauty of taking care of the environment. Many of the actions you can take will also save you money.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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. This is exactly what I try to do. Also, I put the things I’ve decided to de-clutter in my “declutter spot” until they are ready to leave the house. Knowing they are there for a week or two is a nice comfort in case I find myself changing my mind, which has only happened once so far. 🙂

    • Hi Kayla, that is like a short trial separation. I still have some tupperware in my bedroom drawer that I should probably give to my daughter. I think it has been there for some months now.

  2. Like Kayla, I have a “declutter spot” too, until I have enough to load up and take to a charity store. Since I began consciously decluttering, I haven’t regretted anything I’ve gotten rid of. Colleen knows about my one regret from years ago which was selling a 1st Ed. Budweiser Christmas stein at a yard sale for maybe $0.50 and later a liquor store owner scolded me because it had a value at that point of over $200 and he would have bought it from me. Oh well. Someone got a good deal. 🙂

    • HI Michelle, I also have my “declutter spot”, it is very small these days but I go to the thrift store every week and I don’t have much to declutter so it works. Too bad about that Budweiser stein but that’s life. I have probably gotten rid of some things that I could have made money on but sometimes it is too much bother to investigate and do the selling.

  3. This is what I do Colleen. It is mostly things that Mom doesn’t want to get rid of. By taking it easy with her we have decluttered a huge amount of items and so far she doesn’t regret many of them. Any regrets she does have are along the line of “if we still had ____ we could use it instead of _____ .” She usually lets go fo the regret pretty quick.

  4. This post reminded me that last week I had kind of an opposite regret……….I had taken out a big box of memorabilia to sort through. It was sitting by my desk for probably a week before I took a deep breath and opened it to go through. Right in plain sight was an unused packaged of refills for my family photo album…….that I had just reordered two days before!! There they were sitting right in that box I was about to go through and I had just ordered more thinking I didn’t have any refills. I regret not going through that box sooner! I now have enough refills for my family photo album to probably last the next 10 years.

    • Oh Claire! What a bummer. Some time back Colleen had some posts on putting things back in their homes or putting like items together. This morning I found some things that were not where they actually belonged, so I just a few minutes and “homed” them. 🙂 But there was a period of time where I’d buy something and then I could never find it again so I had to re-buy it. Frustrating! Glad to have found this blog so I can keep up with everyone’s tips and progress. 🙂

      • Michelle – I can remember constantly losing things in the house and having to buy replacements. I think I ended up with something like 9 pairs of sewing scissors once I got the sewing cupboard under control.

        • Moni, holy smokes! This would be a good thing only if you were an octopus!

          • Michelle – that cupboard used to be an avalanche risk – literally! I’d open it a wee bit with a hand held up to protect myself if it did actually avalanche and then warily open the door a bit further and a bit further. Finding things was like sifting thru a disaster zone. So many duplicates emerged from that cupboard once I had it under control.

      • Hi Michelle! In recent years I was pretty good at putting things where they belong that is why it was such a surprise to me to find them! But this memory box has been around for a long time. The album pages were totally out of place being in there. I wish I would have just added those extra pages to the album years ago. I’ve added all the empty pages to the family album now so there is lots of space for future photos and I know exactly where they are!

    • That is a bummer Claire but how did the decluttering of that box go. I hope you managed to get rid of some stuff.

      • Hi all! It was a good reminder to me to keep up the decluttering because, as much as I have done, there are still more useful things hiding with all the junk.
        Colleen, decluttering the memory box was one of the toughest. About 12 years ago I saved a bunch of ticket stubs, maps, brochures, etc. that we collected when we first adopted our kids from their birth country. I expected to put them all into scrap books, eventually! 12 years later I don’t remember why I saved much of the stuff and lots of it seemed not very special now. I did get rid of quite a bit of it but still saved some to deal with later. Right now I don’t feel at all motivated to put these things into albums, but maybe someday I will?? I was able to make space in the big box and consolidate a smaller memory box into it. So that felt good. I still have about five bankers boxes that all fit in the category of “memory box”. 🙁 It still feels pretty overwhelming to sort through. I’ll need to get motivated on all that!

        • Claire – I also have items which were meant to go into an album but didn’t. But I also have the albums. I’d recently decided the information on the first page was the only information I was interested in ie the time of birth, Doctor’s name etc and was all set to copy that into the Plunket books (a health care book for under 5’s we have in NZ) when I realised that there were the ink hand print and foot prints on one of the other pages. So I can’t get rid of that album after all, or at least until I figure out Plan B.

          • Moni, I guess that a 2 page album might be a little thin! I have some other photo albums that contain basically one trip or one group of photos with permanent pages. (Not the kind you can add or remove more pages from.) There were several empty pages at the back of these photo albums – I just cut the empty pages out the other day! Every little bit counts! I hope you can figure out a Plan B for your albums!

        • Claire – I’m wondering if I could make a combined album for all three kids and scan the hand and footprints to include – maybe one of those photo books that photo services advertise, include a few special photos and go for the 10-20 page option.

          • Moni, that sounds like a very nice idea. I am forever battling my sentimental side and thought right away “you have to keep the originals”. But, of course, you do not if you don’t want! Or, if you wanted could you cut all the originals out of their albums and slide them into a new album with clear sleeves? That would be about six pages and plenty for a declutterer’s album! 😉

        • Hi Claire even I have two reasonable large boxes of memorabilia items. Granted one of them is full of my husbands stuff and probably the half the other box as well. It has been a while since I last went through these boxes and it is about time I did. As you said in your comment, over time some of the stuff loses its importance. Quite often it is the feelings around the events rather than the stuff that is important and we can get confused between the two. I will keep this idea in mind while I sort through my box. Do I really need to keep every drivers licence I have ever had? Do I need to keep the calendar pages from the months my children were born? Would I be better to display these “precious” items rather than hide them away in a box?

          • Hi Colleen,
            I need to come up with some criteria for the things I’m keeping in my memory boxes too. Right now I have one large box of birthday/Christmas cards, one large box of school papers, two large boxes of photos (not including all of my albums), one large box of my childhood trinkets along with all of our kids’ art and misc. from their adoption. Oh, yes, and a large box of our daughter’s childhood toys. We have it because she isn’t settled in one place for long in recent years.
            I could probably get some of this down a little bit, but in my current thinking I probably won’t make much of a dent in it. I guess I’d have to really be in a very hardcore dejunking state of mind to make a big dent in it. It just feels like so much but I just don’t know what of it to let go yet. I’ll be looking for inspiration!

  5. Yep, I’ve got my ‘declutter’ spot too where I take my time to decide on certain things. Most of the things I put there do go though. Only once did I snatch something back but, no doubt, it will wind up in the spot yet again. 🙂

    • Hi Ron, I too have snatched things back, but only rarely. I have a trial separation spot for items I am pretty sure I want to declutter but not quite sure enough. If the item is still unused after a reasonable period of time it goes out the door. I don’t use this method all that often but it certainly works.

  6. I recently had to buy something to replace ones that were decluttered 2-3 years ago. Those cardboard magazine holders that can hold folders, magazines etc standing upright. My brain went straight into regret mode, but I defended myself by remembering that these particular folders have migrated thru three different bookcases and a freestanding cupboard – all of which have since been sold or eliminated – and I would never have foresawn that these folders would end up housed in my hall cupboard (that was an avalanche zone) on the plastic wire shelves. If $20 worth of cardboard magazine holders are the total collateral damage for the hundreds, probably thousands of pieces of stuff that have gone from my house, I can write that regret off!

    • Hi Moni, I imagine the ones you decluttered may have been a little worse for wear anyway. Sometimes it is nice to have something new and refreshed. Cardboard especially soaks up smells, moisture and dust over time. I also have replaced one of two things down the track but I have no regrets about that. I usually can pick them up at the thrift shop if I am patient anyway and it costs me next to nothing.

      • Colleen – yes exactly. I also had some plastic ones from here at work that went to a non-profit organisation via freecycle who needed such items and I’m sure they’ve been well used too. The thing is, there is no guarantee that the folders that I have relocated to my hall cupboard will stay there forever, as I said they have migrated thru the last couple of years. Mind you there aren’t really any other options for them at this stage, now that we no longer have the three bookcases, two freestanding cupboards, the two Balinese buffets, small filing cabinet and three small bookcases since when I started here at 365 Less Things. Skite, skite! Not many flat surfaces left at all!

    • Moni, I have had to buy little things like that when I had decluttered them. But, like you I had no regret because I knew that in the meantime they were not sitting around taking up room and getting dusty. It feels good to be able to see things that way.

      • Deb J – it was worth it. Would never have forseen that everything would eventually fit in one cupboard and there have been a number of migration steps between then and now, so $20 – big whoop-de-do.

        • That’s great Moni. I just love it when you follow the trail and realize the benefits of the work.

  7. “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But, then again too few to mention” From My Way sung by Frank Sinatra
    I have always jotted down the larger items (like furniture) on a note pad and used a box labeled with the name of the charity I plan on donating the smaller items to. Subconsciously, I think this sends a message to our emotional self that it is time to let it go. I have never experienced any remorse over anything I have decluttered and moved on its way to a new home.

  8. Thank you for the gentle words. Sometimes it’s too easy to beat myself up about indecision. But you are right, deciding to decide later is still action. The fact that the question was posed proves I am being more mindful.

    • Exactly creativeme, so long as you are moving forward you are on the right track. And when you do question those items closely analyse your feelings towards them and rather than justify them try to dig down to the reasons for those feelings. Sometime you can achieve your own ah ha moment and learn something about yourself. These realisations can help you move on.

  9. hey Colleen,
    I wasnt aware I inspired you on another good post. glad I helped.
    And again thank you for your post before that. it was just the thing I needed.
    I am nowadays at a very nice point. I got rid of the obvious, the excess, the hidden clutter. I sorted out, rearranged, updated, upgraded a lot. I adapted to my new lifestyle and I have a well running decluttering routine for kitchen, desk and wardrobe. My place is easy to maintain, but I am still not satisfied.
    I want more. I want less. more time and space, less stuff. I am now struggling with emotional attachment, guilt and the worst “I could use it one day”. I know the answer before I ask the question, and I should just go with that. no more postponing of decisions. And yes, the trial separation has been a great tool for a long time now…

    • Hi Lena, thank you for that post inspiration. Don;t beat yourself up too much and don’t rush your decisions. Just a thought ~ Perhaps to are trying to simplify an area you fell you have some control over while the time pressures you feel are caused by something else. I know from your past comments that you have been working very hard on your career over the last years and that can certainly put a lot of pressure on you. Streamlining your home routine is certainly a good way to make time for such an important aspect of your life but don’t misplace the bulk of the cause. Don’t be too hard on yourself by making sure you have a good work life balance.

      • Colleen, I am glad I can say, I am not working all the time. actually, I have a part time job and I enjoy my life with partner, friends and family, I have time for sport and I still travel a lot for weekend-trips and a couple of holidays a year. I have not a lot of money, but its enough for me to live a comfortable, young, urban lifestyle.
        best thing: I am seriously considering to get rid of my desk, as I dont take work home at all. when I leave the office, I leave also my email-inbox and the phone there. which is not as common as I found out.
        I consider myself lucky and privileged. getting rid of unnecessary items is the cherry on the cake.