Back At The Helm

Well hello everyone! You probably didn’t even miss me while I was off enjoying my USA vacation for the last three weeks but now it is time to get back to reality. Housework to do, meals to cook, washing machine working overtime, children asking for money, husband already going away on a business trip, posts to write… so much for simplicity hey!

Actually I live the good life really but I have to admit I often take that for granted. I think that will be my challenge for the next little while, to quit my bitchin’ and focus on counting my blessings. Perhaps I need to pay a little more attention to my gratitude list.

What did I learn while I was away?

I didn’t miss any of my stuff while I was away. This was no surprise though. In fact I love travelling light. I will be writing a post about that soon. All of those things around the house that we find so useful or beautiful are soon out of sight out of mind when there are better things to occupy our time.

Living with the basics had me thinking at times about what stuff I could get rid of when I got home. Living out of a back pack for three weeks makes you realise that much of the stuff around your home is just not necessary. Although both situations are very different because at home I have to cook, make may own bed, clean and deal with everyday living there is still a lot of stuff that is just there because I have the room to store it. You can be sure I will be keeping that in mind as I get back into the decluttering. The kitchen is high on my list of places to purge.

My house is bigger than I realise or need. After living in hotels and b&bs for weeks on end it becomes clear when I get home how big my house really is. Even though it is smaller than the average home in Australia there is more space then is needed by us and more area that I would rather not have to clean too for that matter.

I really do not like shopping. We had a list of things we wanted to get while we were  in the land of cheaper prices and a list of things other people wanted us to pick up for them. I did not manage to find much of what was on my short list and my Keen shoe shopping was a dismal failure. My husband got some much needed items at lower than Australian prices and we stocked up on skate shoes for our son after much texting to ensure we got what he wanted. Our daughter scored some cosmetic items and our mothers will be happy with the craft items they requested. All this took up valuable time that we could have spent doing more interesting things though and that did not sit well with me at times.

Making new friends and leaving them behind is sad. Cindy and I had a blast together while I was in Austin. My husband and I had some lovely meals together with her family and Cindy and I had a lovely walk around the lake near her home and she gave me a little tour of her local thrift shops and the local botanic gardens. I wish I could have stayed longer and that she wasn’t now so far away. Miss you Cindy!!  🙁

I also got to meet Willow, one of our long time 365ers. We had a lovely lunch together and chatted for hours. I looked back to see when she first starting commenting here, it was way back on the 15th of May 2010 only about two months after I started blogging. Willow and her husband met us at the Getty Center in LA on the day we flew out. I highly recommend going there if you are ever in the area. Not only was there some geat art but the site and the views were amazing.

So folk I am glad to be back and am looking forward to reading and responding to your comments again. Thanks for hanging in there and chatting with each other in my absence.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter some vases that you rarely if ever use.

Today’s Declutter Item

I am staying on track with the craft decluttering. I gave these stencils to the lady at the craft store up the street from my house. I tried selling them both on ebay and to a local crafter without success and that was as much effort as I could be bothered putting into selling. They are gone now and that is what matters.

Brass Embossing Templates

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Finding out that we don’t have to move to Adelaide. I kind of like it right where I am for now.

“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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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen deserves a MAJOR hip-hip-horray for writing all those posts in advance, so that you wouldn’t have even realized she was on vacation. Good job because it’s a hard one!!!!

    Glad you’re back safe and sound. I miss you too. : (

  2. hip hip hoorray! great post – I know what you mean about the change of mind. I keep telling people that whenever I come home from travelling I get the “culture shock” back home. and every time I feel I made a huge step in changing not only my lifestyle but also my mind.

    you can keep travelling, we will keep your blog warm, dont you worry 😉

    • Thanks Lena, I will keep travelling thats for sure. Maybe one day I will be in your part of the word. Although Great Britain and Ireland are next on the list.
      My readers are certainly good at keep the blog warm in my absence. Good on you all.

  3. Glad you are back but thanking you for keeping things going here even while you were gone. We had a great time and are glad you did too. Wish I could have met you but you weren’t down this way. Maybe some other time. Looking forward to more 365Lessthings. Your blog is my favorite. I feel like we are all family now.

  4. Great to have you back Colleen, though Cindy and your other contributors did a fab job, along side your marvellous forward planning.

    I’m so glad you had such a good time meeting Cindy and willow. One of my best friends I met on line (fortunately at least she lives in this country) a few years ago and in the last year we have been to each others weddings.

    I’ve been focussing on getting ‘admin stuff that is worrying me done’, aka, decluttering mentally. Things like our wills, and lists of where all our accounts are/passwords etc should one of us fall very ill or die are now nearly complete. Then there have been very long over due letters to folks and tracing some important papers in regard to my house – that’s been worrying me for 4 years and took 5 mins to sort, 3 of which were on hold!
    I have about another 5 such things to go on the list and then I hope I can start to feel the benefit of the empty space in my head.

    • Hi Katharine,
      I must admit it is a mad scramble to get all the blog posts organised before I leave. And of course Cindy was great as she did her usual Wednesday post and Fridays as well. Thanks also to the other readers that did guest posts for me. This is how Cindy ended up writing for me on wednesdays because after doing two guest post she seemed like the logical person to call on when the Liam emergency struck.

      Next vacation is to Great Britain mate so you better let me know where you are so I can plan around it. We plan on visiting lots of places and maybe spending two months there so I am sure we can fit you in.

      I have to redo my will as well so I sympathise with you on that task. We also need to do a proper inventory of our household items and make sure the art pieces are properly documented and covered by insurance. The peace of mind will be worth the effort.

      • Oh wonderful!! I would so love to meet up, and I live in a very interesting place on the south coast too. Will PM!

  5. I live near Washington, DC. Did you have a chance to tour our wonderful capital while you were stateside? If not, perhaps the next time. There are so many free museums and monuments that you would need your whole vacation just to see some of them. Be sure to call me should you ever get to the east coast of the U.S. 🙂
    Just wanted to comment on traveling. Our entire family – 7 of us plus my daughter’s best friend and her son go to the beach for a week every other summer and this is our year to go. We were planning our trip this weekend – everyone brings a few things so it makes packing easier – but the point I wanted to make is that I keep our “grocery list” in a folder and yesterday I had a tough time finding the folder. What I did find was pages and pages of paper – stuff falling everywhere. I print out tons of things to read, recipes to try and book lists, ad infinitum. I realized that this has got to stop and I need to clean out. It is overwhelming. I really need some help with sorting and tossing paper. Guess I really need to read and not print. 🙂
    The 2nd thing I realized was that when we are at the beach house, we use only the few utensils and pots and pans that are there. I used to lug personal fry pans and sharp knives and dishes. What a mess. The point of this is that when I come home, I see that I have way more household items than I need. I start giving away our excess things and this year, with your website as a booster, I know I will be even more eager to get things moving. I’m so glad I found all of you. I feel like I have new friends already.

    • Maggie, you just made me remember the holiday check list that my father used to print out for each family member when we went for the 4 weeks summer vacation. so we were responsible for checking our own list and pack it accordingly. he had separate ones for the camping van, the paper work (passports, health insurance cards, car papers, etc) and for the house to prepare. we still managed to get into a tense mood before departure, but the list was actually taking out a lot of fighting potential…

    • Hi Maggie,
      no we only went to Texas, Seattle and Portland on this trip. We did however visit DC in 2002 when we lived in the US. It was a great trip, we started in DC and worked out way up to Boston.

      You have found your own solution to the paper problem. Read don’t print is the best advice you can give yourself. There are only so many hours in the day and if you don’t have time to day then you will probably not find the time in the future and the paper will just pile up. Do yourself a favour and eliminate this kind of aspirational clutter. Type Aspiration into the search bar in my blog and you will likely find lots of advice on this subject.

      Vacations can be very liberating and inspiring, not only because of what you discover on the vacation but because of what they make you realise about what goes on at home. I am itching to declutter items from my kitchen now that I am home. Clothing has received the first slice of my attention though. These will not show up on my blog though as clothing has become mostly a maintenance declutter task for me these days not a minimising task. One in one out kind of situation. There will be some coats that are the exception to that once I decide on the disposal method.

      I am so glad you feel so welcome and comfortable here at 365 Less Things, that is the aim I believe and it seems to be working. Cindy, the readers and myself make a good team I think. I am glad you have joined the team.

  6. I know what you mean about traveling–it’s so easy to live from your backpack and then you come home to SO MUCH stuff. I’m always antsy when I’m on the way home because I know I’m going to go into ‘declutter’ mode. I think it is time for me to take a trip so I can come home and be reinvigorated for more decluttering.

    Again, it was lovely to meet you in such beautiful surroundings!

    • Summer vacation will soon be upon you Willow so hang in there and you can ride off into the wild blue yonder then. Perhaps one day you will find you way down to the great land downunder with a little trip to New Guinea on the way for old time sake.

  7. Hi Coleen,
    Honestly, I think I enjoy voluntering more than traveling. Today was Queen’s day (a very popular dutch tradition) and I helped voluntering by being on First Aid duty.

    I can find great joy in helping other people. And, when I’m not helping other people, I enjoy watching people passing by (walking, most of the time :P), talking to family, friends that I see and reading a book in the sun. It is a great way to pass some time.

    Anyway, great to have you back 🙂

    • I know what you mean Nurchamiel, I love volunteering too. I usually get more satisfaction out of that than I ever do out of paid work. I also like watching the world go by. The airport can be a great place for that. People impatient to board, people greeting one another on arrival, people from different countries conversing with each other. We ended up on a plane with a high school choir group between Seattle and LA and they performed a song. The interaction between teenagers can be quite amusing.

      Thank you, it is great to be back.

  8. Welcome back Colleen! I am still here reading every post. My 12 year old son comes back to me in 2 weeks time as he has been overseas with his Dad for the past 9 months. I will have him with me for the next 3 months. I can’t wait to see him and hug him and maybe get him to sort out and declutter some of his stuff! Bits of toys everywhere in his room! (He is a lego and transformers fan).

    I have been really enjoying your blog. It comes to my email and its the first thing I read every weekday. So thank you for all the effort you put in. I don’t know how you keep coming up with new ideas for posts all the time!

    • Hi Low Income Lady,
      thank you for the warm welcome back. I hope you have a wonderful time with your son. At 12 years old I hope he is still up for those hugs. Mine quit hugging around that time and I am still suffering from withdrawal pains 9 years later. He replaced the hugs with rib poking, shutting me in the pantry, being cheeky and several other annoying habits like putting finger prints on my eyeglasses (and they are the more acceptable ones I am willing to mention). I accept them as his unique way of showing affection because that is as good as it is going to get for now.

      That being said I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to have your son gone from you for such extended periods of time. I think I will count my blessings.

      Thank you also for being such a loyal follower of 365. I must say it can be a challenge to come up with new posts all the time. I wouldn’t call them new ideas just old ones revisited with a new slant. That new slant can make all the difference though to the readers who suddenly see things in a different light.

  9. Glad you made it home safely – I have to say – these daily e-mails and the fact that the group is relatively small, all helps me tremendously in packing up yet again – ugh!
    I have a condition that impairs my movement – angio-lipomas in my back – painful fatty tumours, no cure – so I need all the motivation I can get to keep me going and keep selling, donating, recycling and tossing my stuff.
    Your epiphanies have great impact – you get me thinking and often I ask myself “Why did I not think of this?!”
    Thank you and thank you to Creator for directing me in your direction.
    You look so happy in those pictures – so glad you had a good time.
    I used to be asked to bring things with me when going to Germany on vacation. I learned NOT to tell a certain person that I was coming….I never forget lugging 5 bottles of hairspray and many socks, make-up, Noxema and other odds and ends my friend wanted – my poor hubby was embarrassed – that was before 9/11 – when one could still carry on stuff like this – that was just crazy!
    One more thing – thank you for the warm welcome (back in March) I finally received a notification last week 🙂 xoxo

  10. Well done Colleen and Cindy!
    Colleen – my son will be putrid with envy to hear you brought skate shoes back from America for your son. Have heard they’re alot cheaper over there. Can also appreciate how you had to check in with him that they were the right ones. My son skates and we’re fortunate that he wears his until they are literally falling to pieces and he trades his services as a skating camera man for shoes off the local sponsored team, but sometimes we have to help out and boy they are pricey. My hubby thought he’d be helpful and bought cheap ones from a discount store here in NZ and they lasted two days, so we don’t quibble over the cost of skate shoes any more.

  11. Hi everyone! Was going to declutter the filing cabinet last night but had to help my daughter with her MacBeth assignment and her The Hunger Games book review. 🙂

    Have come up against the first hurdle. Does anyone have a problem throwing out old passports? No problem with mine or my hubby’s and there is no legal requirement to keep them. But its the kid’s old passports I get all soppy over. Ever notice that kids never look dreadful in passport photos?

    We have to renew kids passports every 5 years here though they don’t allow you to travel on one older than 4.5 years, I guess its a precaution against inadvertantly overstaying if an emergency happens while overseas.

    • …although I keep lots of stuff (but am in the process of shucking it) the passports I kept. They don’t take up much space – I like looking at them and remembering – plus I always forget what year I last traveled to Germany – so it is a good reference… 😉

      • I have all of mine, too. Never bought much in the way of souvenirs so a passport’s a pretty good one. Pretty mad at you Europeans, though. With the EU we don’t get stamps crossing borders…. Now that we’re not allowed to smile when having passport photos taken, I’ll be less inclined to keep expired passports. I look like my grandmother in current one!

        • I heard that you could get a stamp if you really wanted to. but then you have to find the right office… and you really dont want to search for european offices while you travel, I hope.
          When I got my new passport I could chose to hand in the old one or just get it back with the invalid stamps. I really dont need a passport to remember travelling, so there is no way I keep that thing, if I get a new one. thinking about passports, where on earth did I put my current one?? argh. thanks for reminding me 😉

        • Ooh wendy, here in the UK we have never been allowed to smile for passport photos. I got my first passpot at 6 (still have it) and I look ‘very serious’ in the picture. I always did do exactly as I was told 🙂

    • OMG now I’m planning to keep something before he even gets it!!!! We have to organise my son a passport, he may be going to Columbia later this year and also we are planning the States and Canada for Christmas this year. He’ll never be 17 again hahaha I’ll make sure he de-clutters it when the time is right!!

      I have a British Passport, although way out of date I was advised to keep my original so it saves time on re-application. My son is able to have a British and an Australian Passport, so that’s 2 I might get Sentimental over!!! Okay ‘Brain Change’ I’m over it!! ahahahaha 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Oooppps I meant Cambodia, I have no reason why the heck I keep mixing them places up, they are not right near each other. “What the”???

        I think a Passport is all the souvenir you need from a trip, and pics if you so wish, there is just something so fab about a Passport, the booklet, not the hassle you generally get when you apply!!!

  12. Welcome back Colleen, glad you had such a great time and got to meet Cindy and Willow! What a shame you aren’t moving to Adelaide, we could have met up, but then again I might have to declutter a bit more before I let you near my house ha ha! Cheers Judy

  13. Hi Colleen! Glad you had a great trip to the states! I too like traveling light (ever since I heard the song ‘traveling light’ by Vaya con Dios I challenge myself to travel as light as possible) and the last 2 trips I even managed to come back with no souvenirs. 🙂
    My pre baby decluttering is going great, and just like nurchamiel we celebrated queens day yesterday. That means there are flea markets everywhere and it seems everything you could possibly imagine is for sale. We managed a very meager (compared to a few years earlier) find. We did find a few long coveted things (a special tool my dad has and uses a lot so we can’t often borrow it, and some additions to the cuttlery set) so after hours of looking we had only spent a few euro’s and had a great day in the sun!

  14. Hi Colleen!

    Glad to have you back and thank you very much for keeping this blog going, even when you were away. Those were some great posts – even though the word “cheeky” has been a little underrepresented… 🙂

  15. Hi Colleen, just want to say hi here in shanghai, china. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and love it very much. It’s really hard to find something like this, updated everyday with quality post. Thanks and looking fw to ur new posts, esp the traveling light one coming soon! 🙂

    • Hi vvivi and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for dropping by to introduce yourself and to send encouragement. I will get the travelling light post done for you ASAP.

  16. So glad you had a great trip, and welcome back, Colleen. It’s impressive how you managed your blog to hum along while you were gone! Cindy and the guest posters were excellent, along with your pre-written posts.

    I agree with Sanna – looking forward to your unique replies to your comments 🙂 It’s one of the things I like most about your blog, now that I have the decluttering lessons mostly absorbed!

    • Thanks Jo H,
      keeping up with the comments can be quite a challenge at times. I love to do it though. If only there were about four more hours in the day.

  17. Oh this is a lovely post! I agree, eating/sleeping takes stuff, which fills homes! And I like to have guests, which means more than what I need is the order of the day. It’s just not going overboard. And knowing how many glasses is enough… or plates… or serving spoons… At least not having ‘enough’ at times prompts washing up!