Change with the times

Many a time when I have put together the Monday Mini Mission posts I have included a mission about adjusting your possession to reflect your current situation. I mostly relate this to changes in locality, particularly ones that includes a climate change. For example thick winter jackets become clutter were you move to a warmer climate. I am very familiar with this concept having been through this process several time during the somewhat transient nature of my twenty five years of marriage.

There is another perhaps even more radical change that families go through that warrants some serious decluttering and that is when the children leave home. Yet in my experience no such transformation takes place in many households. Ten years, twenty years or even more later the home is still containing sufficient equipment to constantly cater to a full household. This isn’t so bad if there were originally just two children in the family but if there  were four or five what was once constantly useful has become clutter 90% of the time.

This post relates closely to Tuesday’s post about over catering for guest except that it often stretches further than just the linen closet, pantry and kitchen cupboards. Some grandparents houses contain enough toys, children’s books, board games, televisions, luggage, old unused sporting equipment, toiletries, stationery and even space than is sensible to maintain. This is especially so as age creeps up on us. It is simply a fact that as we get older keeping cleanliness and order just gets harder.

Now back to the concept of ~ “…what was once constantly useful has become clutter 90% of the time.” Once the children leave home there is a good chance that if they haven’t moved somewhere just down the street or across town they are going to want to come home to visit. Even with the possibility that they will eventually have your grandchildren in tow that doesn’t mean you need to have a houseful of stuff all year while most of it is only being used occasionally when family arrive to visit. With three or four adults in the home during visits to maintain order the household can run efficiently with less stuff for short periods of time.

Here are some examples ~

  • You don’t need a ten seat dining suite. When the guests arrive sit the adults around the ~ smaller more appropriate for you ~ table and let the kids eat in front of the TV or bring in the outdoor setting in for them to sit at.  This will probably become one of the things the grandchildren love about coming to grandmas.
  • You only need enough cutlery and crockery to cater to yourselves and your visitors at one sitting. They can be washed and dried before the next meal. If something needs reusing in the same sitting then give it a quick rinse.
  • When the grandchildren come to visit I will almost guarantee they will bring plenty of entertainment with them. iPods, PSPs, Nintendo DS’s, perhaps a book to read and maybe even iPads or laptops. So there is really no need to stock enough toys to cater for them living there permanently. I remember visiting my grandparents when I was young and we always managed to entertain ourselves with the few toys they had to offer. We mostly made our own fun, digging in the dirt, pottering around discovering what was in the back sheds, helping bake, visiting other relatives, playing with the kids next door who we only saw two or three times a year and going to the local park to play on the swings.
  • We discussed towels, sheets and other bedding on Tuesday so we should be savvy about that now.  In the event that lots of visitors converge at once they can always bring sleeping bags for the kids who can then camp out together on the lounge room floor or the sofas.
  • One pot cooking is a great way to cater for guests with the odd roast dinner thrown in and a takeout meal every now and again to relieve the pressure of a kitchen that isn’t overflowing with equipment.
  • People generally bring their own toiletries so there is no need to be overstocked in this area. An extra bar of soap or two should be all you need.
  • When you had a houseful of kids attending school it always paid to carry a good stock of stationery items However those days are gone and now this equipment rarely leaves the home so just the few items you use all the time and a couple of spare pens is all you will likely need.

So if you are in this position ~ where the kids have left home or even if the kids have just moved to another stage in life within the home~ take a look around you home and determine what you really need 90% of the time and minimise the rest.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter tools or equipment you rarely if ever use. Consider that you could borrow these items when you are in need from those who do actually use theirs. In some cases these items are so expensive that it would be cheaper to pay someone to do the job for you when the rare occasion arrises rather than maintain ownership.

Today’s Declutter Item

Let’s face in the unlikely event that we were to have so many guests that we didn’t have enough wine glasses I am sure no one would mind drinking from our water glasses. These two glass are odd ones out and excess to our usual requirement so they are off to the thrift store.

Excess and odd wine glasses

Eco Tip For The day

Consider online magazine subscription rather than wasting paper.

“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:

  • Habits ~ A guest post by Wendy F I was fortunate to meet up and become friends with Colleen after starting reading her blog.   She has 'enlightened ' me greatly and we laugh a lot. I will try and keep it simple, this is […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • A thing a day ~ Days 3 & 4 The item for day three is a batch of cleaning rags etc, from my laundry, that don't perform very well. What use is a cleaning rag the doesn't leave you with a perfect finish. So these […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I have a friend who has a complete room for her grandkids. It has everything from clothes to Barbies and several houses to DVD’s (their own TV) to a computer with lots of things on it and child locked. But in most cases the kids want to be with Nana & Baba doing what they are doing. When I was growing up we took what we wanted to play with along with us and my grandparents had nothing at their homes. We did fine. Of course, back then we were taught to use our imaginations. We didn’t have lots of toys to begin with.

    • I think kids actually like to be left to use their imagination even now. If deprived of all the toys and electronic gadgets they usually have on hand I am sure they would still have fun.

  2. Very good Post, Colleen.
    I should give this post to my mother. even if everything looks super decluttered and my mum is a very organized person – just because you cant see the excess stuff doesnt mean it isnt there… And with her living alone, getting older and older, I keep telling her that she can let go of certain things that she FOR SURE will never use again. like scuba diving gear for four people. or the collection of magazins starting from the 70s… Or the 20 jars of 15 year old pickled something.
    I think I am leading a good example, she noticed how good the now decluttered “children” rooms look… She actually is asking advice nowadays on how to get rid of certain things, and therefore I am positive, that with a constant reminder, she is making more and more progress.

    • I think you are leading well by example too Lena, keep it up.

      Someone tried to tell me recently that a larger home was easier to keep clean. After responding with a resounding bull s##t the person went on to say this was because there were more places to hide your stuff in. Now that last part I can agree with.

      • a decluttered home is easier to keep clean. it has nothing to do with the size… if you have too much stuff but no storage space, you will end up having no control whatsoever – if it is in a house or in a room or in a car.

        yesterday morning I managed to clean my windows while waiting for my friend to pick me up. in the afternoon I dusted my flat in 5 minutes. in total I think I spend around 15 minutes per week to clean my apartment. I love that!!

      • My Mom has always wanted a larger place so she can have a guest room (for the guests we don’t have) and spare space for storage (for more junk). I told her the best way is to find a place you really like for who you are now and then whatever doesn’t fit can be gotten rid of. After that you then start decluttering all the stuff that fits. Once you are done with all of that you will then have a comfortable, easy to clean place. She’s finally getting it.

      • I find it makes little difference whether surfaces and floorspaces are large or small (only to a certain extend though, I guess) as long as they are clear, easy to wipe, void of nooks or crannies … I guess my dream home would have as little on the floor as possible that I have to lift up or have to clean around/behind/under. And yes, a few generous closets to hide stuff (stuff, not clutter) would be great, too.

        • I hear you. I would love to have a huge, floor to ceiling, wooden, built-in closet on one wall. it would be very simple without ornaments or handles or whatsoever. and into that I would put EVERYTHING I own. no more hooks on the wall, no more boxes, no more shelves, nothing. just this one big hole.

          • Lena, I like your idea. If I am still alive when my mother passes I plan to move into a large studio (one room) apartment. I will have a wall unit built that has room for everything that needs to be stored. All one place and all put away.

          • exactly. and you can customize it for your own ideas and needs. but I bet in the end, you wont require storage space at all, because you and your mother both are going crazy decluttering, there wont be much left, when she leaves…

  3. I haven’t read the entry yet but I wanted to share this with people who “get” it.

    A while back, I complained that I was stagnant with decluttering. Lately I’ve been doing REALLY well and I purge at least 2 items a day (or at least, 14 items a week…some days I declutter nothing, but the next day I might do 5, so it all works out for me). I’ve seen some serious progress in the last two weeks alone.

    Anyway, I had a bag of stuff that needed to be returned to the store. A pool item that wouldn’t work for us, an iPhone case for jogging, etc. I really didn’t want to make the effort of a return so my husband said I should just keep the case in case I wanted it later because I only “used” it once. I am very proud to say that I pointed out that this was the exact issue. I only tried it on my phone, we didn’t get to start jogging for real and I have no purpose for it right now. I’d rather take it back for my $15 than let it sit and become clutter for me to donate some other day.

    So I did, and I returned the stuff in the bag for a total of $45. (Both phone case and pool thing were $15 each just on their own.) I’ve gotten a task off of my shoulders and showed myself that I’m definitely learning to change how I think because a year ago, I would have agreed and stashed it somewhere until long past the return window. If I need another one, it’ll be $15 at the store again some other time.

    Off to read the actual post now. 🙂

    • Kudos to you Lynn – I’m the same. If I won’t use it (and it was $3) best back to Ikea (usually) than languishing at mine, or going to a thrift store where someone will be puzzled exactly what and how to work the ikea branded curtain runners, or specialist light cord. Ikea don’t seem to mind, and I’m happy for the few coins back.

    • That’s great Lynn – I have weeks like that where some days there isn’t something as per the mini mission or I don’t have the time but the next day there will be several items. Its more a case of chipping away. And yes return things that aren’t useful now! I can’t remember which 365er it was but – and I think we were talking about food/pantry/fridge/freezer but I’ve adopted the philosophy in general – if its not going to be used in the next 2-4 weeks (ie this month) its taking money out of my wallet and needs to stay in the store.
      Yes if you want an ipod case you can get one anytime and its better to get one when you have a specific purpose in mind.

    • Good for you Lynn. I am glad you found your momentum again and that you also made the effort to return those things to the store. Training your mind to go that extra mile will serve you well in the future, keep it up, practice makes perfect. It can be very easy to take the easy road and only put in half the effort but a job worth doing is worth doing well. Especially if it means you come home with $45 in your purse.

  4. Sigh… I have the philosophy that guests can and will use my shampoo et al. I mean I travel a bit, and where I can, I take for my host (rather than deplete my mini bottle). I’m sure they don’t mind – as I sure wouldn’t. Though guests now days might be puzzled! I have solid shampoo bar (bright blue). I always feel like I should tell people what it is, but then maybe it’s taking things too far? I just whip out the mini bottles I have stored at home and put them on the ledge, so if they need toiliteries (sp?), they can use those!

    As for chairs at tables – I bought $6 ikea stools (just two). When they aren’t under guests bums, they are mini side tables at the sofas. Great for a plate or a glass or water, or the laptop at a pinch. Genius (if I do say so myself!)

    • I’m on the same boat with toiletries. I love that I can travel to friends and family without bringing my shampoo along. All I bring is my toothbrush. However, there is no need in stocking up for guests in that area in my opinion. They can use my usual soap/shampoo/toothpaste, but I won’t stock useless-for-me items like toothbrushes for 10, baby wipes or hair spray. If I go to my relative’s houses I rely on them having the basics for me to use, but if I know I want/need something special they likely don’t own, I’ll bring that along.

    • Hi Snosie, I have no problem with my guests using my shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste etc because they are there to be used. I am just not going to go out and buy extras just for guests.

  5. Hi Colleen – good post. It is silly to have an overstocked house to a short term spike in accommodation requirements.

    I know a couple who decided to experience living in an appartment after their kids left home. With smiles on their faces they announced there was no spare room, only a two seater couch and a breakfast table with two chairs. When they want to share a meal/evening with their adult kids they take them out to a restaurant or go to brunch at a nice cafe – they assure me it is cheaper than having a big appartment. Obviously no one can ‘move back home’ and when they have guests organise a motel or bed & breakfast, once again an expense but cheaper than having a big appartment.

    • Hi Moni, I had a similar discussion with my parents and parents-in-law when I visited them recently. I asked them if they would just prefer I visited more often so they didn’t need to come to visit me and both said they would prefer that. Both my dad and my mother-in-law have some mobility issues and have trouble getting out of the spare bed in my house (it is low) and getting into and out of the bath/shower. This arrangement would make it possible for us to buy a smaller home. All other visitors are younger and easier to accommodate.

    • I like the thinking of this couple. I KNOW that other than my one friend we will not be having overnight guests. I KNOW that the only way we are going to see people is if we are the ones who do the visiting. So we do not need to worry about all the things needed to have guests. I KNOW that it is hard for me to travel anymore so I also know that I don’t need to worry about having much to use for traveling. It’s freeing in a way.

    • Moni, ” Paying for an occasional stay at a motel or bed & breakfast is far cheaper than having a big apartment” is genius! Totally puts into perspective the cost of overnight guests. Perfect solution.

  6. On a small change of subject, Colleen, I recall your son is doing art or photography at uni? My daughter is taking photography next year at high school and we need to ‘invest’ in a better camera (she has a pocket digital camera and borrowed a friend’s mother’s high tech camera to do her application/port folio).

    We can look for one on trademe/ebay from an ex-student but have been cautioned by other parents to very wary as damage from being dropped isn’t always obvious or may have been thru several owners already. Obviously second hand will be cheaper (though some we looked at seem closer to brand new price than 2nd hand price) and there is the possibility that she won’t continue with it (though I doubt that). I know you are a fan of reducing carbon footprint but some things can be the exception to the rule, what is your opinon?

    • Hi Moni, do you know if the school supplies~ as in loans ~ cameras for the students to use while doing the course. Liam borrows medium format cameras from uni but he bought his own Canon 5D MKII body last year. It cost him $2500 but he intends to make a living from his degree. He also just bought a medium format camera through ebay from a seller in the UK, here’s hoping it will be OK when it arrives as it cost him $500. Take a look at and see what their pricing is like if the school isn’t going to provide for the students. You could always send out a request to friends and family who might be kind enough to loan her a camera that they don’t use so often. When my kids started out in photography my hubby already had a nice canon body and a couple of lenses which was good enough for them. He still has a body and he and Liam share their lenses between them.

      • Hi Colleen – unfortunately no loan arrangement from the school, there are a number of requisites to apply and the means to purchase a camera to spec is one of them. When Dayna talked to us about applying both her and her father and I didn’t think she would be accepted as there are usually three applicants for every spot and preference is given to art students.
        I only know two people who own a SLR and neither wants to sell and one is used for work, so not really an option to loan. I doubt most people would be ok with their beautiful camera going to school four days a week.
        We’ve been told not to expect a lot of change out $1000 for this level – I’m hoping that doesn’t mean something else for the following year. Unfortunately as she is a serious dance student she trains 5-6 evenings a week, she’s not really in a position to hold down an after school job. But she is the kind of person who makes a plan or sets a goal and makes it happen, so I’m sure she will come up with the money. She is the kid who will roll out of bed extra early to vacuum the floor without being asked so while I don’t want to just give her the money, I am thinking up ways to help her get it herself. I’m thinking another major cull – perfect timing for the Red Tape Challenge – if she lists/sells it on trademe, does the packaging etc she can have the proceeds. Finally I get an oompah loompah!

        • lol – so THAT is the reason why people have children??!? damn, now I am jealous. 😉

          • Don’t be too jealous 😉 Though I can’t jugde from own experience yet, seeing friends with little ones makes me believe it’s rather you who’s the oompah loompah for at least a decade …

          • hehe, true, I forgot the obvious…

          • Hi Lena – the benefit of having my daughter as an oompah loompah won’t come close to the final bill of raising her adulthood. But she is an awesome kid and she’s the one who has helped me the most with decluttering. Even if I asked her to help me with the red-tape cull without anything in it for her, she’d do it. I have, however, told her that I’m expecting a 5-star nursing home at the other end of life!

    • What about refurbished cameras?

      • Hi Lynn – good idea, wouldn’t have thought of it – I googled it for here in NZ but it appears they were all put up for a charity auction a couple of months back………….. but will keep it in mind for future reference.

  7. I recently saw a borderline hoarder who had to go through some things because of a house fire. They had things from 30 years before and wanted top dollar for all this old junk. I am glad I’m not the insurance company. I don’t understand how people think their stuff is worth so much. If she had just gotten rid of the stuff when the kids left, they wouldn’t have such a huge amount of stuff to go through now.

    • Hi Spendwisemom,
      I am amazed at this too. I watch that American Pickers show and am amazed at the hoards of stuff these people have and then won’t sell them to the picker guys. These people need professional psychiatric help. I think they attach a high price to this stuff to deter people from buying it because they either want good compensation for their sentimental loss or really just don’t want to sell it at all.