Consolidate & Refine

I have spoken about this subject before on 365 Less Things, however, having just moved, I am finding it necessary to do a little more of it. Things have become a little scattered during my move. Mainly due to the fact that rooms have been eliminated from my options of where and how to store things. The office space/craft area/parents retreat has turned into the office space/craft closet/guest bedroom. The laundry/third toilet/storage closet has become the laundry closet. The kitchen/family room/dining/living room/entry with cupboard has become the living room/kitchen/dining room. And needless to say there are a lot less walls to hang our art and photos on.

Call me strange but I am having a fun time bringing like things together and eliminated bits and pieces of stuff that just aren’t fitting well into our new smaller home.

Functionality within a home very much depends on the ease of use. Eliminating things that just get in the way and the bringing together of similar items makes it simpler to find what you need and to get your hands on them quickly. How often have you given up on the idea of an activity because it is all to hard to find what you need and/or to dig it out from among all the other stuff.

Today I was reshuffling my craft supplies in the guest room cupboard. My objective was to make them easier to access when my creative juices were flowing. I have a number of craft cubes that can be arranged in several ways. I has a plan to insert some of the spare shelves so that containers were separated rather than awkwardly stacked on top of one another. Aside from the physical action of reshuffling the items and inserting the shelves a little decluttering was required. It was only a little but it made a huge difference. I decluttered two bobbins (which didn’t even work in my machine) making it possible to declutter the bobbin holder. This small effort made it possible to minimise the space required for my sewing kit which in turn made it possible to reshuffle everything.

The lesson is that even a small declutter, in the way of consolidating and refining, can make a big difference to the functionality in your home. So never underestimate the effect of a small amount of effort or change.

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. Happy New Year again Colleen!! I do like how moving can show you more things to declutter. Even thinking about moving can do that. Mom has realized that we might have to do that someday and she has begun to think things over. The other day, out of the blue, she decided to clean and declutter one of the cupboards. We now have one entire shelf that she has decided to declutter. We are just leaving the things up there until I can find a box to transport them in as they need to be wrapped to prevent breakage. On top of that, she told me I needed to help her declutter the pantry. HAPPY DANCING!!!!

    • Congratulations Deb J. Your mom just continues to see the sense in what you are trying to achieve. You are doing a fine job of not forcing the issue and allowing her to come to her own realisations in her own time. I am happy dancing for you too.

    • Deb J – wow! Your mum seems to have taken it up a gear with the New Year!

      • Moni, every day she seems to come up with something new she thinks we should get rid of. I’m super happy.

  2. I have today off and I took the time to declutter a lamp from my bedroom. Sounds simple enough, but it was quite the ordeal having to dust, move items to unplug the cord, crawl around on the floor in awkward places, and vacuum dust bunnies I could no longer ignore. Basically I had a lamp on each bedside table. The only one that really got used was the one closest to the door. The last six months, the lamp has been basically unscrewing itself (we can’t seem to make it stop) and only working about half the time. I finally came to the conclusion – I don’t care enough about it to take it apart and attempt to fix it. In fact I would someday like a different lamp (or lamps?) – these were purchased by a well meaning family member about five years ago – but not truly fitting my style these days. So I moved the one we *rarely* used on my side to my husbands side by the door. Viola! Working lamp, no money spent, one item – to be put on the curb and probably grabbed before the garbage truck gets it. Someone else can deal with it.

    • Hi Michaela, your story sounds all to familiar. I wrote about something like this some time ago. I can’t remember what the item was but once it was gone (or repaired I can’t remember which) I wondered why I put up with it for so long. You will probably find that you will never miss the second one and never bother to replace it.

      I am not sure why I still had those two bobbins that were of no use to me. I guess they were just so small I didn’t occur to me that their removal could generate such a difference. I am forever on the lookout for silly little things like this to declutter.

      • Colleen – I agree I too keep looking for little things to get rid of. It’s amazing how we get to where we can’t see clutter when it’s that small! I would say my nemesis is makeup samples. Small and easy to keep – but I always bypass them for the tried and true product. I need to work on cleaning those out LOL.

        I doubt I’ll miss the lamp – I’ve already found a use for the empty space! Plus it will be less to move when I finally get around to painting. My goal was to declutter before I painted, so I have been slowly chipping away at that.

  3. Lovely to hear from you Colleen! What a lovely start to the year in your new apartment, I look forward to pics in due course. I have started this year by decluttering five very small items, but better that than nothing! (I decluttered unwanted Christmas gifts including biscuits and chocolates last week.)

    Luckily my husband is generally on board with this (when I met him he had very little and I was horrified at the “barren” look of his flat – how I wish I had started then!) but he does have a fair amount of stuff in the garage and office which I don’t feel I can touch. I particularly would like to get rid of the barbeque in the garage as we never use it, I remember your story of putting yours out on the kerb, but he is against it. However, I occasionally gently ask or suggest various things and he sometimes agrees, so it’s all good. Most people think our home is very tidy, but I know I could go a lot further.

    I am now up to 933 items or bags of items, since I started recording in March 2010. Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Hi Janetta, funny about the bbq, my husband was even more keen to get rid of it than I was.
      933 things, well done. Smart move getting rid of the biscuits and chocolate. All those calories are easier to declutter from the pantry than they are from around your waste.

  4. My hall cupboard holds craft items, some of the girls dance stuff, general stuff, sewing stuff etc. I was given 5 mins warning to empty this cupboard prior to Adrian needing to remove the shelves to prep for painting and so it was literally thrown in boxes and baskets – not the orderly sorted and packed that I had envisioned. When it came time to return everything to the hall cupboard, unfortunately it coincided with emptying the next two rooms for prep work and by this stage there was also an accummulation of stuff (from the original rooms that were re-painted) of stuff that we’d either designated as ‘definate outs’ and stuff that needs further consideration. So its all gotten a bit higgelty-piggelty, especially as we’ve needed to find specific things and had to rumage.

    All going well we can shift one daughter back into her room this morning and the other maybe this afternoon and so that will be a big step forward. We are taking a break from painting to get rested before returning to work next week, so at least there isn’t the next room-lot to compound the chaos and I’ll have the chance to set up some boxes so I can sort as I go.

    But getting back to my cupboard, what I was able to return to this cupboard I realised that a lot of it will go as the girls eventually finish their dancing levels, including a lot, if not all of the sewing stuff. The school stationery supplies I am going to be particular about stocking up, especially as it’s Dayna’s last year at High School. It is so tempting when the back-to-school prices are rock bottom compared to during the year, but I’m sure we can reduce or eliminate this area.

    We ended up with some excess school uniform that neither girl wanted in their room (the down side of preaching minimalism to your teens) but I didn’t want to part with as it is pricey and inconvenient to replace. My younger daughter changes to the senior uniform in Feb and a friend is transferring to our school so we’re giving her Courtney’s uniform plus the stuff in the cupboard. My older daughter gets her Leaver’s Jacket this Autumn so she’ll have the option of wearing that or her jersey, so its not so imperative I keep a spare on hand to cover bad weather or lost gear. Besides which I learnt that wool-poly jerseys can go thru the drier on low! I was told this by a friend but was hesitant to try in case they shrank and eventually experimented on the spare jersey taking measurements before and after. I recommend caution to anyone who wants to try this, but it has been great not having drying racks out all weekend during last winter.

    • Hi Moni, you sure have been busy. I can understand your wishing you had more time to reshuffle things in an orderly fashion. I spend quite some time at our old address making sure things were together that I imagined would go in certain places in the new address. This was because on the set down day, like you, things had to happen rather quickly. We needed every box unpacked so that the movers could take all the boxes with them as we did not want to have to deal with it ourselves. As a result of my prep work most things ended up just where they needed to be, although in a messy fashion. It all came together well once the movers were out of here and we could start packing away. Never-the-less some things still ended up somewhat out of place. A little decluttering and careful shelf construction this place will be ship shape.
      I wish you success with your reshuffle and with some decluttering along the way.

      • Colleen – I imagine when I next shift I will try to plan and prepare to the nth degree whereas Adrian is more of a make it up as you go kind of organiser. I have a friend who prior to moving takes photos and measurements of all the cupboards and works out in advance where everything (and I mean everything) is going to go and everything is boxed according to a cupboard/shelf number. I thought it was a bit OTT at first but then I saw the speed with which her new home couold be set up and I was then totally impressed.

        Good thinking to send the boxes away with the shifters, I bet they don’t see that very often. Quite often I see offers on freecycle of banana boxes for packing/shifting, mind you they seem to get snatched up quite quick, but its still something extra to think about.

  5. Colleen, it will be interesting to see what items can still go from your pared-down household!

    I began decluttering last April, and then found your blog about June and stayed motivated by your inspiring blog. Today I tallied up the items gone since April (didn’t write it down until May) and it came to 591 Things Gone!

    • Hi Vicki K, well done with such a large number of items already decluttered in such a short length of time.

      You will have every opportunity to see what I am decluttering because as of next week I am going to post the items photos up each day. Just like old times.

  6. Hi Colleen! It is good to see old stuff in new environment, and the less space we have the more we trim down. I started this new year in a roll. I decided to take up Peter Walsh’s 31 daydeclutter challenge and the first challenge for today (I am still on January 1º) was to declutter a drawer. I had a socks drawer that had been used up until I got my closet (around May) and lots of old socks were left there. Today I emptied it and decluttered a lot of socks and tights. I already have someone to give them to.
    I have lots of goals to achieve this year. 😀

    • Hi Andréia, it is good to know you have started the year off with enthusiasm to declutter some more. Socks are a good place to start. I have been through mine a couple of time over my declutter mission. I finally got ruthless with them last year and now I am happy with what I have.

  7. Colleen, great that the move got you on a roll again! 😉

    My boyfriend was gifted a new card game which we enjoyed a lot over the last days and it inspired us to go through our game collection again. We got rid of some we never really enjoyed much (like Monopoly for example) and gained some more space.
    Besides that, I had been rearranging our dishes a few months back to have the most used ones easily reachable. I’m now refining that arrangement. In fact, I think for the most part we’d get by with a selection similar to what Doodle showed us a few weeks back, but we do have guests and need a lot more than that about every other week. I had arranged mostly like with like, but maybe it would be easier to have the shelf in easy reach only with our “everyday ware” and the rest on the upper shelves “for guests”.

    • Yes, Like with like is usually a brilliant way to organise but in this case, I’d definitely go for the small amount of regularly used stuff nice and near to hand and store the guest stuff in a less convenient place: that way, as you suggest would make day to day life just a little simpler. I really love not having to shift anything to get what I need and it is all so easy to put back too.

    • This is what I do too! I have long “pot drawers” under my bench and in the top right hand one, most convenient, I put the plates, bowls and mugs that we use every day. It empties and refills every day so I know that the stuff is being used. It makes life so much easier. The other drawers I go through often to leave what I feel I can’t, or won’t, live without. I notice that over time I can declutter more and more. Love it!

    • Hi Sanna, that is exactly what I do. Although I have Corelle dinnerware for everyday which takes up so little space that I have enough for about 12 people. I think the ones in the top of the cupboard may end up decluttered because even when people come we still only use the everyday stuff. What is good enough for me is good enough for anyone sharing my food I think.

      • Sanna and Colleen, this is what we did. We got rid of everything but the Corelle. Even that we seldom use more than what we need. But we will keep it because it doesn’t even take up one shelf in the cupboard.

        • Hi Deb, I use a dishwasher so I keep plenty of crockery and cutlery so that I don’t need to turn the dishwasher on until it is well and truly full. More economical that way.

          • Colleen, we have a dishwasher and seldom use it. It takes a week to fill it and my Mom basically washes them before putting them in. I gave up a long time ago on her using it. Our last place we took the dishwasher out and had pot drawers put in. Made it much easier to get the pots and pans out.

  8. Wow! I just read all the fantastic comments from everyone and you guys have created such motivation and inspiration!

    Colleen, you made me laugh with the bobbin story. I think it’s easy to look at something and say, well, it’s small so it really doesn’t take up that much room when in fact, a bunch of little things together do create clutter. 🙂 For years I have kept dang near every receipt, invoice and on and on. Yesterday I went backwards from 2013 and got through 2005 pulling out old documents that have absolutely no purpose to be kept. I also found some receipts that were in the wrong places. I have a multiple file folder that I keep our personal property receipts, such as art work, jewelry, the camera, my brooches, other collectibles and I found some receipts that needed to be in there. If there were to be a fire, I’d grab that. I have a “crick” in my neck from leaning over looking at all those receipts for hours, but there is also a lovely pile of paper on its way to the shredder!

    • Hi Michelle, well done going through all that paperwork. My hubby got on a tear with paper also just two days ago. He stays on top of this but things do still accumulate. You will see from the photo I post up next week that there wasn’t a lot for him to get rid of but, as with the bobbins, it is better of in the recycling than cluttering up our house.

      Funny you should mention having a file ready to grab in the case of a fire. I had to do that just this morning. It was a false alarm cause by one of the commercial units down stairs setting off the alarm while being sprayed for coaches but never-the-less it was nice to know that we can grab it and be out the door in a matter of seconds.

      • Hi Michelle! I have to make a “grab file” this year. I have been thinking about it for a while, but I am freezing in the face of paperwork… 🙂 Slowly I am working through my paperwork, but I get bigger setbacks (new paperwork that has to be dealt before decluttering old one). My biggest problem is dealing with “I might need someday stuff” in terms of paperwork. Hopefully this year I will get on top of it.

        • Andreia – I’m thinking that this is an extension on the inventories that we started a few months back. I have been scanning receipts and hp agreements plus taking photos etc. I have decided to set up a drop box account or some similar cloud storage to store all this in, plus scanned copies of wills, power of attornies, passports, insurance policies, valuations, etc, so that in the event of a disaster we can access from anywhere and it can’t be destroyed if the house is destroyed.

          A friend keeps hers on an external hard drive at her parent’s house and updates it from her laptop whenever she visits, but my parents live too far away for that, and I know that external hard drives can damaged and lose everything (has happened to me before) so I’m thinking that it could be a good place for photos and family videos too.

          • While I have some things still on paper, I realized that most of it is now online at Dropbox. If I go out the door with my laptop I will be on top of it. I can even get to all of my Kindle books. So I think my laptop will be my “grab file.”

          • Colleen, that false alarm must have been scary! I really like Moni’s idea of cloud storage but then again, I like Deb J’s laptop idea too. We have been deciding if we want to upgrade to a laptop from our old desk computer. That old thing is just BEGGING to be thrown out the window – it is so slow. Oh and Colleen, yes please, more photos! 😉 Andreia, just keep plugging along and you’ll get there. 🙂

          • Hi Michelle, no I didn’t find the alarm incident very scary at all. In fact to begin with I didn’t realise that the alarm was going off in our building. I was shredding paper at the time and although I could hear the alarm I thought it was coming from somewhere else until my husband came in and said we had to go. I put my shoes on grabbed the important papers and my handbag and headed out the door.

            Like Moni I also use cloud storage. Since I have a Android phone but and Apple MacBook Pro it was easier to auto upload photos to a cloud that then download to my laptop when I am within range of our WiFi. I don’t have to do anything, it just does it all automatically. I’m lazy like that. My dad always said “There is just plain lazy and there is smart lazy.” I like to think I am smart lazy.

          • Hi Moni, I use drop Box and my husband uses Evernote. I love the cloud idea although some papers are best in their original form such as birth and wedding certificates, property deeds etc. The file I grab is very small because that is all it has in it. I also keep my handbag right at the door so I can grab it on the way out. Not that anything is far away in this place. 😉

  9. Oh how you all fill me with enthusiasm! I got my laundry cupboard (closet) finished and today I will do my kitchen cupboards and fridge and do a bit of a use it up challenge as everything is still a bit higgledy-piggledy after Christmas. My new year’s resolution is to finish every task before I start another, no matter how tiny the task.

    • Good for you Laura. I would like to get my laundry cupboard organised too. It doesn’t need any decluttering it just needs some shelves put in it. There are a couple of areas in my new apartment that need some organisational fixes. Until now it has been a corporate lease property. Although they put in good appliances and bathroom fittings they didn’t put much thought into shelving. Now that we own it there will be a few alterations. The space is more than adequate but it isn’t practical. I’ll be taking care of that real soon.
      I wish you success with your kitchen cupboards and with your pledge to finish all tasks before moving on to another.

      • Colleen, there hasn’t been a place where we have moved that if we owned it we didn’t add some organizational solutions especially shelves. I’m thinking of putting some pull out drawers into the waist high divider between the office and living room. It has storage but it is just a big space. I can’t utilize it properly without drawers or shelves. I prefer drawers.

        • Hi Deb J, in the past we have always had to deploy makeshift organisation because we have never lived in a home we have owned (even though this is the third property we have bought). It is nice this time to be able to do what we like.

          Too bad we don’t live near each other. I have a set of drawers in my walk-through wardrobe that aren’t being used.

          • Colleen, it’s great you are living in a home you actually own for once. Enjoy that. I wished we lived closer just so we could get together and visit.

      • Colleen – I am looking at a new laundry tub by Robinhood which I think is a Trans Tasmin company, and it has drawers rather than a cupboard. I’m quite keen on the idea and am wondering if I could eliminate my laundry shelves if I had better use of the space.

        • Hi Moni, my laundry is a closet so I don’t have a lot of room for anything except shelves in the upper space. There is nothing there now. There was a dryer but we own a washer/dryer all in one, so we gave the dryer to our daughter. She had done well out of our move. I am a lover of drawers though. If I even need to remodel my kitchen It would have all drawers. I am about to install drawers (the hold 30kg each) in the pantry because right now it is next to useless with deep, narrow shelves that are far apart.

          • Ours is a laundry closet too, and I like that because it has just enough space. (I can’t hide stuff there.) Since we stack our washer and dryer like an all-in-one, there is space for the mop, broom and vacuum cleaner in there and a small shelf on one side for the cleaning supplies.

    • Laura – good goal, I believe it is called the OHIO method Only Handle It Once. I implemented it at work and while I may have had to tweak it a wee bit for certain situations ie waiting for someone else to give me more info etc, by and far it works really well.

  10. Michelle – I am at a similar place where I’m considering a laptop versus a pc – my computer and computer desk have been relegated to the garage for now and I’m finding I’m using the iPad more and more – mind you that could change when school goes back. I’m waiting for our computer guy to get back from the holidays so I can get the computer looked at, I sort of 50-50 on what outcome I am hoping for.

  11. Colleen – I agree totally that originals are the best, I do keep ours in one of those accordian files so I could grab if time allows, we had to evacuate some years ago before decluttering and it was a headache digging thru the filing cabinet for important papers. However I know several families who lost their homes due to either fire or disaster and there was no time to grab anything except the kids and pets and the ongoing hassle of replacing documents etc.

    For one thing, if you have proof of such items, insurance will often include replacement in the insurance pay out – this is something people don’t usually think of when they are filing claims.

    Secondly, I know someone who thought she’d lost the original policy ie paper version and requested a copy, then later her original one surfaced. There were some differences between the original and new which she brought to the insurance company’s attention. Apparently a replacement version may default to the current ‘standard version’ ie whatever the current template is, whereas her older version had some better clauses and allowances. The insurance company honoured the original version when she contacted them.

    And I’ve also been advised by a friend who works in insurance that people who have a copy or a scanned version available cope with the process a lot better as they don’t have to wait for information to be posted out and aren’t as suspicious of the process.

    I will have a copy on my external hard drive too but I have had a laptop die on me before and once upon a time I dropped an external hard drive which lost everything, so I’ve always been a bit hesitant to put all my faith in one system alone.

    • All good points Moni. We scan all our important papers and have them both on our external hard drive and in a cloud. Like you say, best to cover yourself in as many ways possible.

  12. Deb J – yes it is great having books in a cloud e-library, although mine is a kobo. I do have a few books that I don’t seem to be able to get outside the USA as an e-books but originally the list was far larger so who knows maybe eventually they will all come available. Apparently it is a licensing thing and the system uses our IP address to allow or restrict. But as I said, every year more come on line so I’m not too worried.

    • Moni, I never thought about some places not being able to get certain books because of your IP address. That stinks. I hope that clears up soon and you are able to get anything you want.

      • Deb J – yeah its a bit of a hassle, its got better over the last few years. One of my favourite series of books, I can only get books 5 thru to number 20 but not 1 thru 4 as e-books.

        • Moni, it is odd that you can’t get books 1-4. I wonder why? We just had an author put all of her books for free for 2 days. I got all 14 of them. Pretty cool. I love these Kindle free/cheap book emails I get.

          • Deb J – I don’t know but initially we were only able to get her new releases to the series, I think number 13 was the first one I was able to download. so it was progress to have the others come available. I have been told it is something to do with each publishing house and the ‘outside of the US’ license. Maybe they were originally published by a different publisher or something similiar. I’m told that one particular publishing house refuses to do e-books entirely. Bizarre, you’d think they’d be jumping on the band wagon as quickly as possible. But as I said it is definately improved a lot since I bought my first kobo. I have logged on to amazon to see if certain books are available thru kindle but no.

          • Moni, you would think they would at least publish them in order from 1 to ?. I have noticed that once in a great while you will see a book on Amazon that can be gotten for Kobo. Hopefully that will improve soon.

  13. Happy New Home, Colleen! It’s exciting to hear how you’re liking it there and still decluttering! I hope you will share more and share pictures of how you set things up. I am taking your challenge to get rid of one thing a day this year, and I’ve tweaked my decluttering plan (same goal, different method) for the year. The old way was that I wrote a list of every single thing that I needed to do. I was going to do one each day in order. Even though they were small goals for each day, some days had time-consuming ones such as clear out the night stand (all those papers and “treasures” to go through!). What I’m happily doing instead is chose one thing on the list to do a day (even adding to the list if needed). This way, on days I am up to it and have the time, I go through one of those time-consuming drawers-and quicker because I’m in the right mood for it! On a day when I feel like I can’t get everything done, I go through something quick like my sock drawer or a bookshelf. Part of my daily decluttering is of course to get rid of everything I don’t need in that shelf/drawer/area of the day. There is always at least one thing to get rid of so far-actually so far there are a lot of things. I’ll have to update you later in the year on how this has worked for me. I really love it so far! Same goal, but the concept gives me the control to get the hard things out of the way or do the easy ones as needed. 🙂

  14. Deb J – yes initially Kindle was very stand alone. Kobo has their own bookstore but you could buy books from any other e-bookstores, except kindle/amazon which is why I opted for kobo. I’ve noticed that Kindle/Amazon has started opening up a bit more which is great. I know a couple of people who USA and bought a kindle while over there and loaded it up with the books that we still can’t get here, usually older books. They just can’t attach it to their account back here when they return, but it I understand that they had enough on their shopping list to justify having the extra device.

    • That was supposed to read “I know a couple of people who visited the USA and bought a kindle while over there”

    • Moni, you friends did an interesting thing. I have really been finding a lot of free or cheap books lately for my Kindle. I have way too many but am going to read all of them and then go back and pick which are really ones I could read again.