Day 280 Why do we torture ourselves?

There has been one item in our home that has been there tormenting us for three years. This otherwise harmless item is pictured below for you amusement…
Floor lamp

Like I said it looks harmless enough and yet it has been a constant source of clutter torture for far too long.

The lamp has been assembled then dismantled then all the wiring pulled out of it then assembled then dismantled then assembled again. Our intention, when we brought it home to Australia from the USA, was to rewire it and continue to use it in our new home. USA runs 120 volts while Australia runs 240 volts if you were wondering why there was a wiring issue but I digress. We got as far as pulling all the wire out of it and then decided we weren’t skilled enough or certified for that matter to rewire it.

It has occupied space in the living room, in the garage, under the camphor wood chest and finally the garage again where we see it every time we drive in. It has not been decluttered before now because I was still considering getting it professionally rewired. Needless to say that just hasn’t happened. I think I knew long ago that it would cost more to rewire it than it was worth and we don’t need it anyway.

Yesterday I decided to call a halt to the clutter torture and listed it on Freecycle. I honestly described it as needing rewiring but that I thought all the parts were still there, and hoped someone could use it rather sending it to the trash. It lasted about 10 minutes before someone claimed it and by lunch time today it was gone.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we hold on to the things that irritate us every time we look at them when it is that easy to be rid of them? I love Freecycle, it is a wonderful way to pass on our unwanted stuff.

5 things I am grateful for today

  1. Neighbours – they are great for lots of things but especially for lending us their stuff to try before you buy our own.
  2. More bang for your buck – A muffin and a cappuccino is one thing – a home cooked muffin dusted with icing sugar, butter on the side with a garnish of sliced strawberry with a cappuccino just seems like better value for your money even if it is the same food.
  3. One pot meals – so simple yet so yummy.
  4. Another glorious Spring day
  5. Digital Kitchen Scales – mine are no bigger than a small paperback but so functional.
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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Torture is a good word to describe this feeling. I just donated four shopping bags stuffed with books that didn’t sell in the last two yard sales. The group selling the books puts the money toward youth activities. I feel ridiculously happy! Those books had been around for at least four years of hope, then waning hope, then hopeless torture.

    And you’re right, Freecycle is great. You can get rid of the oddest things – I had an electric frypan on which the non-stick surface had bubbled and made it unusable. Almost on a whim I listed the lid and electric plug-in cord on freecycle, and someone else whose lid had cracked was able to use the one I had. Another thing, however small, saved from the landfill a little longer.

    • Hi Jo,
      as you say it’s amazing what people are looking for on freecycle and yes anything saved from landfill however small is a good thing. That makes me wonder if I could pick up a couple of power cords I need for myself. I might give it a go.

  2. My husband was a stickler for saving small appliance boxes and other such boxes in case the product had to be returned for a refund, or when moving the item. That makes sense for a month or so, but for years and years! I moved some things in some of those boxes into my new place. Many of the boxes are falling apart. To the point I had to put the original box inside a better box!! And of course, everyone knows you can never get something packed back into one of those boxes as it came from the manufacturer. Well, I decided this week that a lot of those old boxes will be recycled, and many have been already. Who really has the room to store them anyways; I don’t? I figure when/if I move again, then I’ll just get new boxes. I am simply tired of having to find a place for them any longer, and like your lamp Colleen, they have been a constant source of clutter.

    • Hi Betty Jo,
      I wish you hadn’t mentioned those boxes. Yes we have a few of those. Because we move so often it is best to put televisions and computer screens and any of those more delicate items back in the boxes they came in. These are big boxes too and you can’t pack them inside each other because they are full of the foam supports. So even though we don’t have a lot of them they take up a lot of room in our garage. I will be glad to see the back of them when we finally settle down in one place.

  3. A great help to me in The Great Canadian Purge was to look at each item and picture someone who needed it badly, especially coats. I worked a lot with homeless youth and they were a great inspiration! Good work Colleen!!


    • Hi Bobbi,
      for a short time while living in America we had a young man who lived with us simply because he had no where else he would rather be. A sad story of being tossed around through the family all his life, anyway I digress. I was impressed by a story my daughter told me after being out with him one the day. It was the middle of winter and they were waiting for a bus when they noticed a young fellow, clearly living on the street, in the cold without a coat. The young man who lived with us gave the other fellow his coat because he thought he needed it more than him. He hardly had a thing of his own including a stable home and he could see a greater need in someone else. So yes there are lots of kids out there who have the basic need of warm clothes and a lot more besided.

    • There was a Great Canadian Purge? How did I miss it? (I am a Maritimer)

      By the way, I took Colleen’s suggestion to read your blog and I’m really enjoying it!

  4. Constant torture. That’s the perfect word for it. I think that when all the items which torture us finally get removed from our homes, that’s when we have ‘enough’ and when we find contentment.

  5. This is what tortures me: once I decide that something has monetary value and SHOULD sell, I can’t bear to see it not sell. I need to start giving myself some sort of deadline. If an item I think is worthy of selling on Craigslist does not sell in X number of days or X times of reposting, then it needs to go to the thrift store.

    As for the boxes, yes we have a few of those too. I just noticed a Tivo box in the garage the other day and thought, “What the heck?”

    However, when we got married, my husband already had many pieces of Waterford crystal – wine glasses, water glasses, etc. He had also saved the boxes they’d come in. I must tell you, that was the best thing about our last move. All those many pieces would have been hard to wrap properly, but their boxes are really sturdy and completely enfold the pieces. I’ve definitely saved them and do not think of them as clutter.

    I guess like everything else you declutter, empty boxes deserve the same treatment: Do I want this? Do I need it? Do I have a place to store it? etc. etc.

    • Hi Cindy,
      it’s like the old saying goes one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
      As for being disappointed when something doesn’t sell on Cgaigslist or eBay I understand that only too well. Coupled with the fact that you haven’t managed to get rid of it there are insertion fees wasted as well.

  6. I wish the local Freecycle was easier to use–one has to go through a Byzantine layer of passwords and verifications and moderators and there are incredible restrictions on what you can post and when. Ugh! It sort of misses the whole point and it looks like there’s only about 5 users on it, too. Makes me think the same five people just swap their crap again and again ;D

    • Hi Meg,
      sounds like Freecycle isn’t so good in your little part of the world. You are right about the passwords etc, if my computed didn’t remember them for me I would never be able to get back in. I played that run around the other day until I found the right address to click on in the search bar.

      • We have the opposite problem here. I got off Freecycle when the Austin group surpassed 10,000 users. That’s way too many people for a good swap. Instead, it feels like you’re being swamped.

        • Hi Cindy,
          I use a different email for Freecycle which causes a problem of forgetting the password but at least my everyday email doesn’t get swamped with Freecycle stuff. I also post the item as taken immediately after someone has claimed it so the emails will stop flowing in. I think Freecycle in my area must just be a good size because I never have any problems with it.

    • “…it looks like there’s only about 5 users on it, too. Makes me think the same five people just swap their crap again and again ;D”

      *chuckle* @ Meg

  7. Can I come over for a home cooked muffin and cappucino? 🙂

    • Hi Jessiejack,
      I didn’t cook them we were at a cafe but you are welcome to join us anytime. Actually I make better blueberry muffins anyway so for you I will make them myself. 😉

  8. Ummmm….HATE to be the bearer of bad news, but……….
    Lamps are one of those oddities. Although made in the US for 110v power, they can be adapted to use on 220V power. Yes, I know this is a fact because 1) We live in Italy b/c of hubby being military & us stationed here (so 220V only) and 2) We have an “American” stand-up lamp plugged into and working in a house outlet without a transformer.
    How? There are TWO things you have to do:
    1. Trade the bulb for a 220V bulb (keeping under the same max wattage)
    2. Plug an adaptor onto the plug to “transform” the American-style to whatever prong your country uses. 🙂
    Easy peasy…no more re-wiring or trying to buy another “I swear the Italians believe lamps are gold…or at least worth it” lamp again.

  9. I recently downsized to a smaller home with smaller closets. I gave away over 80 bags of different items in my former home. We are now half way moved in and I am finding I still have way too much stuff. I so thought I had given away enough and I am very discouraged. Any helpful hints for me. I also went from a 4 bedroom home to a 3 bedroom. Downsizing sounded so good and it will be but right now I am a bit sorry. The furniture and the big things are in.

    • Hi Wanda,
      do what I did when I moved into my current home from a larger one. Like you, I also thought I had gotten rid of a good amount of stuff at the leaving end of my move but totally underestimated what would fit and what wouldn’t. This was mainly due to the fact that I had not seen the next house, all I knew was that it was smaller. What I did was cram it in wherever it would fit and then start working away at getting rid of the things that I really don’t need. In fact to begin with it just wouldn’t fit and our small foyer and the corner of the lounge room was full of moving boxes for a couple of months. After a couple of charity pick ups of the larger things that just wouldn’t fit, a garage sales and finding a thrift store nearby to drop stuff off at, the boxes finally disappeared but the storage spaces were crammed full. I slowly started to work away it letting go of more stuff on a sporadic basis.

      It actually wasn’t until two and a half years later that I began my 365 Less Things project. At that point the house was in a much better state to when we first arrived but there still was a lot of excess stuff. I have since declutter about 1000 items and counting.

      When we first moved in however I felt like you, frustrated, crowded and sad. Trust me that will all disappear once you realise the benefits of a smaller home and begin to enjoy your new location. My husband and I are so convinced we are planning on going even smaller or perhaps even as small as a storage unit and just travel the world for a while. Which is why I began decluttering in earnest or minimising if you like. This was never my intention at first but the more you do it the better it feels. I am no longer a slave to consumerism. Choosing what to wear and what to use is so simple because I am not spoiled for choice. Finding things is so easy because there isn’t much to search through and things are more likely to be returned to their rightful place because even that is simpler. I have so much free time because my home is easier to clean ~ way less area, way less dusting and I can get into every corner easily. I can honestly say I would never want a large house ever again. After all there is a big world outside your door to explore and all you need aside from that is a roof over your head where you can stay, dry, warm and fed.