De-cluttering as a conversation starter… by Doodle



I was at a wedding last weekend and I didn’t know anyone among the 170 others  there apart from the groom. But I tell you what at the reception, I only had to mention that I sometimes work as a professional de-clutterer and I had a whole host of new friends intrigued and plying questions, lol.

First up we had the familiar, groaning husband; “Please come and sort my wife out!” followed by the another woman silently pointing at her husband while mouthing the words ‘We need to down size, help!’ and pulling faces.

I would add that the groaning husband was standing next to his wife at the time, and rather than thwack him with her hand bag, she immediately agreed she really needed sorting out. Her self confessed downfall was her love of browsing charity shops and what could I suggest? I suggested the only cure was going cold turkey and no longer visiting them. She agreed this was probably the only answer. If I was working with her  a client I would help her explore a little what need the shopping was fulfilling how she could explore others activities to enjoy that may fill the void.

As for the ‘we need to downsize’ couple, they had a 25 year accumulation of stuff from family life and were now empty nesters looking to the future. My advice to them was ‘start sorting out now’, if you hope to move in 2-3 years. It’s much less stressful to do it gradually. Start with the easy stuff and the rules

Do I really love it/use it.

Do I want to pay someone else to pack this up and move it to our new home.

In this couples case, he is a researcher so has lots of papers. We talked a little about scanning services.

Someone else was stumped by her clothes mountain. She confessed she struggled to let anything go, as she always convinced herself could always use old outfits for house work/in the garden. I suggested she consider what was the realistic maximum number of ‘old clothes’ outfit she could use given that at present she had a wardrobe full of such clothes. I suggested charity shops were a good way to make a donation rather than money, but she didn’t like the idea of clothes being added to the rags pile if there was in her opinion any life left in them, even though charity shops in the UK make a lot of money this way. Whatever I came up with, she had a reason not to let anything go. Sometimes, people block change with all sorts of excuses. But with these sorts of conversations, you never know what seed you may have planted, or what part you played in what goes on to be a major reversal of habits.

I definitely came away thinking there may be  a smart business move to hold de-cluttering workshops at wedding receptions!

Do you talk to people you meet about de-cluttering and find it’s a subject many people have something to say about? It’s a great conversation opener I find and everyone here will have some excellent tips for others that seem simple once you get more experience but to a newbie are a revelation: share your growing expertise folks, with the community you live in.

Today’s Mini Mission

Obligation ~ Declutter something you don’t want that you feel you should keep for someone else’s sake outside of your home. If they really care for you I am sure they wouldn’t want to cause you this stress.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

If you make coffee or tea after a meal boil a little extra water to soak the baked on food from the bottoms of pans. This saves having to run the hot water until it is warm enough for soaking. Adding a little bicarb soda will also make clean up easier.

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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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Wednesday 20Dec2017 Declutter by recycling some items. That mound ofused takeout containers, old newspapers and magazines, paperwork that needs shredding, glass jars you set aside in case you have a use for […]
  • Mini Mission Monday ~ Memorabilia Items Mini Mission Monday is about finding ten minutes a day to declutter. To make it easy for you, each Monday I set seven declutter missions, one for each day of the week for you to follow. It […]


  1. People know I tend to be on the minimalist/simplicity side of life, so right now as I am packing (yes, I’m following the suggestions in the previous post’s comments (: ), I am trying to figure out where all this stuff came from when I and others think I have less stuff than they do. Several people have said it will be easy (easier) for me to move all my stuff out of the house…maybe…

    Dishes: hubby and I went through the china cupboard last night. Result: the pile of ‘out’ stuff doubled on the kitchen counter. I’ve contacted children to choose their favorite tea cup sets which will be sent to them. Almost all of the china came to me as inheritance from parents and grandparents, so I am pleased to pass it on to the next generation ONLY if they want it. I’ve made that very clear to them.

    I’ve moved so many times across the US, across oceans, across state lines–I’m an expert packer, but evidently I’m also still an expert collector of stuff because the evidence is there in front of me.

    • Doodle, do you find that the people who say, Yes, I need help, actually follow through on decluttering? Or do they just keep putting off dealing with the stuff?

      • Well in this case Willow, they were all strangers to me so I won’t know what they may choose to do in the future, although one took my card so may be I will! In the case of people in other situations I know a bit better, I think it’s a bit 50/50, some get spurned on to action by our conversations and others intend to but it never quite happens.

    • I am sure whenever the time comes to move, I will still be surprised at how much I have – I think in my head I’m thinking a dozen boxes, lol. I suspect I am fooling myself. I do find myself making mental lists of things that I know I wouldn’t take with me but can’t quite be bothered to get rid of yet as we have room for them (bits in the kitchen especially)
      I try not to think about my husband’s stuff and moving house 😀

  2. Sadly, many of the people I encounter take great pride in their stuff. It’s like a competition: “I have a lovely laptop.” “Oh yea? I have two laptops, a desktop, a tablet, and a Kindle.” And I’m just left befuddled.

    As for the mini mission, I was able to give a small Kuerig to my niece and her boyfriend. I sorta felt I had to keep it because it was a birthday gift but we never used it (and it ended up in a cabinet just taking up space). When I visited with my niece a few weeks ago, she mentioned they were looking into getting a Kuerig and I was like “I have one you can have.” She didn’t believe me at first. I guess she thought I’d want to hang onto it because “Kuerigs aren’t cheap.” They aren’t but the space it was taking up is worth more to me. XD

    • I’ve had to google a Kuerig Rachel as I had absolutely no idea what one was. Well done on letting something go you didn’t really want even though it was pricey. And you know the new owners will love it and use it.

      • Doodle and Rachel W – I’m glad someone else had to google it too!

        • Sorry, Doodle and Moni. LOL. It’s such a common thing among the people I encounter that it never occurred to me you wouldn’t know. It is so easy to assume people have the same references I do.

          Since my niece and her boyfriend love coffee, they will hopefully get plenty of use out of it. 😀

  3. Wow Doodle, what a great story, thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

    After work tonight I have some old sheets to donate to the cat rescue and tomorrow afternoon I’ll be making my last trip with the items for the other charity’s fundraiser yardsale coming up. I wandered around the house to see if there was anything else I could donate. I didn’t really find anything, but I did find some things that were not in their proper place, so I remedied that.

    Saturday, hubby and I drove to a nearby town for lunch and browsed an antique shop. Didn’t buy a single thing! I guess I like what we already have and I don’t want any additional stuff.

    • Sounds like you are in an excellent de-clutter mode Michelle: all the pleasures of browsing but knowing you going to randomly buy just to satisfy a buying urge.

  4. Doodle, this is a great story. I wish I was able to go to Michigan and help my aunt and uncle as the declutter their house so they can move. The have barrels in the rafters of their garage they haven’t opened since moving there in 1977.

    • Deb J – oh dear. Yes I imagine that will be quite a mission but would be exciting in a conquering Everest sort of way.

    • Ah, Deb J, I can relate – there are so many people I would love to help as a friend, who are too far away.
      What sort of things do people keep in barrels (it’s not a common mode of storage in the UK unless it’s beer)?

  5. Doodle I enjoyed this post, wow what a big wedding.
    The lady who wanted to keep ‘old clothes’ made me smile. I can remember as a girl I would sort out my clothes ie what could be passed on and my mum would would be telling me to keep the items for ‘old clothes’ and would list all sorts of unlikely situations I could use them ie “we might visit a farm” “we might go camping”. I must have had minimalist leanings even back then because I remember thinking that one or two sets of clothes would surely cover all possibilities. To be fair, my grandparents went thru the Depression and no doubt had influence on her, plus at the time the country was going thru ‘Rogernomics’ which was a really tough economic time with crippling interest rates and high inflation etc.

    • Hi Moni, yes it was a big wedding but very special as it was two older people marrying later in life, after bereavement and both were members of separate churches so had loads of people who really wanted to celebrated such a happy day. We all brought a platter of food to share.

      • Doodle – aha, I recall as a child going to weddings where everyone was invited and everyone brought a plate. Usually held at a community hall. I remember going to the first wedding which held the reception at a restaurant, wow I was blown away. I was one of the two flower girls and the only kids there.

  6. Doodle – I love that the topic sparked such interest! It is rather fascinating – all aspects of decluttering.

    Sometimes I will cast a little line out – in conversations to see whether anyone will bite. In General, younger people seem rather puzzled at the idea. Newly empty-nesters nod that yes that needs to be done in the future. And older people want to run away at the very thought. Only a handful of people have been interested/enthusiastic at sharing ideas!

    • Vicki K – I’d just been pondering that very thing. A lot of my friends have older teens and an accumulation of kid and sport and hobby paraphernalia . And as we start talking about our upcoming freedom (but always add that we’ll miss them when they leave home) they all agree that it may be time to think about getting rid of some stuff. Further down the track you see elderly folk who seem resistant to downsizing or moving to assisted care and I have wondered how often it is because of the amount of stuff accumulated in their homes. Poor dears. Change is hard and throw years of clutter into the mix and it would be very stressful.

      • I think you may be right Moni, that that move to assisted care or downsizing is made much more difficult but the overwhelming thought of how much energy they’d need to find to sort out there stuff. I know in my own in-law family, an older couple resisted having central heating fitted in their ice cold house because of the upheaval (they have a lot of clutter – much inherited at the point they were had to downsize many years ago.

      • Moni – Since I am in the middle of this very thing with my own parents, I have sought out several of their peers – who have made major moves from their long-time homes. What I ask is, “How did you sort through your accumulation of possessions?”

        One couple told me that they didn’t. They moved across the US to be nearer to their daughter. When they asked her what to do about it – the daughter told them to pack it all up and move it. Then they could sort it after the move.

        Another woman that I asked also didn’t deal with her stuff. She had lived on quite a large piece of land with outbuildings and a house. Her husband was ill and she said she couldn’t deal with it. So when she sold the property, she sold it lock, stock and barrel.

        I need to follow up and ask the first couple if they have gone through any of the stored stuff yet!

    • That’s an interesting observation: why do you think younger people seem puzzled – because they’ve not accumulated much yet? Or they think everything they have is vital to their well being?
      I do agree about the elderly feeling overwhelmed – they’ve often left it too late and I feel sorry for them. And when crisis health issues arrive having too much stuff makes life so much harder.
      It’s one of these issues where people seem to need to find there own ‘light bulb’ moment. Of course by discussing the issue, we may play a vital be part of that that we may never know about.

      • Doodle – My perception of the younger people is that they have waited (due to finances or living situation) so long to have their own place and their own stuff – why would they want to get rid of anything? Then, when they have children – they don’t know exactly what they will need or how much and they accept everything offered. And then everything is kept for the next child.

        I remember storing many wedding gifts in the attic because they were duplicates or not useful or my taste. Finally, after 10 years, I figured out I was not obligated to keep them.

        • I tought about this so often – I have the feeling we are living in a very, very different generation.
          See, my parents were born 47/53 – in post-war germany. Their parents rebuilt everything from scratch, they somehow had the “wirtschaftswunder”. My parents saw from early childhood on that work was behind wealth. they know poverty from childhood and enjoy their “luxurious lifestyle” (compared to postwar childhood) accordingly. They are aware that this is not a given thing.

          Me – and I dare to say my generation – we are born into wealth. all our parents bought or built a single-family detached house on their own property, or owned an apartement. we are the ones that will inherit. I learned from childhood on that shopping is recreational and fun, just like any other hobby and that it is a treat to buy something new – while on the other hand always hearing this “when we were little, we didnt have that…”

          I know many people from my parents generation that own too much stuff. basically because they want to have it. My generation has too much stuff, because we dont know different. I was always more a packrat than a minimalist, I never liked the stuff I had though. I had to go through this process of “letting go” in such a deliberate way, its almost scary – I was the first person to know second-hand circles, like freecycle or similar facebook-groups… I am glad I learned how to give away, to not acquire in the first place, to use and love and not cry if something breaks, because in the end it just things… my generation is slowly learning it, its getting hip! I guess because urban lifestyle with kids is too expensive to NOT buy used, money and space is limited. at least in big cities. However, I know minimalists in every generation, I know hoarders in every generation.

          • Interesting, Lena…if your original tendency was to hang onto things, what sparked the change in your thinking?

          • 4 years ago I was living abroad in a 8sqm (90sqft) room – and I loved it. I suddenly got aware that I didnt need all of my things and that they were just weighing me down. A friend then told me about minimalism and there I was reading 365 less things and selling, donating, giving away my crap. I am now living in a 40 sqm flat (430sqft) and there is no need for more space. I dont consider myself a real minimalist, but I am more that than a packrat nowadays.

      • This reminded me of several years ago when my aunt needed very urgently to go into a Care Home. My cousin, an only one, was most concerned that she took with her everything she wanted as he thought everything would be precious to her and would be cherished. Much to his amazement Aunty said she didn’t want to take anything, she had enjoyed them in her home but now didn’t need them anymore. He persuaded her to take some things and he took others that were special to him or valuable. The rest was cleared by a House Clearer. So we don’t really need to be bogged down by possessions do we?

  7. Doodle – if you don’t mind me asking you as a professional organiser, I have thought about finding a way to volunteer to help elderly ones who need someone to help with the physical side of decluttering. I have heard of someone who helped an elderly friend of the family but ran into problems with the adult children who felt she was ‘taking advantage’ and even suggested she’d gotten rid of valuable things, it was very unpleasant despite a strong defence from the elderly lady. Is there any way this could be avoided? I have a few thoughts but I’d like to see if you have anything else in your bag of tricks.

    • Interesting question Moni; t is good to be aware of such vulnerabilities you’ve mentioned. And it seem very tough as a volunteer when you really are genuinely trying to help.
      These are some initial thoughts:
      All clients I work with have to sign a contract, which includes an explanation that I am not an antiques expert so am not able to assess the value of anything. I also am very clear that I never tell a client what they should get rid of, that my job is to help them make those decisions for themselves. I also have professional indemnity assurance to protect me against any rogue allegations.
      I think it is worth addressing such issues at the beginning of any such relationship with elderly clients. And I’m calling them clients even if you are helping them voluntarily. Adults are of course free to do what ever they want with their stuff but I think it is ok to ask them if their adult children are aware of the de-cluttering they are about to begin and are there things they might want?
      I think if you do volunteer (and what a fantastic thing to do), perhaps as part of an unofficial ‘contract’ make it a policy to ensure adult children are on board with what you plan to do and what your modus operandi is.

      • Doodle – good thoughts thank you.
        Another weird question is do you use bare hands or disposable gloves?

        • Let us know if you think of any other thoughts yourself Moni.
          Not a weird question at all about gloves. The answer is I always take a pair in my bag as I don’t know what someone’s home is really like until I get there. Sometimes for various reason, things have got out of hand and very dirty, I can then wear gloves, especially if we use cleaning products, or if I need to do some washing up, so we have space in the kitchen to start working. (I have a skin allergy to some cleaning chemicals).

          In reality, I rarely wear then as I find them quite sweaty and a bit clumsy.
          I have some colleagues who always pack a basic face mask too, in case of mould spores etc. I have never been in a situation where I have felt that necessary.
          Best essential accessory is a watch I find, to keep tabs on time. It’s quite useful to feedback to clients how long a particular job or section of work has taken – it can be very up lifting to see how much we have achieved in half an hour, or just help build a realistic picture of how much the rest of the jobs might take. It also helps in time limited sessions like mine, to pace and be aware of the end coming so you don’t leave things worse than when you started.
          I’ll be off to bed shortly – it’s quarter to midnight here, so eel free to ask anything you like, but I won’t reply until our ‘tomorrow’.
          *Waves goodnight*

  8. I have been just briefly mentioning to my friends and family over the years that I am decluttering our things. Friends have mostly given me the “why would you want to do that?” look and never continue the conversation. Family, well, they change the subject as soon as they can. I think that is why I find coming to this site so uplifting! Nobody else in my life has taken an interest in my “hobby”. One exception, my college roommate has made a career of decluttering and organizing! We live around the world from each other now though.

    • I’m glad you found this site Claire! Nothing beats fellow travellers. 😀

    • Claire – I have a young niece who was writing an article on her extended family and she said my hobby was chucking stuff out. Awwww. So cute.

    • Claire – I’m with you! 365 has helped so much with practical solutions and encouragement. And it is a rare person in my day to day living that is interested in the subject of decluttering. Sometimes they will ask, “But what do you do with heirloom china?” (or some other difficult item to let go). And because there is not an easy answer to their difficult item, they dismiss the whole concept :-\

      • Vicki – it’s amazing how many people ask about the most difficult items ! I try and turn it around by saying always start with the easier stuff (and there is always easier stuff) , so by the time you get to the difficult decisions, you may have your answers, or you’ve created enough space that it’s ok to keep the stuff you cant decide about for longer.

      • Hi Vicki K! So good to have kindred spirits here! I have friends in all walks of life and still none seem to have any interest in downsizing or decluttering. 365 Less Things is my decluttering support group!

        • Claire – I do know what you mean, however, I have often found that some time later someone will bring the topic up again and mention that they’ve been doing a bit of decluttering or organising. Probably not on the scale that we’re used to but something has made them look at their stuff thru fresh eyes. I think unless you’re actually signed up to a regular blog on the topic it would be very hard to stay on point.

          Most people equate decluttering with hard work and overwhelmedness and tough decisions so I’ve learnt to put a positive spin on it like talking about various challenges ie Project 333, Sanna’s 20 for 20 Days and mention the positive outcome ie I can now fit the box into the cupboard rather than tripping over it all the time, another good one is to tell people how much I have made from selling stuff – that always gets their attention.

          • Good suggestions Moni! I will keep these in mind for the future. I think that mostly when I bring up decluttering to people I’m wishing for the day when somebody new will say “I’ve been doing that too!” I know that there have to me more of us out there somewhere!

        • Claire – the other thing I do is suggest easy stuff like junkmail, newsletters and old magazines. Everyone has some and usually its an easy and satisfying job to be rid of these.

          I suggest checking the linen cupboard for torn or frayed stuff or stained stuff. A linen cupboard is usually an easy area to do an overhaul and leave it looking neat and tidy.

          And the other area I suggest is the medicine cupboard. There is always something expired and most people are happy to have a clear out. I usually add that I keep a basic inventory of our medicines in my phone as I used to end up with duplicates.

  9. Dear Doodle
    I too enjoy browsing op shops. Sometimes a treasure is found , other times nothing. I am asking myself why I do it . The only answer I can get is I might find something I like or can use. I wonder what I would do if I didn’t go to op shops. Has anyone else found an alternative to this dreaded addiction to op shops?

    • Hi Wendy, I’ve wondered what it is that pulls about op shops (know as charity shops here in the UK) too.
      My husbands always heads straight for the book section; he’s got a real knack of ferreting out obscure books covering his braid range of natural interests. I head straight for the bric a brac section. I permanently weaned myself off looking at the clothes when I converted to a capsule wardrobe, so I know exactly what clothes I have and don’t need odd additions: this is after years of buying stuff that I never felt that good in when I got home but it was a bargain…

      I think part of the pull for me is enjoying time with my husband; we don’t have a luxury lifestyle or travel much and we enjoy simple pleasures – a little walk, stopping in tea shops for a cup of tea and a cake and a browse in a charity shop make for a good afternoon for us, so I have not wanted to permanently exclude it from what we do. I just had to break the habit of buying every time and become much more selective.
      Acquiring stuff that brings us delight is still the pull I guess. I’m trying to think what the last 2 things were I bought…one was a novel that looked really intriguing which I only allowed myself to buy if I promised to start it as soon as got home (I did and really enjoyed it and since bought the sequel. The other was a tin index card box: I had been looking for a suitable box for some while to house notes for a writing project.

    • I wonder, maybe we could look a op/charity shop shopping differently – as a way to donate to charity and ‘hire’ things. Ie if we like shopping, this way we are buying stuff that is ‘reusing’ rather than buying new so isn’t so bad for the environment, we could then use the one in one out rule to ensure it is not adding to clutter and sometimes we only need things for a short while – like if I’m having lots of visitors i might go and buy extra cups but then donate them back the week after – sort of like hiring 🙂
      I love rummaging in charity shops but I hate clutter, and by shopping in charity shops, if I find I’ve made a little purchase too many or I don’t like the thing anymore, or it doesn’t fit what I was planning for it, then re-donating back to the charity shop is easy…

  10. I think it’s wonderful that you are planting the seeds wherever you go, Doodle. As you said, who knows what may come of it. A person who is resistant to the idea at first may just need some time to mull it over. They may have never considered the concept until someone brings it up.

    • Aw, thanks Jo. I also like the phrase ” we can’t all be stars but we can all twinkle”. I like to think planting the seeds is also doing a bit of twinkling 😀

  11. I find that the happier I get my decluttering (and paying off my mountain of debt), the more I talk openly about decluttering and personal finances. I don’t share my debt numbers or anything like that, but just off-handed comments about budgeting, saving, etc when the topic arises and the same with decluttering. I usually tell people how I’ve started to declutter and have a long way to go, but I’m starting to feel better about my surroundings.

  12. I’ve talked to many people and often the reaction is “Oh I should but I couldn’t possibly because …” I have offered to help (I love decluttering!) but only once has it been taken up. Sometimes I’m asked why and I explain that it feels so good to have clear surfaces and space in cupboards, drawers, etc. Also that it makes my life so much easier all round. It seems to have a knock on effect with everything and I am always finding ways to simplify all aspects of my life.

    As you say we can plant seeds!

  13. I am not very talkative about my decluttering, but I’m not making a secret out of it either. I also invite people to join me at flea markets etc. However, so far I haven’t met someone who really came onto the bandwagon, though of course I can’t be sure I have inspired a little cleaning here and there…