Declutter for the person you are now.

Does your clutter say more about the person you aren’t than the person you are. Or perhaps the person you were, rather than the person you are now.

First lets consider “the person you aren’t v. the person you are.

Do you have outfits in your wardrobe that are the latest fashion but don’t really suit your taste or your body for that matter? Are there also pretty but uncomfortable shoes in there that you avoid using, and when you do it is torture. Do you have ingredients in your pantry, shelves of dusty cookbooks or files of unused recipe clippings, and a kitchen full of rarely used utensils, pans and gadgets? Do you have craft supplies for a hobby that you love the outcome of but have no aptitude to participate in? Do you have pretty cups, plates and dishes in a china cabinet for fancy dinner parties that you never host?

I could go on and on with other examples but I think you get the idea. Can you see yourself in one of these examples or, after reading them, can come up with other forms of aspiration clutter around your house. If so, ask yourself, “Am I that person or do I only wish I was because it represents someone else’s ideal?” Make a better fist of trying this persona on for size by participating for a while. Long enough to come to a conclusion. Or give it up and be the unique person you really are with your own assets and loveable characteristics and declutter all the stuff that goes along with this realisation.

Question two ~ Does your clutter say more about the person you were rather than the person you are now.

Are there sporting items idle in your home from back in the day when you participated in that sport? Perhaps equipment that you keep telling yourself you might use again someday. Do you have half a closet of clothes that used to fit you and hope will again someday, or on the other had hope they don’t? Do you have old ingredients in your pantry for dishes you can no longer eat because of digestive sensitivities. Do you have a room or closet dedicated to toys and children’s clothes from back in the day when your children weren’t grown and left home. Do you have shelves of books you used to have the time to read once upon a time but now you don’t.

Once again there are more and more examples that I could come up with. I am sure each of us have at least one example of this kind of clutter that we just haven’t got around to disposing of. Then there is the case of not admitting to ourself that we have moved past that phase and are unlikely to ever return.

Take a look around your home and see if you can find examples of these kinds of clutter. I have two drawers full of beading supplies that I doubt I am ever likely to return to. I use the findings to repair broken jewellery for the thrift shop I volunteer at, but aside from that I haven’t actually used any of it for ages. At the very least I need to reduce these supplies, at the most I should let go of nearly all of it except what I really do use. I’ve decided to use some of it for a craft project I have in mind but after that I think I will find an outlet to dispose of what’s left. In fact I have an idea in mind.

Can you be honest with yourself about your aspiration, or past life, clutter? Let us know if you identified any and what you are going to do about it.

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. Hi Colleen,
    These ideas are the very heart of decluttering, I think. I could raise my hand to every example that you give here, even though I have been working through our belongings for over four years and have decluttered hundreds of items. Why are there still four bicycles in the garage? They haven’t been used for many years. Books, toys, games, kitchen items, clothes – we still have more than we need or will ever use. I just have to keep plugging away at it and not get discouraged. One thing I know has changed – the person I used to be was always on the lookout for neat organizing solutions and storage boxes, the person I am now has emptied many of those containers and is enthusiastically donating them! And I knew things had changed when my son got busy last month sorting through his belongings and told me very firmly that he wanted to see them leave the house, not just get reorganized and stored in a different way.

    • “not just get reorganized and stored in a different way.” I can relate to this, Christine. I love storage containers anyway, and I find that when I empty an area, I often reorganize another area to the emptier space…of course decluttering as I go…but I still have to make extra passes.

  2. Good questions Colleen. I think our lives get so busy we buy things we think will make life easier, prettier, calmer, etc. SO many times none of that is true. Many ties we are just tired of the same old same old. Yet we need to be careful we don’t fall into the consumerism trap either. We need to be more mindful in our living I guess.

    I read a book once where the character was very tired of her home and life but didn’t want to move. A friend suggested she box everything up like she was going to move, have a cleaning day and then have some friends come over for a painting/wallpapering day. She scoffed at the idea at first but finally decided to take their advice. First she packed up everything she owned except for the stark necessities. In this process she began to see she had many things she really didn’t want or need so she decluttered them. Next she had friends come over and help her move it all into her garage. She then had a few girlfriends come over for a decor planning party. They brought decorating magazines, various swatches for paint, curtains, wallpaper, etc. They spent the time working on how she could make her home look all new. Finally, she bought the things she needed and had a group of friend come over and help her renew her place. Last she moved everything back in while again decluttering. It cost less than a move, she had a whole new look, her friends helped and it was fun. Maybe this is something we should do occasionally to help us see the things we can declutter.

  3. Idgy of the North

    Great reminders to focus on who we are not who we think we should be or who we used to be. Over the last few years, sporting goods, a canoe, craft supplies, kitchen gadgets and musical instruments have left our home. We are still have a ways to go with some items as we keep saying “someday we will do x” as we like the idea of x. For example, we talk about doing one of those big several week long hikes like Appalachian Trail, but are hard pressed to spend more than 3 nights in a tent let alone carrying 1-2 weeks worth of food and shelter on our back.

    • And let’s not forget one of the nastiest demons which keeps us from becoming the person we are now: gifts bestowed upon us that have nothing to do with the person we are now … or even the person we were back then … gifts bestowed upon us by people who gave us things representing the life THEY thought we “should” be having. Like fine dining implements for people who always eat but almost never “dine,” but we feel obliged to store these things indefinitely. Wedding gifts almost always fall into this category. After 30 years of marriage and now being widowed, the only wedding gifts I used, and still use, regularly are a set of good chef’s knives and a set of nesting crockery bowls with lids, designed to go from oven or microwave to table and then refrigerator. We all need to lose any guilt we may have with parting with such unused items. Unless you are the current custodian of Granny’s China and it is expected to be passed on to the next generation, take a hard look at the fancy serving dishes received for your wedding. Great – Aunt Wilma is either long gone or no longer remembers the deviled – egg platter she gave you for your wedding in 1987 — which is still in the box.

      And if you ARE the current custodian of great – granny’s china, but you do not use it, consider asking around your family. You may find someone who will be delighted to take responsibility for it until it is time to pass it down.

      • Hi Dez, my opinion on wedding gifts and gifts in general is that…
        1. …a person feels obliged to buy a gift for the occasion but don’t always put much thought into it.
        2. …people often buy something they like and think that you will also, and more often than not you don’t.
        3. …even if we think we know what someone will like we are often wrong.
        4. …most people don’t give a hoot whether you keep it long term and if they do they shouldn’t.

    • That is the reality of it Idgy.

  4. The most guilt we feel is if it is something the person made, but I finally let go of one I knew I would never use. I had kept it long after she was dead, and it was nice, but not something I would use and not in the right colors if I had used it. So someone is hopefully enjoying it. It had been stored for probably over 15 years.

  5. Agreed, everyone. A gift should come with no strings attached… including no expectation of it being kept, displayed or used. This is why I knit ONLY for those few who tastes I know extremely well AND who are the sort of people who are delighted by a hand – wrought gift instead of a random store bought knicknack. I find that far too many people try to impose their tastes and / or social beliefs on others. For example, back in my 30s I was given an expensive beginner bridge set (tablecloth printed for placement of things used in the game, two sets of cards, score pads and what have you). It was handed to me with the declaration that it was “about time” for me to take up a “proper social activity.” I am not kidding. No thank you. The gift went to the charity shop the very next day. And I resumed my normal, enjoyable social activity of weekend hiking and canoeing. To each their own, but an aunt tried to teach me the game as a teen. I do not see — for myself at least — the appeal of keeping track of card scores while making carefully edited small talk. If I ever get too old to continue exploring Nature, I prefer poker anyway, LOL.

  6. Once I embraced the concept of only keeping the items that fit the life I have NOW, the decluttering process has become much smoother.

  7. Right now, in the garage, we have an ice cream freezer, an electric buffet server, and a fondue pot (!) just gathering dust. The latter two were gifts from my wife’s parents. Not one of these items has been used in several years. We don’t use the ice cream freezer because homemade ice cream is expensive and a pain to make; also, both of us have lost quite a bit of weight recently, so ice cream is out. The other two we’ve used once maybe on New Year’s Eve. When does one use a fondue pot anymore???
    I guess the time will come when we can part with them- I just hope it’s soon!