Declutter item of the day ~ Fear

I received the following comment from creativeme on Wednesday and thought it would be a shame if anyone missed it so had to make a post of it. Also I wanted to add my 10c worth, of course! It was meant to publish yesterday but it wasn’t finished and I was sick. So here it is, better late than never.

“I’m getting better at this.
Especially with the food! I have found that I go through this journey of letting go of stuff, what I am really letting go of is FEAR. I think I was afraid that I might not have enough in the future or it would never go on sale again or that I might not be able to afford it later or it might be taken away somehow. Lots of latent fears that kept me wanting to cram MORE into my pantries and any other space that could fit cans or boxes (garage, basement, under the bed). I have finally got to the point that I trust there is enough money around for food, enough food around to buy, the sales ALWAYS come around again and even if it is taken away (really, who would take it?), it can ALL be replaced.
Every canned and dry good in the house now fits in the kitchen! I still have enough to make pretty much any recipe I can think of at a moment’s notice, but not crazy amounts of each thing. In this part of the world (west coast Canada) we are encouraged to have 3 days emergency supplies in case of earthquake. No problem here! But at least I am no longer a sweet target for looters like I was before! LOL
And with the newly found spaces where food used to live, I let it simply be S P A C E, sigh, it’s nice to have breathing room!”~ creativeme

The one thing I most want to add to what creativeme had to say was this ~ Simply fear of changing old habits seems to paralyse people as well. So many of us don’t adapt to the present when phases of our lives pass by. For example ~ I swear that, out of habit, many parents continue to cater for a home full of children once the kids have all left home.

Crafters have a fear of letting go of materials in case sometime in the future they will somehow conjure up the enthusiasm and creativeness to use them. I know I am guilty of this at times. I am much more ruthless these days though.

And let us look a the futility of that fear. If an item isn’t necessary to comfort and survival how much emotion should we waste on worrying about its place in our lives anyway.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item from the laundry of your home.

“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

Release items in your home so that they are available to others who truly have a use for them. Butter, for the environment, that others use your used stuff than go out and buy new.

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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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I think even greater than that fear of change is that fear of lack. I definitely experienced that in my youth, after my parent’s divorce and all of us kids being separated. We three younger kids went to another city with my mother, the older five were forced to make it on their own or live with other families. We eventually moved out of state. At that time we left all of our earthly possessions in a storage unit and lived hand-to-mouth, always wondering how rent would be paid and sometimes going hungry for a few days. And we made it without any kind of outside assistance. After helping pay bills in my teens I began to accumulate a small hoard of mostly useless comfort things, and struggled with that until I had a paradigm shift at 29.
    When you go without so much it can be so hard to trust that those things will come to you when you need them. I still have moments like that where, despite our little family’s relative comfort because of my husband’s hard work, I have to check myself and remind myself that it will be okay.
    What helped me with this was learning skills that give me more confidence; knowing how to budget, how to grow a vegetable garden, learning to sew have helped me to feel I can rely more on myself than things (although we need some things to practice those skills). My husband doing all of the car maintenance except for transmission flushes, and being a plumber by trade and knowing all the electrical/building codes through his work has given us alot of security as he can do all remodeling on his own. Education really is key.

    • Hi Jean, your story is an amazing yet sad one. Congratulation to you all for managing to get buy without assistance through those tough times. It is a wonder that you don’t suffer from a real hoarding problem. You are right that education, which doesn’t necessarily mean school, is a very useful thing when it comes to making a budget work in your home. I credit my ability to do things ~ taught to me by both my parents ~ for making ends meet during times when we weren’t so well off. Having to pay someone to do all those things for you can get expensive.

      • It’s also ironic that we survived mostly because of my mother’s resourcefulness until we could contribute, and yet she became a hoarder after all. Obviously, in her case some weakness triggered in her that she shares with her mother. And continuing education is also important, official school or no. I do college courses part time to hopefully continue to better myself.
        You bring up such a good point Colleen, that both of your parents taught you things that gave you the opportunity to hone those abilities that you have. It is such a natural thing from the beginnings of humanity for parents to teach their children. Yet I see so many examples of parents I have known over the years who seem to just want schools/churches to raise their kids without them lifting a finger. I am not trying to judge here, those institutions can be very good things for many people, but I think that learning skills from our parents is the most important learning of all. Especially for those less concrete skills like conflict management, honesty, self-respect, discipline etc. Learning these as habit while they are young saves so much heartache from struggling to learn them yourself through consequence when you are older.

        • A big fat agree to all you say about learning. I think one of the problems with knowledge is that people only see it as a way to a well paid career. So academic learning is the only kind they see important. There is so much to learn about life from every day people, every day events, every necessity. Travelling is also an important form of learning. Observing the world around you and the people in it is very educational. Not understanding others is another great source of fear in this world.

          I am not surprised that your mother became a hoarder because she would have experienced that period of poverty and separation from her children greater than anyone.

          • Yes, Colleen, I think her collecting before her divorce was also a way for her to make up for the major family issues we had. Who collects fragile ceramics in a house with eight kids? My mom, that’s who!
            I was the eldest of the three younger kids, all of the elder siblings were teenage boys. I think at the time she thought they could deal with going out on their own but now as she sees how maladjusted the three middle brothers are in adulthood and her collecting has taken off again. It is definitely the way in which she deals with her pain and regret.

    • Jean,
      Please be proud of yourself and your struggle. As with any of our life experiences, we learn so much from both the good and the bad times. You may have read Deb. J and I bantering about regarding our Mother’s being depression babies. In general, I believe that people hang on to clutter for one of two reasons.
      1. They can’t let go of the past.
      2. They are afraid of lack in their future.

      • Hi Kimberley, I have seen the comments from yourself and Deb J about the depression era babies on here. That seems to be a recurring theme on the organizing/minimalist blogs and forums. My grandmother grew up in the depression and my mother is a “Baby-Boomer” born in 1950, that sort of pivotal generation. I definitely see how the depression and that western golden age of plenty (aka mass production of disposable crap) contributes to this whole situation. My dad, my step-mother, my in-laws are all pack-rats, something they learned from their depression era parents. I get the pack-rat thing even if I no longer practice it myself, but the hoarding really does take it to a new level. Mom definitely has a that lack of many things in her past, material and emotional. I have a friend in her 60’s who reminded me that my generation, even with the recession in recent years, goes to the store to get whatever we want so we don’t generally worry about something not being there when we need it. Good point I hadn’t considered from my limited experience.

  2. Today I decluttered 3 necklaces belonging to my mother. I can’t remember her wearing them, and I decided that if I gave them to the charity shop then someone may enjoy wearing them. They were not meant to be kept in a box – I’ve just realised that they have been in a box for 30 years.

    Although this does not relate to today’s post I felt I wanted to share this.

    • And thank you for sharing because that is a pretty big decluttering effort on your part even though it may seem small to others. And, I would say that, it is a step towards overcoming the fear of letting go of sentimental items whether you realise it or not. Even little fears add up to an bigger accumulation of fears in life for each person.

      • Thank you Colleen.

        I have kept one necklace from my grandmother which is one that she is wearing in a portrait that I have of her. I have a few paintings which are stored in the house but I only have minimal places to display them. My mother used to paint although the one of my grandmother was not by her, but a fellow artist.

  3. Colleen,
    This was a great post and one that hits home for me. I, too, grew up poor, although nothing as dire as Jean’s situation. This poverty mindset always makes you think you should hang on to things in case you need them for the future and don’t have the money to replace them. Also, I don’t like to shop and have somewhat of a survivalist mentality that I seem to have been born with. Therefore, I tend to overstock, especially groceries. I am currently letting go of LOTS of categories of things and trying to use up some of my food stock. It is a good feeling to see that space that creativeme mentioned. I’m not there yet, but working on it daily.

    Congratulations to Jean for coming out on top of a situation that could have caused her to go the other direction. She is a strong, smart woman!

    • I know there are so many people who were much worse off than I was but it did have it’s own challenges i wouldn’t wish on anyone. I think a lot of us start to go in that direction but somehow recognize what is happening and have the wherewithal to cease and desist!

  4. Today I was at my friend’s house helping her prepare for downsizing and the real estate agents. We made some big inroads today with her garage which has been our main working area. Hopefully tomorrow she’ll be able to put the car inside! After lunch we emptied her pantry, cleaned it, bagged the expired food and now she has a fabulous streamlined pantry. I’m so proud of her as this is quite foreign to her but she has realised that her far rural upbringing whereby the pantry must be filled to the rafters to accommodate the isolation has carried over to her suburban lifestyle where she lives 3 mins from two supermarkets. She realised that her new streamlined pantry could still easily feed her family for a week or two. Tomorrow we are going to tackle her linen cupboard, cleaning cupboard and hall storage cupboard before we return to do the rest of her kitchen.

  5. A good post. I think fear is a big part of my Mom’s need for the things she keeps but also she doesn’t want to have to re-buy it later. I have to admit that I never thought I would be in the poverty level of income according to the government index but I still don’t feel like I need to have any fear. For Mom who grew up during the Stock/Bank crash in the 20’s and 30’s she has big feeling of fear in a way. She doesn’t call it fear but it is.

  6. This would be my mom. She grew up in a poor country and has saved everything ever since “just in case”. She recently stated that she is keeping two very large very heavy non-working antique stoves just in case they ever need to heat their home with them. They live in the city and have two working fireplaces. These two stoves have never been used as long as I have been alive and are so heavy they would take several people just to move one. Never mind they require being vented to the exterior somehow and are far from airtight. Some day I am going to have a very large job on my hands. I have been totally unsuccessful in reasoning with her fears.

    • Claire,
      As Deb J. and I both know well, you will probably never win that battle with your Mom. Losing those stoves would be like losing you. The mind is so powerful. I have had some success with selling some of my Mom’s things over the years. Sometimes the trade of cold hard cash is an incentive. Just a thought?

      • I’ve said that same thing to my mom with all of her stuff. She actually seemed attracted to the idea, until I started talking about the prices that some of her collectibles were going for on the web. Then she was very closed to the idea. She still remembers what her collectibles were worth back in the day. Like her 90’s Donald Zolan miniature plates she paid $35 for in 1992 that are now selling for pennies on the dollar. I think it could work for the right person.

        • Oh Jean, exactly why I hate mass manufactured “collectables”. They are a scam. And I hate baseball cards and the like because they are just a form of gambling. Even genuine rare items can raise and lower in price depending on the trends at the time so collecting, for later profit, can be a real fools game. Collection for the love or beauty of of the items on the other hand makes more sense to me even though its not my bag.

      • I love the cold hard cash tactic, very wise Kimberley.

    • Hi Claire, your problem is a common for the offspring of parents brought up under those sorts of circumstances. I say just challenge the logic of it with them on a regular basis and the sense of it may eventually sink in. That is all you can do because you just can’t force them.

  7. I truly am not a hoarder. I have just the right amount of kitchen supplies, clothes, tools-with no duplicates. However, I do have a stockpile of cat litter, cleaners, personal products. My husband has been making a good salary so I stocked up on really good sales. Purpose, our salary will be 1/3 normal for next 3 years. So I bought exactly(I did the math) 3 years worth of non-perishables. I am proud of my one-time-only stockpile. I agree with this blog that stockpiles are usually manifestation of spirit of poverty or fear. But in my particular case, my stockpile is a wise use of $ when we had it, knowing full well we would not have $ for 3 years.

    • Hi Gail, that does make a lot of sense but then so does stockpiling the money instead of the stuff. Yes the price can increase but then again a lot of things can happen where it might turn out that you don’t need the stockpile in the end or the stockpile could get spoiled somehow and you have wasted the money for nothing.