Declutter while you clean

I received the following comment from Willow yesterday…

“I like to do the mini missions when I am cleaning different rooms in my house. For example, as I was cleaning the bathroom, I decided to declutter the baskets we use to keep things organized (like my makeup, nail files). I pulled out all the old expired little medicine bottles and we were able to get rid of several which I will put in a plastic bag and recycle at the local police station tomorrow. It’s amazing what I find as I’m cleaning.”

I was amused by the comment and inspired to write this post at the same time. The reason for my amusement was that I had decided to answer some comments while at the same time hoping that one might inspire a blog post. Willow’s was the very first comment I read which gave me exactly what I needed.

I was also amused because she and I do the exact same thing – Start cleaning and end up finding areas of our homes to declutter. Today while I was cleaning I opened the under sink cupboard in the kitchen to get out some cleaner and ended up decluttering two hand soap bottles, to the recycling bin, that I had put aside in case I found a use for them, which I hadn’t. I also relocated my cleaning rags and sponges to an empty drawer. This effort left me with two empty baskets which I relocated to under the bench on the balcony. These baskets get repurposed over and over again. I think I have owned them for most of my married life.

The drawer that I relocated the rags and sponges to had become vacant when I relocated the spices that were in it to my wonderful new pantry drawers. Remember me saying how dysfunctional my pantry was, well it isn’t anymore. Three annoying deep shelves have been replaced by Five very functional soft close drawers of various depths. That won’t be the last reorganising in the kitchen either as the master cabinet maker will be back soon to complete the work he has started of changing my pots and pan/small appliance cupboard into a set of three drawers including a utensil drawer. I will post some photos when it is all complete.

But I digress. So often when I am cleaning do I get sidetracked into a little unscheduled decluttering. I am usually keen to get to the end of my cleaning but when a decluttering opportunity presents itself I just can’t help myself. It gives me a very satisfying feeling that spurs me on with my cleaning once I am done.

I suppose the moral of this story is ~ Always keep your eye out for a decluttering opportunity and don’t let the chance go by when it presents itself. And if it inspires some chain reaction decluttering, all the better. It is a great thing when a little decluttering ends with a whole bag of stuff in the trunk of your car ready to take to the thrift shop.

Today’s Mini Mission

 Declutter an item you realise you no longer love enough to keep now that you would rather space and simplicity over stuff.

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t forget your reusable bags when going shopping. I keep a folded one in my handbag at all times so I am never get caught short. I think it has substituted for about 100 plastic bags by now. Worth its weight in gold I’d say.

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. Great idea to de-clutter while cleaning. 🙂 Sometimes when I am specifically looking to get rid of an item, I just open the cabinet and grab the first thing I see that I no longer use rather than going through the whole cabinet. It makes for a very short 1 minute or less task, something that even I can “find time” to do during my day.

    • Hi Shoeaholicnomore, I guess this can also work the other way around. When you declutter form a drawer or closet and decide to clean the area out while you are at it. Just thinking about that makes me want to get in under my kitchen sink, pull everything out and give it a wipe.

  2. Colleen, this is a good idea you and Willow have. Believe me I do the same thing. Any time I get the chance to declutter something I take it while I can.

    It’s great what you are doing to make your pantry and kitchen fit what you need.

    • Hi Deb, I guessed that you would also be a declutter while you clean kinda gal.

      I am hoping that when the kitchen is finished I will be able to reshuffle a few things around and rehouse some stuff in there that might otherwise be kept elsewhere. If I can manage it I will move the paper shredder into the cupboard next to the stove that also houses the gas meter. It will be much easier to get at there than in the spare room closet where it is now.

      • Colleen, your idea of putting the shredder in with the gas meter is great. This is what I like to do–find better ways of using “extra” space. I can’t wait to see pictures of what your kitchen looks like once you have it done.

  3. Hi Colleen! Now that I do a quick sweep of the house every day, I always find one item or another to declutter. Sometimes as I am passing one of my clutter spots (still have a few of then around) I grab whatever and put back in its place or declutter. But having a clean and organized house sure does contribute to quick decluttering, and to not add more clutter.

    • Hi Andréia, I am glad you are finding it much easier to keep a tidy house now that you are much more decluttered. Reaping the benefits of that is great inspiration to take it even further. Regardless of everything I have decluttered, which made it so easy to fit into our new apartment, I am still constantly on the lookout for another item to liberate. The less there is the easier it is to access the stuff that really is useful to me.

  4. I’ve had a bit of a decluttering lull for the past few months. I have done some but not every day or even every week. Then a friend of ours decided to shave her head for charity. Her employer has said that she can not appear at work with a bald head (although many of her male colleagues are bald – that’s another issue though!) and my husband offered her my wig. She rang me asking if she could come over to collect it. I went to the cupboard where I knew it was kept and I couldn’t find it. So then I opened my wardrobe and started searching. I knew it couldn’t be in there because most of my decluttering has taken place there and I would have seen it. I didn’t find it but in 20 minutes I filled three carrier bags with stuff I didn’t want to keep. Then I went back to the original cupboard and found the wig straight away! So now I just need someone to ask for a loan of something obscure every week and the house will soon empty 🙂

    • Hi Tracey,great story. There is nothing like searching for something to help you realise that some decluttering is in order. Unless of course you do what I did lately and not be able to find the item because you organised it into a new home and then forgot where that was.
      I also see where the other issue is. Perhaps you should see if you can rustle up some mens wigs from somewhere and convince the guys at your friends work to wear them in one day.

  5. Recently I did a wipe out of my pantry and kitchen cupboards and ended up with a laundry basket full of stuff to donate or get rid or trial seperate from. The very same kitchen that had passed thru a number of mini missions in the last couple of months! I think ‘cleaning mode’ sets off a ‘I want to see visual results’ reaction, and firm decisions get made.

    • Hi Moni, cleaning probably also inspired decluttering because it is easier to do when there is less clutter. Less things to clean around and under. This was a big inspiration to me to declutter. Dusting is a breeze these days.

  6. Yep, I do this too. I can easily get distracted from “cleaning” in order to do some “decluttering”. lol

    • Hi Michelle, I also go to one room to put something away and end up finding something there to put somewhere else and end up wondering all of the house rearranging things. Or like yesterday when I went to sweep and mop the balcony and ended up repotting two plants.

  7. I’m glad I inspired you yesterday. My own words are inspiring me again today. I think today will be a guest bath ‘cleaning’ day.
    I had to laugh because you wrote two funny statements. 1) But I digress. Oh yes, I digress all the time, getting distracted and as you wrote, cleaning the pantry and the baskets and etc, etc. 2) Your story of moving things around reminded me of the Ernie and Bert book where Ernie keeps moving one thing into another spot and then moving the displaced item elsewhere. Do you remember reading that book to your kids?

  8. I just returned from a weekend trip and found many things to declutter in my toiletry bag – outdated contact solution, toothbrush, lotion, hair gel. And I’ve streamlined a few items – so now I’ll be traveling lighter and with refreshed supplies.

  9. Ann from Boston

    Hi Colleen,
    I have been reading your website for over a year now and love reading all of the ideas you and your guest commentors have shared. I feel like I know many of the names and stories people have written.
    Of course, it also makes me feel as though I ‘ve been lurking into people’s lives without saying hello …sorry! 🙂

    Congrats on your recent move, Colleen! I have lived in the same house now for 27 years with my husband and three sons. We are undergoing a much needed kitchen renovation. The layout is mostly the same with the addition of some new cabinets on another wall. I never realized how much “stuff” was in the kitchen. Now, that I am emptying EVERY space, I am overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of it all. I feel like I have been kidding myself. It was “organized”, so I did not see how much there was. Oh my….

    I decided not to put it all back at once, but to put back the minimum and see what I use over a months time. Perhaps that can show me what I really need. Then pack up the rest, as my second son will be moving out later this year. He can take a lot of it with him. The rest will go to the thrift store

    It just goes to show you that organized doesn’t mean “clutter free”!!! 🙂

    Thank you Colleen, Cindy, Deb J, Doodle and all your friends for a great blog! I will continue to read their stories for fun and inspiration.


    • Hi Ann and thank you for your first comment. It is always nice to meet the readers no matter how long they have been lingering in the background.
      Smart move with the kitchen items. That is exactly what I would have suggested. You may wonder what you are going to do with those extra cupboards after the reno in finished now. There may be nothing much to put in them. 😉 And you are so right, organised does not mean uncluttered. I know because I was always organised but still had plenty of stuff I really didn’t need.

      Thanks again for dropping in. How about making a habit of it. Every post is better for the great advice and experience of our readers added to it.