Declutter your expectations ~ Rome wasn’t built in a day

I received a comment form Shirls a while back which started out like this…

Aah Colleen, will I ever get as far along the declutter road as you?

The short answer is ~ If you believe it, it will be so. It may not happen overnight but it will happen.

The long answer is ~ I thought I would be finished decluttering and have moved on to the maintenance decluttering phase before my first 365 days were up. And perhaps that would have been the case if I hadn’t continually moved my goal posts along the way. When I first started out I would never have thought I would get rid of some of the stuff that is now long gone. At times I do wonder when enough will be enough but I am not the least bit concerned when that will be.

As the title of this post states Rome wasn’t built in a day, if it had been it would be a very small collection of buildings. As I am sure it was for the builders of Rome I began with a plan in mind but really didn’t have a fixed idea of what the end result would be. Then as time worn on my plans expanded to new areas I hadn’t considered delving into and they continue to evolve as time goes by.

Where you end up on this journey is entirely up to you. What is far enough for you might be too far for me and vis versa. Never mistake someone else’s goals for your own or even strive to keep up their pace. So long as you keep moving forward at your own speed until you reach your finish line you are doing just fine. You can also speed up and slow down to suit you own time frame.

So keep at it and don’t give up and I am sure that all in good time you will realise the fruits of your labour and realise you have arrived at the end of your journey.

Today’s Declutter Item

What use is a gorgeous vintage necklace if I never wear it? Best to sell it on ebay and give someone else the pleasure of using it. Sold for $10

Gorgeous Vintage Necklace

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Rocky Road ice cream ~ Now who wouldn’t be grateful for that. The one I am eating has chocolate coated peanuts in it. M Mmmmmm!

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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. ‘It does not matter how slow you go so long as you don’t stop’ Confucius. I swear by this quote. I’m almost 3 years into my ‘family life simply done’ and we still aren’t there. But I can see the horizon. I started with decluttering small things, easy things to get rid of. I’m now decluttering the tough stuff (an outside wall went this weekend). After the small things I moved onto commitments, work and life in general. Colleen you have done amazingly in a year! I’m back to decluttering stuff once again. But like Shrek – decluttering is a bit like an ‘onion’ 🙂 layer by layer you strip back, it takes less and less effort and ultimately becomes a habit. I’m still struggling a little with a smallish sentimental hoard (I’m a ‘recovering paper hoarder’ in my own words)I’m holding onto…but it’s day has nearly come!

    • Hi Jo,
      you are so right about the layer effect. I have heard it described this way before. I took something out of my house yesterday and put it in the garage to test out how I like the space it has freed up. Already I know it won’t be coming back in. This is an item that has been reshuffles several times during my declutter journey but now is the time to get realistic about it.

      I am curious as to what sort of paper you hoard. Is it the pretty stuff like I have too much of or is it magazines, book or boring old paperwork paper or a combination there of. I have none of the last three but plenty of the first. I amslowly using it up but and I have given away a lot. It is in my sights again at the moment though.

      • Hi Colleen. Coincidentally we too move some items to the garage first before removing totally. It’s like a ‘halfway house’ as it’s on it’s way out the door. In a holding bay as such. I just have to make sure the Kids don’t get sight of it!
        Regarding my paper stuff, it’s a long story going back to my late teens. I started collecting receipts, postcards, car-park tickets, menus, cards, bits of wrapping paper all sorts etc… from days out and experiences. The plan was I was off to Uni and was building a scrapbook of memories – I’d recently met my hubby-to-be (although I didn’t know that at the time). When I decided to not go to Uni the hoarding got worse. I managed to keep almost on top of it for 12 years (with considerable time put in as it had to be cataloged and in chronological order down to minor detail). When the Kids came along 7 years ago it got harder to manage and hence today I live a decluttered life apart from this. It’s the end of the road for the hoard (and this is significantly reduced on what it was – like I said – layers!). I committed last February on my blog to deal with it once and for all, and didn’t manage to do it. It’s not the physical act that’s the barrier its the sorting through and the decision’s that I will need to make about such irrelevant items – it’s irrational and I totally get there’s an issue. Fortunately I’ve identified it’s not the way I want to be going forward, and rather than trying to catalog and store it I know it’s time to get rid (keeping a few items of course! I’m not fully recovered :-)) Jo

        • Hi Jo here are my thoughts on this. I left the same comment over at your blog.

          I have two questions
          1. Aside from when you are sorting these “sentimental” paper items do you actually look at them? If the answer is no, why keep them at all.
          2. If you feel burdened by this clutter why consider saving any of it for your kids?

          As Han Solo often said in Star Wars ~ I have a bad feeling about this. So if this clutter evokes more bad feelings, of stuff owning you, than it does good feelings of “remember when” just do yourself a favour and toss it in the recycling bin or burn it.

          Read this comment that has just come in from Sabine and let me know what you think.

          • It’s all so true. I’ve enjoyed your straight talking on this. I have had advice, but a lot of it has been around what to do with the items – which adds to my cataloging and storage issues. I’m going to digest and have a think… watch this space!

            • I make a point of not giving much advice about how to store and organise stuff. Although I am, even if I say so myself, very good at storage organisation I find giving advice about it counterproductive to advising people to declutter. Advice about storing and organising is usually only necessary if you have too much stuff in the first place. I have found that items find their logical home once all the clutter has been removed.

  2. I don’t think we are ever “done” with decluttering. We may rest for a season, but then our lives change. We move or our kids grow up and things change. My hope is that every change is a positive one and that I can find balance with each new phase of my life. I need to let go of the stuff of the earlier phase and move on instead of keeping everything because that phase is gone. Change is a part of life. We need to live life in the present and let go of the past, but not the memories.

    • Spendwisemom, I agree to a certain extent although I do feel that there is a marked difference between decluttering stuff that has been lingering unused for years and what I call Maintenance Decluttering. If things are sent on their way as soon as they are no longer useful to you then that is just maintenance and totally acceptable if however the stuff is left to accumulate then it is clutter.

      I prefer to think that I have got to a stage where I am selective enough about what I bring into my home that I won’t find myself needing to do too much maintenance once the real clutter is gone. That doesn’t mean that I am going to stop enjoy and embracing change I am just going to be more careful about buying into it. I will utilise a more collaborative consumption approach to trying things in the future. Try before you buy by borrowing or hiring. Be mindful about clothing purchases and that sort of thing.

  3. Colleen, if it wasn’t for this blog and your emails I would have sunk beneath the junk a while ago. There’s still plenty of it, but I’m getting there bit by bit. I really must haul out my camera and follow your example of photographing declutter items daily. It’s very motivating. It’ll also help me to remember what I tossed, just in case I go hunting for it months later!

    • Hi Shirls,
      I love it when a reader such as yourself poses a question the inspires a post. I thank you for the inspiration behind today’s. And I love your name as well, it is my mum’s name and when I see it it reminds me of her. She’s a lovely lady.

      Funny you should mention taking the photos as a record just in case you need reminding as to whether you have tossed something or not. I have used my photos once or twice for that very reason. It does save hunting for things. No regrets though.

  4. I so agree. You didn’t get to that point in a day and you won’t get rid of it in a day. Like spendwisewoman said, life changes and with it your needs and wants change. I would have said that it was highly doubtful that my mother would get rid of some of the things we got rid of over the weekend. Our winter coats went to a shelter up in the mountains, two sacks of Mother’s clothes went to a shelter here in the area. So did two neck pillows and another pillow. We cleared out 3 huge storage containers of craft things that she has decided she no longer wants. She told me she isn’t done just got tired and had to rest. She plans to tackle three smaller containers and 5 of her 6 dresser drawers soon. I’m so excited and proud of her.

    • Deb J,
      I’m so glad for you. You’ve hung in there, and now you’re getting the result. Congratulations! My m-i-law had dementia and had saved EVERYTHING back to the start of the 1960s, especially everything the family had ever worn or used or played with. It took many years (after she had died) to whittle down her belongings to the very few we wanted to keep. If we could have involved her, it would have been so very much better. If your mother is now ready to move stuff on, you have done a great (and tactful) job!!

    • Wow Deb,
      big things happening in your household. Your mom is slowly coming around as I am sure she realises that the stuff just isn’t going to be used and that it isn’t necessary to her security. Well done you too for setting a good example it is slowly making the impression you hoped it would.

  5. Colleen,
    What you say is so true! Only yesterday I cleared (to the charity shop) “emotional” items made for me by an ex-boyfriend over 30 years ago. No good emotions left, even at the time of the split, but they were beautifully made leather items, and I’ve always liked leather. BUT I haven’t used any of them in years, probably won’t (too much of Ray in them, and I have SO moved on!), so…… off they went. Let someone else enjoy the items, without the baggage. As I dropped them off to the shop, I couldn’t believe how much lighter I felt! I know I won’t miss them. I think I only kept them because of the work which had gone into them.
    So many things I thought I would never part with, have gone, and I truly haven’t missed any of them.

  6. Off topic – two days in a row the local Vinnies has had a pile of stuff outside it… I only hope most of it is shop ready :s

    • Snosie, I assume your Vinnies don’t open on weekends. The thrift store I work at opens seven days a week. How very in tune with the times they are. Not that I think that is a good thing.

      • NO, these are weekday mornings on my way in. I went past another two on the way to site, only one had stuff outside. When I went back to work, they were all inside…

        Some Vinnies are open Sunday. But it’s an Anglicare shop or similar that sells furniture that I like isn’t 🙁 I still need a garlic press and a few other odds and ends. I’m so over spending money!!

        • I was just out and saw a bin with stuff stacked up outside of it too. Unfortunately it is raining here today. My guess is that those donations will now end up in the dump. I don’t understand some people.
          Do you really need a garlic press? Watch this. Try it you might be converted. You will enjoy Thursday’s post it’s about you and improvising.

  7. I’ve been an advocate of simplicity for many many years but I still have more stuff than I need or know what to do with. Partly, it’s a comfort thing–I’m used to having something around. Partly, it’s time–if my dh and I have to choose taking a walk at the beach or tackling the box of photos, we’ll choose the beach walk. I realize it doesn’t need to be an either/or, but sometimes that’s how it ends up. However, I’m continuing to make progress. By the time we really and truly retire, we want to have just what we need and love.

    • Willow, if it came to choosing between sorting photos and having a colonoscopy I still wouldn’t choose the photos. 😆 One day I hope to have nothing else left to declutter and then the photo boxes will have their day. Enjoy your walks. When you retire you will have plenty of time to sort those photos.

  8. Happy to say, that I decluttered 9 vases today. Those have been sentimental, guilt and aspirational clutter all at once.
    Well, I still own 20 vases which is probably more than you need, but as they are difficult for me, I’m happy that I decluttered at least almost a third of my collection today. 😀
    I think, over time I will be able to get rid of a few more, but for now it’s enough.
    My book collection is a constant reminder of how decluttering little by little adds up: as they’ve always been stored on shelves next to each other, it’s easy to recognize how much space has been freed up meanwhile. That gives me motivation for other areas like clothes or paper clutter, where the progress (though made) is not that visible yet.

    • Hi Sanna,
      we all have our clutter weaknesses but the good part is that it feels extra good when we make inroads into the hard stuff. So well done you for decluttering those six vases. You can revisit the stash again when you are feeling more ruthless but for now, as you say, that is enough.

  9. I had two good experiences with sentimental clutter yesterday.
    First, as I was walking around the house looking for an item to toss, I saw sentimental items, and realized they make me happy every time I look at them. Keepers!
    Second, as soon as I laid my eyes on something and the first feeling was negative, I knew I had found my discard.
    On to a guilt item!

    • Hi Sabine,
      this comment is going straight to this Friday’s Favourites. You have nailed the selection process perfectly here. Why keep something that evokes bad feelings? Just get it out of there. Well done and well said.

      • Sabine, what a perfect way to describe the process in just a few words. Even though I “sort of” knew this was how to do it, you’ve made it crystal clear. I just need to get tuned into that little voice in my head (or that feeling in my gut)! Thank you for this.

  10. I literally donated an entire 3-drawer storage container worth of stuff because of Sabine’s quote about her “first feeling was negative”.

    We had a 3-drawer storage container for desk supplies that was slam full. Even though it was desk-sized in that it was about 2 feet tall, it was still jam-packed full of rarely used office supplies like pushpins, paper clips & who knows what else. Plus it took up a lot of desk space. Even though we had it under a desk.

    I’ve tried in the past to “sort” through that thing only to feel defeated before I started & thus just walked away from it, because even if I went through it – I’d probably start justifying the need for this or that & would realize it would be best to just leave it all right where it’s been for the past 9 years or so. Just in case.

    So today, I sprung into action. Quick assault action. Ruthless action.

    Today just so happened to be the day a local charitable group donation truck comes through our neighborhood picking up items people leave by the curb (& the donation truck guys will haul stuff out of your house too if need be).

    Anyways, I noticed my neighbor across the street had a little collection of things waiting at the curb for the donation truck to pick up.

    Then I heard the donation truck turn down my street.

    So I sprung into instant knee-jerk action. I ran through the house & snatched up that 3-drawer office supply container slam-full of unused office supplies & full of negative feelings & sprinted out my front door with it just in time to hand it over to the donation truck collection guys who were picking up the items from my neighbors house across the street.

    Instant relief. Like a weight off my shoulders.

    • This is inspirational and funny at the same time – I love it when I can make the decision to get rid of something and then have it gone quickly. And nothing could be quicker than the method you used, Jane!

    • Now Jane, that is what I call rapid fire decluttering. Sometimes that is the best way to rid yourself of a thing like that which has been dragging you down for a while ~ Fast and irreversible. The bandaid approach so to speak. I have these awful visions of your husband coming home and saying “Holy crap! I just put my such and such in there the other day. What have you done?” Please tell me that wasn’t the case. 😆
      What I nice big chunk of decluttering out of the way in an instant. Good for you!

      • LOL! Funny thing is, he has yet to notice the 3-drawer container thing is even gone. Lord knows we still have plenty of office supplies in our respective desks. The problem is that the husband drags home office supplies without any reason or rationale. I’ve only recently got him to stop printing out a hard copy of every little transaction or work-related project (if it’s for work – use their ink & paper not ours!). Still, he loves the excessive use of staples (which I loathe) & paper-clipping random papers together. Funny thing is, he works in the tech industry & none of his people even bother with pesky office supplies anymore. They save to PDF, they use cloud storage & they even busted his chops when he brought in a filing cabinet to his office. He can hoard office supplies at work, but I’m gonna break his habit of staples, paper clips & hard copies at home if it kills me!

        • Good for you Jane. You get that hubby of yours trained. And hopefully the people at his work with convert him to digital as well. Coping it from both sides ought to have some sort of effect, probably stubborn resistance but you just never know. Keep us posted.