Digging in the archives ~ Day 247 Decluttering due to illness

Todays post from the Archives is also a guest post from one of my readers Donna Tressler. I hope you enjoy it. I have included a link to this post because Lena said in her email to me that she found the comment heartbreaking and I wanted to make it easy for you get to the comments should you wish to read them for yourself.  Lena said ~ “I didnt know that so many people are having chronic pain/illness. I am sooooo grateful, I never had serious health issues…

What Illness Taught Me About Decluttering

Guest Post by – Donna Tressler The Sound Of My Own Wheels

Recently I watched the 2010 Messiest Home in the Country episode of Clean House, which featured a family of four living in a home filled with an incomprehensible amount of clutter. There was a lot of finger pointing in the episode – particularly at the father who “guilt shopped” while he traveled for work, but the thing that struck me as interesting was how illness (the mom was a thyroid cancer survivor) had played a roll in the accumulation of the family’s clutter. Serious illness has a profound affect on people and we all react differently. For this family buying more stuff was the answer to their pain. For me, it was just the opposite.

In 2001 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Initially I was euphoric to have an answer to all the health issues that had plagued me for months, then the reality of living with an incurable (but manageable) illness set in, and I went into denial. I didn’t take care of myself as well as I should, and eventually I went into a flair up of the disease that lasted 16 months.

It was a horrible time in my life and by the time I came out of the flair up, I was physically and mentally exhausted from trying to maintain my job, my house, my marriage, and my relationships with family and friends. It took nearly two years to completely regain my former self, and during that time I began looking for way to improve the quality of my life. In addition to taking better care of myself and managing stress (which is a huge factor in my illness), I looked for ways to simplify my life in the event that I suffered another flair up.

Eventually I realized that the less stuff I have, the less I would have to maintain if I did get that sick again. I’d like to say I had an epiphany and instantly went on a decluttering mission that got rid of every unnecessary item in one fell swoop, but life is rarely that way. Instead it has been a continuous journey of looking at each area of my life with fresh eyes. I began by getting rid of things I didn’t use, clothes I didn’t wear, books I would never read again, and have continued on from there. I’m constantly revisiting a cabinet, a closet, a shelf, and asking what can go from this area?

As I have pared down, I have found that there are several methods that have been most effective for me in getting on, and more importantly staying on, the declutter path. My methods work for existing items in my house and items that I contemplate buying.

  • I ask myself if I got “that sick” again, would I want to deal with this item
  • I ask myself the questions on the Declutter Decision Making Guide here on 365lessthings
  • I ask myself how many hours of working/commuting it would take to pay for the item

Someone once said “life is what happens while you are making other plans.” For me that’s a whole other blog post, but by sticking with my trifecta of clutter busting methods, I have managed to mostly stick to the trail and continue on the decluttering path, which in turn simplifies my life, helps manage my stress and thereby my overall health. It’s a win-win situation.

Click here for the link to the post so you can read the comments if you wish.

Today’s Declutter Item

I used this old album to store card craft samples. I have now used up or recycled those samples because I never really refer back to them preferring to design new stuff  each time. The album went to the thrift store.

Old Photo Album


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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.
  • How little we really need Every time I go on a long vacation I am reminded of how little one really needs to live a comfortable and functional lifestyle. My husband and I often stay in Airbnb places when on […]
  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I so agree with Donna. I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, irritable bowel, and a few other health issues. One of the best things that I ever did was declutter as much as I could so that I have less to take care of and less to weigh me down. I don’t know if everyone feels this way or realizes this may be an issue but for me the STUFF is a weight on my shoulders I don’t need. It is amazing how much lighter I feel and the freedom I feel from decluttering.

    • Well said Deb!

      This is what l point out to my parents – my dad has a disability – and has not changed his lifestyle even though doctors have advised him to do so.

      Therefore in the future it will be harder for him to get around – in turn more stress and more work for my mum to do.

      Yet he has lots of stuff – stuff that should be chucked, donated or just let go of.

  2. Whether it is a health issue or something else that motivates us, we can use a negative thing to improve our lives and help us to realize what really matters. We are all going to have challenges and this is an example of using a challenge to achieve something good.

  3. This is a very useful post for a person without health issues too. When you get to a certain age, any big changes, even positive ones, can be tiring to deal with. Having the home running like a well oiled machine makes everything easier to deal with.

  4. Well … I really have very little to complain about, really, have I?! However, focussing on decluttering over my “annis horribilis” of disability has turned out to serve several different good purposes:
    I seriously needed less clutter in my house, my life, and especially, on my floor.
    It gave me something healthier to focus on, than what I wasn’t able to be doing.
    Once I could get to the computer, and google “declutter”, I met this blog, and all of you, and found a community of likeminded people to keep me company.
    How’s that for hitting the jackpot! If I hadn’t wrecked my ankle and foot, I probably would have emptied a few boxes, then filled several more ….. now, the thought of it horrifies me. …..

  5. Yes chronic illness is a big factor in us downsizing (moving day is in 1 month), less house to clean & mess up and an older house we don’t have to treat as precious. Like Ann, it does give me another focus too.
    Thanks for this post, I have not read the archives!

  6. Thanks for giving us some food for thought in between Christmas and New Year. This one had slipped me and it’s a good one.
    However, I hope this had all been done beforehand and busy bee one and two take their holiday time 😉
    I take some of this in-between days for decluttering as I am always super motivated to tie some lose ends by the end of the year, leave some things/issues behind me and start “new” in January.
    And of course while doing this it is nice to visit my favourite decluttering blog from time to time, too, to keep my spirits up!

  7. Oops, should this have been “keep my SPIRIT up?” Spirits is ghosts and alcohol, isn’t it?

  8. It’s great seeing these archives as I had missed this one 1st time round.

    Yes, I have in my mind that I need to keep working at decluttering because having experience severe immobility once that may return, and knowing how quickly life can change for anyone,I know we need the house as clear as possible so like isn’t made more difficult.

    I tell my husband I don’t want to be in his parents situation at 80, still stressing over getting rid of mounds of stuff that both worries them and makes it harder for them to do simple tasks now.
    I also have fatigue issues and know the house is much easier to keep clear and neat if everything has a home and we don’t have loads of things we don’t need…I feel another purge coming on :O)