Disassociation Part 4 ~ Security Clutter

You are probably wondering how does security fit into the clutter equation, and of course I am going to give you my answer to that. Sometimes we keep our clutter because we want to be secure in the fact that it will be there just in case we do need it one day. We may think we will need it to remind us of loved ones or good times and don’t want those memories to slip through our grasp. We may think we need it because it may actually come in useful one day. And in extreme case we may think we need it to stave off some impending disaster that might befall us.

Either way we keep things for the secure feeling they offer us.

But tell me this, will you really forget the ones you love or have loved in your life just because you rid yourself of a trinket that you are tired of dusting. In some cases this can be an object the you don’t even like and never have but for the memories it holds. I can assure you that the thing holds nothing, it is you that holds those memories. If, by some unfortunate fate, your memories fade, the knowledge of what that thing represents will probably fade with it.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with holding on to things that hold significants for you but do you need to cling to twenty objects that represent the same significance? Would not one of two or your favourites suffice? When I first began my 365 less things challenge I owned numerous items that were given to me after my Grandmother died. I have since reduce those item to two. The cup I used at her home when I was little and the Crucifix that stood on her coffin during the church service. I still use the cup and the Crucifix stands on my bedside cabinet. But even without those items I know my memories of her would still be strong and clear.

As for the “I might need it some day” clutter. My husband has a tool in the garage for bleeding the brakes on his motorbike. It is something that he uses very infrequently, doesn’t take up much room, can’t be substituted by anything else and saves us money. Therefore it would be silly to get rid of it. However, I have a rotary grater in my kitchen that I only use for one recipe, a sharp knife could perform the same task, it is kind of bulky, and I have several other graters, so I think it is about time I got rid of this item.

Ask yourself the following question when it comes to these kinds of items…

  • Have I used it in the last three months?
  • If I am not using it now what are the chances that I am going to use it in the future.
  • Could I get by without it even if I eventually did started doing the thing that it is useful for?
  • Could something else I own perform the same task?
  • Do I use it often enough to warrant the space it takes up?
  • Could I borrow one from a friend or family member should I “need” one in the future?

The fact of the matter is that you have come to my blog for a reason. You have most likely already decided that you have got to a stage where you would rather a life without your clutter than to keep it. You and only you can decide what stays and what goes. Begin with the easy things and let momentum drive you forward. Once you start to see the difference your steady decluttering is making, you may just become more ruthless with the things you once thought you couldn’t live without.

Then there is the extreme case. Maybe you have got to the stage where you feel you need to hoard all kinds of things that aren’t being used because you would feel insecure without them present. In this case perhaps it is time to do the Clutter Image Rating Scale to determine the extent of your clutter and whether you need to seek professional help. Hoarding is an illness not a life choice so please if you think you are in too deep seek help.

Today’s Declutter Item

We sold this chest of drawers for $30 through the community message board at my husband’s workplace.

Chest or Drawers

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I am grateful that four and a half years ago we chose the townhouse we are now living in as our new home. We wanted to live in this area but there were no houses available so we settled for this townhouse. Little did I know how much happier I would be in a smaller home. Isn’t it amazing how one can change their mindset from being envious of their neighbours for their bigger homes to being grateful that those big homes aren’t mine to clean and care for. If it wasn’t for this choice I dare say I would still be swimming in clutter. Thank you hand of fate.

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. Re Something you are gratful for- It’s funny how at the time you can’t see the silver lining, but when you look back you realise it was meant to be. I am one of life’s overthinkers, overanalisers, and spent years robbing myself of being content and happy with where i am now. I had a similar experience when we bought our first house, it was in a less than desirable area, and i felt sick at the thought of bringing my young family up there, but it was all we could afford at the time. I spent the whole time we lived there being dicontent. Then an amazing thing happened, the property market boomed in 2004 and the house that cost £30,000 was worth £90,000! We sold the house and moved to a really nice area. Now when i look back i should have enjoyed that house and recognised that it was just a stepping stone and not get caught up in trying to move on. What i learnt was that i need to go with the flow more and relax and enjoy the present. I read somwhere that ‘The Present’ is called the present because that’s exactly what it is- A Present.

  2. That is a wonderful comment and a good lesson you learned in life. I am also one of life’s over-thinkers, over-analyzers and you are so right it certainly leads to unnecessary discontentment. I have a friend who life throws curve balls at all the time and I look at her sometimes and think how much better my life is. Then I think why do I suffer from depression when my life is so good. If my life was like my friends I would have something to complain about. It is obvious that my struggles are internal and not external and I think I am getting better at ignoring the nonconstructive thinking. A least I hope so.

    Thank you for reminding me that when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Or maybe it is more like if life gives you roses don’t just see the thorns.

  3. no lemons? nothing to declutter???!!! 🙂

    great post, as always, Colleen!!! THANK YOU!

    It was good to read about security declutter; I was totally taken by the
    ‘being grateful’ section – that totally hit home! Our permanent USA home is VERY small (smaller than what we rent in Europe!!!!). So I’m dearly trying to NOT fill up the Europe home, because when we return to USA stuff WILL NOT have a PLACE in our USA home!!! Amen to the townhouse purchase and move!

    • Hi Annabelle,
      we don’t actually own the town house we get low rent through my husbands work. We do own a four bedroom house in another state that we rent back to the government for military housing. We have never lived in it and probably never will.

  4. Thanks for those clutter pictures, I’ve seen them before, but I don’t really think they work. I think they show the really bad end of the scale, where people are living in their rubbish, rather than showing people who might have tidy, but cluttered areas. I suppose that’d be harder to show the differences, but I expect it to go from picture 1, to picture 2 with stuff on surfaces (a little stuff), then 3 with surfaces all covered, before it turns into ‘trash on the floor’. I mean, I don’t think all cluttered people are messy people, they just have a lot of stuff and what seems not enough room for the stuff. Perhaps I’m wrong, I mean, these people are experts! It’s just food for thought.

    PS I want to ‘clutter’ with a food processor – sure I can smash the biscuits to crumbs (but it takes ages, and not all of them are fine enough), and grating 7-8 carrots made me reconsider menu choices! So this is something I feel I can use in the future, once I know it has a home in a cupboard. I was granted permission by mum to declutter the baking cupboard, so perhaps I’ll ekk out some space from that project?

    • Hi Snosie,
      those pictures are intended for people who do have a serious problem and may not realise it or are in denial. I understand that most of my readers are not like that but there may be some out there reading my blog that are. Those people need proper psychiatric treatment that I can not help with and they sometimes need help to recognise they have a problem. That is why the link was carefully placed into that particular paragraph.

      As for the food processor, if you are going to get plenty of use out of it then well and good. The idea of decluttering isn’t about having empty cupboards and doing everything the hard way it is about getting rid of things that you don’t use. My handheld blender died a while back and my husband was questioning whether I really used it enough to warrant replacing it. I use it at least four times a week to do all sorts of things like making guacamole, whipped cream, blend soup, puree cans of tomatoes… I could also use it to make those biscuit crumbs and grated carrot that you mentioned. If I only used it once every six months I would not have bothered to replace it. Of course I did replace it after shopping around and reading reviews to make sure that I got a good one.

    • Hey Snosie – I know what you mean-I thought a picture 2A would be helpful where there’s not trash on the floor but maybe more pots and pans on the cabinets or excessive cereal boxes. Clean but cluttered. Maybe a cabinet full of tupperware??? I feel I am a level 1-2 but not dirty. The scale would be tough to design

      • Hi Jessiejack,
        I believe the scale is not designed for folks who don’t have a serious problem, therefore the tidier end of the scale seems to jump rather quickly from very tidy to what most folks might think of as very untidy. The key is that if you rate yourself from 4 upwards you should consider getting help.

  5. Hi Colleen! I guess the average person is between pictures 1 and 3. I know I recognised places in my house in the number 2 pictures. Theres some odds and ends scattered about but in 30 minutes you can fix a really messy area. That how it is been going at my house. So it looks a bigger mess than it really is. But as I looked at the other pictures I realised what you meant. Sometimes we hang on to some itens that are neatly inside some cupboard, we clean our houses regulary, we move our clutter and store it. People which hoard just have all the stuff there, the more, the better they feel. Before I started decluttering with my mind, I saw a Hoarders episode and the woman featured said that she became a hoarder because she had been robbed. Her house was neat before, but she lost a lot of stuff, and the robbers left her house completely in uproar. I thought: “Hey, that is a good reason to keep the house a mess! So thieves won’t have it easy when they rob my house!” Needless to say that was a stupid thought. I realise now that we have to care less about things. Of course I understand the woman was upset, I would be too. But instead of dealing with her fear, she hid from it behind stuff. Now I back up everything important and live my life.

    • Hi Andréia,
      that is exactly right, stuff doesn’t make life better it just gives us stuff to hide behind. Hide our insecurities, hide our true problems from ourselves and others, hide our sorrows but the problem is that it doesn’t make them go away. As Peter Walsh suggested in his book Lighen Up ~ The quality of our lives does not improve by increasing the quantity of our stuff.

  6. I’ve been on my ‘official’ decluttering mission since I started following you over a year ago, though I have been at it unofficially for a very long time. The other night I asked my spouse if he’d noticed any difference. He looked a bit embarrassed and said, “Um…Well, not really.” You’d think that I would be disappointed but in fact I am very pleased. He’s a borderline hoarder and when we got together 15 years ago, there wasn’t a horizontal surface in his house that wasn’t covered with piles of stuff. A suggestion that we get rid of anything would result in that deer-in-the-headlights look.

    We have obligation clutter, aspiration clutter, guilt clutter and a whole lot of I-might-need-it-someday clutter in addition to all the stuff that comes from amalgamating our two lives plus the deaths of his parents and one of mine. But, slowly, slowly, and gently, gently, we are redefining what we need in our lives. Bit by bit, things are moving out. We have a tidy home (albeit with full closets, basement and shed).The transition has been so gradual that he hasn’t noticed. We have created a ‘new normal’ without trauma and fuss. One thing at a time.

    Thank you for your continued inspiration. Best wishes.

    • Great post wendy: I too live with a borderline horder and have needed to use the slowly slowly approach. I had to laugh at the ‘deer in headlights’ : I so recognise that look!

      We are slowly getting there. I keep reminding myself to
      a) keep decluttering my clutter, not just seeing his
      b) he has the right to be him and see things his way

    • Wendy,
      the story of your declutter journey is truly heartwarming. You said in an email to me that you have nothing to add to the discussion, but the inspiration in your story alone is all it takes for another reader to think “If she can do it under those circumstances so can I.” It beings a tear to my eye knowing that little by little bit by bit your life has improved immensely without it causing stress and trauma to your husband. it is stories like this that make me glad I started my blog in the first place and that all the hard work is worth it.

    • I agree, this is very inspirational. I have been a “all or nothing” person for so much of my life and I know this causes so much stress when you obviously can’t be in control of every single little thing in your home and you just want to throw your hands in the air and let everything slide to chaos. Your circumstances have been difficult and still you have managed to turn it around and do it without upsetting your husband. Well done!

      • Hi Cat’sMeow,
        I believe Wendy and her hubby are out volunteering at the wildlife rehab centre at the moment, she would love to see your comment so I wil copy and paste it to her in an email so she doesn’t miss it. Thanks for giving her encouragement.

  7. Wendy I love the way you put it ‘slowly, slowly, gently, gently’ I think that is my key to gradually getting my OH on board!

  8. The photos aren’t working for me. And I think that may be a GOOD THING! Most days and most rooms in my house now fall between the 1 and 2, and 10 years ago would have been between 2 and 3! My aspirational clutter is seriously tackled since I have found your blog. I love having a name for it. It somehow makes it easier to clump it all together in an annonymous way by saying “oh thats just aspirational clutter” instead of saying things like “that’s the bag of needlepoint I’ve been meaning to finish, I used to really like needlepoint…” and then hanging on.
    I have been struggling with my “I might need it one day” demons forever, and my dear (almost neat freak) husband has been super-patient with my clutter piles all these years.
    Eurika moment just yesterday! Hubby was commenting on how much easier it is to do basic cleaning now, things like sweeping and dusting.
    I agree, this living for today lifestyle is so much EASIER than living with the memorabilia and what-ifs! Everything can breathe. I can breathe.

    • Hi *pol,
      it has been a week for great comments and this is surely one of them. The difference that decluttering has made to your life is clear through what you say here. I love the eurika moment, it is so true the less clutter you have the easier the general housework becomes. On Monday while working my way through my weekly house cleaning I decided to empty a little shelf above the staircase. It holds some baseball collectables (what doesn’t in this house). I got them all down and dusted each one, then pulled the shelf down and wiped it down, I then got the ladder out of the shed and mounted a painting on the wall above that we had been meaning to take care of for weeks. Then I put everything back again. Doing that shelf took just as long to clean as did the rest of the entire upstairs area (a bedroom, office/craft area and bathroom). Nick nacks that collect dust are very fiddly to clean and work around.

      I am glad you are continuously finding more breathing space.

  9. Today’s Declutter Item, the chest of drawers is very inspiring. I have been following your blog for a couple of months and I dream of that day where I could actually dispose of furniture! 🙂 Drawers are being decluttered, a few are pretty empty, that day is coming…. I am so excited.

    I also find it useful to keep track of everything that gets out of my home as well as everything that gets in. Things tend to sneak in, especially these days with back-to-school season here in the US. One new backpack in, one used backpack out. That would be the right way to do it, right? Only, this would be too easy because DD hold on to her old backpack, too small for 4th grade but still good for hiking! lol

    • Hi NatalieinCA,
      hope that day arrives for you soon and I hope you celebrate your success by doing something fun with your family.

      Those back to school items can clutter things up a bit. My son has just gone back to university but so far he has only needed two new jounals. Lets hope that trend continues. 😉 At least your little darling is getting double use out her too small for school backpack.

  10. I had to chuckle when I read of the hoarder who used a burglary to justify her hoarding. My brother used to have several storage units packed to the brim. One day the owner called him because the police were on the premises investigating the break in of all the units. When my brother got there, he opened the door and it was just as he left it. Apparently even the burglars didn’t want to go through his stuff. LOL

    • Hi Reformedpackrat,
      I would like to bet that some of those falks whose units had been robbed were glad of it and happy to see the back of the stuff. Especially if they had it insured.


  1. […] left a heartwarming Comment about how she used the gently gently, slowly slowly approach to turn the clutter situation in her […]

  2. […] Disassociation Part 4 ~ Security Clutter […]

  3. […] something you keep for security reasons. That is simply because you fear you might need it or wish it back someday. Letting go is […]