Don’t agonise over getting rid of clutter

I had a reader back in the early days of my blog who seemed to have trouble letting go of her clutter. It wasn’t that she wanted to keep the stuff, or found it difficult to make the choices as to what to let go however she balked at getting on with the task. To me it was obvious that her problem was that she didn’t like seeing anything go to waste.

You see she was very eco friendly, to the point where it was a mission to throw nothing in the trash. And I think this noble goal interfered with her goal to rid her home of clutter. As you all know I am not a lover of waste myself and do what I can to refuse, reuse, reduce and recycle.  In a way I am pleased to say that 99.9% of what I have decluttered has been rehoused, reused, recycled or repurposed. Pleased, because I didn’t just have a house full of trash but sorry that I had so much useful-to-someone-else stuff sitting around unused for long periods of time.

And just because some things don’t work as they should doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to someone. Below are my suggestions on how to deal with such items.

The best way I found to pass on items that have faults is to list them on freecycle or local buy-swap-&-sell or similar web sites, utilise the curb side giveaway method or word of mouth. Explain the fault/s clearly and allow people to decide for themselves if they care or even possibly have the ability to repair them. Through the avenues mentioned above I decluttered all of the following items.

1. All the parts to my malfunctioning Kenwood mixer, then gave the mixer to the last guy who came along who was keen to dabble with it to see if he could get it working or use the parts.
2. The hutch section of a buffet and hutch to a guy who did cabinet making as a hobby. He had a use for the parts and wood while I had a use for the buffet. Everyone was happy. He even asked to let me know if I ever wanted to part with the matching coffee table. I eventually did and he paid me $40 for it.
3. I advertised a lamp, which was unwired, on freecycle and a lady took it with the hope that her electrician son would rewire it for her.
4. I put a trampoline on the street with a FREE sign on it. It needed some restitching but everything else about it was great. It disappeared quickly.
5. I gave an old vacuum cleaner, whose insulation was degrading and blowing out through the air vent, to a lady who was sure she could either clean it up or use the parts.
6. I sole an iRobot vacuum cleaner for parts on ebay.

And these were just the items I could remember in a hurry.

There is usually someone out there who can find a use for things, working or not. Should it not work out for them you will be non the wiser and be happy that you did your best to find a new home for the item. And the stuff that no one wants may just have to end up in the bin. Just remember it is just stuff after all and possibly not wise purchases in the first place. Let it go and learn from the experience. You will hopefully just be a bit more discerning about what to purchase in the future.  Some, on the other hand, are well used items that might just have come to the end of their usefulness and there is certainly no shame in throwing them away.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter your handbag so it is easy to find what you need in there when you need it.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Idgy of the North

    Great ideas, Colleen. Like you, we send very little clutter to landfill.

    We have used free cycle to give away things for parts. We have a local charity shop that participates in electronic and clothing recycling programs. If they can’t sell it, they recycle it. Some big box stores will do electronic recycling including cables, power cord, remotes, etc. some manufacturers (Apple comes to mind) will also recycle their products. Hazardous waste depot will take used batteries. We have a place to donate partially used paint cans – you can pick up partial cans for free. There are lots of options out there – let Google help you find a solution.

  2. These are all good ways to declutter things without trashing them Colleen. I think it is great.

    • Hi Deb, I too think it is wonderful that these options are available. It would be even better if obsolescence wasn’t built into things and that some idiotic single use gadgets weren’t manufactured in the first place.

      • I so agree with you Colleen. We have a Pampered Chef demonstrater at our church. She makes really good money with it too.

        • I was guilt-tripped into buying a couple of Pampered Chef thingies. Among the first items 365’d. I now schedule a severe headache for the day of any sales party to which I am invited.

          • All of those “parties” are a sham. Some people think they are fun which I think is fine. I don’t care if it’s candles or life insurance or lingerie, I don’t want to attend events that have the sole purpose of parting me from my money.
            Deb J, isn’t Pampered Chef retail? I didn’t know they had networking sales.

        • Jean, Pampered Chef is done as home parties and this friend sells and has other people under her. They have good products, I just think there are so many of them that are one use items. Plus, I think many people feel guilty into having the parties or buying the products because of the hostess being a friend.

          • I see. This explains why I have received these items as gifts. I had thought people just went out and bought them. We used to have one of their warehouses down the street before the recession. It must have been for suppliers.

  3. Great post and ideas! We all hate to think of broken items ending up in the landfill. But my philosophy is that a broken item in your home is taking up the same amount of space in the world (in your home) as it would somewhere else (in the landfill). It’s just moving from Point A to Point B. And, unlike in your home, people routinely go through the trash to find things that can be recycled, sold, or fixed. Garbage companies sort through things. It doesn’t just automatically go to the landfill.

    I try to donate everything, and if the item is broken I put a note on it. There’s always someone who wants parts.

    • Hi Melanie, you are right about the taking up space thing. The beauty of sending these items out there into a world other than landfill is that it may save someone else from buying new. The reality is the manufactures respond to demand and the less we demand the less they will manufacture these items, which leads to less in landfill. So I am glad you donate rather than just put things in the trash.

  4. The point you’ve made so clearly in the past is that you can’t un-make this one but you can refrain from buying the next one. I try my best to find an appropriate home for something but you can’t let too many sticky items hold you up or you grind to a standstill. At this point in our decluttering we are throwing out a lot of stuff. We haven’t suddenly given up on looking for good homes but we are finally releasing the junk that we are reluctantly admitting we must simply junk.

    That said, does anyone have any idea what to do with an old CABINET sewing machine? I’ve found charities that will take portables but my late mother-in-law’s sewing machine is heading for the dump pretty soon if we can’t find it a home. I will NOT move it again!

    • Wendy, the old-timey wood kind? That’s probably an antique lover’s dream. Do you have Craigslist?

      • Hi Melanie. This one falls into the category of old but not THAT old. We also inherited an antique, which we sold immediately. This one has followed us for 20 years and resisted attempts at selling and giving away. I’ll ask Ian to make a stab at Kijiji. Last month we were able to give away a record player – the guy even made the hour’s drive out from the city to get it.

        • I had to look up Kijiji. What a fun name! I guess that’s like our Craigslist. Give it a shot. And then put it on the curb. I find that people will pick up anything if it’s on the curb. LOL. After 20 years, you have surely done your duty with this sewing machine!

          • The curb idea is good for city-dwellers but we live on a dirt road in the country. We have unloaded a few items at the roadside in the past but I don’t think the snowplow operator would appreciate having to dodge it. Then again, that might be a guilt-free way of disposing of it!!

        • Idgy of the North

          Kijiji may be a good choice for this “vintage” item esp. if you have a low asking price. We have sold/given away many things on Kijiji (called eBay classifieds in US).

    • Hey Wendy, what about my mate Bill the sewing machine guy. Worth asking, I can give you his email address.

      • Well, Colleen, it worked to mail my camera stuff to you in Australia but I don’t think the sewing machine will fit in a shoebox. But, if he’d have any ideas about someone in North America I can give it to, then I’d be happy to contact him. Thanks.

    • You might try contacting an Amish community. Some of those communities can turn the cabinet sewing machines into treadles that can be used without electricity. It might be worth looking into!


      • Good idea, Lea. No Amish near here but we do have numerous Hutterite colonies — they have electricity but live a simple lifestyle and they do sew their own clothes. Might work. Thanks

  5. I would rather things not go to waste, but sometimes by keeping them that is exactly what I am letting them do! For example, as much as I have been trying to declutter toiletries, I was mainly doing this by using them up (and only replacing the vital stuff). Which has definitely worked for some things. But I realised I still have an awful lot of moisturiser, body lotion etc, as I rarely use any of it (one of the few benefits to living in a very humid climate, my skin is automatically moisturised!). Well, I decided to collect them all together, estimate my rate of usage, and then work out how long it would take me to get through my current stash (assuming it wasn’t added to via gifts, which is how I got them all in the first place so no doubt I will get given more…) The result is that I have enough moisturisers etc to last me 21 months… As you’ve said Colleen, time to ‘let it go’ I think! Let someone else get some use and enjoyment out of them before they expire anyway (and less clutter for me, hooray!)

    • Good decision Amelia. Send them on their way.

    • Amelia, if you have recycling in your area you could just (gasp!) dump the contents of the bottles down the sink and recycle the plastic itself. Provided you wash the sink thoroughly and assuming you don’t have any drain problems that stuff is all water soluble and will naturally break down. Maybe this might offend someone here but it’s not the same as dumping paint or motor oil and other auto fluids down the drain.?here they request that we rinse our plastics anyway even if they are empty.

    • I was surprised recently how enthusiastic the people at my nearest women’s shelter were to receive toiletries. All sizes were useful because the length of stays differ.

      • Vicki K, that is such a good idea. Near where I live they have a facility for women and their kids and another one across town for single men. They only accept stuff unopened though, which makes sense.
        Amelia, I just realized I have seen that stuff offered on freecycle too for toiletries that have been opened and used. They tend to go pretty quickly. Just a thought.

        • Hi Jean and Vicki K, thanks for the tips. All this discussion reminded me that my mum makes up gift sets (hand cream, handkerchiefs, home-made preserves etc) for the widows of veterans. A lot of my moisturisers are still brand new and unopened, so I will pass them on to her for her gifting. Now that I think of it, I have some spare jars that would be great for her jams and chutneys as well.

  6. Hi, Colleen. I agree with you that someone’s clutter can be someone else’s treasure. You have outlined creative ways of dealing with such items.

    I understand the guilt trip that might come with sending something to the landfill. I agree with Melanie and Wendy B. I don’t let “beyond-hope” items get me down or hold me back. Keeping the item in my home doesn’t magically render it useful … it just makes my home the landfill. I prefer to move on and live and learn.

    • Good for you Nicole. We did this with our coffee machine last week. Not much on it that seemed salvageable. It doesn’t stop me from wishing it could have been fixed but that isn’t my fault so out it went.

  7. Colleen, awesome post! I love the comments. I like the recap of your comment. Even though we are a little crunchy and recycle and rehome as much as we can our mindset isn’t necessarily Eco minded. It’s more about the stewardship principle, we feel responsible for what we have been given and what we worked hard for. This train of thought also keeps stuff out of landfills, at least for another day.

  8. The upside of decluttering is less comes in to the home. Which then flows into less going out. That might sound like double Dutch but I have experienced a reduction in the amount of garbage going into my council bin. Maybe it’s because the recycling bin is next to the garbage bin and my family no longer has to walk an extra ten steps to the recycling bin. Maybe it’s because my new garbage bin is strong enough to be compacted and holds more than the old bin( using only one bag compared to three)

  9. Thank you again – I’ll let you know how the story of the chocolate fountain ends.
    Planned obsolescence is ridiculous… I wonder if we’ll ever break that cycle.