Don’t confuse overwhelmed with busy

In response to ~ Five questions for you and for me ~ Andréia sent these words of wisdom…

Question ~  What is something that you have realised recently that had never occurred to you before about your clutter?

Andréia ~ It is time consuming. It always gives you the illusion that you are busy, when, in actual truth you are overwhelmed. It makes a five minute job turn into a five hour crusade, with no good results. It makes your house horrible. And, last but not least, it makes you want have a magic wand to make the house look lovely.

I particularly liked this sentence in Andréia’s answers ~ It always gives you the illusion that you are busy, when, in actual truth you are overwhelmed. That pretty much says it all. I think sometimes that half of our exhaustion when it comes to unpleasant task is mental exhaustion generated by the mind games we play with ourselves. In the end we think we have been hard at the task but in actually fact all we have been doing is emotionally wrestling with it.

Wrestling with where to start, wrestling with what is the best way to go about it and taking on other tasks in order to avoid the one we don’t want to do. In the end we are exhausted with our efforts and we haven’t actually done anything.

The problem here is two fold, over-thinking it and focusing too much on the whole task instead of breaking it down into mangeable chunks. The more we can simply the task and tackle one simple element at a time the less effort we will expend avoiding it.

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a long time or have been keen enough to read back through the archives you will know I have been intending to declutter my trophy collection for some time now. I have avoided the task simply because it seemed like such a bother. Is wasn’t a simple case of tossing them in the bin there were steps I wanted to carry out before decluttering them and I wanted to dispose of them responsibly. Below are the steps that I wanted to follow

  • Find a way to recycle them so they didn’t go to waste.
  • Document their existence before getting rid of them which entailed…
    • Organising a staging area for photographing.
    • Enlisting Hubbies help with the photography.
    • Dusting them before taking the photos.
    • Take individual photos of them.
    • Prettying myself up a bit so I could have my photo taken with the trophies.
    • Take the photo of me with the trophies.
  • Removing the plaques from them to retain as keepsakes.
  • Box up the trophies for disposal.
  • Taking them to the trophy shop

When I thought about all those steps as one big task it all seemed like too much bother, hence why months and months later I still hadn’t done have the trophies. We did make the odd effort every now and again. My hubby took the individual photos some months ago, this took about twenty minutes. Then a while back it took one five minute phone call to determine that my local trophy shop would take the old trophies to use as parts for trophy donations they sometimes make. Having made it this far you would think that I would have realised this wasn’t such a difficult task after all but still it was stagnating.

The last steps of the process seemed like a lot of bother and anyway I had other easier things I could declutter while I procrastinated about finishing this one “big” task. Finally on Sunday I decided enough is enough I had to get this out of the way. It took five minutes to set a small table from the garage and a cloth from upstairs to use as the staging area. It took another five minutes to put on a little make-up and change my shirt. Another five minutes took care of dusting the trophies off while in the meantime Hubby was getting the camera set up. Fifteen minutes later the photography was out of the way and all that was left was to remove the plaques and box them up which took about fifteen minutes.

So what took months and months deal with in my mind took about one hour and ten minutes of real time to actually achieve. Give or take the ten minutes it will take to drop them off when I have the car next. Talk about mind games!

Today’s Declutter Item

My trophies that are now sitting in a box in the garage waiting to be delivered to the trophy shop. That is a whole lot of dusting I will no longer have to do.

(Too bad I didn’t spend a little more time on my hair!) 😕

Me and my trophies

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ Honesty is the best policy – check this link at
  • Something Awesome ~ I have made arrangements to have a craft supplies sale at the end of the week. Finally I will reduce my craft clutter. I hope the ladies buy up big!
  • Something to be grateful for ~ That the library stays open until 5pm. When I realised I hadn’t gone and it was already 4:10pm I thought I would have to wait until Wednesday but a quick check on the trusty internet proved me wrong and I made a quick dash up the street.
  • Something that made me happy ~ That I got all the jobs I wanted to get done today done and then some.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ How much we can learn from ancient indigenous knowledge and customs.

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. I’m right with you Colleen. I’ve had an extra tent to declutter since sometime last year, which is when I discovered that we had THREE tents, not two (small tent and large family tent) as I’d thought. The third one was a complete mystery to me. I needed to set it up, see what condition it was in, and sell it or give it away. Finally did this yesterday, when the weather was unexpectedly fabulous. It took me about 20 minutes total to set it up, although it would have been less time if 1) I’d ever set it up before and 2) I’d had someone to help. Turns out it is a really nice tent and very much worth the effort to investigate and sell. Why did it take me half a year to do a less than one hour project?

    • Hi Cindy,
      exactly, why did it take half a year to do a less than one hour project. I have a list of these sorts of projects and granted some of them I have really just been waiting until the time is right and I am ready to let go but others, I know, the time has been right for a long time but I have just had a metal block on them. I feel revitalised this week because the projects are finally moving ahead.

  2. Great subject. Why does it take so long? Because we don’t break it down into small steps. Plus there just seems to be something out there that always looks bigger than it is. I’ve gone through my scrapbook stuff twice now to cull out the things I am tired of, etc. I think I am going to do it again. If I look at it as one big chore it’s overwhelming. If I look at it in smaller steps it’s easier. Still takes awhile. But isn’t that what slow and thoughful decluttering is about?! Colleen, I’m proud of you and I think that is a great picture.

    • Hi Deb J,
      in your case, with the scrapbook supplies, it isn’t a case of avoidance, you are just decluttering at a pace that is right for you, I can understand that. In my case of the trophies I knew that I wanted them to go I just didn’t want to deal with the steps involved. As it turned out those steps weren’t all the involved and I had been procrastinating about nothing. Now todays task for me is the scrapbook supplies because I am having a sale morning with a craft group on Thursday and I can hardly wait. Thank you for the vote of confidence and I am glad you like the photo ( I am not a photogenic person).

  3. I couldn’t agree more. My reason is usually that I need to do regular chores first, then the “big” job is just too overwhelming for the little time and energy left. Actually writing down the steps has been helpful for me. Then I know the next small thing that I can do when I have just a few minutes.

    Good for you for getting your big project done!

    • Hi Jo,
      lists certainly do help, especially if you find yourself at a loose end with a little energy to spare. As it turned out my task was not so big after all and I will try to remember that the next time I think I have something “difficult” to deal with.

  4. Colleen,
    I totally agree! It is a bit embarrassing to notice that something really was not such a big thing after all – but hopefully we learn from our own procrastination marathons for the future. And it still feels great to have something done that we thought was difficult even if it turned out as quite simple and fast.
    Procrastination, however, is an ongoing battle for me …

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      as you may have guessed, procrastination is my biggest opponent as well in the battle to declutter my home. But the fact is I am still decluttering things while procrastinating about others so I am staying on track. Hopefully I am slowly learning from the experience and while I am feeling buoyed up by this latest achievement I will tackle a few more of those tasks I have been deliberately avoiding.

  5. Hi Colleen! Congratulations on getting rid of the trophies 🙂 ! I think procrastination is the biggest problem of all. The tasks always seem much bigger than they actually are and we put them of and it takes ages to do a simple thing. You look great in the picture ;-). I have been procrastinating (aka not doing, thinking about it, etc) the task of cleaning my wardrobe shelves. It seems such a long task…I know it won’t take more than 20 minutes per shelf, but there are so many shelves, 😀 😀 😀 .

  6. I forgot to say thanks Colleen. Thanks for considering my words an inspiration. 😉

  7. I had a huge meltdown yesterday over this very thing (well, not trophies, but the procrastination / overwhelm issue). I spent 2 or more hours winging and complaining when really I could have just got on with something and achieved. Thanks for the timely post and I’m thrilled you finally managed to tame this monster. Congrats on all your trophies, but more, congrats on releasing them 🙂

    • Thanks Mrs Green I must say I am relieved that task is done and dusted. Now I am just curious about what your melt down was all about. Please regale us with the whole story.

  8. Question to all the procrastinators out there:
    Do you have a trick that works? I manage to get myself to action with a fixed date (e. g. I painted my living room 3 days before christmas when overnight guests were going to sleep there so I just had to get it done – and it actually took surprisingly little time). But the thing with the date usually only works for the visible things and the things I have to do (okay, I would not have needed to paint the room for guests but I sure needed to finish it and put everything in its’ right place again). For all the things I want to do e. g. decluttering and organizing paperwork which seems to be my arch enemy and no matter how much I try to convince myself that it is not so hard to get these things straight I find myself procrastinating over and over again. And – but this is probably a totally different topic – how do I get myself to finish, to go all the way, once I was smart enough to get started and to maybe break the task down in single steps? Though I probably got through some steps okay and realized they were easy or at least not too hard, I remain convinced the horrible thing is still to come. (Wow, now I sound mental ;-)) Any tipps and tricks on that are welcome!

    • Sounds like more post inspiration to me.

      • No kidding. Ideealistin is asking the impossible here I think but I will use my analytical powers to try to solve this mystery. No right now though as I need a little time to think about this.

  9. Ooh, yes, hand up here,I definitely confused being overwhelmed with being busy. I have a tendency to feeling overwhelmed that I have to constantly work on in order to get things done. Breaking things down into small easy steps is best for me.
    Since last November I also use a large A4 office diary to keep daily lists on what I need to achieve that day and extras I would like to ahieve. I love crossing things off lists so it gives me that pleasure and helps me so much to keep on top of essential jobs and the less urgent and the pleasurable.
    It ‘s a great photo Colleen and I want your hair! :O)
    Well done for winning the trophies in the firt place and even more cheers for finally getting rid.

    • Hi Katharine,
      I think when one find themselves feeling overwhelmed, one needs to stop, take five deep breaths and tell themselves “No matter what there is to do I can only do what I can in this moment.” and focus on that. Time will not slow down just because there is a lot to be done so it is best to just do the best at what is immediately in your radar and get to the other stuff when you can.

  10. Cindy, Colleen,
    I am waiting eagerly for your brain powers to my rescue! I sure you have something up your sleeve and I’m looking forward to it.

  11. Thanks for this wonderful post.
    Sometimes I am a procrastinator too. What helps me most is to set goals in the early morning. (I’m an early bird and I do things best in the morning.) So when I choose to work on something for only 20 minutes in the morning I end up working 3-4 hours and getting a lot more done than I planned. Even when I hate doing something, after starting for 10 minutes I will continue and I won’t switch to more comfortable working. (But if I do, i don’t mind because I have reached my goal of 20 minutes.)

    Excuse my bad English. I am Swiss and English is not my native language.

    • Hi Sarah and welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for leaving a comment. You did very well with your English so don’t you worry about that.

      You have a very good plan of attack when it comes to making progress with a task whether you feel like procrastinating or not. You have already discovered that the only cure to this tendency is sheer determination not to bow to your urge to avoid. Getting started is often the hardest part and one you do that it is much easier to keep going. Thanks for this useful advice and I hope you share more of your wisdom with us in the future.

  12. Procrastination. My biggest issue when it comes to the clutter in the house. A pile that I “meant” to drop off downstairs until it sold. A pile that I “meant” to take down the hall to room {insert room name}. A pile that I “meant” to take to the vehicle to drop off at {insert place name}. Arg!!! Hubby found a shirt that says “Procrastinators Anonymous Meet Tomorrow”


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