Don’t worry, be happy

Today I am going to keep my post short and simple if it brings up questions for you please feel free to leave a comment and I will attempt to answer it for you but for now I wish to be uncomplicated.

I received a comment from Chelle yesterday and the following words were amongst what she wrote:-

“This is so overwhelming, but I am slowly going through things and chucking stuff that is just taking up space, donating, and getting rid of. It feels good, but I keep realizing how much I still need to do!”

* * * * * *

Before I came up my brilliant plan to declutter one thing a day for 365days I am sure the thoughts conveyed here by Chelle had run through my head more than once. Especially when we first moved back to Australia from the USA and lived among packing cases for weeks because there was simply nowhere to put all the stuff. My advice to this attitude is…

Don’t worry be happy!

Don’t worry about how much stuff you still have to declutter just be happy you are making progress.

Do the easy stuff first and let momentum carry you on to the next thing and be satisfied with that. I am sure I wasn’t worrying about how the stuff was accumulating when I was buying it so now I am not worrying about how slowly I am eliminating it. I have to say that although there were items I procrastinated about along my declutter journey it did not trouble me simply because I was true to my goal of one thing a day and everyday was an improvement on the last. Sure I need to go through the photograph albums and the keepsake boxes and my scrapbook supplies and the bookcase and the garage again and probably other areas too but so what everyday I become one thing lighter and that is all that matters. I don’t bring unnecessary stuff into the house so I am not going backwards as I go forwards and I will reach my ultimate goal of a decluttered home in the end. I am happy today with how great my house looks and I will be even happier tomorrow. I am satisfied and I hope you can be too.

Today’s Declutter Item

At some point in the distant past my husband bought this duffle bag to bring shopping home from a business trip. Those were the days when shopping was a pastime and there were lots of things we just couldn’t live without but not anymore.

Duffle Bag

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ Listening to the staff in a department store today trying to convince a male customer that he would benefit from their loyalty scheme. I couldn’t help but put in my 10c worth.
  • Something Awesome ~ Having ten different places to be in a day but never having to backtrack.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ Being satisfied with my progress.
  • Something that made me happy ~ Someone whose opinion I trust confirming my choice.
  • Something I find satisfying ~ Lately, every time I feel resistance within myself to tackle a certain task I resist the urge and through myself straight into it. I am never sorry that I have the task over and done with and doing it is never as painful as procrastination over it.

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. You are so right. Never, never, never look at what is left to do. Always, always look at what you have done. One bite at a time. One drawer, inbox, table top, item, room, etc. If you break it up in little bites it won’t be so overwhelming and you can feel the joy of accomplishment. Keep a list or photo diary of each item you declutter. Celebrate every 10 items or so by doing something you enjoy–like dancing in the rain (or with your spouse), having a special dinner, who knows what is special for you. Do whatever it takes to celebrate your sucesses.

    I have a project I am working on and it means that my Cricut that I usually have “stored” on a side table is on my main work table. That makes it more cluttered which drives me nuts. Today I will finish the project (painting Christmas ornaments) and tomorrow they will all be stored in the shed with the rest of the Christmas decorations. While they are not being decluttered, they will be stored properly and out of sight. That means putting the Cricut back where it belongs. Ah, what a nice feeling.

    • Hi Deb J,
      well said! You certainly are on the same page as me. I look around me everyday and can feel the difference I am making and I never think about the end of the mission. There are some big jobs ahead hiding away in the cupboards but that is OK too. As I think of them now while writing this I feel enthusiastic to begin working on them, one thing at a time of course.

  2. This is very timely for me, even though I’ve been reading and trying to practice what you write about for about a year now. I’ve noticed that the last while I’ve slipped back into thinking I need big blocks of time to deal with big projects, either of a declutter nature or just cleaning. Then I fail to do even the little bits that would eventually get the large job done. I have to forcibly remind myself that 10 minutes at a time is all I need. So I’m glad to see this post to reinforce the message today.

    • Hi Jo,
      I am glad to be able to help. It is too easy to get overwhelmed at times and give up. Sometimes we need to step back brush off the negative thinking and approach the task with a fresh more realistic outlook. What is they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day:”

  3. I can feel overwhelmed by what is still to be done too. But you are right, the act of actually moving forward is an accomplishment unto itself! And progress can create momentum to make that next step easier.

    In my decluttering journey, at first I was surprised that lightning didn’t strike me down when I gave something useful away (as a child the “do not waste” lesson was driven in hard). As I saw the consequence was actually PLEASANT instead of something to be feared, it has become so much easier! And even though I still have a LONG way to go, I feel better equipped to do it. Even if it’s one item at a time.

    • Hi *pol,
      it can be very hard to shake of the lessons of a lifetime or at lease decide when they should or should not apply. Waste is subjective too, something is wasted if it is not being used and utilised if it is given to someone who will use it.

  4. Colleen,

    Thank you for these words. I have been working frenetically and it’s overwhelming. It was nice to read this and just go “AHHH! Slow DOWN!” I have gotten rid of SO many things over this holiday weekend and the past week by donating or junking them. I am getting to the stuff that is hard to part with but don’t need or want anymore, so now, it’s time to take your advice, slow down, and just do it a bit at a time.

    I have a corner in the dining room now of things that are going. I just have to figure out where they are going TO. Seeing them there will drive me nuts, but I will not store them back away to add to my clutter. All of the scrapbooking stuff is in that pile. I need to find someone who would use it and enjoy it.

    I finally solved the scrapbook dilemma of the unfinished album by taking the 5 pages I had done of our anniversary trip two years ago, adding them as new pages in the back of our scrapbooked wedding album. I took the rest of the photographs from the trip and put them in an envelope in a sleeve of the album, with notes on the back so that in the future, if someone wants to understand what the pictures were about, they will know.

    That allowed me to let go of all of the scrapbook stuff and, although it hasn’t left the house yet, I feel MUCH free-er than I did this morning. What a nice feeling! I still have LOTS of craft stuff to go through and make decisions about, but at least it’s a start.

    Thanks again, Colleen. You are truly an inspiration. I have taken photos of the “decluttering” as I move along and I’m going to post them on my blog to keep myself moving. :o)


    • Well, good for you Chelle,
      what wonderful progress. Eliminating aspirational clutter can be one of the most liberating aspects of decluttering. As for your scrapbook supplies you could sell them on eBay as a local pickup only sale or do like I did and find a craft group in your area and have a sale day with them or just donate them to a local school. The school up the street from my house was very glad of all the paper I gave them last week and if it ever stops raining I will take them some more.

      I am glad you are warming to the idea of slowing down and taking one step at a time it is far more stress free than trying to race to the finish line.

  5. I am happy for the progress I’m making… we had company for dinner Friday night and there was less last-minute cleaning than usual. Ditto for out-of-town guests today. I still have LOTS to do, but my time isn’t being spent overwhelmed by my surroundings! I even took care of some of my own aspirational clutter by finishing some mending jobs. Now the sewing machine can get put away, too. Next… reading less and working more!!

    • Hi Lynn,
      Ah ha! Out comes the confession ~ reading less and working more. It is hard sometimes to force yourself to make the right balance between doing what you like and doing what needs doing which often isn’t so pleasant. I often wonder if my many blog readers who love books spend hours reading each day but can’t find ten or twenty minutes to declutter. Being honest with oneself is one key to a balanced lifestyle.

      Good for you Lynn working towards that balance and reaping the benefits.

      • ” spend hours reading each day but can’t find ten or twenty minutes to declutter.”
        That was me. And after a lot of working without reading I do have to learn again to read more and work less.

        • Hi Sarah,
          there is always a balance to be found. There is nothing like a good book to free your mind of the trials and tribulations of real life.

        • What’s even worse is I love to read books about decluttering and orgaization!

          • Hi Jessiejack,
            Just make a vow that for every hour you spend reading about it you spend ten minutes doing it. problem solved, guilt expunged.

  6. Colleen,

    I think donating to the school is a great idea. I am wondering if the autism teachers at my sons’ middle school would be interested and whether they ever use these supplies for craft projects with the resource kids.

    I have offered them to a good friend, but if she doesn’t want to take them off of my hands pretty much right away, they will be going over to the school. I want this stuff OUT of my house!!!

    • Hi Chelle,
      good for you! There is always someone out there that can use the things you don’t want.

    • Chelle,
      I think I know your feeling. Finally ready to give something away but then it costs again a lot of energy to find the right new place for every item. I confess, sometimes I didn’t have this energy and simply threw everything away.Especially if I wanted to clear out even more, but there was still all that stuff.

      • Hi Sarah,
        this is why it is important to explore your options, possibly even before you get started, so you can purge quickly and easily without waste.

  7. Hi Colleen! Today I realised I am ready to add more work into my life. I wanted to teach for ages now, but my home office was always a draw back. Now that the office is cleaned up I have decided to pursue this dream. I don’t intend to start working all hours of day and night, because I want to be around for my boys, but still I can have other interests because soon they will both be at school and I can’t just stay here at home. So I am a believer that we can do slow but we will have a result in the end and it will be satisfying.

    • Good for you Andréia, and all because you sorted out the things that were cluttering up your life. I wish you luck in achieving your dream.

  8. Hi Chelle,
    Colleen has inspired me to keep going, and I can promise you: it does work! slowly, slowly, I am impacting on the look of my home, a very good friend dropped in today and actually commented on the difference (she knows how my “muddle” has always bugged me). Other areas still need heaps of work, but it will all happen …. meantime, my neighbour loves it when I ring every few days and offer more paper and odds and ends for her son’s kindergarten.

    and Hi Colleen,
    Nothing wrong with reading! first I read the book, then I decide if it is life-changing or likely that I will want to read it again; if the answer is ‘yes’, then it goes on the stairs for me to take up to our library once my leg is functional again, and if the answer is ‘no’, then it goes into a box that is going to our church for the annual book fair that I organise for them (so far, there are nine boxes sitting in my car waiting for me to be able to drive and deliver them). Reference books of course don’t count! So reading isn’t altogether in place of clearing …..

    • Hi Ann,
      I absolutely agree that there is no substitute for a good read. What I was trying to say is that sometimes reading becomes a regular substitute for a good cleaning session. It is pointless complaining about having a disorganised and cluttered home if a person constantly chooses to ignore the problem in preference to doing something else they prefer like reading. Kind of like the ostrich with his head in the sand. I am not suggesting for one minute that that is a regular habit of my readers but I guarantee it is the habit that may have gotten some folks into this mess in the first place. And reading doesn’t have to be the entertainment of choice either. I see no problem with spending time each day doing things one enjoys in fact I am sure it is vital to good mental health so long as one isn’t overindulging at the neglect of other duties. God knows I sit at this computer for far longer that I probably should but I make a list of what needs to be done and make sure I check the list off before the day is done. But then again I should be freeing up more time to finishing writing my ebook so I am no saint either. Right now I should be out vacuuming the car so I had better get off here now. I hope this clears up what I was trying to say and doesn’t just make me look like an ever bigger ogre. 😉

      • Colleen,
        You’re no ogre! However, I fear you certainly hit the mark as to how I got into my muddle ……

        • No, most definitely not an ogre!

          And yet … able to wring a confession out of some of us at a distance of thousands of miles … and by us, I mean also me.

          I read a lot. Especially when I am physically tired, although that is not a requirement. It is partly because I enjoy the printed word, and partly because I am overwhelmed with the work that faces me at the end of my working day. However, that’s why I’m here, and I’m taking it a day at a time.

          • Jo you are too funny! Take the advice I gave to Jessiejack ~ Just make a vow that for every hour you spend reading about it you spend ten minutes doing it. problem solved, guilt expunged. You kill too birds with one stone then. You declutter mission is taken care of and you can feel justified and sitting back and enjoying a good read.

        • Hi Ann,
          when we can graciously accept where our weaknesses are when someone point them out then we are strong open minded people and that is something to be proud of. It is so much more likely that a person can change their ways if they can accept what it is that is causing them to falter. Sometimes I know I am stepping out on a limb when I write some of the things I do but it helps more than it hurts for the most part I think and it is a gamble I am prepared to take in the quest to assist people with their clutter issues.

          As for being an ogre, I must admit it isn’t a word I would normally use to describe myself although it has been suggested that I can be brutally honest by more than one person in my life. 😉 I just hope I am reasonably diplomatic about it and I am happy to be just as honest about myself so maybe that balances it out. In this case at least Sarah has learned a new English word and it sounds like she intends to have fun with it. 😆

  9. Colleen,
    I like this post. If we worry about things that should make us happier, then something is wrong. Easier said than done. Especially if we connect our happiness too much with decluttering. This is a new dependency of stuff. But we want to liberate us from enslavement through stuff.

    (I just learned a new English word (“ogre”)… how could I live without knowing it? *lol*)

    • You have a point here Sarah, our happiness can be dependent too much on any given thing. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as not enough.

      I am glad I have given you the opportunity to learn a new English word and what a good one it is. Do you have much trouble trying to translate what I write because I do tend to use terms of speech rather than just plain English sometimes.

      • Hi Colleen,
        I understand English much better than I write or speak it. I don’t sit with a big dictionary in front of your blog but helps with a few words (like “ogre”). I only had two years of English in school so forget about grammar and pronunciation. But I read many English books.
        Of course I could read German blogs but they don’t have such a lively discussion. And I like to look across the border.

        • Oh Sarah I am so envious. My language skills are limited at best, I have a smattering of French which I took three years of in high school but would be embarrassed to use it in public. My husband is generally a quiet person but when we travel he will have a go at any language and does seem to care about how he sounds. This constantly baffles me but it has been the source of amusement at times, God love him. Maybe I should start reading French blogs and see if I can improve my skills, it sure couldn’t hurt.

  10. Hi Colleen,
    as much as I agree on working my way through the clutter day by day, bit by bit and allowing myself to be content with a progress that sometimes is very visible (decluttering a piece of furniture) and often ist not (but will be in the long run): I LOVE to let my enthusiam work for me and do a big(ger) project from time to time. I have a holiday at my hands soon and as I have days out of town afterwards and three weekends full of obligations (most of them good ones :-)) I am excited to have the time to get some serious work done on that holiday. I think the key is that decluttering bit by bit works – no matter if you have “special days” or not. And that big declutterings days never can make up for doing something EVERY SINGLE DAY. After all, and I don’t know if you worded it out like that before, so forgive me if I am repetitive:
    10 Minutes a day is A LOT if you look at it over a course of a year. It is more than 60 hours!! Or: one 7-day week of 8-hour-Workdays! Or 5 hours every month (a.k.a. one big decluttering session per month, because honestly, even if we think we work a whole day we rarely ever do).

    • Ideealistin, you’ve just given me another way to look at that familiar “10 minutes a day” – a way that helps me with my wanting a “block of time” to work on things.

      I love the exchange of ideas on the internet!

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      although my challenge for the first 365 days was to declutter one thing a day I had to get ahead at times because I knew I was taking a one month vacation in the September of that year so in fact I decluttered on average one thing a day. Since that year ended I still do much the same because there is always something on the horizon that I have to take into account. I also have what I would call large declutters like my scrapbook supply sale two weeks ago. Even though I called that one thing there were a LOT of things decluttered really. The idea in the long run is to declutter at a pace that feels steady and deliberate and not being overwhelmed. Sometimes that means spending days doing no decluttering because you don’t have the time and sometimes it means having to knuckle down and work on a bigger project because it doesn’t make sense to break it down or just because you want to get it done. The thing I like most about the way I declutter is that I am making no rash decisions, the pace I work at is comfortable, I have time to analyse certain feeling about items I am not sure whether I want to declutter or not, the household is not disrupted by a huge mess, and it just feels right to me. I never feels like a chore although I do procrastinate at times

      Work at a pace the feels right to you there is not speed limit on this journey. It is just important to learn why we have accumulated the clutter and how to not let it happen again and I think that the failure to do that by just quickly purging every now and again is what causes it to reappear. That is not good for the bank balance, the environment or our peace of mind. Some folks also just need time to learn to let go.

      I take fifteen minutes to relax and have a cup of tea five times a day (1 hour & 15 mins) so to me that is a lot of reward for only ten minutes of decluttering. I hardly even notice that ten minutes but like you day I would notice it more if I had to do a five hour block every month.

      • I think that sometimes we think ten minutes is so little time…so we don’t do it at all. I, for one, did not do any big decluttering sessions alloting just ten minutes of my day. My home was too messy for that to work at first, as I already told you all on this very blog. But as I decluttered I realised that if we set an appointed time for some tasks they get done. After decluttering large spaces, I have found out that in ten minutes I can get any room in my home looking nice, and having things put properly away. But as things were never tidy before I could not perform this so any decluttering/cleanup would take a long time to get acomplished.

        • Hi Andréia,
          I have no doubt you are right about this. When the house is full up with clutter sometimes you have to have a few big sessions to begin with just to get to a point where you can slow down. Last night I spent fifteen minutes decluttering the books and magazines in the TV cabinet while I watched something on Television. A week ago it took several days to go through my craft supplies to ready them for the sale I had. Even though the craft supply mission was a big one I still just attacked it at my own pace, one drawer, one folder of notes, one container of paper, one box or embellishments… at a time. Aside from the ever growing pile of cast-offs beside the linen closet the room remained in good shape. Being as my husband spends a lot of time in the same room of an evening after work it would just not do if he couldn’t get to his computer. I have approached my entire home that way, even when we first moved in and there were packing cases filled with stuff we didn’t have room for piled almost to the ceiling in our living room. I would tackle one box at a time syphon of things that could be donated and crammed the rest into a cupboard somewhere, flatten the box or use it to put donations in. Then we would call a local charity to come and pick up some furniture and some boxes and start all over again. Even thought the house was a shambles for a while we got through the worst of it and then slowly over the next few years we have dwindled it down to what it is today.

  11. Hi again,
    somehow this post and the thoughts it provoked have haunted me all day. I think I’ll make it my mantra: Ten minutes NOW or one week of holidays entirely devoted to working through my stuff at the end of the year. The answer isn’t to difficult, is it? Thanks for wrenching this out of me 🙂