Eliminate Clutter Without Even Trying

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

How can you eliminate clutter without even trying? Sound almost too good to be true, but it’s not. Here are some things I eliminated from my life:

Paper towels – Paper towels were a real source of irritation to me, as well as being an unnecessary product in general. My husband tended to reach for a paper towel even when a rag would have been a better choice, and he often left them wadded here and there, rather than throwing them away. I have lots of rags – kitchen towels that got too ratty to hang on the towel bar, decade-old baby washcloths, and cut up old shirts. There is no shortage of rags at the Bogard household. When the last of the paper towels ran out, I did not replace them. There was remarkably little adjustment needed. Because I sometimes cook bacon in the microwave, and I like to put a paper towel over the bacon to cut down on splatters, I eventually bought another roll of towels, but I did not put them out. Instead, they’re in the cabinet near the microwave. Paper towels are not a free-for-all item; they are a tool for cooking bacon. Decluttered: Paper towels, paper towel waste, paper towel holder. Probably decluttered: A sense of wastefulness.

Newspaper – Many (most?) newspapers can be read on-line. As far as I can tell, few people read the newspaper through every day. Reading it on-line allows you to just access the sections you want without having all that paper build up around your home.

To be completely honest, we have not gotten rid of the paper; however, we share a subscription with another family. They read the paper in the morning, and we read it at night. However, if this arrangement were to fall through, we would not get an individual subscription. Decluttered: newspapers. Possibly decluttered: the guilt of not keeping up with the newspaper the way you think you should.

Books – I love a good library, and I virtually never buy books. I do sometimes buy used books at the library (50 cents for paperbacks and $1.00 for hardbacks). When I am through with them, they either go directly back to the library or to a friend, who will read them before she donates them back. I have mixed feelings about Kindles and other eBook readers, but having one does eliminate the accumulation of physical books. Decluttered: books and possibly the shelving needed to hold the books. Probably decluttered: the guilt of having purchased books that are collecting dust, unread.

Magazine subscriptions: The same as books and newspapers. Decluttered: Magazines. Probably decluttered: The pressure to read the magazine all the way through, pull out the articles you want to save, and the need to find a way to store these articles that you will likely never reference again.

Cleaning supplies – My friend DeeDee remarked “my mother would be stunned to know that I have a cleaning product for every different surface of my house.” Yes I’m sure she would, and no one needs this either. Colleen wrote two posts praising microfiber cloths, which you can read here and here.

My own cleaning supplies include an abrasive cleanser, homemade glass cleaner (vinegar and water), Kaboom (a soap scum buster for the shower), vinegar, natural toilet bowl cleaner (when this product is done, I intend to fill the container, which has a handy “under the bowl” spout with vinegar and try that instead), microfiber cloths, a broom and dust pan, a mop, a microfiber push broom, and a box of Magic Erasers. I also own a vacuum cleaner, but only have one rug in the house. If the vacuum cleaner breaks, I may get rid of the rug, rather than replacing the vacuum. Decluttered: Multiple unnecessary product. Probably decluttered: Chemicals that you don’t need to be breathing or adding to the environment.

Beauty products – Do you really need a different lotion for your hands and face? A different shampoo for each member of the family in the same shower? We don’t. Eliminating duplicates simplifies your routines, saves money, and keeps you from developing a build up of “I tried it but I don’t like it” products. Decluttered: Multiple products that do the same thing. Probably decluttered: Some of your fantasies about having skin as perfect as the model in the ad. (Don’t worry – her skin’s not that perfect either. For those of you who don’t believe me, I highly recommend that you check out the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty video “Evolution” here. It’s a great learning tool for your children, as well.)

Tampons and pads – I have minipads and several different sizes and brands of tampons under my bathroom sink. I bought them at Costco, so not only do I have a variety, I have a lot of them. After reading posts about reuseable personal hygiene items at The Greenest Dollar and My Zero Waste, I decided to try a menstrual cup. I’ve used it for two months now. Like all things, a little practice makes perfect. My last cycle, I used three minipads and the Diva cup. If my next few cycles are as successful, I will be able to declutter my very large boxes of tampons by donating them to the local women’s shelter. Decluttered: Multiple disposable products. Probably decluttered: A non-reuseable habit and the possibility of developing toxic shock syndrome.

Can you think something that you can do to Eliminate Clutter Without Even Trying?

Today’s Declutter Item

The rest of those coat hanger I mentioned yesterday that I forgot to give to my mum and dad. My friend Amber was happy to take them from me

More excess coat hangers

My Grateful List

  • Something that made be laugh ~ Andréia can say Dog Poo in English but doesn’t know the words for other things in her back yard.
  • Something Awesome ~ Two beautiful days in a row. Great days for washing linen.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ That my friends and family no longer give me gifts.
  • Something that made me happy ~ Discovering something by mistake. I won’t bore you with the details but I do love it when this happens.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ Why the crickets that get into my house all seem to shed their back legs before they die. If anyone knows the answer to why this happens I would love to know.

It matters not how fast I go I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy, I’m glad to hear about someone having success with the diva cup! I have wanted to try alternative menstrual products for almost 11 years now, and I’ve never gotten around to it (wow, that sounds so ridiculous!). I donated my last unopened package of pads, but then I decided to “wait” to get the diva cup because it was $38. And I never got around to it before my next period, but at least it gave me the opportunity to use up the rest of my final package. I am going to go get the diva cup THIS WEEK.

    • The diva cup is cheaper on Amazon, I believe. I hear nothing but good things!

      • Who knows how long I thought about it on and off before I tried it Liina? No point in regretting the past – now is the time! I bought mine on Amazon. Hang onto a few of those pads; you might want them for “beginner’s back up” the first time or two.

        • I have been using a cup for about 5 years now. One of the better decisions I made. I found the paper products made me sore every month. I gave several boxes away as soon as I realised the cup would work. I even made some pads with some fabric as a “safety net” since my periods have always been heavy. Last year I had a procedure and I have only used the cup for one month since then. The savings I made over those five years have been huge.

          • Great to hear another positive report. One of my best friends read this post and told me I’d gone WAY off my rocker. (But I still love her.)

    • I use (or did before menopause!) a mooncup http://www.mooncup.com/ for a few years (same sort of thing) – brilliant. Especially when you hit very heavy leaky period time leading up to menopause! Once you get used to using it saves an absolute fortune in disposable products as well as being better for the environment, and also needs changing far less often! Wished I’d discovered it when I was 16 not 46!

      I bought one for my niece a few years ago for her birthday but she can’t bring herself to try it out.

      • Well, this may not persuade her, but here’s the thing I like the very best about it: toward the end of my period when I just having spotting, I can wear it for 12 hours at a time without surprise messes.

    • I too use mooncup and it’s a godsend discovery; however, still not 100% as sometimes when I travel I cannot rely on how hygienic the facilities at my destination (or services on the motorways) will be.
      Apart from decluttering aspects, using mooncup/diva cup means no unnecessary exposure to chemicals. Think of all those chemicals (bleach and gelling agents) that pads are loaded with and that affect PH balance of the sensitive body parts.

      • Absolutely Ornela, As Jennifer says below, we often make a change when we’re motivated by a series of things (environmental, clutter, etc.) rather than just one.

  2. I do need a different lotion for my hands and face than I do for the rest of my body. =P BUT. I don’t have make-up, so I have my facial wash and lotion. Hubby and I like the smell of each others’ body wash and shampoo, so we have separates…but we don’t have a zillion different colognes and perfumes and all of that.

    Keep what you use and get rid of what you don’t!

  3. I just want to toss this in because I can: Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. I created a gmail account for Dan and loaded it onto his iPod touch as a gift. He’s been wanting to get emails on it, but just hasn’t gotten around to it. Talk about a no clutter gift!

  4. Sometimes it’s tempting to think we “need” things just because that’s what we’ve always done, so it’s good to take a closer look at those things and decide if it’s really true or not. Good post, Cindy.

    • Good point, Jo. Just like the stuff we’ve had in our cabinets for ages because “it’s always been there,” habits too need to be re-examined. Sounds like a good topic for a post.

  5. Great ideas, Cindy! How about white sugar? I quit eating white sugar six months ago and I ‘think’ my husband has stopped adding it to his morning cereal. We still buy it though–guess who eats it? The hummingbirds!
    I’ve been doing Colleen’s mini mission from a while back about using up the lotions, cosmetics and shampoos in the house and am proud to announce I’ve gotten through all the old shampoo bottles and we’re down to the basic ones we use daily. Decluttered: large and small bottles and so much annoyance.

    • Good one Willow. You may remember that my eldest is diabetic. I recently bought a 4 pound bag of sugar, and I wrote the date on the container because I’m curious to see how long it will last. I think the last bag lasted more than a year. Of course, it’s nice to cut down on carbs because you want to, not because you have to.

      Congrats on finally finishing up with the shampooes (poos?). We used up our extra shampoos and conditioners quickly, but I feel like we’re never going to use all the soaps and gels we have. There’ll be a shower party when the last gift soap is gone!

      • You can use your body soaps as bathroom cleaner. Flylady says “soap is soap” and she is right. When I am in the shower I use a spare body scrub thing and some left over shampoo or shower gel and clean down one wall while my hair conditioner is soaking. Then after four showers the whole of it is clean again.

        • Oh Andrea, I’m not a big fan of cleaning the shower. (Neither is Colleen.) Perhaps the one-wall-at-a-time system would be better for me.

      • I’ve been lurking for a while, enjoying your site immensely. I use shower gels in our hand soap dispensers at the sink. I water them down since my 4 year old insists on two or more squirts. I’ve used up many a well-meaning Christmas gift that way!

        • Hi Lynn,
          Thank you for lurking and now let me officially welcome you to 365lessthings. It is a pleasure to have you on board.
          There is quite a bit of “out of the box” soap dispensing that goes on in this house too. I have just used up several trial size bottles of bubble bath as liquid hand soap recently.

    • Hi Willow,
      good for you. I am still working my way through a few lotions but there are a few that are gone and glad I am of it. Winter is almost here so I may use a bit more soon and get through a couple more. It won’t be long before I am down to only the bare minimum so yay me!

      • Hi Colleen,
        I’m still working on your “Use it Up Challenge”. This past weekend I combined six different size bottles/tubes of lotion into one big bottle. This is the second time I’ve done this since the challenge began, and I think I’ve got all the lotion around the house accounted for now. What a sense of satisfaction I get from this small accomplishment!

        • Hi Di,
          well done! And yes, it is amazing how wonderful a small accomplishment like that can feel. I know we have often mentioned it here at 365lessthings but going back to observe a small decluttered area several times once it’s done just to enjoy the result is a common occurrence for me and plenty of our other readers. Why not, especially if it spurs you on to the next task.

  6. Cindy – congratulations on your wedding anniversary! And thank you for mentioning our site; I’m so excited that I was partly responsible for your decision to try the reusable cup! I think I would add DVD rental to your list; friends of mine have shelves groaning under the weight of their dvds and several have been watched only once. We use a rental company to free up clutter and space 😉

    • You’re welcome Mrs. Green. I always learn new things from you.

      I totally forgot about movies and music. Yes, many people’s shelves are loaded down with these items. I’ve never been much of a movie or music purchaser, so it didn’t occur to me. Thanks for pointing out a great area to reduce, reuse, and declutter!

    • We use the library to check out DVD’s (and books!). If we receive books or DVD’s as gifts, we’ll read/watch them, then eventually they are donated to the library. Then if we ever want to read/watch them again, we can go and check them out, and they aren’t taking up space in our house! (no matter how hard we try to explain to grandparents NOT to get the kids movies/books, it still happens! it makes g-parents happy so we happily accept but then we happily share with others!). 😉

      • Hi Annabelle,
        next time someone asks we what is the best way to store DVDs I will tell them to donate them to the closest library. And don’t you just love the good intending people that insist on giving gifts no matter what you tell them. Oh well, their hearts are in the good place.

  7. You really shouldn’t look onto my makeup shelf. But well, it makes me happy, it is my hobby (yes, that can be a hobby too!) besides decluttering. But I’m decluttering in my own way by creating a palette for all my lipsticks so it doesn’t take up much space.

    You shouldn’t also watch my skincare products (the famous TBS bodybutters, scrubs, lotions, I have them all!) so I’m downsizing on that. I think my rule is no backups, so I’m really trying to use everything up. I have, so far, 30 full-size products and 18 samples. I love it! That stuff takes up a lot of space! It is a lot, but I’m happy with the rate I’m using stuff.

    But for the rest I’m doing fine. No newspapers, magazines subscriptions, etc. I do own a lot of books, but I enjoy reading and re-reading those books and I have managed to downsize at least half of my books!

    • As long as you’re using and enjoying them, they’re not clutter. My youngest loves hair and make up, too. You just have to work to keep it tidy so it all stays visible and useful.

  8. Hi Cindy,

    You asked for the readers’ ways of decluttering without even trying. Mine is … honesty! Once I managed to admit to myself that I am not the fancy sort of cook, guess what what happened: The kitchen almost decluttered itsself. I am sure this will work in other areas of my home as well – as soon, as I am ready to let go of some more misconceptions about myself …

    • Ideealistin – Honesty, I like it. Sounds like you’re good at decluttering a category of clutter we call “aspirational clutter” – we’re not always what we aspire to be, but we sure can collect a lot of junk on our way to NOT getting there.

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      well said! This is a very important point for everyone to consider so in case they miss it I am going to paste in into Fridays Favourite Five right this minute. Thank you!

      • Hi Ideealistin! I did that with make up products! I had this big, fancy make-up thing, that I never, ever use, it was old, some had, well, like mold in it, and couldn’t be used anymore, so I threw the whole thing in the bin, and didn’t replace it. I have two lipsticks, one eyeshadow (do I have to have more 😕 , mascara, and I guess that’s it. I don’t have perfum anymore, stopped using it when I got pregnant the first time. So, Cindy, I recognised I don’t like this, and just like Ideealistin got rid of them. I liked doing it 😀 .

  9. Ummm, I just found another way to declutter my mugs–break one! (Fortunately, it was the mug I liked the least.)

    • Bummer. Natural decluttering. At least it was a mug you didn’t care for.

    • Grace from Brazil

      Willow, You reminded me of a funny moment a few weeks ago when I was looking at my buffet and asked aloud to no one in particular, “Do you think I have too many cups and mugs?” Then it was as if scales fell off my eyes. I saw them, the 6 tea cups in my selective tea cup collection, a set of 8 matching mugs that are my absolute favorite for a big cup of coffee, and 10 mugs that are favorites of my husband and children , which have special meaning. I laughed out loud. Yes, I did have too many for our family of 5. I eliminated 2 that weren’t so very special and one became a toothbrush holder. Alas, I was not able to get rid of any more. Like books, I think large steamy mugs, or dainty tea cups of hot liquid are one of life’s simplest pleasures. Now if I broke one that would be an easy way to reduce my collection…or may be not. My daughter recently broke a special cream pitcher that I purchased at a craft market in Johannesburg, South Africa. I can’t seem to be able to throw it away yet.

  10. Ideealistin’s comment reminded me of another category of clutter that can be eliminated with a minimum of effort – excess project purchases. Let’s see what of that nature I have around my house: I bought all the stain for several house-size projects (a large screen porch ceiling and a wooden entry way) which aren’t finished and will takes weeks to do – when I finally get around to it, if the stain hasn’t gone bad. I also have the materials for three Christmas stockings, even though each one takes me at least a year to complete. I ahve scrapbook material enough to last several scrappers dozens of pages.

    Arts and craft projects and other types of hobbies really lend themselves to over purchasing. I try very hard to only buy for the project I am going to work on next and will start within the next few weeks. If I don’t get started on the project in what seems like a reasonable amount of time, I return it. Sure there’s lots of cute yarn / fabric / scrapbook paper / beads at the store, but there will be other cute things next time you shop too.

    My friend Allison lived for two years in Macedonia. Allison enjoys scrapbooking, and that’s a hobby she kept up while there. Macedonia doesn’t have craft stores, and she had to make due with what she had. She told me that if she were still here in the US, she would have made numerous trips to the store, but since she didn’t have that option, she cleverly used up what she did have. If Allison can do it, so can we. Just say NO to hobby clutter build up.

    • Good point Cindy. And in my case Guilty as Charged. I promise I am going to be working of this issue soon. I have stopped shopping for craft supplies but I haven’t dealt with the excess I already had yet. I do have a plan I just haven’t got around to it.

  11. Oh no! I am going to do ALL THOSE PROJECTS! (see fists clench and my teeth grit only at the thought of letting go of the three moving boxes full of wool I’ve been hoarding for years though I can’t even knit, hmm, yet?)
    Okay, I’m kidding, but unfortunately only halfway … Sorry, to not be the queen of decluttering aspirational clutter. Actually I think it is the hardest category of all (probably besides sentimental clutter). I am happy though about the epiphany I lately had over a third or forth stirfry in one week. The simple dish made me happy, even a bit proud of myself for hardly using convenience products anymore, tasted good (to me at least) and would even leave leftovers for the next day. Realizing I did not even try to be the next Martha Stewart here made decisions easy all of a sudden – though moving unused equipment around for years trying to reach for something or even trying to find something in impossibly deep cupboards should have flipped my mind much earlier. Well, it didn’t. I just hope the new sanity will spread some day to where the craft supplies and other things I AM TOTALLY GOING TO USE lurke …

    • Well, you’ve conquered one area Ideealistin, perhaps the wool will come soon. One way to use it is to make a plan. What are you going to do with it? Learn to knit? Felt? Make a whole bunch of cat toys? We recently felted three balls for dryer balls. It was simple, fun, and they’re really colorful. Of course, you’d be making a lifetime supply and more with the wool you have ….

      • Ideealistin,
        I loved your comment on not being the next Martha Stewart freeing you up to enjoy a simple meal. While I’m a good cook, I much prefer a simple dish–just green beans, not green beans with almonds and olive oil for example. Fortunately, my husband’s tastes are like mine.
        About the yarn, I recently donated a box of my unused skeins to a woman who is teaching young women in a Uganda orphanage how to knit and crochet so they can learn to support themselves with a cottage industry. Also, if you don’t plan to use the yarn yourself, you might check with your local knitting/weaving guild and see if they will take your yarn. Our local guild knits preemie hats and booties for our area hospitals’ neo-natal wards. Every baby goes home with a teeny tiny hat, a gift of love that uses up left over acrylic yarn. I’m on a crusade over here at Willow’s Cottage to knit down/give away my yarn stash by the end of the year.

        • What a lovely project, Willow, and so practical.

        • What a great idea to donate yarn to a group that knits for others. I have so much “baby” yarn and no desire to make anything with it. I will go on a mission to find a group to donate it to. Thank you!!!

          • Good for you Claire.

            I get the feeling you are a new commenter here Claire but your comment isn’t showing you that way but nevertheless, welcome to 365lessthings if you are new here and welcome back if you aren’t.

  12. I am often surprised by the intersections between different movements — minimalism, homesteading, and green, just to name a few. I’ve made a few of the same switches you have, but for environmental rather than declutter reasons. Being concerned about the impact of what I use has been pretty effective in getting me to cut down. I do still love and treasure my books, though. I limit myself to the shelves I already have, so it’s a constant game of getting rid of enough to fit in new ones.

    Your point about magazines reminds me that there are some catalogs I’ve been meaning to cancel. I’ll go do that now!

    • Cancelling catalogs – another great area to declutter without trying.

      You really hit the nail on the head Jennifer when you said that many ideas are intersecting, and I would add fiscal prudence to your list. In my case, I got rid of the paper towels because of the waste (environmental, fiscal), the books, magazines, and newspapers because of money and clutter, the cleaning supplies because of environmental issues, beauty products because of laziness, and the menstral products mostly because of dissatisfaction with the performance of traditional products.

      Maybe decluttering works best when you are motivated by a variety of factors, not solely the desire to declutter.

  13. Hi Cindy! I don’t buy new books, I buy mine at the used bookstore, because there are loads of them (used bookstores) in my town. Whenever I get fedup with a book (can I critize one here?) it’s makes it’s way out of my house to the used bookstore above mentioned. We have Public Libraries, but I am sad to say, but they few and far, so I save more money buying the books, and as I said once to Colleen, I can’t live without my books. They are like old friends that I visit once in a while. But the newspapers are a nightmare! I got a subscription at the begining of the year, and boy, do I regret it! Four days a week of killjoy clutter, and I payed for it 🙁 . Not going into that trap again.

    • As long as you’re using your books and not letting them take over your house, I think that works for you.

      Four days a week of killjoy clutter – that is, unfortunately, a good description of a newspaper.

  14. Hi Cindy,

    I have something like an overall plan. Maybe plan is too much said but I call aspirational clutter also my “if-then”-clutter (hope this translation isn’t to screwed up and get’s the idea across). As long I am blocked (or should I call it obsessed?) with the “if” e. g. in thoughts like “if I learned to knit then I would make a beautiful scarf out of this wool” I am surely not going to declutter anything out of the “then” section. So I figured I have to cross of the “if” from my list as soon as possible to see the “then” happen – or not. Should I still not approach the things I always thought about doing when I finally have the skills (or the time, waistline … whatever) decluttering can’t be that hard anymore. I want to learn how to knit and improve my sewing skills and find out how much I am going to utilize them till the end of the year. And then I guess it will be time for an honest examination (and decluttering) of the supplies.

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      have you tried using the internet to learn to knit or sew. My son teaches himself to do things from the internet all the time. He learned to play the guitar, the keyboard, photography techniques…

  15. Cindy,
    What a well-written post. I enjoyed it very much. I must say I’ve eliminated clutter in just about every category you mentioned except the paper towels. I would like to eliminate paper towels, but my husband insists on it. At least just one person is using it, and I get the kind that’s perforated into smaller sections so less is used. The pads and tampons I no longer need. Hurray!!! Another area is mail, both regular and junk. Investment and credit card statements and some bills are available to view exclusively online. Over a period of about a year I was diligent about returning the pre-paid envelopes to the senders with a request to remove my name, calling the 800# on the catalogs, and signing up to get my name removed on direct marketing lists. Now it’s just a matter of maintenance on the occasional junk mail. One to three days per week I don’t have any mail at all! It’s been worth the time investment.

    • Great for you! I, too, keep diligently after catalogs and junk mail, and like other sorts of clutter, there certainly is less as time goes on.

    • And thank you for the nice compliment about the post. The comments made it twice as enjoyable for me, and likely for Colleen as well. In fact, I’m just realizing that I was so busy with comments, I didn’t read yesterday’s post!

  16. So are moon cups similar to diaphragms? They seem very similar, and I’d be interested to hear from those people who are regular users.

  17. @ snosie, I’m a mooncup user and I love it. It’s like a diaphragm but thinner and deeper. I love the fact that you can leave it in for hours once you are used to how quickly you fill it up at different times of your period. It also just catches, rather than absorbing your own natural moisture and so I’ve found that my periods are now shorter and less painful too. I’ve never successfully used tampons (sorry, that’s a bit personal I know!) but it only took me one period to get used to my Mooncup and now I wouldn’t be without it. Especially on holiday. I can wear a swimsuit/bikini and no-one never need know 🙂

  18. Coat hangers – any ones that I don’t use I now take to our local Tesco’s as they reuse them for their store I believe. Re: paper towels – my mum buys Plenty which she dries out and uses again and again, and most of what I use I put in compost.

    • Hi Julie,
      that is a good way to recycle your coat hangers and paper towel. I also send back the wire coat hangers to the dry-cleaner so they can re reused.


  1. […] week, a comment by Ideealistin’s is the inspiration for this week’s blog. In reponse to Eliminate Clutter Without Even Trying, she spurred me to think of another category of clutter that should be eliminated – excess […]

  2. […] in response to Eliminate clutter without even trying ~ You asked for the readers’ ways of decluttering without even trying… Read […]