Experience Life don’t just hoard momentos of it

I received a comment from Willow on Saturday 20 August that inspired this post. I don’t hear from Willow a whole lot through the Summer months in the USA because she is always away somewhere living life. Camping, exploring, visiting family and friends and generally enjoying new experiences.

Willow is teacher and her husband is a professor so naturally their vacations coincide with school vacation times. This gives them a nice long Summer to do lots of exciting things. Needless to say that instead of owning a large home full of expensive stuff they have opted instead for a small uncluttered cottage and to get out and enjoy the world and people around them.

To me this is the way to live life. Not surrounded with relics of the past and hopes for a future that never seems to materialise. Buying unnecessary stuff that is a consolation prise compared to real experiences only limits your ability to afford true happiness. Sure put aside a nest egg for a rainy day but live life. When you do this there is no need to bring home and hoard momentos of the experience. Momentos just fill space and focus your thoughts in the past (and require dusting). Live for today, plan a little for the future and revel occasionally in the memories tucked safely away in your own mind. But most of all be in the here-and-now living life to the fullest.

Below is the response I received from Willow when I sent her draft copy of the above post..

I think your post states clearly how John and I view our choices.  Years ago, we sat down and wrote out our 5 year, 10 year and life goals.  Separately, we chose almost all experiences and not stuff!  What we value the most is our family and friends and time spent with them so it was easy for us to choose a small place to live and focus on what we DO, not what we OWN.

Like everyone, some days I get bogged down in the stuff.  I still have so much, too much, and I don’t have the push to deal with it. Other people wouldn’t think of my house as cluttered, but it’s feeling that way to me right now.  All those little piles of books and papers that come with the teacher territory.  Sigh. However, all in all, the decluttering is always slowly progressing 🙂

“An empty house is a calm house is a focused house.”  When my home is uncluttered, it’s easier for me to concentrate on my teaching and prep and the people I care about.

Thank you Willow for your contributions to my blog that have been coming since Day 133 that was only about two months into my blogging experience.

Today’s Declutter Item

There is not much to say about these shoes except that my husband has a certain standard of dress he has to uphold in his line of work and these shoes are getting a little shabby. I am sure someone at the thrift store will find them more than suitable and serviceable thought.

Old Work Shoes

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Every now and again, no actually quite often, one of my readers will write a simple sentence in a comment that really makes me look at life and go… YES! That is the way life should be ~ or ~ I hadn’t though of that situation that way before ~ or ~ Thank you for expanding on what I was thinking ~ or ~ That’s just the validation I needed. So thank you my wonderful commenters for your input and inspiration even when you didn’t even realise you were saying something that really mattered.

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. Today I plan to go home and look at some of the larger “things” have acquired as mementos of not holidays, but of life experiences. The table I painted when I was learning about upcycling furniture. My daughter’s (admittedly rickety) changing table. Stuff like that. I’m looking forward to it and dreading it. The table, for instance, is holding nothing but clutter that ought to be elsewhere. The changer is collecting dust in the attic. Why is it so easy to hold on to things?

    • Hi Christa from IKHIBF! I will give my two cents on it if you don’t mind. I guess we don’t see stuff as useful until a certain point and prepare to move on. My youngest baby still uses his changing/dresser table, but after I have finished using it I already planed to sell it, the crib and a big sofa/bed that is his room. The furniture is very beautiful, and in another time I wouldn’t want to part with it, but I have to visualise that I will not use it in the furniture and I will not save it for anyone, because they will have to chose their own furniture for their own baby in twenty or thirty years time. That is how I intend to do it. hope it works for me :-D.

    • Hi Christa from IKHIBF,
      it is so easy to hold on to things because we place too much sentimental importants on them. This can be especially so if you have been raised that way. When I look back I must admit there was little of that influence in my life growing up which is probably why I have are harder time letting go of useful things than I do of sentimental ones.

      One little side note ~ My father once had a ladder that was a little rusty and rickety. The ladder is now gone but he still has the pins in his arms and the permanent limp from when the ladder collapsed under him. Sometimes we can hang on to things a little too long.

      • My hubby was raised to value sentimental items, which included anything and everything a family member owned, valuable or not. He’s from the “have to keep it in the family” folks. Sigh.

        We travelled a lot when hubby was in the Air Force and after each move, something was lost or broken. However it was always a mystery how they lost just the sides to a crib and just the legs to a sewing table. After 15 such moves, I released my attachment to “things”. I also grew up in a tiny apartment, so you had to carefully consider what you were going to keep and what you were going to donate/throw out, etc.

        Your “ladder story” reminds me of the time when part of the bedroom ceiling in my in-laws bedroom collapsed. Fortunately no one was hurt but the cause was a totally stuffed attic filled with tons of magazines, old toys, etc. If we’re not careful, our clutter will kill us!

        • Hi Amy,
          We have had the odd thing go missing in our years of moving as well. The cushions of a sofa, some CD’s and I swear I should have had a bike come out of the last storage container but it wasn’t on the inventory either so maybe I sold it before it went into storage. After seven and a half years it is easy to forget such things. Sometimes I wish they would lose more stuff but it would only be the stuff you want. My brother had his shipment damaged beyond repairs when the container hit an overpass once, he was not happy, I was jealous. We had recently moved ourselves and wished it had been our old hand-me-down furniture that had been written off.

          My husband left home at seventeen and I think his family really couldn’t afford to buy too much so stuff didn’t accumulate when he was young so he didn’t learn that habit. It wasn’t until much later on that he found out that his mother had stored lots of stuff in the high shelves of his old bedroom. By then he had learned good habits, although he is a little more sentimental than me I think.

          I must admit I have never put anything up into an attic. In Australia anything you put up there would get riddled with cockroaches, Yuk Yuk and double Yuk! Can you tell I hate cockroaches. It was lucky in your in-laws case that no one was hurt it could easily have gone the other way. What a scary thought. Definitely no attics for me.

          • Just a thought from me – we put stuff up in our attic in the early years of marriage/parenthood. Fortunately, I decided, a few years ago, that the heavy stuff all had to come down. Now, suddenly, anything still up there will need someone else to bring down for us! Twenty-five years ago, that didn’t cross our minds!

            You will see the new email address – I’m up and running again, with fingers crossed against all hackers. Thanks for letting me know yesterday. 36 hours of hell.


            • Hi Ann,
              getting up into the attic can become quite difficult as we age and our limbs don’t cooperate the way they used to. But not only that just keeping up with the housework when there is stuff everywhere to be moved and dusted can be a nightmare. My mother-in-law is discovering this now but I am not sure how big of an impact it is making. She still loves her stuff.

              I am so glad you got things sorted out with your email. I knew the minute I saw the one I received that it was suspicious. I was wracking my brain as to how to contact you because I didn’t want to use the address you had. Why can’t these people use their talents to get themselves a real job.

              • Thank you Colleen, it has been a nightmare. The main worry was that some more naive and caring soul might send money – there were several on my contact list that would fit that description, and not one of those could have afforded to have lost money ( nobody feels they can, but some would be more handicapped by it than others). I would never have credited either the sick helpless feeling it all gave, nor how difficult it would be made to freeze the email address, and start a new one. Still, I’m there now, and tomorrow will have to send new address to everyone! One way to get back in touch with some!!

                • Hi Ann,
                  I am glad it is mostly sorted. You should take it easy today for some mental recovery, that must have been harrowing.

                • A further thought – it can’t really be co-incidence that 24 hours earlier I joined Freecycle, using the same password (never before used the same password; never will again).

                  • Hi Ann,
                    now that is interesting. So not only are these people preying on the good will of others to help out a friend in need but they also might be using information they stole from a web site designed to help people and the environment. Some people have no scruples what so ever.

              • You’re so right about the difficulty of getting into the attic when you’re a bit older. Hubby can’t stand up straight in parts of our attic, and even though we cleaned out some of it when we did the new roof, there is still a lot of stuff up there that really needs “new homes”.
                I’m hoping we get up there this Fall when it’s a bit cooler to deal with it.

                • Hi Amy,
                  that will be a job I am sure you will be glad to have out of the way.

                  Your email reminds me that not only are there cockroach problems in Australia, when we lived in America we got rats in the roof. It cost the owner of the property thousands of dollars to clean out all of the insulation, have the whole thing sprayed to neutralise the pheromone trails, set traps, fix any entrance holes and monitor the place for twelve months. Attics/roof spaces are scary places.

        • Yup, been there, doing that (moving w/ husband & military!). Loosing stuff from military moves is like loosing luggage at an airport or socks in the dryer, WHERE DOES IT ALL GO??? Oy, life’s mysteries! This is probably one of the (many) reasons we are so into simplicity. We won’t own books (too heavy, needs storage shelf, library is free…), kids have very few toys (get creative with what you do have or go play outside!), closets are not full of clothes, kitchen is very basic (even my Mother-in-law commented that cooking in my kitchen was like being in the 1800’s!!!). LOL! Anyway, stuff is stuff, but people and experiences are what life is all about (and for everything else, there’s insurance!). I’ve gotta work on digitizing our documents, ugh, not the most fun, but I gotta do it.

  2. Hope to be one of those commenters that makes you think „Yes” from time to time ;-). I’m not really focused lately. Still reading along. Still sort of going. Still getting something done. Somehow … So your post on perfectionism was really timely for me! My “perfectionist” goals of getting some big things done before an upcoming (and much needed) vacation won’t be met.
    Thanks for being the motivating/nagging reminder that every step counts and that it is not a shame if some steps are smaller than others.
    (and by the way: I all of a sudden DID declutter the melon baller – along with the butter shaping gagdet …)

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      if I remember correctly you are one of those commenters that have made me think “Yes” from time to time. You have contributed many interesting comment and made the Fave Five more than once I believe. Don’t sell yourself short.

      I am glad you found it in you to declutter the melon baller and the strange butter shaping thingy. Keep plodding away at the decluttering and just remember even when you go slow so long as you aren’t adding more clutter than you are taking away then you are still making progress.

      • I’m curious what is a butter shaping thingy and when would you use it. Love the post today, I think we are bogged down by things sometimes and I would rather be bogged down by memories. The memories I can take with me if we ever move that don’t have to be packed in a box.

    • Ideealistin, way to go, girl! The post on perfectionism seemed to have been written for me also since I tend to be that way. I usually like to tackle projects like decluttering all at once and get it done in one go. However, through Colleen’s blog, I have learned to let go (somewhat) of this way of thinking and to give myself permission to take it slowly one thing at a time. Even when I give away just an envelope of stickers to a little boy, I write it down on my “Gave Away” list and I feel just as proud of myself as if I had gotten rid of a cabinet full of stuff. So you just keep plugging away and think about writing down the things you dispose of whether it’s Gave Away, Trashed/Recycled,
      Used Up, Sold, etc. It all adds up.

      • Hi Di,
        well said. It can be quite hard to change the habits of a lifetime. But just like the habit was learned it can be unlearned. It feels like a victory every time I do this. If writing things down so you can see your progress helps you to keep going then it sounds like a great idea to me.

  3. Great post, as always!

  4. This post is exactly what I want my life to be. My family joke I have no sentimental attachment to anything and you know what that is a good thing to me. I want to be free to travel not have to worry about my stuff.

    We are also living in a small place. It is only a 3br duplex for 5 people but it is easy to clean, it cost a lot less in utilities than our old house and there just is no room for extra stuff. This allows us to be able to save for a 3-4 week trip to America and Canada that we are planning.

    • That’s the BEST way to live a simple life, Debra F! If we had opted for the big house and garden that I was so tempted by, we’d not have time or money to travel or enjoy a little visit to the coffee shop together.

    • Hi Debra F,
      that is a key advantage to being decluttered, you don’t need so much space to live in. We also live in a 3 bedroom townhouse, there are only three of us now but there were four when we moved in. Like you we moved from a much bigger place. This home is so easy to clean, so cheap to run and I love it. There is a little garden just big enough to green up the back patio and keep me supplied with basil, tomatoes and hopefully blueberries next year.

      We also are planning a 3-4 week trip to America next year or as we say “Going home”. We have missed Seattle and a so looking forward to seeing it again.

  5. Thanks, Colleen, for sharing this. As my daughter mentioned to me this afternoon, I have ‘simplicity cred’ because my husband and I have lived this way most of our adult lives.

  6. Hi Colleen (the other one),
    the butter gadget was some weird thing my grandmother thrust on me when she moved out along with some stuff I actually wanted (or thought I might want as it all was done in quite a hurry … some of it is decluttered by now, some of it is treasured). It is supposed to help you make ridiculous decorations out of kilos of butter for dinner parties or whatever they fancied back in the fifties (in addition to butter, that is).
    Funniest thing: I assume my grandmother never used it but not only found it important to keep for 50 years but found it important to pass it on to me! I had a couple of good laughs out of it and it’s booklet with friends before it went to the boxes in the basement that await fleamarket first and donation second. I have to admit though, that I am tempted to scan in a couple of pictures and descriptions from the booklet 😉

  7. This is a timely post for me – I lost my grandmother this spring and we were very close, so as I continue decluttering, I often find things I’m tempted to keep because she gave them to me. Its quite a decision process, but I’m sure its a healthy emotional process as well. I recently gave up a quilting book she gave me (I’m not destined to be a quilter) even though it was inscribed in her handwriting, but have decided to keep the beautiful servingware that she used to entertain since that is a shared love (cooking for others and inviting people into our home) and is associated with positive memories.

    • Hi Annie,
      what a nice story to share with us all. There is always sadness to be experienced when someone close to us passes. It is nice to keep one or two items that bring back special memories and why not choose things that can also be useful. Every time you share a meal in your home with someone you will also bring back fond memories of your beloved grandmother when you use her beautiful servingware. What a loving caring family you must be.

  8. I understand about getting rid of the excess. It took me (with the help of several friends) five months to clear my mother’s house. A ton of stuff was donated, we held two estates sales and then donated all the remaining stuff. I lost count of how many trash cans were filled. Since I grew up in the house, this process was very hard.
    Now I’m faced with boxes and boxes of family photographs. Many of the pictures are of people I don’t know but I have an idea of who they are. There are also some papers like land deeds from the late 1800s. It doesn’t seem right to toss those. And no, I have no children to pass this stuff down to. So what do I do with them? Is there a reasonable way to organize some of the stuff? Is it worth it?

    • Hi Bonnie, I have never been in this position but I will give you the advice I think is reasonable and perhaps some of your fellow readers can help as well. I am lucky in so much as neither my parents nor myself have been ones for living in the same home for a lifetime. This makes attachment to homes and the stuff in them far less likely.

      As for the photographs: Do you have relatives that are older than you that might want the old photos or can help you identify the people in them. If not it is often quite easy to find someone in the family line that is investigating the genealogy of the family and would be glad with such a person. Visit you local Mormon genealogy research centre and ask for advice on this could also be helpful.

      The deeds papers: Firstly make use they aren’t still active. You may now be the owner of the land. If that isn’t the case I am sure again that there might be someone out there researching the family tree that would be happy to take these off your hands for the purpose of preserving them with their other family historical records. One thing for sure is that a genealogist will have all these sorts of things filed and identified for future family historians, not lying around haphazardly with no identification. Usually these people are also sharing this history with other members of the family through printed periodicals. One branch of my family is doing this as well as organising family reunions every few years.

      I hope these ideas will be helpful to you. Good luck and happy decluttering.

      PS. Well done with the job you did of clearing your mother’s home. They must be wonderful friends who were willing to help you with this task.