Fewer things = Less Rummaging

My organised craft room ~ Circa June 2011

As you can imagine this blog post title ~ You don’t have to declutter to own fewer things ~ caught my eye in my inbox last week. It is a recent post by Mohamed Tohami @ Midway Simplicity. You can read it here. In fact please do read it before going further.

My response was this ~ “Having your stuff organised can no doubt make your home appear decluttered, tidy and less oppressive. I know this because my home has always been that way. Nevertheless it has taken me over three years of slow and gradual decluttering to get it to a point where we don’t have a lot of unused and unloved stuff neatly organised into closets, drawers, cupboards, storage containers and pieces of furniture all over the house.

Being organised and tidy afforded me the lengthy time I used to declutter while still being comfortable in my home. So, organise by all means but at the same time question your need of stuff and especially any desire to acquire more of it.”

Other thoughts I had after reading the post were these –

  • You do have to declutter to own fewer things but you can create the illusion of fewer things by being organised. However the more you own the more difficult it is to organise efficiently what you have.
  • Getting organised doesn’t require any special talent. Anyone who keeps their cooking utensils in their kitchen, their toiletries in their bathroom, washing powder in their laundry and their clothes in their closets can manage to arrange anything to be in its most logical place within their homes. Not doing so creates more wasted effort than the effort they think they are saving by being untidy.
  • Learning to discern what stuff is necessary and/or important in your life also teaches you to be more discerning about what you bring in. Wasting money on the unnecessary makes it necessary for you to work harder to earn the money to pay for it.

As you can see, by comparing the photo above with the one below, there is a big difference between neatly organising your excesses and decluttering them. But Tahomi is correct about the fact that grouping and organising your stuff, while coming to terms with the idea of decluttering it, sure does make your home look a whole lot more neat and tranquil.

My organised and decluttering craft room ~ Circa 2013

Today’s Mini Mission

Begin a use up challenge on, or simply throw or give away items cluttering up the space where you store your toiletries.

Eco Tip for the Day

Save electricity by not turning on electrical appliances, like irons, hair straighteners etc, too long before you use them and by not leaving them on while you decide to take a break during the task.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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

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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, I agree that the better organized you are the less cluttered your spaces look. BUT, look at all the things you buy in order to organize. And, that means money spent just to hide things until you decide to declutter them. For me it was a help to have all my scrapbook supplies well organized. It even made it easier to declutter. I just wish I had been smart enough to not buy so many supplies so that I never bought all those storage items.

    • Oh yes Deb J, you and me both.

    • Oh Deb, that is good! Yes, I am the organizing queen and slowly but surely TRULY being organized because I feel that though I appear organized, all the excess makes me less organized because of the time it takes to find the exact thing I need among the rest or crammed into a closet or drawer. I am excited about having less. Colleen, you are right on! I LOVED seeing your lates craft area! Beautiful with plenty of open space to create! I’m inspired yet again! (Also a “creative type”.)

  2. Hi Colleen, sorry for the long post but I thought this was a good example of how grouping like with like can give you a much clearer understanding of just how much surplus you own, and aid the decluttering process:

    I used to be addicted to buying new notepads and pens in particular, and of course I also tend to receive them as gifts for Christmas (because Caroline loves stationery!). Tidying up earlier this year I decided to organise all my stationery and collected together about fifty pencils from all over the house (most of them never used), as well as a stack of pens and notepads, coloured pencils, drawing pins shaped like ladybirds… you get the idea. It was suddenly very obvious to me just how much faster I was at buying stationary than using it!

    I gave most of the pencils, erasers and rulers to my sister, who is a maths teacher, and my goal now is to ‘use up’ all the notepads before I buy another one. As for the pens, I’m working my way through the throw-away biros and intend on using refills only once they’re gone. Nearly a year later I’m still only about halfway through the backlog!

    So I guess my conclusion would be that yes, sorting your belongings will make everything visually cleaner, but I would take the opportunity of touching all these objects to think about when they were last moved, how often, and just how many duplicates you need.

    And schools always need supplies!

    • Great comment Caroline and I couldn’t agree with you more. Reality really strikes when you see all that stuff piled together. I eventually donated much of my stationery after two years of trying to use it up. Almost two years later still haven’t need to replace any. With electronic everything these days I find I don’t have a need for stationery much.

    • Hi Caroline,

      I know where you are coming from. Since I started reading this blog and decluttering slowly and steady more than two years ago, I got rid of so many many many stationary items. I started just like you: first collect them all in one place. second smacking your forehead because of this illusion “I will need them”. third getting rid of the ugly excess and keeping the “good ones” for later. then in turns again and again re evaluating. finally I had to accept the truth that I will NEVER ever use up all those pens before they stop working. so here I am two years later, getting rid AGAIN of a bunch of really nice pens, that I once loved so much that I would keep them for years (some are more than 10 years old) without using them.
      I got down to once case for pencils, ballpens, crayons and two textmarkers. and I know that the pencils – some of them are almost 25 years old and have some sentimental value – will serve me for the next 25 years. No need to acquire new ones. not more than that.

    • I love that you gave the supplies to a teacher-they will be used! I also love and am known to love stationery. I gave my surplus of pencils/pens/paper to several large families with 8 or more children and donated some to gift boxes for children overseas. I should have thought about teachers and will keep that idea for if I’m given more. 🙂

  3. I agree Deb J! How much stuff is produced to simply hold our clutter? Look at the size of refrigerators, they are huge! I was dreaming about remodeling our kitchen last night and I was looking at replacing it with less cupboards.
    How often do you hear someone say ‘I just need to get organized ‘ ? To me it means , ‘I just have to reduce the amount of stuff I’m dealing with’ .
    Last night I mentioned buying a wall bracket for the tv , to eliminate the cupboard it sits on now, My Husband’s solution was, get rid of the TV.

    • WendyF, that’s pretty great to have your husband say to get rid of the TV. WooHoo!!

      • That is what I thought too Deb. I did suggest to Wendy this morning after having coffee together that she might just want to check to make sure he wasn’t being sarcastic.

    • How right you are Wendy, that so often people say the problem is lack of organisation when really it is too many things. After all the more we own the more we have to look after and organise in the first place! Surely if organisation seems difficult the solution is to have few things for you to organise 🙂 That’s how I see it anyway! Every time something leaves now I feel like I am one step closer to being able to attain a clean, organised and relaxing space, I look forward to that day very much.

    • WOW! Your husband got rid of the TV? I am impressed! I’m proud of how far mine has come. He decided to cancel paid TV several years ago. So we watch the free channels we get (rarely) and usually watch shows online. It helps us to plan ahead and not mindlessly watch like we used to. You are blessed!

  4. I also agree with every point you made Colleen. 🙂 it’s not rocket science is it.

  5. LOL I actually commented on Midway Simplicity’s blog as the topic was very topical that particular day. I might just add a few details to my story though. My daughter had a big art project for school that takes about 3 months, and so she took over the dining room table as it had room and light. We decided it would be better for her to keep her art supplies closer, rather than carrying them around the house ie over the carpet and as we had a buffet/cradenza in the dining room (which had been previously decluttered) I re-housed my ‘for best’ serving platters to the a cupboard that already held my serving bowls and lasagne dishes and had plenty of spare room. So Courtney had this whole cupboard with heaps of room to stack her art supplies. Over the weeks that followed, I realised the wine glasses now had several options for re-housing into the kitchen and so they moved. As the drawers in the cradenza are mostly empty, I have been wondering if it could be repurposed elsewhere in the house but no good ideas. Meantime, Courtney’s art supplies have been haphazardly stacked on the shelf in the cradenza creating an avalanche risk. She has found it frustrating because she isn’t naturally organised but enjoys order (ironic isn’t it) and the space she had been allocated was more than she needed but it wasn’t useful space as everything needed to stack. I have suggested to my husband that an upright craft trolley with lots of shallow drawers might be better for her and I suggested that the cradenza might now be surplus to requirements. He’d come to that conclusion too but like me, he likes the piece of furniture but can’t think what else it could be used for. And this all came about because of an art project.

    • Hey Moni, your ideas for organising your daughters project supplies were perfectly sound. Don’t get me wrong one certainly need to have the right equipment for organising efficiently. All I was saying was that, in general, having less stuff makes the organising part much easier.

      • Colleen – it was interesting to me that by problem solving how to keep her supplies closer, it set in place a domino effect of everything in the cradenza being relocated and has resulted in a surplus to requirement piece of furniture!

        On the other hand it demonstrated to me that although it was location-wise ideal for her art project and provided a large shelf area, it looks really messy in that cupboard because it wasn’t designed for that purpose, she has ‘lost’ supplies in amongst it all (that we re-purchased and then later re-discovered), supplies got damaged etc. Its actually a small scale demonstration of how a cluttered household runs.

        We are reserching craft drawers – it is amazing how fussy I am about purchasing these days. I saw one a few weeks ago – the old me would have just paid for it on the spot even though I didn’t really like the way the weeks it sits on stick out wider than the unit, but I would have reasoned that it was a good idea to have lots of shallow drawers and therefore a solution, right? The new me, has been checking out each stationery store’s options, taking note of dimensions and construction etc. The one I think I have settled on, is a little bit darer than the original one I saw but it ticks all the boxes. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the buffet/cradenza!

  6. Most of my stuff is currently in boxes as we are awaiting our move, but over the weekend I got ruthless and still managed to fill a large box with items I don’t love, use or need. 3 items were luggage pieces I no longer use and two were trays for in coming mail. Now I just open my mail as it comes in and don’t allow it to sit in trays, so I don’t need the trays. Like you said, it’s amazing how many things you acquire to hold and organize things you don’t like or need to begin with. I have two hanging organizers for costume jewelry and I refuse to buy anymore jewelry organizers. If I want to get another piece of jewlry I’ll have to get rid an item first. In anticipation of Christmas and the few new items that typically go along with it, I weeded through some of the jewelry that I realized I haven’t been wearing this year.

    • Hi Melissa, you have the right ideas here. Be organised for a move. Declutter as much excess as you can prior to the move. And allocate a certain space for things and then if more comes in something has to go to make space. Well done!

  7. Hi all. I’m always end up behind on my reading of the posts here when I’m at home over the weekend. My work computer is MUCH faster, so I’m trying to catch up.

    I guess it’s been about a year that I’ve been reading Colleen’s blog and slowly but surely, this blog is changing the way I live my life and so much for the better! Colleen had challenged me to create a display/storage box for my vintage brooches and I did and it was neat, so when it came time to think about Christmas, I have made one for my mom whose collection is about double of mine and I’m almost finished with one for my step-sister as well. It was not much money to buy the supplies and why buy them some dust-catching trinket when I can make them something that they will enjoy as well as be a protected place for their pins. I always buy my mom a little pin for Christmas as well. Yesterday I set out with a goal to buy two pins (one also for my step-sis) and I had my budget. I found two great pins and was quite under budget! So happy!!

    Today I went to a kitchen goods store at lunchtime because we are looking for a new rack to put above the stove for our pots. I found two that would be great and the prices were reasonable, but I want to think a little more on the size. There were so many cute things at that store that I had to get out quick! I will make a return trip, though, because there were some great stocking stuffers.

    My husband asked me what I would like for Christmas. I told him what I would really like is to get some jewelry repaired that has been sitting in my box for practically years! He then suggested a smart phone. Nope – I like my old phone. 🙂

    For a few years, the bottom branches on our pre-lit tree have not worked. The tree is really nice and a great size, so I didn’t want to get rid of it. I spent a few hours last year cutting off all the lights. We managed to get just the tree up yesterday. No lights, no ornaments. But at least I know that I don’t have near as many boxes to get out since I did a huge decluttering last year. Probably a few more to go. I have not been tempted to buy anything because I think I have plenty.

    I’m really glad that you all are so supportive and helpful in this journey. You all are the best!

    • Michelle – I am dying to know if there were any offers to take Grandma’s afghan over thanksgiving?

      • Shoot! I knew I was forgetting something in my long rant. (banging head against wall) I talked with hubby more and he said that his nephew and the third brother were not going to join us for Thanksgiving and I brought up taking the afghan to see if the second brother would want it. He said that he thinks his mom would be really hurt if I did that and he feels that we should keep it. I thought, oh boy, the gals would NOT appreciate this! But I decided that it will no longer take up an entire drawer in the chest in the guest room. I am going to start a box called, “I cannot declutter these things, but I don’t want them”. And I’m going to shove it in the attic where I can forget about it. Yes, that goes against the principles of this blog and against common sense (it should go to someone who wants and will use it), but this is sometimes a conundrum of family. 😉

        • Michelle – I think under the circumstances that is the best option for it. Isn’t it frustrating that your MIL gets to influence the situation? Nevermind. My MIL is of Gypsy descent and the tradition from her line is to be buried with favourite possessions and some necessities but all other possessions (with the exception of money or jewellery which were to go to daughters) including the wagon were to be burnt. I guess with the travelling lifestyle there wasn’t room for excess but also there were superstitions attached to it. My suburban lifestyle take on it was it certainly took care of the whole estate situation and the idea had some merit. Ironically my MIL has a lot of stuff and a lot of sentimental items, but she is aware of my feelings, even dating back to before my decluttering began.

        • Hi Michelle, as I always say ~ It isn’t right to unclutter someone else’s stuff. There are plenty of stuff like that in my house except that it is on display. One has to have respect for other people’s cherished treasures whether you like them or not.

          I wouldn’t be surprised though if your husbands mother wouldn’t mind you passing the afghan on to one of the other relatives. Sometimes we can misread these sorts of situations. I often wondered what my mother thought, when visiting my house, about us not having many family photos on the wall. But during a conversation recently she volunteered the fact that she doesn’t find them necessary either. We all remember our loved ones without need to see pictures of them. My point is, you just never know what other people are thinking.

    • Hi Michelle, I am going to post the photos of your Christmas decoration declutter on Thursday as encouragement to others to do the same. I hope you will approve of the post as I don’t have time to run it by you first.

      I am glad you are happy with your display frame for your brooches. It must be lovely to have them where you can see them rather than them be hidden away. I am sure with mother and stepsis will love theirs too.

      • Thanks Colleen! I’m just pleased to be part of this community. 🙂 I am really excited at the idea of making something useful for my loved ones. I usually get frustrated Christmas shopping for certain people. I finally worked it out in my head a gift for my boss that he will love and he is usually the difficult one. So about the only people who I have a gift dilemma is my in-laws.

        As far as thinking I know what they are thinking, you are so right. The only reason that I think I might be accurate in this situation is that at Thanksgiving, she had different china and I complimented her on the dishes. She had just gotten them from her sister’s children (the sister moved to assisted living). She said, “No one else wanted these. Can you believe that?” She had expressed surprise over several other things that no one seemed to want as well.

        In looking around the house I still see so much that could be gotten rid of. I’m still loving the cleaner look of the kitchen. 🙂

  8. A while back I discovered some other websites which focused a lot on home organisation, and for a while I admit I was quite taken with them – everything looked so pretty and neat. But soon I began to feel like the point of it all was not about appreciating what you had, or looking after it so much as it was about ‘let’s organise everything we own so we can go buy more’ or ‘it’s okay to have way more stuff than I need, as long as I organise it’.
    Eventually I got fed up with this mentality and here I am back at 365; whilst I’d maybe consult those websites again in future to decide how best to decorate/arrange things when I feel I am ‘done’ with my decluttering (whatever ‘done’ means!) or to find solutions to storage problems, I don’t wish to visit them everyday like I used to.
    I just feel that it’s far less about enjoying what we have and trying to re-focus on the real priorities in life – family, friends, hobbies etc. and more about how to cope in a capitalist, consumerist society by finding a way to store all the things we buy rather than exit the ‘rat race’ altogether. I can only see that this kind of mentality results in an increasing obsession with possessions and the acquiring of them rather than lessening the importance of them. Just my 2 cents.

    On a more positive note, I donated a further 14 books today. I have many more waiting but there is only so much I can carry at one time (I can’t drive). I have also been trying to cut down on my time online and read instead, and so am enjoying my hobby once more. Eventually I hope to reach my goal of having a maximum of 5 unread books at any one time (to prevent my hobby from getting out of control once more, considering perhaps a max of 3 instead) and to only keep those books which I have read, love and know I will read in the future. Speaking of which, I am off to go read again 🙂

    • Jane, I was going to write something very similar, but you saved me the trouble, lol. I too subscribe to a blog about organising at home and it has slowly dawned on me that the posts are always about buying new ways to store stuff, not about getting rid of owning so much.

      • I agree with both of you. I used to love to watch “Clean House” with Niecy Nash. One of the families refused to give up so many things that the show could not makeover the basement of the house. On the final reveal, it was a basement very carefully organized with hundreds of bins. I thought how sad that they could not part with a bunch of (basically) junk and get a lovely basement in exchange. Hope they loved the bins. 🙁

    • Well said Jane, I am all for exiting the rat race too. And well done with the book purge too. One doesn’t have to own a library to enjoy reading.

  9. When I started sorting out my office a few years back, I basically had a 10 year office accumulation. I had to work in pieces and parts – starting out with removing anything not office related. Sounds easy, but it did take some time to really see all the knicknacks and junk that hid seeming everywhere in plain sight. Then I went through office supplies, over and over and over – until I admitted to myself what I actually used. Then it became easier to pass on all the supplies I wasn’t using. Now I’m working on furniture (culling down the shelving) and stacks and boxes of papers that I have been scanning for about two years now. There is still other stuff, but its to the point where its an item here or there – not like it used to be. I literally took boxes and boxes out of here at one point. Luckily I was able to move my office to a better room (my original goal) and I now have actual floor space. I put everything away before I get up to leave (empty desk when I come back). And I know where (*almost*) everything is. Its much easier to manage. I’m much less stressed. I highly recommend getting rid of clutter vs. organizing clutter.

    I thinks its a real blessing when we can reverse our thinking and move on from the past. I would much rather have less stuff than fancy bins to store it in. I have enough of those in my closet – that I need to figure out what to do with haha . . .

    • Hi Michaela, your office sounds like the my craft space that is pictured in the blog today. The first photos isn’t even the beginning point. It was worse than that. I still hope to relinquish more stuff before I am done. I may have too to fit it into the new apartment.

  10. I think the whole point of Mohamed Tohami’s post was to encourage people to just start organising and decluttering in a manner that is not too confronting and off putting to them. I certainly don’t think he was writing for the people involved in this blog, I interpreted it as providing some hope and incentive for people who don’t even want to try. If you follow Mohamed’s posts it is clear that he would be the last person telling someone to organise/hide their stuff so they can buy more.

    • Hi Jenni, I have no problem with the concept of what Tohami was writing about it was just the heading the caught my eye.
      after all the concept of storing your clutter neatly while slowly and deliberately decluttering it is what my blog is all about. I know the kind of message that Tohami conveys as we have collaborated on posts several times in the past. As I said it was the wording in the heading that amused me.

  11. Also I think there is no hope for me because I preferred the before pictures of your craft room, it looked so interesting and arty!

    • Hi Jenny, it was interesting and arty but it was a lot of stuff I just wasn’t using and probably never would. Life has a way of changing and I have learned my lesson of not stocking up to projects that may never happen.

  12. Organizing and storing the excess (or I prefer to say, hiding the excess) could be a beneficial first step in decluttering as like items would be organized with like items. However, for most people I know, this would merely be another “out of sight, out of mind” scenario.

    • Kimberly – I agree with both perspectives on organising and storing but I guess it comes down to whether the ‘organiser’ plans for the stuff once it is organised. For some people seeing a whole box full of excess stationery items would jump start them into realisation but other people would as you said go the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ path and see it as the opportunity to buy that cute stuff from Squiggle to put in the office drawer. And on the other hand, some people who aren’t ready to part with an item would take a variation of the idea using a ‘first degree of seperation’ method whereby they return after six months to part with the item if they haven’t needed it in the interim. Isn’t clutter so psychological?!!!

    • I agree Kimberley, clutter is better out of sight. As you say though out of sight can easily become out of mind. Oh how good it feels to know my out of sight places and as clean as the open ones.

  13. I have not been commenting much, but I read every post and this one hits home!!

    as you know I have come to a halt of my decluttering for several months, because I was happy with my home and space. Now that I got a job and therefore a bit more money, I had to upgrade some things (office job requires decent clothes require decent storage). Of course I also got rid of some items: like university related paperwork, books, stationery, etc. but mostly new and exciting stuff came in. I rearranged my furniture, treated myself with new hobbies like puzzling big puzzles or so. I changed slowly but surely my lifestyle, which felt good, but at one point I needed to pull the breaks, because caught myself thinking “Organisation = Storage solution”. there I was buying storage boxes for my shelf that needed nothing else but a good old round of decluttering. Sad, I know. But fortunately I noticed it in the early stages and decluttered the mindset right away, before it could do more harm. I kind of like the boxes though, because I can replace the ugly brown paperboxes I used during my university years with the new pretty ones. technically, I am replacing 😉

    So here I go once again with my decluttering eye over my stuff and really question what I use and what I love… all the things I dont are going! feels great, feels healthy all over again.
    decluttering is like riding a bike: once you know how its done, you will never forget it again.

    • Hi Lena, it is nice to hear from you again. I have wondered at time how you are getting on.
      I can understand how having decent money for the first time could make you lose your head a little. There is nothing wrong with making your home look nice or enjoying a hobby now that you aren’t spending so much time studying and working combined. I am glad however that you caught yourself before it got out of hand.
      I am really glad you dropped in and that you are doing well. I wish you every success in life.

  14. Colleen, I so agree with you. In fact despite all the decluttering that took place in this home, it still gets cluttery far too soon for my taste. Due to my lack of motivation to organize. I’d rather declutter even more to make cleaning and tidying even easier than now.
    Decluttering is really the most important part for everyone who struggles to keep their home neat.

    • You have the right idea Sanna. It is hard to mess up a place that doesn’t have much to cause clutter. It will be interesting to see how I feel in my new smaller home soon. Although, I’m not using the extra rooms in this house at this point anyway so I suppose the only difference will be that I will have less floor to vacuum and surfaces to dust.

  15. I am extremely organised and there was nothing I loved more than a good clear out. It was a family joke that my Mothering Sunday treat was to be left in a room on my own and allowed to clear out every cupboard with only tea interruptions allowed. Then I began this journey. The journey where I REALLY decluttered and I realised that all I had been doing in the past was organising my clutter. Keeping it neat tidy and cross referenced. But I wasn’t getting rid of it.

    Since I started to declutter properly I have shifted over a thousand books, approximately 50 bin bags and 20 or so boxes, and that doesn’t include the furniture.

    We live in a large rambling farmhouse, I am very organised. I had hidden our clutter with order.

  16. Natalie (@NatalieInCA)

    Congratulations on your new ‘organized’ craft room Colleen! It is really an on-going process. I cannot wait to see the 2014 update…
    I got an epiphany once when looking at a beautiful picture of a walk-in closet. I realized how many clothes were actually displayed in the picture! If I were owning fewer clothes, my closet would also look perfect…

    • Hi Natalie, actually my craft room has been looking this good for a while now. Goodness knows what the 2014 version will look like given we will be in our two bedroom apartment by then. Partly hiding in a closet and part of the spare bedroom furniture. I’ll be thinking outside the box to work that in that’s for sure.

      We get inspiration for all sorts of places and then wonder why we hadn’t figured it out for ourselves. A picture sure can paint a thousand words. Very helpful ones at times.


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