Find The Passion ~ Feel The Joy

So many people know that their homes are over cluttered, they can feel the oppression of it, but they just can’t bring themselves to deal with what seems like such a monumental task. Just last week I was having a phone conversation with my mother-in-law about this. She often reports to me what she has been decluttering lately but she still looks at the stuff around her and the items she has mounting up in the garage to sell or donate and thinks “It is such a big task still ahead!”. I told her the same thing I tell my readers “It isn’t you know, it is just one thing a day.”

She was proudly telling me how she had decluttered one hundred doll magazines that week ~ she collects, makes and dresses dolls. She decided that she just wasn’t looking through them any more and they were just collecting dust. She was clever enough to offer them to a friend that is also a doll collector to either keep for herself or donate them to the doll club. How easy was that, here one day gone the next. I pointed out to her that a little more clever thinking like that ~ to find outlets for her clutter ~ and she will see improvements in no time. Just remember how good it felt to get rid of those magazines and capitalise on that feeling.

Later that same day I read a blog post by The Minimalist about cultivating a passion to follow. It got me thinking that decluttering very quickly became a passion for me, not a chore, when I came up with the idea of doing it the easy way, one thing at a time. I have never looked back, in fact on that day and every day since I have actually enjoyed the challenge.

I get a buzz every time I choose that one thing to declutter each day and again when I send it on its way. It isn’t about being excited to one day finally reach the finish line, it’s about enjoying every step I take along the way.

I am finding it hard to put this into words but the gist of what I am saying is to celebrate every little achievement, every item, everyday. The payoff can be everyday not just at the end ~ everyday! It is like getting an excited tingle whenever you think about an upcoming enjoyable event rather than whining about the event being so far off. Like being happy to put money in the bank to save for a trip rather than just focusing on the treats you might be missing out on in order to do this. Like relishing the changes and sensations in your body as a baby grows inside you rather than just wishing that the pregnancy was over and you could just be enjoying your new baby.

Although I love it when I can see that I have made a difference most days I can’t. One small thing in a drawer doesn’t change the look of things much. However, I know that there is one less thing cluttering up my home and that is enough for me to get that warm fuzzy feeling of achievement.

What better encouragement is there than to see what is potentially a chore as a treat. If you can savour every moment then the finish line will just be the end of a wonderful journey.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something made from wood.

Today’s Declutter Item

I was using one of these pot stands on a regular basis while the other sat dormant in a drawer. In another drawer was a metal trivet that I use once a year when I make our Christmas pudding. These couldn’t replace the need for the trivet but the trivet could replace the need for these. So out they go. The trivet is now in daily use and there is more space in my drawer. Once again I was very pleased with myself with this mission accomplished. That was my little buzz for the day.

Two wooden and tile pot stands

Eco Tip for the Day

Just like my decluttering approach you can gradually improve your carbon footprint by implementing a new environmentally friendly routine into your life on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a chore but a fun challenge to not only help the planet but quite often it turns out will also save you money.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • The key to action is enjoyment I received a comment from Bernadette on the 365 Less Things Facebook page this week that said... "I enjoy getting rid of things. It is so liberating. Got rid of a bunch of old photos […]
  • Large area declutter ~ Minimal disruption This post is all about breaking down, into steps, the task of decluttering a large cluttered area of your home without causing undue disruption. I am going to use the kitchen as my example […]
  • Declutter while you clean I received the following comment from Willow yesterday... "I like to do the mini missions when I am cleaning different rooms in my house. For example, as I was cleaning the bathroom, […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, I love what you said about enjoying the journey along the way. Plus, decluttering is constant maintenance so its almost a journey that never ends-until you die! But, that’s o.k. as long as you enjoy the ride. I also understand the feeling you get about your trivets. I did the same thing with some mixing bowls. I got rid of those two and started using two other bowls that I almost never used before. It was a great trade off and the two “old” bowls are getting used all the time now. Win, win!

    • Are you like me Jennifer L, in that I then wonder why I hadn’t thought about making that change a long time ago.

      • Colleen, Sometimes some of my stuff is there so long that I stop seeing it. Then, when something happens like a chain reaction or something, the blinders come off and I wonder what took me so long to make the change. So, yes, I probably am like you that way! Isn’t it so exciting though when you finally “see the light”? Can I get an amen?!!!!

  2. TOTALLY. this moment when it hits you and another item gets out. priceless.
    and then the side-effects of this:
    I appreciate my things more, I just love the additional space, and I am developing a kind of creativity for figuring out a “simpler” way for all sorts of things. like the chain I created this morning with fixing the magnet, rearranging the kitchen utensils and then finally replacing an unloved object with a very pretty one. I also get money coming in – especially now that I learned to let go of books.
    best side-effect: Dusting became my new favourite cleaning task, because its done in 5 minutes.

    • You explain the joys of decluttering beautifully here Lena ~ Enthusiasm for the task, chain reactions of simplification, out with the bland and start using the nice stuff, making some money getting rid of your clutter and a reduced household work load. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about making all that happen.

    • Hi Lena – good for you re: knife magnet. Isn’t it often the simple things that make a big impact? My daughter decided to Spring clean the pantry & kitchen and next thing I know she a measuring tape out and was measuring a shelf height and various items that we keep on the main shelf ie the one at mid height that covers the width and depth of the pantry. Next thing she has asked her dad to get out the battery drill and lower this particular shelf (it was held up by a series of shelf supports that plug into holes) and suddenly most of the items which sat on the main shelf could go on the now lowered shelf (it was only 3cm difference) and its freed up the main shelf. It made a huge difference and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

      • Moni, you just made me laugh. for months you have been crying for an oompa loompa! and there you go. now it even sounds as you stand by watching with big eyes the transformation of your home… seems like your daughter has some good potential for simplifying. go with the flow!
        I could need a help with my kitchen too. I found myself daydreaming about a shiny new kitchen with beautiful hangers, cabinets you can actually close and a new solution for fridge and oven as they are both next to each other, so the fridge gets warm as well when I bake something. measuring and rearranging shelves might be an idea for me as well… I will think about it.

        colleen, I almost missed sports yesterday, when I started to create another chain. I managed to get rid of an almost empty shoe-cabinet (a friend who moved recently will have use for it). and I got carried away with having a new idea here and there and I managed to find a solution for my garden table, so it has not to stand on the wall in the living room anymore. I am in such a flow, I am even thinking of rearranging all my furniture. but lets see what the creativity brings in the next days. it might just go *click*

  3. I so wish I could hlep my friend, S, to understand this. But all she sees is the whole and it overwhelms her so much that she is shut down before she even starts. That’s why I’m going over this week to help her with the craft room. I’m hoping that once I show her how to do it she will begin to see a pattern she can follow and that she can do it one thing at a time. If that doesn’t work then I will keep going over and doing it in big chunks until we are to the point where it is more a maintenance type thing (which will help her see that once the worst is gone there is more she wants to get rid of gradually).

    • Hi Deb J, have you ever tried just making it simpler for by setting her the task of collecting up that one thing a day and then assisting her by moving them on to new homes. Then gradually introduce her to the process so she can take over for herself. I am trying this approach with a friend of mine.

      Unfortunately though this isn’t always where the problem is. I have discovered that lonely people become more attached to their stuff than others because they start to almost see it all as there friend, something that they are familiar and comfortable with that is always there for them. This is a bond harder to break.

      There are so many reasons people cling to stuff but if you can just find the trigger to help them let go the task becomes more doable for them.

      • Colleen, I tried that with S. It just doesn’t work. She is so depressed and overwhelmed by her home that she is powerless to do anything. In fact, right now she does very little unless someone is with her. It’s heartbreaking because I have known her for years and all this started with a husband who is totally worthless as far as doing anything around the house including picking up after himself. When she worked too it got out of hand and just got worse and worse. He is gone during the week right now because his present job is 4 hours from home and so he is only home on weekends. If we can get things cleaned up then she can set some boundaries and can keep it that way.

        • I absolutely understand, Deb J. With some people it seems impossible to find a starting point because they just refuse to believe in small steps but they don’t have the energy for big ones. I believe my mum is in that trap, too. I did some decluttering with her over Christmas, lent her a Peter Walsh book that she started reading (but never finished) and asked her to do a little bit every day. To do a lot if she feels like it but to do one thing a day if she doesn’t. She talked the idea of one thing down (what’s that supposed to change?) and many things, well she’s too busy, doesn’t have the energy, doesn’t have the space to declutter properly … whatever … I think the main problem is to get someone to believe in decluttering and to believe in their own ability to change things. If you find out some tricks, please share!

          • I’m hoping this works with my friend. I will keep you all posted about how it goes.

          • I agree Ideealistin, getting these people to realise that slowly is better than nothing and can lead to a wonderful conclusion. I hope that the enthusiasm I show for my decluttering will rub off on my friends that are in a state of inertia.

        • I can relate to this Deb J. I have one friend who is ready to get started and is making some slow progress but there is another person I know who knows she has a problem but just won’t do anything about it.

          Both I believe of loneliness issues while one has other deep seated habits that make it near on impossible to let go and to stop buying stuff in the first place. I can only lead by example and gently encourage.

    • Hi Deb J – have you signed S up to receive daily e-mails to 365? Even if she does nothing some days, then at least her brain is still getting the message 7 days a week.

      • S seldom gets on her computer and reads things. I did give her a book and after she read it she said, “I can’t even imagine where to start.” That’s what got me started with helping her.

    • Hi Deb J (again) I’ve been rolling this one around in my head and I’m wondering if there is a two-fold issue here. S is overwhelmed with her house (we all know what that is like) and her husband is now working out of town during the week. So she’s left by herself in this overwhelming situation. If S has traditionally spent a lot of time picking up after her husband and he’s not there now to be picked up after – is she lonely? Suffering from empty nest (oh ok, empty of people but full of clutter nest). Has she stayed up to date with your progress on your home?

      My bro-in-law thinks our switch to minimalism happened really quick and I have to tell him that no its been 18 months, probably closer to 2-2.5 years if you include early feeble attempts. My BIL said he’s only just noticed. (I rolled my eyes at that, ’cause he is, afterall just a guy). Where I am going with that is that maybe S has only recently noticed the progress on your house, especially now that you have your mum on board, and maybe she is thinking that her progress should be quicker than what is happening.

      That’s one line of thought I had. The other is this. A friend of mine has recently started some decluttering and she was gobsmacked at how much I knew about it. I didn’t realise there was so much to know either, but I know all the recycling areas, all the charities that welcome what, freecycle etc etc. Deb J, S probably thinks you have a Masters Degree in decluttering and you are her lifeline at the moment. So if you have the energy, maybe you’ll just have to be her Yoda for a while. It doesn’t sound like she is reluctant to declutter but just needs results.

      • Moni, S was like this even before her husband started this job so far away. I just think that she has been overwhelmed for so long that she needs someone to be her Yoda like you said. She needs someone there who will help her make decisions and who will help her do the work. I have it all planned in my head. Now to get it actually done.

        • Deb J/Yoda – you have a plan? Excellent. Keep us posted. There is a wee part of me that wishes I had my own clutterbug. At least S is happy to let you do it, it could be worse in that she might be resistant to help. Is your mum involved, even in a consultant role? Methinks she would emerge quite the decluttering expert.

          • Moni, yes I have a plan. I’m going to work this like I did when I get paid to do this. I have talked a lot to S to find out how her mind works about all this. I have also been in her house many times to see the mess. They are borderline hoarders. On his part it’s a matter of hanging on to anything he had done in his work and all sorts of newspaper & magazine articles. For her is is all sorts of things she’s just not sure about needing sometime, like 35 years of bills and papers. So I have been educating her and helping her see what she needs and doesn’t need. Right now I am not going to worry about his mess. It is pretty well confined to his office and his closet now that he’s not home as much. Once we get all of the rest of the house cleaned out and organized then we may tackle his mess. Even if all we do is take all the boxes he has piled up and put the contents into something neater and better organized it would help. We will see.

      • smart thinking.

        I also noticed that depressed, lonely people are more reluctant to even think about progress. part of the sickness I guess… I have a friend who I helped going through her clothes last year (I still shake my head in disbelief on the amount!) and I tried to explain to her that if she feels like she holds something in her hands that she actually doesnt like anymore, she should get rid of it. not later. but right now. put it in a box if you want to sell it, trash it if its trash and give it away if you know someone who could use it. She refuses to do this. its like she is refusing to take over the control of her life. because then she would leave the comfort zone of *its not my fault the world is like it is*…
        taking over control – and nothing else is decluttering – can scare people up to a point where they refuse even to think about the benefits…

        Deb J/Yoda, I wish you all the best for your friend! keep us updated on how it goes!

        • Lena, you are right about depressed, lonely people. My friend is making progress because she is admitting that the house drives her nuts and she knows she needs to do something. I was also proud of her because she admitted she needed help and couldn’t do it on her own. That’s BIG for her.

    • Deb J, I think it’s great how you assist all those dear to you with decluttering!

      • Thanks Sanna. I can’t help everyone because many are resistent but anyone who starts making the right noises gets an offer of help. Afterall, we are here to help others.

        • Deb J – yes the first step has to come from the other person. Are you going to encourage S to take some ‘before’ photos? Or you could so you could show her down the track?

          • Yes, I plan to take my camera to make sure to get pictures of the before and after. We start tomorrow and I’m getting excited to see how it all comes out.

  4. Starting out with one item a day is very helpful because over time you begin to see the difference it is making, especially if you focus on one room at a time. It is not so overwhelming when it is done in this manner. I know that is not always practical for some people, but it helps because by doing so, you are able to see the result a bit quicker. For me, I grab a garbage bag or a box, and each day, I find something that I can put into it. There are days that I find two or three things, but even with one item a day, it does not take long and the bag or box is full and ready to donate.

    I love that your mother-in-law could donate her magazines to someone who also enjoyed dolls, that takes some of the guilt away that people sometimes feel when getting rid of items. There are some things in my home that I find difficult to tackle right now, and some things are easier to part with than others, but I don’t dwell on those things. I just concentrate on the easier stuff and I will eventually be ready to handle those tough things.

    Just like the pot stands you decluttered, I am finding that over time I look at my items differently. If something can do double duty or if I have two items that do the same thing, but I like one better than the other, I will opt to get rid of one of them. I am challenging myself in this aspect and reducing my clutter at the same time.

  5. I love double duty items:) I love the old baking bowl that can double as a serving bowl, I love wool blankets as guest duvets, I love using the same bowl for cereal, soup and ice cream, the same mug for coffee, tea and juice, and a chopping board as a pot holder. You can really reduce clutter by thinking out of the box- double duty uses for different things.

    • My friends just got a new cabinet with matching cutting boards and trivets. The woman was using one of these ‘boards’ and the man said ‘that’s a trivet you silly woman, not a cutting board’. I came in to defend her – what makes one a cutting board and another a trivet? They are all the same wood, though different sizes. Helps the maker of the cabinet was also there (to support the idea that they can all do double duty!) (In life, the woman is a MAD declutterer, and the man is mad at her decluttering!)

      • Snosie – I had to look up what a trivet is! They have always been one and the same to me, so I have been happy in my ignorance!

      • it never occurred to me I could use my cutting boards as trivets. Eye-opener – big time. I thank you guys very much. mini-mission wood? check.

    • Hi Cat’s Meow – the last house we lived in had a very tiny kitchen and so I only had room for two stackable lasagne dishes that served as everything from lasagne dish, general serving dish, salad dish (did it as a Greek salad so it looked the part), dessert dish, hot rolls platter. After to moving to a bigger house ie bigger kitchen I bought extra serving dishes, bowls etc – but guess what I still automatically use? My lasagne dishes!

  6. So true Cat’sMeow, so true. That trivet is now used to sit my teapot on everyday whereas before I was only used once a year in the bottom of my boiler to keep the Christmas pudding from resting on the bottom.

  7. I call it my “Yay Buzz” when something leaves the house. And yes I miss the days when I could fill the back of the car from my wardrobe or from a cupboard or whatever and with theme music of “We Are The Champions” playing deliver it off to goodwill or wherever. It was a heady feeling of “I’m doing it”. BUT I was still living in a muddle. Now I’m not living in a muddle but some days I’m scratching to find my one for that day. So I might not get so many big “Yay Buzzes” but I get a lot more “Its nice to live here” thoughts and that’s got to count.

    Right todays mini mission. Wood. Hmmm. OK, I’m going to do a swap for Friday. I have a box of glasses leaving on freecycle today (left sitting on my front door step on my way out the door to go to work). I had a cupboard of wine glasses, champagne glasses, glass tumblers etc after pulling them all out I was only able to make up matching sets of 6 wine glasses, 4 flutes and two lots of 4 tumblers – I figure one set can go into active duty now I know they actually exist. I listed all the rest on freecycle and a lady who has a family function coming up has requested them. Win Win.

    So why am swapping my wood mini-mission to Friday? Get this: My Balinese dresser of my mammoth mission is on trademe and auction closes Thursday night, it has gone well past my reserve, so fingers crossed it will be leaving Friday!

    There is a bit of a story behind all this and yes my mission is very much alive, things just got out of order.

    • “we are the champions” – my dad had this very typical, bavarian phrase he would use after a long hard working day in the garden, kind of like: “well, today we accomplished something…” EVERTIME I declutter, or rearrange or get heavy physical work done, and look at my beautiful accomplishment afterwards, I hear my father say that… makes me smile everytime.

    • Moni, love the “Yay Buzz” term. I think I will use that term with S. She needs something she can do to encourage herself as she declutters.

    • Moni, I know what you mean, gone are the days when I could fill the car with tons of stuff to get rid of. I guess it makes it even more exciting now when I find something else to get rid of because it seems like there’s just nothing left.

    • Wow, Moni good for you. I hope the dresser has a last minute bid war and you get a great price for it.

  8. It all boils down to “Passion” in everything we do in life. Passion is about working towards a goal, one step at a time with patience and the knowledge that the reward is within reach. In the case of decluttering, one thing does make a difference. I just had a conversation with a friend about your mini-missions. She is just starting her journey. She has enough pantry, refrigerator, toiletrie/makeup and cleaning products to open her own store. I suggested she start with things that have an expiration date. Really, doesn’t everything have an expiration date? However, I suggested she start in these areas and declutter items that have passed their prime. Pantry, Refrigerator, Toiletries, Makeup, Cleaning products, Medicine and Garden/Car. I know that will clear enough to give her the motivation to continue the journey.

    By the way, I would add that although I love your Friday favorites post, go with your Passion. Mix it up. Make it an anything goes Friday, a Free for All Friday. A regular post, Friday Favorites or guest post. Whatever suits your fancy as they say. It’s good to shake things up. You go girl!

    • Hi Kimberley, I am glad you are helping your friend declutter. I am trying to have a good influence on one of my friends at the moment too. Sometimes the slow and steady approach is better when helping others as well. Your friend is obviously ready to be helped and having positive conversations together about living with less and where to begin is the best thing you can do. Good for you!

  9. Colleen, thank you very much for this post.
    Actually, I’ve been reading the post at the minimalists and wasn’t really able to grasp a positive idea from it. It sounded hard work to me. How to make something a passion that I don’t like – I didn’t have a clue how to.
    However, I did make decluttering my passion. I feel exactly the same way as you describe above.
    I really love decluttering the slow and steady way. I think, it’s also about the only way that really helps you maintain the decluttered state. Decluttering is never off-agenda, so even if you can’t think of anything straight away, at least you have to think about what COULD go and you are less likely to bring in more clutter, when you’re pondering about what to give away (almost) every single day.

    • Hi Sanna, sometimes passions can be found in the strangest places. You are so right, the slow and stead approach to decluttering sure does make one focus on a longterm change of behaviour rather than the use quick declutter here and there over and over again.

  10. I have been following 365 Less Things for a while now and enjoying the posts and discussion. In the last few months I have had a massive clean out of my belongings, and shifted further into a minimalist mindset. Interestingly this has provoked a lot of very interesting conversations with family and friends. One of the issue that keeps cropping up is hoarding behaviour, which many people struggle with. Unfortunately this is sometimes associated with mental health challenges such as depression, or compulsive disorders. I did a bit of research and found an excellent book which I would recommend if you know someone who is deeply bogged down in their belongings and seems resistant to change. Its called Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding by Gail Steketee and RO Frost. (Available from Amazon to order or online). It really helped me get clear about those special situations where being overwhelmed by stuff is about more than just a lack of time or organising skills.

  11. I have a love-hate relationship with decluttering. I don’t want to be finished decluttering as I would no longer experience the joy of getting rid of something! Sometimes I’m obsessed with the subject, making it a hobby, then I find it hard to let go of certain types of items and don’t want to think about it. This blog helps a lot, with knowing that it’s not just me and finding advice and motivation. It teaches me other ways of looking at possessions and ways of tricking my mind in to being ready to declutter something. I have a few pangs about a few decluttered items and wonder ‘Did I do the right thing?’ but then I think there would be less space if it was still here and there’s nothing that I truly regret getting rid of. This blog helps with those feelings. Overall, I love decluttering. I do get that ‘warm fuzzy feeling of achievement’ that you, Colleen describe.


  1. […] comment from Jen tells how she has embraced the slow decluttering approach and the benefits there […]