Flowing through

Friday again and another weeks almost gone by and also another month. It seems like just yesterday that we moved into our apartment, but in fact that was nearly nine months ago. And with every day that passes by we love living here even more.

One thing I have noticed about our new uncluttered, downsized life is that stuff tends to flow through our home now rather than come to rest, or stuff come to rest while something else flows out. I am pleased to say that much of that has been preloved, so there has been no buyers guilt attached.

I wouldn’t say that the apartment is fine tuned to the point that we can sit back and simply enjoy it. However that would probably be boring anyway. Life has a tendency to cause things to crop up that force you to make changes.

Anyway back to the point of this post, and that is the flow through. The something in something out strategy is working well for us. And I am still constantly on the lookout for items that are sitting idle that count for something out nothing in. Then there are the things that get used up and not replaced or at the very least only replaced when used up. Some items have been found not to work so well in our new space and have been changed out or eliminated. And my husband has semi retired so reduced the number of work uniforms he keeps. And although I sometimes acquire a new craft tool or materials there are more things going out in this area than coming in.

So as you see, because of this flow through of stuff,  it is unlikely that my home would become cluttered again.

Are you having the same success of stopping clutter from building up, or are you fighting a continuous battle.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that you just haven’t used in a long time. Perhaps some sort of craft item that you imagined you could create something wonderful with but haven’t. Or perhaps a kitchen item that never was overly useful.


“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, I am happy to say we just have things flowing out right now. I love it.

    • Having things flowing out is the best feeling, isn’t it? We’re in that stage and it’s such a relief.

    • Hi Deb & Rachel, imagine then how good it feels when there isn’t much left to flow out. That is where I am at. Although I must say i sometimes miss the high of seeing things flow out. However I still enjoy that with the craft and to top it off, when it flows out money flows in. Win Win!

  2. I believe I’m winning the flow…until you include toys. It was easy when he was very small–he clearly outgrew the baby toys. Now it’s harder to tell what he’s outgrew versus what he’s just bored with (or was buried and forgotten). We are not getting support from certain family members, which is a separate fight. But leaves me in terror of his birthday and Christmas approaching.

    He has too many toys, but figuring out which ones to get rid of is really hard.

    I tried to involve him (he’s nearly 4) but he picks either totally randomly, the toy he hasn’t stopped playing with for a week, or toys that are a bit on the older side for him (which we maybe shouldn’t have out, but we do have slightly older kids over frequently and we are bad at guessing when he’s ready, so having some “stretch” toys seems reasonable). So I don’t think he quite understands, or simply can’t think that way yet.

    • Hi Kayote, your problem is certainly a common modern day issue for a lot of families. This wasn’t usually a problem for my parents generation because their children were not overindulged in this way. As a child I remember playing with the same small choice of toys for years and we still enjoyed them and didn’t feel deprived. Even my own children weren’t particularly overindulged but I have certainly noticed it for the generation that followed. It is a good indication of how affluent society is in the Western World these days and we should certainly be grateful for that. Sadly that in turn has become a blight on the environment. And in other ways children have suffered by parents working too hard to over provide for their families. Perhaps one day society will come to its senses again and find a better balance.
      All that rant been said, my best advice is to try to insist that relations and friend don’t overindulge your child. Easier said than done usually but it is certainly worth a try. Check out my Alternate gift guide for children for alternate ideas for gifts giving. http://365lessthings.com/wp-content/uploads/Guides/365%20Less%20Things%20Uncluttered%20Gift%20Guide%20For%20Children.pdf

    • Kayote – my kids are older teens so I don’t have toy clutter but I do remember a time back in the day when I felt the amount of toys we had was out of control.

      Grandparents and relatives mean well giving toys – they were expensive when their children were growing up and now they have discretional spending and a heady range of toys all cheap and exciting. As Colleen suggested, try and re-direct them in another direction. Maybe thank them for their generosity in the past but you feel your child has more toys than you can manage at this point in time, tell them that you were hoping they could re-direct future purchases towards a piggy bank set aside for something exciting like a trike or bike or if he already has one, towards the next size up.

      Now for the current situation. Once upon a time, my kids had toys everywhere. I left out the ‘special’ toys and I packed away half of the ‘general’ toys. They didn’t notice or care. As the house we were living in was very small, it was such a relief to me. Eventually after some months of the kids not even noticing that half the toys were missing, we donated them. From that point on I was very firm on keeping the quantities of toys under control – this was years before I came to 365 Less Things – because I knew that the ultimate responsibility of tidying up toys or supervising tidying up toys fell to me. Happy wife, happy life.

  3. Wow, Colleen – I cannot believe you have been in your “new” place for nine months already!! Other than food, I can’t think of anything we have brought into the home recently.

    Oh! But one of our weekend BBQ guests brought me another house plant to take care of. I had seriously cut down my house plants because the cat likes to eat them. So, I took it to work. The light is better there anyway. :S

    I really don’t want anything new. We’re good – don’t need anything. 🙂

  4. Yesterday I sold some books at a used book store and took more to a different store which gives store credit. Bought one book which my friend will buy from me when I’m done with it (we both wanted it). I forgot to count how many books went out (more than 10), but my bookshelf is happy. Last week I let go of several tea cups–they were my mom’s but I didn’t like them as they weren’t good quality, so I kept the best and got rid of the rest.
    These days much more is going out than is coming in as we prepare for a major overhaul. I’ve thought I had the stuff under control, but when I truly began packing up boxes–wow! Where did all this stuff come from???

    • Hi Willow, ins’t it amazing how your attitude to stuff can change when life happens and what you felt reasonable to keep suddenly becomes excess.

      • Yes, Colleen, I was truly shocked at what was lurking in the closets. And so much has gone out the door–and I can’t even remember right now what most of it was.

  5. I’m glad you have achieved a self-balancing home. All the inwards flow has been reduced to very little, and there is still outwards flow facilitated, I don’t think we have a self balancing home yet ie if I were to deliberately stop decluttering little piles would start to form but that would be other people and more of the jetsam and flotsam variety. But eventually that will change and I’ll keep working towards that time.

  6. There are pockets around my home where the inflow is matched by the outflow. Last we I acquired 2 decorative pillows and bought 2 bed pillows – and gleefully, four pillows went to the thrift store yesterday. My kitchen and clothes closet are also “flow balanced”.

    Still working on getting more outflow on books and fabric and memorabilia…slow and steady…

  7. Idgy of the North

    We are flowing more out than in. Spouse is now on board with reducing everything to what we need/use. We just started on the tools/workbench. We are trying to get it down to the essentials to manage a home and garden (we are not big at building things). Anything else “needed” will be borrowed or rented. Today a car load (!) of items went to the Habitat ReStore. We donated 95%+ of the fasteners (nails, screws, picture hanging kits) – about 1000 individual items. If we need a fastener, it will either come from our small stock or we will go to a hardware store (or the ReStore) that sells them individually to get only what we need. We will spend the next few weeks paring down the rest.

    • Hi Idgy…, I love the sound of the ReStore. Being ale to donate there and also buy only the quantity you need of things is fabulous. I wish we had such a store around here.
      And how great that you husband is on board with the decluttering.

      • Idgy of the North

        I like donating/shopping the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I took a quick peek and there are 2 in Australia in Victoria (http://www.habitat.org.au/victoria/restore). Hopefully one will open near you.

        Hubby is on board, but I am the one sorting out everything. He helps carry, load and drop off the items. We are constantly surprised at how little we need.

        • I wish one would open near me. I also wish we had Whole Foods or Trader Joes here. I was so excited when our local grocery store started selling items by the kg. Then one day I saw them restocking to bins and was appalled to see that the “bulk” items came in one kg bags. How pointless its that. One would think the stuff for these bulk bins came in bulk containers but apparently not. I haven’t bothered with them since.
          Today we had need of four pieces of dowel, imagine my husbands disgust when the first hardware store he went to sold them by the hundred. It really makes a person want to start some sort of store where a person can buy only what they need. And no plastic bags allowed.

  8. Colleen, I can’t believe that it has been that long that you have been in you apt.
    I am still working on the flow out and have periods of working more intensely to get stuff out. I always have a stash to go out especially because of the one in and one out rule. That is working well. I had a pair of capri pants in the ” may be out” pile with a date to get rid off. I was a few weeks behind on getting rid of them, but I had not worn them all summer.Now they are out!
    We bought new sheets and duvet cover this week so the old stuff needs to go out this week-end. These were items that needed to be replaced.
    I am with you on the plastic. I have always chosen to bring a bag, or requested not to have a bag at the store. I always got incredulous looks and store staff were often confused. Over the last year, in an effort to ban the plastic bag, our local counties in California, all started charging for shopping bags at the store. You now either have to bring your own or purchase a bag. This has helped with the plastic bags, but I still see them being used when people order take out food and in the produce section of the grocery.I would love to see them banned completely, unless they were made of a material that breaks down easily. It is sad to see our bay lands in San Francisco with so much plastic waste in the water. Fortunately, many volunteers pick up waste when they see it.

    I will be looking at the habitat restore. I have things I would love to donate as we have not even started on the DIY stuff in the garage. That might be a project for this week-end.

  9. I’m doing better about not bringing in more clutter. I do use the one-in-one-out rule as much as I possibly can, along with just trying to avoid buying things altogether unless they are needed.

  10. Always a battle around here but I know it’ll come together one of these days. 🙂

  11. This is a subject that I’ve not seen broached on any website that deals with decluttering: CDs. My wife and I got rid of a ton of cassettes (mostly music). I did buy one of those machines to copy cassettes to the computer, but it was more aggravation than it was worth, in my estimation. Side note: they do make conversion devices for 8 tracks and vinyl. If you can master the technology, much cheaper than paying someone to do the conversion or replacing your hundreds of cassettes or albums with CDs. Anyway, I’m considering making sure I have my hundreds of CDs copied to the hard drive (redundancy is your friend), and selling, giving away, or donating the original CDs. There are loads of them that I haven’t listened to in years…but I might! Comments?

    • The problem is that it is illegal to keep a copy of a CD you have gotten rid of. If you give/sell the CD away, you no longer have any ownership to back up having the electronic versions. This is why we have a box in the basement with my partner’s CDs in it, while he listens to them electronically. Clutter? Yes, but we don’t care to buy all the music electronically or to be that far out of copyright either.

      • Steve C and Kayote – I have just gone thru this recently with our CD’s – and believe me if there is a family that loves their music is mine – I sat everyone down and held up CD’s one by one and the majority got a NO. Turns out back in the day we’d only liked one or two songs on the CD but had to buy the whole CD. These days we just buy the one song off iTunes.

        Ironically as we were going thru these CD’s I noticed a few that in recent times I’d gone and bought the favourite track off iTunes, as I like having the music on my iPhone and wasn’t able to find the relevant CD. Occasionally I’ll remember a particular song with good memories attached, so I just go to youtube and play it there, usually one or two runs thru it does the trick and I move on again.

      • Kaynote and Moni: I never even gave the whole question of legality a thought. Probably most Americans don’t. What we treat as innocuous, the government views as malicious.

      • Hi Kayote, I mention this every time the subject comes up here at 365 Less Things. You are absolutely correct that you must have a copy or have proof of purchase via a music download site such as iTunes. That is why we also have a box of CD’s, minus their covers, still in our possession also.

        Moni, I do the same as you ~ enjoy a song a couple of times on youtube and move on.

  12. great article, Colleen. I am on the safe side as well these days.
    I noticed over time that there are areas that are growing and others shrink down. For example I own much more puzzles these days, due to the missing tv. I think that is alright. I do have the space for that. When I would finish one that I dont want to do again, I give it away.
    I have a good decluttering routine. Most of my decluttered items (clothes, kitchen items, puzzles, books, CDs) are collected in a “flea-market-box” that I put online for someone to pick up – I dont sell most of my items anymore – except those that are worth more than 15 Euros. Due to a very very very rainy summer I did not use the for free box on the street at all.
    I developed a browsing method for shopping clothes that guarantees a good balance in my wardrobe. one in one out is a good rule for that.
    I am so good with my paper, I surprised myself: doing the taxes was rather easy, because I am up to date with everything, decluttered and organised neatly in folders! YES!!

    I am quite happy with my home these days. It is spacious, I like the things I own. and I can have surprise visits with only 5 mins prep time and everything is good to go!


  1. […] Flowing Through – On the blog 365 Less Things Colleen is very helpful for those of us looking to remove clutter from our lives. […]