Fourth Thursdays with Deb J ~ Constant Weeding

Deb J

Deb J

One of the rules of engagement we have learned from Colleen is to constantly be weeding out the things we no longer need. That’s what we are doing when we “declutter one thing a day.” With her Monday Mini-Missions she has been good to give us items to consider decluttering so that we don’t even have to really think about it if we follow them. Our work is already planned for us.

I began to think about this when a friend from church asked me to help her with decluttering. Her husband was just placed in an Alzheimer’s group home and she is well aware that many of the items in her home will no longer be used. The house is cluttered due to taking care of her husband and trying to deal with his disease. She may move to a smaller house and closer to her husband’s group home. She wants to begin the weeding process. She especially wants to be rid of the clutter that accumulated while having the day to day care of her husband. I tried to come up with a list of mini-missions that would help her without overwhelming her.

After explaining to her the idea of decluttering one item a day and looking for things that are broken, soiled, the wrong size, no longer used, or seldom used, this is what I came up with. Oh, I also explained the idea of having boxes where she could accumulate things to toss, sell, repair, or give away. I explained these could be dealt with along the way as time permitted.

  1. Start with storage areas first. It took me a great amount of thought to decide to have her tackle this first. But I realized that all the clutter on all of the surfaces in the various rooms had to go somewhere and if it needed to be kept it couldn’t go into a storage area if it was already full. I know that Mom & I used to be guilty of the habit of just stuffing something in a storage area when people were coming to visit or the mess got too overwhelming. How many times have you cleaned up the house by putting it all in one room and closing the door? Her first week’s worth of mini-missions was to go through her garage storage cupboards one cupboard a day. The second week’s missions were to go through her pantry, the guest closet, the huge linen closet, the guest room closet, and the large set of storage cupboards in her laundry room. Like most of us, when we open a drawer or cupboard we tend to declutter whatever is there not just one item. I told her that was fine but it really was okay to do one item a day. She was to repeat these mini-missions until she felt the storage areas were ready and she could move on. This would give her some working area where she could store her decluttering boxes until it was time to move them out.
  2. Next she was to go through each room, one room a day, and start putting the clutter in the room where it belonged. She didn’t have to put it away yet. She just needed to have it in the right room. Again I thought about this long and hard. I realized that getting the clutter to the room where it belonged helped me to know if I had too much of that item and helped me to know how to put things away in that room when the time came. I again told her to do this until all the clutter was properly distributed.
  3. By this time the clutter would have been transferred to the proper room. The storage areas should be decluttered of everything that needed to go and she should be ready to start doing the nitty gritty item at a time decision making. Her first room to declutter completely was the living room. For her it would be the easiest, would give her a good handle on how to go about the process of really decluttering and would give her a public room in good shape. I told her that for each room she tackled there was a formula to follow. Again I told her to do this as many weeks as it took to get things decluttered.
  1. Day 1 – declutter the surfaces of furniture (magazines, books, nicknacks, etc.)
  2. Day 2 – declutter the floor (rugs, storage items, piles)
  3. Day 3 – declutter the storage areas (drawers, shelves, closets, etc.)
  4. Day 4 – declutter the walls
  5. Day 5 – declutter the furniture (do you really need it all?)
  6. Day 6 – declutter anything else that might be specific to that room
  1. By this time the house should be in pretty good shape for the time being. She should be able to go through each day and find one thing more to get rid of but the house would be in visiting condition and she would not feel the weight of the mess on her shoulders.

I am hoping that this will give my friend an easy way to declutter without being overwhelming and yet with results she can see. She is being slow and careful about making any decisions about moving so she doesn’t have to go too fast until she decided whether she will move or not.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that has been sitting in a storage area for quite sometime but still isn’t being used.

Eco Tip for the Day

Choose water based latex paints over solvent based paints when painting your home. Never use lead-based paints. (Tip curtesy of Greenpeace USA)

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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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • You can do things differently Doodles blog post yesterday got me thinking about how out of character my decluttering method is to my usual behaviour. Of the seven sabotaging behaviours Doodle mentioned in the post, I […]
  • Declutter your house and your mind I have been receiving and reading some good post by other bloggers lately that I feel the need to share with you. Here is a great one that Cindy sent through to me... ~Want to […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Excellent advise Deb J. Knowing what the end result would be is a great incentive.
    My son’s girlfriend is moving house with her Mum. She was upset to see the multi slicer on the toss pile, then she realised they had never used it so was happy to donate it.

    • I think it is so funny how so many times people don’t want to get rid of something until they are reminded that they have never used it.

  2. The part of putting things in the correct room is SO true. Just moving those two pans into the kitchen from the laundry room – it didn’t click in my brain that I actually possess five, but when they were all together, it was holy cow! I think this may go along with that time when Colleen posted how many scissors she had and then decluttered. When you have one here and one there and another one over there (of whatever it may be), you forget and keep accumulating. I do, at any rate.

    • Michelle, it can be shocking how just having things in one place can open our eyes to what an overabundance we sometimes have. I think my friend S is finding that out. She never realized the amount of books she had until she started gathering them all in one place.

      • So true, Deb J. It’s funny when you guys come tromping through my thoughts. I guess this all goes hand-in-hand with rampant consumerism and the marketing ploys of “if one is good, two is better” and a matter of convenience, getting drawn in by advertising and salespeople. For Christmas a couple of years ago, I told hubby that a flat screen monitor would be wonderful. Bless his heart, he went out and bought the biggest, best flat screen monitor he could find (and what the salesperson suggested). Not quite what I had in mind. It has all sort of extra stuff for high-tech game playing graphics – – we don’t have games on our computer and it is super wide. LOL I should have exchanged it for a smaller one, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. And this is something that I’m keeping in mind with the washer/dryer hunt. Not to overbuy. Buy what is suitable for my purposes.

        • Ha! Your husband sounds like my dad. My mother never could get it that she needed to be careful what she said around dad when it came to things she would like to have. They could be walking through a store and she could say something like “Oh that’s nice” or “What fun” or “I could see having this” and the next thing she knows something like it would show up. Many times it was either more than she would want or she was just commenting and didn’t want it or it he would get something not quite as good. Then she would be stuck with it because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

    • Oh I was the same with pens, micro-fibre cloths (still have just one in each cupboard now, the rest live in the kitchen till needed) rulers, scissors, colour pens, notebooks, spares of spares Aaaarrrggghhh!!!! I am so looking forward to a lot more ‘weeding’ 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. Good strategies here Deb J – you are turning into the Decluttering guru of your town!

    • Moni, you are too funny. I just want to help those who need it.

    • I agree with Moni Deb J, you and your Mum have done a bang up job to date. May I add a comment here about the saying we’ve all heard, ‘Takes one to Know one!’ I remember in the schoolyard when kids would taunt each other, your an idiot and such like. Well I kinda reckon it takes a disorganised, maybe messy, maybe cluttered, maybe too much of everything, to know one. I’d say with my journey it puts me in a great place to help others who may be drowning in their stuff, just too blinded to notice, until a friend is there to help either point it out and offer help or be asked to help because they are pro-active about their self-help!! I have enjoyed your journey Deb J as with everyones’ journeys here, it has been great to read about simple strategies and think “Aha!!” and try it. Not everything is going to work for everyone, but if enough people think of Decluttering their lives for what ever reason, there is always going to be someone out there to turn to for help and advice when it all gets too much!

      I still love hearing how people come to the point of no return and declare “Today is the day that I…….” 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Thanks Dizzy. I am enjoying what everyone has to say each day. There are all these little tidbits that set my mind off and running so that something else gets thought of to get rid of.

  4. I do love the process Deb J -very logical. I like multiple scissors in my 66sqm home – kitchen ones, sewing ones near the sofa and multipurpose ones in pen jar in kitchen (usually for gift wrapping and similar. My clutter black hole is definately my linen/stationary/pantry cupboard. There’s stuff in there I can’t recall and that screams the need to thin it out!

    • SarahN, our linen cupboard, stationary drawers and pantry were problem areas also. It’s so easy to lose stuff in those drawers and have no idea what is in them any longer. I used to be a stationary hoarder. I love paper and I bought it just because. At least I used to use it but then it got to where everyone wanted to email or facebook and I was still wanting to buy paper. Had to get out of that habit and then use up the stuff.

  5. What thoughtful and thorough advice Deb. I’m sure you have made what could be a difficult transition in your friend’s life a whole lot easier to handle and work through.

    • I sure hope, Kim @ Extra Organized, that my friend is helped by this. She is just at the beginning of the process.

  6. Hi, Deb J! I caught the phrase: “How many times have you cleaned up the house by putting it all in one room and closing the door?” and I remembered that I did that so many times I can’t count!!! These days I don’t resort to that, but I still have some “storage” that needs to be taken care of. But I have made quite a lot of progress.

    • Andreia, I think we all have places we still need to look at. It is getting better here at our house but life sometimes gets in the way and we resort to that old “shove it out of sight” method of cleaning. I have a goal of getting to where that never happens.

  7. Great post, Deb J. You have given not only great tips for your friend but you are an inspiration and great help for others who may not know where to start. I like the task of putting things in their proper place and determining what you actually have. That is a great first step in deciding what of it you actually need. That is so commendable that your friend knows that as her husband needs a change in his care needs, that she too needs to make changes in her surroundings. As hard as it is for the person going through Alzheimer’s, it is just as hard on the person taking care of them. She is fortunate to have a friend like you to help her thru this task.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jen. I have this belief that we many times make things hard because we only look at the big picture. If you break things down into smaller units it makes doing the job easier. How much easier can it be than Colleen’s one item a day? But when all you see is the whole then having someone break it down for you is a big help. My friend, S, is coming over today to have me help her with her medical bills. She has never had a system of dealing with them because they haven’t had insurance for a number of years. Before that they were pretty healthy and she didn’t need a system. So I am going to walk her through creating a system and how to read all that paperwork she receives.

      • What a help you are to your friend, S. Sometimes it just takes the patience of other people, like what you are doing, to be willing to share a system or idea (like decluttering an item a day) that truly works if it is applied. In this life, we take for granted sometimes even the special skills that we all have because we are too busy to look beyond our own lives. We all should take time out of our days to help others. Of course, that is what I find here at this blog, we are all here to help one another toward a common goal.

  8. Great post Deb J, you have given your friend a good plan to follow. Sometimes mapping out the job is half the battle of getting started. It is very easy to be deterred by not knowing where to begin and you have given your friend a good starting point and follow on plan. I am sure she is finding the task much easier for that. As always you have proved to be a wonderful member of your community.

    • Thanks Colleen. I love our community. We are blessed and sure have a lot of fun helping each other. I learn so much just reading about the problems and solutions others have.

  9. Deb J, you are a generous soul. (and yes, we live in weird Times and cultures where helping to own less is more generous ( to some at least) than giving in the traditionell Sense …)

  10. This is great advice for your friend or anyone else feeling overwhelmed by their accumulated excess!

    For today’s mini mission I visited my closet where I keep my purses. I found two that I really don’t use any more- one that I never did that was given to me as a gift and just really isn’t my style and the other that I did purchase for myself some time ago that turned out to be a pain because it has no zipper so I’m always paranoid that my stuff will come flopping out of it so I don’t use it. Last night before bed I found a cheese cutter that we don’t use any more and put that in the donate pile as well.

    During the week when I work I find it awesome to have small declutter projects to work on. I don’t mind tackling larger jobs on the weekend when I have enough time to complete it in a more thorough fashion. My husband and I are hoping to move to a smaller place in a roughly a year so I know that I will be very grateful for all of those completed mini missions when it comes time to make the move!

    • Melissa, glad you liked the advice. Isn’t it interesting the things people give us as gifts? I have found that most gifts I have received are not on my list of things I would like to have unless I have actually given the giver a list beforehand. I think the “give what you would like to get” idea is still prevalent out there. I do not like purses and I think everyone has finally figured it out. I hope so.

      I’m like you about enjoying having small projects for throughout the week. I think Colleen was very smart when she came up with the idea. It’s been a really big help to all of us.

      • Regarding gifts: I realized a few years back that most people aren’t actually interested in giving something I like, but just things they think suitable for a gift. I often found that people asked for my wishes and when I told them bluntly replied that my wishes were “too cheap”, “too expensive” or “too hard to find/get” and I should think of something else. Oh well, if a 15€ casserole is all I wish for at the moment, that’s how it is.
        I’d always take e.g. real Japanese origami paper, but that’s too hard to come by for most, as it must be ordered via the internet over here. I don’t want any “normal” European paper from the store though, as I can easily get that myself and it’s just too thick for most things I’d like to fold. So I’m “difficult”. 😛
        Therefore, I have adjusted to gift-giving as to what it mostly is in my opinion: giving relatively generic things as a gesture in itself and thus rely on the most traditional/generic gifts there are: flowers, food or money(gift cards) – and maybe socks. 😉 I rarely give anything else (unless I know I can fulfill a REAL wish of the recipient) and usually don’t wish for anything else either (unless I know the giver can fulfill one of my REAL wishes without too much trouble). Now people complain that that’s boring, but oh well, then I’m boring. 😉

        • I know what you mean Sanna. Gift giving has become something where many want to be able to get in and get out of the store quickly or get online quickly. Many also want tend to be drawn in by ads or commercials. That’s why we no longer exchange gifts with anyone in the family or with friends.

        • Gifts! This must be an issue for us all. When I was a kid, I loved gifts. As an adult, I think, enough already. My poor husband. I almost always I end up exchanging what he gets me. He asks. I tell. He buys not quite the right thing. Honest to Pete, I am not that difficult. Well crap, maybe I am the difficult one! Sanna, when did gifts become such an ordeal because I am in agreement with you.

          • Michelle, I think gifts became such an ordeal when we started having so much that anything we buy as a gift is an unneeded extra. Used to you could buy a place setting of china for a loved one because they didn’t get the entire set at their wedding. You could get your child a new bicycle because that only happened when they reached a certain age. You could buy a friend a book because we only got books for Christmas and birthdays. Now you get things you want when you want them to an extent. It makes it much harder to find things that will be special and really appreciated.

          • Deb J – that’s right. I’m not going to lump all my friends/family together in this, but a lot of folks simply are not appreciative of the efforts that others make. Or it’s just expected and then still not appreciated. It has become common instead of a joyful event. I want to be careful to consider the other’s feelings. (I sincerely hope I’m not coming off all superior – not my intent.)

          • I don’t think either of us is trying to come across as superior. I know it is hard to buy for me because I need nothing and want so little. Yet, if a person were to take the time to get to know me they would find that there are a number of things they could do that I would appreciate. The problem is that it takes time and and effort to find those things out.

        • My daughter’s father is one of those who buys gifts with “suitable” in mind as opposed to what she actually asks for. He also buys with “image” in mind. Like this past Christmas, she told him she wanted money or gift cards for Amazon or a bookstore. He bought her clothes and a gift card from a clothing store she doesn’t even like to shop at. And, yes, he doesn’t know his oldest daughter at all and it is kind of sad (for him).

          She would love to get real origami paper as a gift. OMG. She loves origami.

          I think your gift requests (with the exception of flowers) are wonderful. I love food, money(gift cards), and socks. Those are typically my requests, too. Nothing wrong with easily accessible gifts – I don’t think food, money, or socks are boring. ^___^

          • Maybe there is a way to diplomatically give your daughter’s father a list of things she likes and places where she likes to shop. Don’t do it just before a gifting occasion but at a time when you can say, “Hey, I was talking with ________ and she mentioned some things I thought might be helpful for you.” You never know, maybe he will actually pay attention to it.

          • Good advice Deb J.
            Communication is key in raising a well adjusted child when the parents are separated. If only it wasn’t so difficult.

          • Thanks Colleen. I wouldn’t want to be going through raising a child and being divorced. It is so very hard in so many ways. Even when the parents get along well and do everything they can to give the child stability, etc.

      • Yes, many of the items that have gotten placed into the donate box over the past few weeks have been items that were given to my husband or I as gifts. I know that the intent the items were given with was to bless us. And it is very nice that the givers of these things thought of us. I hope that by donating them to a thrift shop another family can find use for them since we could not. Personally I like to give clutter free consumable gifts like wine, high quality olive oil or good quality chocolate.

        • Melissa, I am with you on getting rid of the gifts you can’t use. I also agree that giving consumable gifts (whether foods or experiences) is much better.

          • I’m glad you brought up experience gifts. I love receiving experience gifts. Gifts of donations to a charity are awesome too. Knowing that my house is full and that I’m working on decluttering it a few of my friends have dropped me a note or email over Christmas letting me know that they’ve given a donation in my name to the World Wildlife Fund since they know I’m a critter lover. I love that!

    • Hi Melissa, well done with this weeks decluttering. I like your idea of easy missions during the week and more complicated ones on the weekend when you have more time.

      • Thanks! Progress not perfection is what I like to strive for. I have been making a lot of progress so I’m happy! Thanks for the mini missions. 🙂

  11. Deb J, I really like your approach!
    I think it’s great how you help your friend.
    Personally, as we’re out of the thick of decluttering here (our home is far from minimalist or bare, but we know quite well, what we own and where it is), I enjoy the creative ways of decluttering at the moment. Like using scraps for craft projects, including print copies of photos we also own digitally in easter or birthday cards or passing on books and items when I meet people who have a use for them at the moment. It’s fun to see how many good possibilities of passing your stuff on present themselves when you don’t cling onto your stuff that much any more.

    • Sanna, you are right that it is fun to find ways to pass things along or use them creatively. It’s much more fun when you can put a little creativity into it.

  12. Deb, your friend is so lucky to have a friend like you to help her, and it’s wonderful that she realised she needed to take action and wasn’t too proud to take help as well.

    I own 85% of the non-furniture “stuff” in our house and I don’t want to leave that legacy to my husband if something awful happens to me and I’m not longer capable or alive to take care of it. It’s mostly not stuff that I treasure, not worth anything much, and not worth his time sorting through. I’m determined to pare it down to what is valuable to me so that he has less to deal with if the worst happens. Even if something happened to both of us and whoever takes care of things in that case wanted to just box my stuff up and mail it to my parents, at least it should be stuff worth mailing!

    • Jenny, you have the right attitude. I have an aunt and uncle who have all sorts of things in barrels and boxes that they haven’t looked at in over 30 years. They are in their late 70’s and I hate to think what their 2 sons will go through when the parents are gone. What a mess.

  13. Deb this is great advice though it is not what I do. Can you guess I get visually overwhelmed and need to have the open spaces neat before tackling storage areas? For someone like me, I’ve found more peace in keeping the open spaces cleared first, particularly in the main living areas. This helps me get rid of even more stuff if there is nowhere to store things. Having my main living areas stay clutter free also gives me hope that I can do this and reminds me how great I feel in those spaces. That makes it easier to deal with letting go of the rest of the clutter. I can have cluttered closets, but my living room can be spotless in minutes. I don’t keep a lot of flat surfaces in there. I have an ottoman instead of a coffee table. So there isn’t much space to put stuff down. I keep something small and pretty on any flat surfaces so it doesn’t beg for stuff to be placed there. 🙂 I know your idea is right, but it would drive me crazy if I had my main living areas cluttered and had to start pulling stuff out of closets too. So I wanted to share what works for me for those others who need the peaceful space now without being visually overwhelmed.

    • One thing I have learned is that there is always the exception. I think that is why I like this blog so much. With all that Colleen and Cindy put on here plus all the comments we can find a variety of ways to do things. We can then pick out the one that works best for us. After all, Variety is the Spice of Life.

      • Thank you Deb! I know your way is better, and I’d be better off in the long run doing it like that. It have to make myself remember the hidden clutter. It’s what I can see that makes me hop to it. Hopefully this time I will keep the clutter away and not need to empty out cabinets and closets again.

        • My way is not necessarily better. It is just one way to go about it and is the best one for the lady I devised it for. If you are getting things done that is all that matters.

  14. I think you did the order of decluttering very well for your friend’s special situation. The idea of clearing out her storage space first was really good because it would give her a place to put things and also because there was probably a lot there that would need to go anyway and would be easy to part with. Getting everything in the room where it belonged makes sense, too. It is very hard to know how much of anything you have when it is spread out all over the house. Taking care of her husband must have been very intensive and would not have left her much undisturbed time to keep her house the way she would have liked.

    • Thanks Nana. Yes, the care of her husband was quite intensive and he didn’t help the clutter at all. But it was easier to not fight it at the time. Now she is ready to get going once she has all of the paperwork hassles taken care of.