Fourth Thursdays with Deb J ~ Decluttering the Landscape

Deb J

Deb J

My Mom is a gardener at heart. She loves to work in the yard growing flowers and some veggies. She also loves to grow indoor plants. I think if she could she would be “gardening” all the time. There are problems with all this. She can no longer physically do the gardening. It is hard for her. She feels she has lost part of her identity.

We have always been known for having a “jungle” in our house. There have been plants, plants and more plants. When she was still gardening we also had a yard full of plants. It drove me nuts because to me it was too crowded. This is one area where I have learned to just compromise and live with it.

Lately Mom has been looking at things a little differently. She has given away a number of plants out of the house and off the porch. She says it feels stifling. She never thought about it because she was so on the go when she was younger. Now she sits down more, she realizes that it is draining.

These changes have recently precipitated several conversations with others about their landscapes both inside and out. It takes energy and time to have a breathtaking landscape. They have been asking. Do you have the energy and time? Is this where you want to spend your time and energy? Or do you need to declutter the landscape in order to create beauty while also creating minimal effort and time?

One last thought. What does your mental/emotional landscape look like? Does it also need some decluttering?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a  childhood or baby item of you or your children.

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t throw those old sheets, towels, blankets and pillows in the trash donate them to an animal shelter, humane society, wildlife rescue service, kennel or veterinary surgery.

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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  • Mini Mission – Monday 13Nov2017 Declutter a less loved item from a large collection.
  • Simple Saturday ~ Key mini mission Moving from house to house, changing cars, motorbikes and furniture results in the accumulation of redundant keys over time. The time has come again to purge those keys that we recognise […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Interesting post Deb J, plants are sometimes seen as sacred I think! I’ve seen many huge, tatty, dusty plants well past their prime and the owners obviously don’t think anything’s wrong.

    I used to have quite a few house plants and hang onto them long after their best, now I have one on the kitchen counter, one by the front door and one on the patio – SO MUCH EASIER! Recently we had a miniature fir tree in a pot on the porch and it died. Our first instinct was to find something to replace it but we decided against it. I like the clear space better now.

    We are also simplifying the garden, neither my husband or I enjoy gardening, so if something dies or looks bad I pull it out. We have some fruit and a few veggies but I’m not putting more in. Lots of perennials for colour. We now pay a gardener for one hour a week to weed, prune etc and my husband mows the lawn.

    For many years we lived in a flat and looked out over a lovely garden that someone else cared for – nothing wrong with that!

    Obviously if someone is a keen gardener that’s great and I love to see a beautiful garden.

    • Janetta, it sounds like you have found your sweet spot for plants and how to keep up the garden. LIke you, if someone loves gardening and can do it that’s great. I just hope they have the time and they don’t let it become a jungle.

  2. Deb J – I am very very happy to read this post!

    Two issues here for me, I have no pot plants inside at all. I would like to have some green plants inside and I think it could be a healthy idea, but I’m not sure if I’m a wee bit afraid of pot plants or suspicious of pot plants. As a rule in the past I have killed them and so don’t really want to kill more innocent plants. I think it goes back to when I was a young girl and my mum was given a massive Maidenhair Fern by a friend leaving the country which was put in my room. Anyway when I was sick I would dump my medicine in it and hot lemon drinks too (have since learnt I have a minor allergy to citrus) and of course, half the plant died, and it freaked me out a bit, probably also some guilt etc. So rather than a pot plant clutter problem I have a pot plant austerity problem.

    Second issue – outside gardens. We have recently removed a number of debris producing and allergy causing plants and replaced with low maintenance plants in our front of house gardens, it looks really neat and tidy and the plants didn’t cost us anything as we seperated out the big clump of an existing plant. Adrian says he’d rather be fishing than gardening over the Summer. I talked him into expanding the same plan down one side of the house as the plants that were there, created a lot of dead leaves (and I mean a LOT all year) and they seemed to attract spiders which used these plants to get up close to the bedroom windows and get inside. As the only non-spider-phobe in the house, I’m glad to have a reduction in those duties too.

    We still have a decent size garden next to the deck area which will require some maintenance through out the season but it should be easier to keep on top of it now that we have gone low maintenance elsewhere on the property.

    I’m glad we’ve decided to go low-ish maintenance, weekends and holidays should be for enjoying each other’s company rather than spending so much time trying to stay on top of gardening.

    • Moni, I almost spit out my coffee laughing at the thought of your dumping medicine and hot drinks into the fern pot!

      Deb, I’m feeling a little bit like your mom. We have perennials, a vegetable garden and some potted plants. Before we had kids, I loved to work in the garden. I would come home from work and weed for a while, and it was a great stress reliever. I’d wake up early on weekends to go out to garden when it was quiet and cooler. Now, the vegetable garden seems more of a burden, and I have few potted plants. The perennials mostly take care of themselves.

      I’m not ready to let go, though. I love having tomatoes, peppers, beans, and basil that taste like something. I tell myself that if I’d just drag myself out of bed on summer mornings and spend even a half hour a day working in the garden, it would be effortless. Indoor plants are almost impossible, as the cats munch on them.

      • Donna B, I think our lives today are so different we don’t have time for the things that make our lives more beautiful. You know my parents were busy when I was growing up but it was the busyness of taking care of the home and family. Now jobs and the kids sports, etc. seem to take so much time there isn’t time for anything else. Maybe things outside the home take up too much time for the kids and parents alike. I don’t know the answers for anyone but me but I sure know that there are things I miss.

    • Moni, there are some plants that are hard to kill. Check with the local plant store and they might have some ideas. I think it is great that you are using low maintenance plants in your front and side gardens. You know, I think we all love beautiful gardens and would love to have them but few of us have the time—or the money to hire someone. It is amazing how much work it takes. If we had been in charge of planting ours here we certainly would have done differently. Not only do ours take more time and work than we can do but also more money than we want to put out to pay someone to do the maintenance.

    • Moni, you are killing me! I guess I’ve never asked before, but you are not in the U.S., are you? Here in Colorado, marijuana was legalized and a slang word for marijuana is “pot”, so you saying you have no pot plants inside just made me laugh until I was crying. I’d be suspicious of “pot plants” too. LOL 😉

      • That’s why I changed “pot plants” to “house plants” in my post, I always say the former and Americans collapse laughing!

      • Michelle – LOL! The term ‘weed’ tends to get used more often over here, but yes I can see how it could look. I heard on the radio a while back that an elderly lady was arrested for possession, turned out her grandson asked her to water his ‘tomato plants’ while he was out of town, and she naively took them home and had them sitting on the window sill for some sunlight.

  3. Great post Deb. It usually takes time to adjust to natural changes in our lives even though they are inevitable. Being stubborn about that does not do anyone any good. I am glad that your mom has realised that gardening is something she just can’t keep up with and is adjusting to an alternative.

    Right now I am adjusting to the idea of my husbands imminent semi-retirement. I dare say that ultimately it won’t make any negative impact on our lives, quite the opposite in fact but one can never be sure. I dare say in twelve months I’ll be vehemently extolling the virtues of early retirement and wondering why more people don’t do it instead of trying to amass a fortune they don’t need to live a happy life.

    • When I first met my in laws I remember telling them I was really keen on gardening. This was because I had just bought my first home with a garden and I imaged fondly hour spent tending tendrils and weeding weeds. However, time proved this to be as aspirational hobby that I actually clearly had little interest in. Ditto indoor plants. Our tiny back yard now only has plants in it that can survive neglect and cohorts of slugs and sails.

      • oops – wasn’t meant as a reply to Colleen, just a general reply…

      • Doodle, it is easy to see pictures in magazines and books that cause us to want something we see. It is only when we actually take on the work to get something to look like the picture and then maintain it that we realize it may not be for us. It’s good that you realized gardening wasn’t for you.

    • Colleen, you are right that it takes time to adjust to the natural changes in our lives. I think I change easier than most. Mom does not change as easy as she used to. It makes for an interesting living arrangement. I understand it though as we both are finding our bodies don’t deal with change as easy as our minds do. I hope that you find Steve’s semi-retirement is a thing to cheer about.

  4. I grew up in houses with garden – most of them with a pretty wild garden – but pretty nonetheless. In our climate if you let things grow wildly, you’ll get rich meadows with high grass and wild flowers. Fruit trees, vegetables and berries grow without a lot of special care – the main care you really have to take is usually to prevent them from being eaten by animals. Now I’ve lived in apartments for a couple of years but I really miss that outdoor space, as well as the fresh berries and vegetables. My “dream house” still features a little garden or at least some balcony. I’d always go for an easy-maintenance garden and wouldn’t care about weeds or an ever-short lawn all that much – rather grow a pretty meadow around some fruit trees, with poppies and other flowers that requires just one or two cuts a year. I’m pretty sure the looks aren’t minimal though.

    Indoor plants have been difficult for me, maybe just because of this growing up with letting things grow wildly, I never felt allowed to purposefully kill them. I became better and we got rid of a couple of plants, but we still have many, as my boyfriend loves them – I think we have about 12 pots at the moment – and only three rooms to put them. The problem with pot plants is that they keep growing and those plants that easily fit on a window sill without blocking the sight are suddenly a meter high.

    • Sanna, like you the thing I have learned is that everything grows. And grows. So that means you have to trim it every so often or find another place for it. I like your meadow and trees idea. Would love that. Unfortunately, we can’t do that here. We don’t have that much space but what we have is filled with fruit trees, roses and bushes. All of which grow quickly and need monthly trims. We have 6 fruit trees all close to needing to be picked. We are talking 1000’s of pieces of fruit. We had over 500 on ONE tree. They were here when we bought the place and Mom was all excited…until the first fruit picking season.

      • Deb J, my granny has a lot of fruit trees and she always lets people pick fruits for free nowadays. Neighbour families come over and pick a few buckets full for themselves – and usually one or two for my granny as well. So she still gets to enjoy making her fabulous fruit treats (like cakes and such), but without the overabundance to cope with or the work involved in picking.

        • We do the same. We have two men who love the lemons so they come pick them and share them with us. We have another couple who come and pick all the oranges and take them. Then the teens come and take all the grapefruit, put them in our church food pantry and they are given with food baskets.

          • Talk about appropriate, I’ve just spent the afternoon making marmalade and I still have masses of fruit. They make great gifts, but it is work…

  5. Spot on, Deb J. When my thirty something daughter was an infant, I embraced how one stage prepared her for the next stage in life. Happens to us adults as well. We need to embrace the “been there, done that” attitude and realize we aren’t getting any younger. To everything there is a season 🙂

  6. Certainly is a season for all things in life. It is nice though, that your mom is finding homes for her beloved plants. That at least in some way should help ease the transition. I do not have a green thumb, at all, so I will never be accused of having a jungle in my home :).

  7. What an excellent post!

    I grew up on a farm, and that farm included several large greenhouses, so there was never a lack of gardening or plant tending to be done. My father’s gardens always looked good, and so did my mother’s flower gardens.

    When I started my own family, I gardened a little, and always had several house plants.

    As I’ve gotten older, especially once I passed 50, I started questioning the obligation I felt about gardens and house plants.

    I felt GUILTY about not wanting to plant a big vegetable garden each year. I felt GUILTY about wanting to get rid of a few house plants too, but I decided that as long as I put the discarded house plants into my compost bin, I wasn’t really “wasting” them. They’d be returned to the earth to help make new soil.

    One of my sisters is an avid gardener who inherited the green thumb that my parents had. She is always very generous with her plants and shares with us every year. Before this year, I’d race around trying to get everything planted before it died, but it wasn’t fun. It hurt my body a lot.

    This year, I smartened up, cut way back on what I planted, and only asked my sister for the small amount of plants I knew I could plant and take care of without it becoming drudgery. It worked out much better.

    All we had in our garden this year was half a dozen tomato plants. I missed the selection of fresh veggies we usually have, but didn’t miss the work, the heat, or the chance of meeting a snake out there!

    I’m contemplating getting rid of a couple more house plants, just to have the bare space, but haven’t decided for sure yet.

    My husband and I are talking about building ourselves a couple of raised beds that would be nearly waist-high for next year, so we could have a few more veggies, but with less stiffness and pain from bending over so much tending the garden.

    • Becky, I think you and your husband are smart about building a couple of raised beds. You are also smart to only ask your sister for what you can plant and take care of easily. I’ve never been the gardener. Mom loves it and I tended to get roped in when needed. I’m the kind who likes plants that take little work. A philidendrin here, a spider plant there. Just watering and an occasional trim. My favorite are like real artificial plants. Grin.

  8. My husband and I had aspired to cut down on our flower beds this year – it didn’t happen 🙁 We wanted to completely remove three beds, the neighbors were excited to take the flowers, and *boom* life happened. Or maybe I should say it wasn’t a huge priority in our vast pool of “priorities”. I feel guilty our yard looks messy and overgrown in places. I used to go out everyday after work and pull weeds. Now I come home and its dinner, homework, send out my work, and trying to enjoy any time I can that is left before I crawl into bed around 10-11pm. It just doesn’t even register on my radar right now. Maybe next spring I can plan to get a grip on it? Is it too much to ask for a magical garden fairy to do my gardening? LOL!

    • Michaela, I know what you mean about wishing a garden fairy would come along. We could use one too. Sometimes you will just have a messy yard. We hired a couple of teens from church one time. they were raising money to go to camp. Paid them both $10 and hour for 2 hours work. Don’t usually have that kind of money now but did then. They really did a good job after we sshowed them what we wanted.

  9. Hi Deb, I like how you ask us to reflect on what our mental/emotional landscape looks like. As far as my physical landscape goes, the home my husband and I just purchased is in an older part of the city and many of the plants in the yard are probably about as old as the house. There were two giant bushes in the back and a sick fig tree that was mostly dead and full of rot in the base that I decided really needed to be removed. People have been asking what I’ll replace them with but honestly I’m not in a hurry to do that. I like the yard looking cleaner. Besides, it will take time for us to totally be rid of the two giant bushes. They had been allowed to grow into the chain link fence in the back yard and the landscaping company did what they could to remove the bushes but the bushes had become part of the fence. There are parts of the fence where you cannot see the metal because the branches have engulfed it by growing right over the chain links! In order to not ruin the fence we need to wait until the branches that have grown in the fence die (because we were able to saw them off at the base of the bush) and then become brittle enough to pick out of the fence.

    • Melissa, sometimes it is hard to take over a home that has a well established yard. We did that once and had to hire someone to come in and clean it out. It took 2 dump truck loads because the place had been rented and the renters did absolutely nothing. They didn’t even mow the grass. Thankfully, the previous owners had to pay for the work. Once it was all cleaned out we had a nice yard. We were amazed to find some flowers coming up not long after from bulbs that had been planted by the original owners. We loved that place once we got it all cleaned out and trimmed.

      • Thanks for the encouragement Deb! It’s nice to hear that you loved the yard after it was all cleaned up. It’s amazing the amount of debris yard clippings can generate! Those two bushes of ours filled up an entire landscaping trailer to the tippy top.

        I think it all takes time when you’re taking over an older home- not just outside, but inside as well. I spent one afternoon figuring out how to pry a glued on shampoo/conditioner dispenser off the tiled shower wall and then how to get the glue off the wall after the dispenser was down. At least we’ve gotten a head start on the yard. I have no idea how long it’s going to take those pyracantha bushes to get brittle enough to remove from the fence. For all I know it could take until the hot hot days of summer are back and the sun does a number on them. The landscapers thought it would only take a month and a half, but I’m not really so sure. I know decluttering takes time, but I had no idea decluttering a few bushes could take a lot of time too! lol.

        • Melissa, you are right that it takes a long time to get an older home and yard taken care of. Pyracantha bushes are a pain. We had some. By the way, did you know that when birds eat the berries they get drunk? We had a blast watching them.

          • haha. No, I had no idea that the birds became intoxicated when eating the berries. Dang, I had them cut down before we have moved in so I missed the fun. lol.

          • Melissa, they are hilarious to watch. They fly funny, walk funny, run into things, and in general can’t do their usual birdy things. It’s only when the berries are ripe and they eat them. We got a lot of fun out of watching them each year.