From the Archives ~ Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ A Sense of Wealth

Do you feel rich in your possessions or poor? Feeling poor makes it difficult to get rid of things that are no longer needed, wanted or valued. It induces hoarding and the suspicion that you really might need that someday.

Might you really?

Feeling rich in your possessions allows you to let things go. It allows you to feel sure that there’s no lack of items in the world, and there’s certainly not, at least not in the world of anyone who’s reading this blog. Certainly our fortunes may change, but it’s unlikely that anything you may declutter today would mean the difference between salvation and poverty in the future.

My husband told a joke about engineers who like to tinker. The punchline is that none of them ever uses the stuff they collect, and when they get rid of it, they pass it to another engineer to store in theirgarage.

He went on to tell me what I already believe: That there are few items so unique and so precious that they cannot be replaced if you find you really cannot live without them. While that exact item may be difficult to find, something very similar will surely be available, perhaps at the thrift store, perhaps on Ebay, perhaps in your friend’s garage.

I’m sure most of you read my post commemorating my 365th day of decluttering. I said that the only thing I regretted getting rid of was the cracking lid to a 13×9 metal pan. Amazingly enough, in the Lost and Found cleaned up, there was a perfect 13×9 pan with a lid. My friend Jennifer has one just like it, and she takes delicious mint brownies to all the school functions in it, so I called her to confirm it wasn’t hers. It wasn’t, and now it’s mine. All I needed was 1) to want something and 2) to wait. Everything you need is available to you, and you just have to wait for it to appear.

Jennifer’s Delicious Mint Brownies


  • 4 squares of unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1 C butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 t mint extract
  • 1 C flour, sifted
  • 1/4 t of salt

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Cool and add remaining ingredients. Pour batter into a well greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Let your brownies cool.


  • 2 T butter
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 t mint extract
  • green food coloring (optional)

Cream the butter, gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the milk, mint and food coloring. Frost the brownies and refrigerate.


  • 2 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • 2 T butter

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Mix well and pour over frosting, spreading until the brownies are completely covered. Cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

(For my diabetic friends, I figured these have 775 carbohydrates for the entire pan.)

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. The prominent quote on my board is “Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.” Of the THOUSANDS of items we have decluttered over the years there’s only one I really regret selling — and it would probably have worn out by now anyway. All the rest? Well, what was it anyway? I can’t even remember…

    • Exactly Wendy!

    • There are only two categories of items with which I have difficulty paring down: good books and old vinyl records. Because those things live neatly on shelves, I use the term “paring down” rather than “declutterung,” simply because they are not in the way, and are regularly enjoyed. Aside from true family heirlooms — not to be confused with Granny’s 1950’s Tupperware — almost anything else can be decluttered and pared down to basic necessities.

      Vintage books and vinyl can hold real value, and while so much music is now easy to store digitally, the works of many old musicians never made it to the digital world. Those are worth keeping, or giving to someone who appreciates it. Your “Men At Work” album from college can be given to the thrift store — songs of theirs which you like are easily available online. Not true for the old Mississippi Delta bluesman and many folk singers up through the mid 1970s.

      Other than carefully tending my music and ” real” books, I almost live like a Zen monk. The one thing I do regret putting in a yard sale was and old set of small, hand woodworking tools I had not used in many years. They were in a modest sized box. I have taken up making birdhouses again, and the new replacement tools are poorly made if you seek a reasonable price.

      On the other hand, I have never once bemoaned culling anything from my kitchen. One truly needs very few baking and cooking “specialty” tools. My friends often ask how I can bear to have such a small kitchen. It is simply because my drawers and cupboards are not packed with unnecessary banana slicers, egg slicers, bread machines, pasta makers, apple peelers, and what-not. In the realm of counter top appliances, I own a small microwave, a blender which also juices, a toaster, and a spice / coffee grinder. No other electrical appliances. I make coffee with a French press pot. If I baked more pastry, I might own a mixer — but when I make bread, I enjoy kneading it. Pouring a mix into a bread machine pan seems less satisfying. But no good cook really needs much. more than the most basic items. And you can even live in the proverbial New York Apartment Kitchen with a modest selection of good cooking tools.

      • Hi Dez, I am inclined to agree with all of your points here. Although I am sure there are some avid cooks/bakers out there who would feel about their cookware the same as you do about your books and vinyl records. Not me though I love an uncluttered kitchen as well, and am not inclined to bake much these days as I am now over 50 and would rather avoid the middle age spread and eating cakes etc isn’t conducive to that.
        And we are all entitled to keep the collections of things that we hold dear. I still have a lot of craft supplies and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. Through all my decluttering I never let go of my knitting or crochet hooks as they are things that I always come back to even though they sit idle for a while.

        • I keep my knitting and crochet supplies, too, but they are well organized in bins, as I am sure yours are.. I am semi-retired now and appreciate the effort I have put into keeping our household organized all these years.

          I wanted to add a thought. Went to a blood drive today and all sorts of T-shirts, hats and what not were offered for those who gave blood. I just said, “no thank you.” The easiest way to decluttering is not to bring it in! It saves the charity money as well, as it saves a shirt or hat to give to another person who insists on one.

          The same is true for fundraiser races and other T-shirts from local events. I own a couple that I use ONLY for painting. After they are washed, I even store them and the ratty jeans I use for painting in the cabinet for the paint supplies!

          • Hi Dez, good for you not taking the freebie. I also kindly refuse these offers. Sometimes it feels to me that wearing items like that is almost like saying “Look at me, I’m so good, I donated something.” To me donating is more noble when you don’t go around advertising the fact.

  2. I agree, when I feel like I could afford to replace an item if I find I need it, then it’s easy to let go of the item. It takes more thought on my part for expensive or unique items that I can’t easily replace if I can replace at all. I have to admit I don’t remember any items that I have had to replace.

    Garage sales are very enlightening…..things I paid hundreds of dollars for I couldn’t even sell for $20! Put my possessions in a new perspective for me! Lol

    • Hi Calla, I always look at an item and think “If I late have a use for this is there another way to get around that problem or another item in the house that can perform the same task.” Usually the answer is yes. There is so much stuff that we don’t need at all. Because of my environmental sensibilities I am disinclined to ever want to replace anything. So thank God I am good at improvising which only reinforces the fact that I didn’t need the thing in the first place.

  3. Colleen, this was a great post of Cindy’s. I miss her being around—–she must have completed all her decluttering and got busy with other things.

    This post hits home for me. As I have said before, I grew up poor, and it gives one the mindset that you need to hold on to useful things because you might need it later. To this day, I find it more difficult to give up something useful –or that COULD be useful in the future— than I do something decorative or in some other category. I always have this thought in the back of my mind that I might not have access to one in the future if I needed it or that I might not have the money to replace it. It is a poverty mentality that is hard to overcome. It is the old “I might need it someday” syndrome that is written about in every minimalist/decluttering book and article. I think it is probably the most difficult thing to get past in decluttering as it is a deep rooted type of fear. But, if one can ever make themselves “just let go”, it is so liberating!!!!

    • I know exactly what you are saying Brenda. I also have a harder time letting go of useful things than anything else.
      The poverty mentality to work in your favour the other way around though. When out shopping and are tempted to purchase something you can ask yourself ~ “Do I really need this or would I be better to save the money for a rainy day?” The answer to that is usually a resounding “I’d be better to save the money.”.

  4. I think the one thing I decluttered that I wish I still had is the square box with 3 drawers in it I used for scrapbooking. I could use it now when I move into my new place. I will check out the thrift stores.

    • Those drawers can be very useful. I still have one set of those which has been used for all sorts of different things over the years. Right now it is being used to house medications and first aid items in the bathroom cabinet. Our cabinets are very small and have no drawers so the 3 drawer box is very handy for story little stuff.

  5. Thank you for re-publishing this excellent post Colleen. I understand how this fear of letting potentially useful items go can take hold. I see how strong it is for my dad who was a child during WW2 and whose parents lived through very difficult times before then. Just a few days ago he was talking about the tent that we had in my childhood (it was used once or twice, and I don’t remember those occasions, and some years it would be installed in the garden in the summer for a week or two for my sister and me to play in) and when I asked why he still had it, when it hasn’t been used for 40 years, he seemed rather irritated and said he always thought that someone might want to use it. I don’t think so – old heavy fabric, probably damp and mildewed, difficult to put up and take down – this is truly something that is “rotting in the darkness” , to borrow Marie Kondo’s phrase. Unfortunately it is only one of many hundreds of other unused items that have been kept for decades. All I can do is ensure that I don’t continue this behavior in my own home.

    • Hi Chrsitine, I understand how your dad felt. Life was quite different back then and people were less inclined to just acquire for the sake of acquiring like they do these days. And my experience is that it is more difficult to declutter items that have actually been useful. Much of what accumulates around our homes in the modern age isn’t even necessary in the first place let alone likely to become so at a later date. My hope is, for the sake of the environment that we return more towards the old ways when it comes to acquiring stuff. That will most certainly affect the economy of the modern world but it is time that to evolve into a more sustainable model in my opinion.

  6. Yippee!!! My husband has decluttered another leather jacket! (uncomfortable)… and a frayed flannel shirt… and the wheelbarrow… and a bunch of CDs (the music kind haha)… My older daughter (who has a lot of trouble parting with anything even if very worn looking) is getting rid of an old raggedy “fake fur” rug… and a couple of toddler winter jackets… and a double stroller… and the crib and 2 old carseats… and 2 throw pillows… and a furry stuffed lion pillowcase (she loved as a child but her kids ignore it)… This is PROGRESS!!! Neither of them has ever been on this decluttering mission with me! And just recently they are softening towards it… Yippee!!! 🙂

    • Way to go Peggy. It’s called leading by example. As so many readers of this site have experienced, you start getting rid of your stuff and eventually the family will see the light and follow suit. Ian was extremely reluctant to part with stuff when I started and now he has embraced the idea of lightening our load. Slowly, slowly…

  7. That is SO TRUE.. you just have to wait.