From the Archives ~ Keys to staying decluttered

A place for everything and everything in it’s place!

  • If you always know where everything is you won’t need to replace it because you can’t find it.

Know the difference between need and want

  • It is easy to convince yourself that something you want is something you need. Don’t be fooled by this.

Only shop for what you need

  • This one speaks for itself, if you aren’t bringing anything you don’t need into your home it will stay uncluttered.

Make it clear you don’t want clutter gifts

  • It is possible to convince most people not to buy you gift or at least insist that people only give you consumable gifts or gifts of experience such as movie tickets etc.

Remove clutter receptacles in your home

  • Adding clutter is difficult if you have no where to store it. Things such as bookcases, display cabinets, baskets, shelves and storage containers are clutter receptacles. Get rid of them as soon as you get rid of the clutter that was in them or you may just fill them up again.

Don’t sacrifice your principals for the desires of others

  • Don’t accept other peoples clutter just so you don’t hurt their feelings. Your feelings matter too and you shouldn’t be expected to sabotage your lifestyle in this way.

Remove any items that become useless immediately

  • Lifestyle changes are inevitable as time goes by. Once an item become of no further use to you remove it from your home or once again clutter will start to develop. Just because something wasn’t clutter once doesn’t mean it won’t become clutter in the future.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter the kids toy area to make room for the inevitable influx of new fun things. Regardless of how much you manage to contain the influx you will still need room. Kid will be kids and it is there job to have fun.

Today’s Decluttered Item

 It is amazing how little stationary one needs when most all data, correspondence or bills that comes into your home comes in digital form. Needless to say these folders and filing supplies are no longer needed.


Eco Tip for the Day

When entertaining, rather than resort to disposable crockery and cutlery, use all the non-disposable items you have on hand, if necessary borrow more from family, neighbours or friends or get the guests to bring their own. I put on the occasional neighbourhood get together and all guests are instructed to bring their own cups, plates, and cutlery. They never turn down the invitations so I guess they don’t mind.

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Day 196 Keys to staying decluttered A place for everything and everything in it's place! If you always know where everything is you won't need to replace it because you can't find it. Know the difference between need […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • How little we really need Every time I go on a long vacation I am reminded of how little one really needs to live a comfortable and functional lifestyle. My husband and I often stay in Airbnb places when on […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Hi Colleen! About my kids playroom it looks like a hurricane went right through it (and my boys are only 4 and 2 years old). I don’t know where I start decluttering. I did sit with my 4 year old and asked what is it that he did not play with anymore. His answer: “I play with everything!”. I am going to have to have so much patience… 😀

    • I feel your pain. Mine are 6 and 3. I don’t ask, but rather start removing the things that I know they don’t play with. Right now, my son’s closet has three boxes of sets of toys I decluttered six months ago. Not once has he asked for them, and they are not age-appropriate, so they are going out the door soon. Other things I put in a “random” box in hiding for a few months. If they ask, I look through and find the toy. Usually, it goes out the door without a glance. It’s a constant battle. I have a box going on at any time, and then I also try to include him in the conversations at other times. Especially with the holiday gift-orgy coming on, we will be choosing 10 gifts to give to (insert name of cousin-friend-church buddy here).

    • Hi Andreia – we had a post with very differeing points of view on this topic a few months ago. Some 365’ers seemed quite sensible and all their children’s toys were prized possessions and seemed appalled at the idea of taking away toys – others including myself came from the excessive-amount-of-toys side of the camp and I had the experience of boxing half of them up while the kids were away and they never noticed them gone. They were still in the house in case they specifically wanted them.

      One thing I did was sort the toys into piles ie teddybears & soft toys, Barbie’s stuff, puzzles, books etc etc. You will have a pretty good idea of what the current favourites are. You may be surprised at how big one of these piles get ie a disproportionate amount.

      Is there a wardrobe or tall cupboard in the room? Can you box up, preferably in cardboard boxes so they can’t been seen into, and store them there for a few weeks. Then swap them over with the toys you left out.

      And slow the flow of toys coming into the room. Get an idea in your mind of just how many Action Men dolls a 4 year old needs, or how many jigsaws he will use before he outgrows that level of puzzle.

      Look into if there is a toy library in your area.

      • Hi Moni. I did read that post. I feel that we should not just take the toys without talking to the child. As my son’s response was, to say the least, inconclusive, I decided to start with broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces, incomplete sets. After I decluttered these ones I will wait for Christmas and after “holiday gift-orgy”, as very wisely The Other Lynn put it, I will declutter other less favourites. My own decluttering is on the way, and I tend to forget things, so I don’t want box stuff, in case I forget it. As I am decluttering I don’t think it will be forgotten long, but as I am also a procrastinator, the kids might find it when they go to college… 😀 😀 😀

    • I think you will find that when asking a four year old what toys he/she no longer plays with they would not know. The question is too wide ranging for them to get their head around. One really needs to ask “Do you still play with this?” of every toy you haven’t seen them play with for a while. However if there is a two year old following close behind the chances are that child will be using the four year olds cast offs soon enough.

      In this case I would just declutter any broken toys or the toys the two year old no longer plays with.

      One thing I will stress though is that if children have a play room then chances are they have too many toys. In my experience that more space that is designated to contain a certain category of things the likelihood of that space being filled to capacity with said things is very high.

      • Yes, that is what happened here! When the toys had to “live” with them in their bedrooms, I would put them away in boxes and had only two big boxes for each. Now it’s all spread, and I must take control. Problably will finish with the playroom. Or let them play there but they have to put away their toys inside the boxes. Before, they had taken over my living room and now I make them put away their toys in the playroom, so it is the only place with toys, but they are out of hand. Thanks for the comments and I will sort the playroom before Christmas.

        • Hi Colleen! I decluttered the playroom!!! Yay to me!!! It was so much easier than I thought. I just asked my 4 year old son to help me pick up stuff and put like with like. And I set some rules (if the puzzle is incomplete, it goes to the trash – he agreed with that, but asked me to buy other ones – I gave I vague answer that was in the form of “We’ll see.” and that was that). He was surprisingly helpful, and very decided of what he wanted to keep and what he didn’t. We did give away a lot of stuff and trashed very few things. It was very tiresome, but I hope to keep the room tidy. I did realise that they have big toys, but the numbers are very manageable. It was just a big mess. Now it is clean and the rule is: “If you don’t put away aftter you play, I give it away.”. Let’s see how it goes.

  2. Good list. Your “Today’s Decluttered Item” is one that I am working on. Here in the US if you are on Medicare you can’t get your paperwork digitally. It all comes in the mail. I hate that. I keep hoping I can get it all changed eventually but so far the US Government is the holdout. Am I surprised?! NOT!!! So I have a years worth of paperwork for both of us and it’s a real pain. Once I know that everything has been paid I can get rid of it but in the meantime it usually takes 1-1/2 years to get it all resolved. I can finally shred 2011 and part of 2012. But I still have to keep a few folders in the drawer for paperwork. Argh!

    • Funny you should mention Medicare because our Medicare system has just gone totally digital and moneyless. You have to give them your bank account details for them to make your refund payments to. Our system is a lot different to yours though I would think.

      • A lot different is right. I wish ours would get its act together but I am afraid it is going to get worse before it gets better.

  3. Love the list today. Definitely all are helpful in keeping the clutter out of your home. I like the idea of removing clutter receptacles from your home. If they aren’t there to help house the clutter, then you won’t be tempted to collect clutter, because there will be no where to put it.

    • Jen – I too liked that one. We had a corner table in the lounge that was always covered in stuff, so we took it away. Don’t know where all that kind of stuff goes now but it sure makes the lounge look tidier.

    • That is exactly the point Jen.

    • This week is attic week for me.
      This past Monday I took 4 large & 4 small Rubbermaid lidded storage containers to the donation store. All but 1 of the containers was full of stuff.
      I also took the last of the plastic 3-drawer storage units to the donation store too. I had started out with 7 of those buggers & now have decluttered enough to not need a single one. Yah!
      I also flattened all the cardboard boxes (47 of them) in the attic & took those to the recycling center.
      I took the remaining Christmas wrapping paper (5) that was on long rolls & basically slide out the rolls & folded the paper into a more manageable squares. I’m not concerned that I put fold marks on the wapping paper. It’s worth it to be able to have the wrapping paper fit into my remaining holiday Rubbermaid containers (2).
      I also quickly listed a few more clothing items (7) on eBay & all of them sold within a few hours. I love that! Desperate people buying any & everything just ’cause it’s Christmas!
      I’m on a desperate mission to complete my attic decluttering before the new year so I’ve been viciously culling items from the attic & am just about half done. Whew!

      • Jane, it sounds like you are doing a great job in your attic. Don’t you just love seeing all of that stuff disappear? It’s so nice to feel that joy of accomplishment too. Good for you.

        • I’m tickled to have that stuff gone & even more tickled to have another big dent in the attic today!
          I back the pick-up truck into the garage & have literally been dropping the stuff from the attic opening into the truck bed. I try to be somewhat graceful about it so not to break things, but I’m not worried about being neat.
          The donation store has large canvas pushcarts they wheel out so I transfer stuff from the truck bed to the cart. It’s a genius system with no worries about finding boxes – especially since I decluttered all the cardboard boxes & available storage containers the other day!

          • Jane – I meant to congratulate you the other day about the work on your attic. How much fun must that be to be shoveling out truck loads!

          • Moni, thank you for your congratulations! My attic project has been months in the making. Earlier this year I took a ton of photo’s of the attic & it’s contents (even took pix of the contents of the boxes stored in the attic). the oppressive summer heat kept me from tackling the attic until early last week.
            Needless to say, I’ve had time to study those photo’s & make my decluttering selections so when I could go back into the attic – I already knew the answers to the questions!

      • Well done Jane. If you are in Australia the attic is not the place to be over the summer months. Yow it would be hot up there. 36ºC today in Newcastle today.

        • We have a little thermometer mounted in the attic & at it’s peak – it was 122 degrees (50 C). Well I’m sure it’s been hotter than that, but I was smarter enough than to go find out for myself!
          However today it was only about 75 F (23 C) so I made great strides.
          All of which amounted to 2 trips to the donation store & 1 trip to the recycling center.
          Might take the weekend off though!

  4. “It is amazing how little stationary one needs when most all data, correspondence or bills that comes into your home comes in digital form. Needless to say these folders and filing supplies are no longer needed.”

    Call me old-fashioned. All record keeping, calendars, to do lists etc. are all done putting pen to paper. I can’t ever see myself going digital in that regard. In addition, all correspondance, cards, notes etc. are accomplished putting pen to paper.

    • No in this house kimberley. I use google calendar on my computer. I also use my fridge front as a whiteboard for reminders when an event or appointment is imminent. Most of my correspondence is done via phone either voice call or text or by email. I am not sure what exactly you mean by record keeping but I dare say that is done on the computer also.
      I do like a good old to do list though and I make all birthday and Christmas cards by hand and send them by snail mail.

  5. Hi Colleen. I forgot to mention my ongoing book decluttering. I have been cleaning all the books and rearranging them and I have been, one by one, putting the books I will not keep in a box for donation. It is beside the bookcase and I have had not one single urge of getting anything back. I have been deciding very carefully and it has been working. I can see progress. It has made me happy. 😀

  6. The other day I borrowed my husbands hole punch to file something in my folder. Next thing he comes up with one he found in the cupboard , so I could have my own. ‘Oh joy’ I thought. I really did not want it. Fortunately it had rusted and did not work so off to the bin it went.
    I love the Keys to stay decluttered! Sometimes they are obvious, but other times, especially when other people are involved it is hard to remain focused ;
    “Don’t sacrifice your principals for the desires of others” will help me next time someone try’s to guilt me into keeping something I do not want.

    • Hi Wendy F, I think we have decluttering about three hole punches since we started this mission. And I don’t think we ever use the one that is left.

      You stand up for your own decisions Wendy and don’t let anyone railroad you my girl.

  7. I just catched up reading for the week. 🙂 Good posts!
    Meanwhile I put up the holiday decoration and went through other “holiday related stuff” as well – I found one more christmassy cookie tin and a few cookie cutters which I’ll bring to the thrift store.
    That really was one of my goals for this year’s chrismas to donate my excess christmas stuff in time to the thrift store so that it will be resold. Though I haven’t been donating masses (I think, 10 items all together and rather smallish ones as well), I’m happy that I did get rid of it and that it most likely will go to someone else who has a need for these items.

    • Oh, and I’ve contemplated my china/dishes a bit. I tried to remember how many items I decluttered last year and how many I brought into the house. I think, I got rid of about 70-80 items and added 20 (seems a lot to me!). So after all, it’s a balance of 50-60 items less just in the area of porcelain/earthenware. Maybe though, I got rid of even more which I can’t remember anymore. 😉
      I am really one of the slower declutterers here, I think. When I see pictures of Snosies or Monis decluttered rooms, my apartment still feels crammed in comparision. I’m sometimes struggling, bringing in “bargains” or accepting cast-offs from family and friends, if I like them (but maybe don’t strictly need them), I’m also sometimes holding back on decluttering for not very rational reasons.
      But it’s great to see that I’m actually making progress nonetheless, even if it’s only tiny little things. These things add up, though it’s hard to see for me from time to time, as I hardly ever declutter a whole dozen of anything – it’s mostly really just one thing a day, and a cupboard doesn’t really feel any different whether there are 13 or 14 cups in it.
      So thank you, Colleen, for keeping this great daily blog and thank you to all the kind and inspirational commenters: you all keep me going in my slow pace.

      • Sanna – oh you poor thing – don’t compare yourself to others, I had a lot to do – picture a cupboard stuffed so full that it was an avalanche risk – that is what every cupboard was like in my house – picture every flat surface with excess stuff and every room having at least 2 or 3 baskets or cardboard boxes with more stuff to be sorted. Imagine ceiling storage packed full of boxes containing more stuff. That is the point my home had come to and I hated it. I would have to tidy for at least 2 hours before I cleaned. So I had a lot more territory to cover and yes it is easy to make big progress when there’s that much stuff to work thru. Also I wanted the bulk done before this xmas holidays so I could enjoy a relaxing break. I am fortunate as my husband has been so happy about the decluttering that he’s been ok for me to spend most of a weekend hauling stuff out of the ceiling rather than doing something nice together, or to make dinner for the family because I’m busy listing stuff on trademe or freecycle. I haven’t done much decluttering the last month or so, and I do miss it, but your one thing a day has been better than my nothing. Keep the faith, you’re doing better than you realise!

        • Thank you for your encouragement, Moni!
          Oh, I think, you did very well – just think of getting rid of all these books and DVDs!
          I feel okay with my progress, but I kind of wonder, whether I ever reach that stage of “decluttered” I’m actually dreaming of. And, if I’m dreaming of a lot less, why don’t I just declutter it now? I could be “done” sooner. I just feel weird, stuck in between hanging onto things and wanting to get rid of them. (in general)
          But then, of course, if I didn’t live together with my boyfriend, I could declutter a lot faster.

          • Sanna – it is like that saying “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time” or one thing at a time!

      • Progress is progress Sanna and so long as you are heading in the right direction you will be just fine. You will learn as you go and maybe one day you will lose the craving to acquire stuff as well.

        I have picked up a few new used clothing items at the thrift store but I stick to the one in one out rule. If I bring something home for my closet something else has to leave from my closet. I don’t need any more clothes I just feel a little tired of some of the ones that I have had for a long while. This is my guilt free way of achieving a little closet refreshment.

        • I like your way of closet refreshment, Colleen!
          Recently I seem to have influenced my friend to declutter her wardrobe. She is getting rid of her outgrown stuff, but she gives most of the items in good condition to me. (she says, I can donate them, but she doesn’t feel detached enough to do it herself and rather wants to give them to a friend who might use them). Though I did donate most of it, I also kept a few items that suit and fit me. I am wearing all of my wardrobe, but I could do with a couple of items less, at the moment I’m for the “let natural progression take care of it”, but if my friend keeps giving me stuff, I will have to cull once again.

  8. Great list.

    I still feel quite at the beginning of my decluttering journey yet I have gone a far way since I started. Once in a while I think I should do a real huge declutter for (insert random room in my house here). Then I really can’t find the time nor the momentum to do it. Also as my husband already had a fully equipped household when I moved in a big deal of the stuff isn’t mine or at least not only mine. And I will never ever throw away something he might want to keep. So one would have to arrange for both of us to do the “big declutter”. Throw in two wonderful sons (12 and 1, the difference in age is no typo) and this becomes nearly impossible.

    For me the keys until now were:
    – Reduce influx, reduce influx and reduce influx. (points 2, 3 and 4 on your list)
    – Let Natural Progression Decluttering take place whereever possible (I just love this wording. It’s coined so well.)
    – Learn to identify trash as you live your everyday life and handle it accordingly.

    A partial solution to the “more than one owner” problem is a small box on our desk to put items in I would like to declutter but need the opinion of my husband on. Because it is on our desk he will quickly go through it when he comes home without me prompting him. Plus the promise that I won’t comment on anything he redeems. So by the end of the day I know the fate of these decluttering aspirants.

    This has taken me quite a long way and I believe it will take me further to a home with less clutter than I ever imagined possible. I think that is the reason why the approach of this blog struck such a strong chord with me.

    Happy Decluttering!

    • Thanks for sharing your declutter story Dagmara. The system you use with your husband is a sound one. Good for you coming up with that plan. I do a similar thing with my husband. Just tonight he sorted through two piles of photos I set aside for him to adjudicate on. 24 more photos to be eliminated. Yay!

    • Great idea on the husband front. I set aside too much stuff or don’t get around to telling him. I am going to set a place and let him know and see how that works. Thanks.

      • Wow, very good method Dagmara! I will try this system with my husband, because, so far, I have not managed to make him even look at his “stuff” that is “stored”, let alone declutter any of it. (“stuff” and “stored” means really “trash” and “hidden” 😀 😀 😀 ). I mean, he is been out of college for 13 years, so when is it that he is going to use his notes from college???? We have lovely piles of those notes…

        • Ugh college stuff. We both graduated college a loooong time ago – yet he can’t let go of his engineery stuff & I can’t let go of the healthcare stuff.
          That is…until tomorrow.
          Tomorrow the college stuff comes down from the attic & it ain’t going back up if ya know what I mean.

          • Jane – a couple of my friends were discussing decluttering the other day, one is a medic, one is a teacher and they both have their notes from when they were at university a loooonnnng time ago. Just to be controversial I asked “wouldn’t it all be out of date now?” – they both looked at me a bit startled and then laughed and said yes both industries had evolved so much in the last twenty-someting years, that yes their notes were out of date, it was more that it was sooo much work involved getting their degrees and masters that they can’t bring themselves to throw them out.

          • Good for you Jane.

  9. I think I should print this and hang it on my front door, that way I would be reminded not to buy stuff! And maybe a small print version for my purse?
    It seems as if lately a lot of stuff has been making it’s way into my appartment. Most of it baby related. I have been better at returning things that I don’t need and checking my stores before I buy but still I feel as if I’m losing control here. 🙁
    I’ve been really strict on myself though and have not bought any new clothes after the birth of my daughter two months ago. I just make do with what I’ve got and it’s a great motivator to get back in shape so I can fit in all my old clothes and don’t need to buy new ones.
    I’m quite good at not keeping a lot of memorabilia as I’ve designated one small box for that and it all has to fit in there. The baby clothes are a nother issue, as we plan on having (hope) more children, so getting rid of the more practical ones that have been favorites, due to looking good and being easy to get on and of the babe and easyly washable, is harder. I promissed myself to not have more that one clear plastic bin with babystuff, including clothes.
    Oddly enough my Boyfriend who normally has no hesitaions about getting rid of things seems to want to hang on to every little bit of our baby’s stuff………

    And now dreaded december is starting…….. I’m unfortunate enough to live in a country where we have 2 gift giving occasions in one month! So we’ll have to see how we survive that this year. I tried to have the chat with the (grand)parents about no gifts, but all I got in reply was that they had already got gifts for most people, and that I was a hatefull person who did not love my family as I wanted to deny them the bond with their grandchild. (really, I do hope that I will teach my daughter to value people for their personalities and fun times spend with them, not for the ammount of physical stuff or money they give) Now I feel like running away for the holidays………..

    • Hi Hunter_xs, it is inevitable that baby stuff is going to be coming in the door when a new bub comes along. Just try to moderate what comes in and you will be fine.
      I think not buying new clothes for yourself and making sure you do what you need to do to get back into shape is a good idea.
      Sorry to hear the Grandparent chat didn’t go well. I am sure they don’t really think you are hateful. My husband let me in on a little trick he uses yesterday to get people to think rationally about a subject without them realising that you are coercing them into your way of thinking. The trick is to pose an idea in the way of a question. In this instance you might say ~ “Did you have many toys to play with when you were growing up?” Hopefully they will say “Oh no…” Then comes the next question ~ “Did you feel deprived because of that or did you have fun regardless?” in this case you will hope the answer is “Oh no we made out own fun. Children these days have no imagination…” Then comes the $100 question “Do you think children these days have far too many toys?” Every adult of the generations above mine, and probably even mine, always answer yes to this. At this point you can either continue on with your mission or leave this conversation and allow the idea to germinate a couple of days. The conversation will resume with something like this “Do you remember that conversation the other day about kids having too many toys? Well I have been thinking. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if perhaps instead of giving lots of things to the children for Christmas it would be a good idea to limit it to one gift and perhaps put some money in a trust account for them….
      What you are doing here is initially extracting their true opinion without them realising that you are bypassing any sentiment about their own desire to spoil their grandchildren. Once they have showed their hand you them play the trump card of suggesting your idea to implement “their suggestion” that kids these days have too many toys. What can they do without losing face but agree your idea is sound.
      Of course you might have to wait until next year now or they will be on to you after your already unsuccessful attempt. But I would certainly give it a try.
      Good luck!!!!

      • Colleen – that is brilliant – please add that to your e-book or reference pages somewhere easy to access!

        • Moni, my husband is so good at this trick that he even managed to get me asking the questions the other night. We were going to bed and I had left the balcony door open. He asked if I was going to shut it. I said I wanted to leave it open to catch the breeze as it was a little warm but not hot enough to turn on the aircon. He said nothing else and I got into bed. Now the light switch is on his side of the bed and he didn’t turn it off. After a while I asked him if he was going to turn off the light. His answer was “No I think I would like to leave it on.” At this point I was onto his little game and said “Are you trying to tell me you don’t like the door open?” that is when he admitted he didn’t like the door open as there was no privacy. We then compromised and I left the en suite window open instead.

          Give the Leading Question strategy a try the next time you want the kids or your hubby to do something and let me know how it goes.

          • Colleen – it was funny because the other day my youngest Courtney age 14 was telling her 8 year old cousin how much harder kids had it her day!

            Yes a leading question is a good strategy, I will have to try it.