Garden clutter and aspirational delusions

I catch the train a lot and love nosing at the back of people’s homes that we pass en route.



I can’t help myself from thinking over some of them, that half an hour of putting things away at the onset of autumn would make such a difference to the look of a garden that never look their best during the wet dull days of winter. Of course, fortunately loads of strangers can’t see my back garden from a train 😀

We only have a small back garden – a very typical Victorian ‘backyard’ with high 8ft walls.

The History Bit

In the UK, the Victorian period is so named after the period that Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 – 1901. (Great Great Grandmother to our current Queen Elizabeth II).

This was a period of mass movement to urban living. In the town I live in, the population quadrupled during that period and there are many many streets of terrace housing, back to back (where gardens back on to the terrace behind you with no other access other than through your own back door.)

You can often find traces of the old outdoor privy and in our’s also the original brick floor of the coal house.


Our backyard is a fairly typical 10ft x 16 feet wide (the width of the house) and doesn’t have any soil, just paving.

When I first moved here, on my own 12 years ago, this was my first garden and I fondly imaged that I would prove to be a keen gardener, despite never having shown a flicker of interest before. In fact I remember on first meeting the people who were eventually to become my in-laws, shortly after I moved, proudly talking about my ‘interest’ in gardening, lol.

garden pots 002

My Garden Clutter

Over the years I seemed to have collected a lot of pots (as the only means of growing plants), in part from my now in-laws full of plants but also my own annual spring burst of enthusiasm: a triumph of hope over realism.

Most died due to a combination of summer neglect and a massive snail and slug problem. I finally admitted to my self that the idea of me being a gardener   and collecting all the paraphernalia that comes with such an interest was typical aspirational hording!

I’ve stopped pretending.

Fortunately, my husband seems to have developed an interest in the garden in the last year or two but he has bought all his own pots to suit his fruit tree passions. So we’re left with a plethora of spare pots that won’t get reused.

A few weeks ago, we had a typical British trigger for de-cluttering the garden – a weekend of spring sunshine! While he happily tackled vigorous pruning I felt the urge to declutter.

garden pots 003

Pots gone via Freecycle

My husband is never keen on de-cluttering and seemed resistant at first to the idea, but I was greatly surprised how many he was able to let go of: I did my usual, “you c
an keep as many as you like, but let’s go through them one by one and just give me a quick yes or no as to whether you can let it go”.

By removing the stress by ensuring he understood I wouldn’t be pressuring him or disapproving of his choices he said “yes it can go” to nearly every one.

To the right is a picture of many of the pots we got rid of via freecycle that weekend


How’s the clutter in your garden?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a purse, wallet, handbag, carry bag or backpack.


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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Doodle, you post is good. I have always wanted to have a beautiful garden with lots of different flowers and plants. I have never had the energy for it. My mother did though and took care of some things but even she didn’t have a lot of flowers and plants outside like I wanted. So I was very happy when we decluttered a large group of pots, garden implements and other such things. It seemed to let me off from thinking I had to do something with them. Relief.

    • Thanks Deb J: I can relate to that relief. We need to do a bit of work to the tiny patch of land at the front of our house – I’ve taken ‘before’ pics so when ever we can complete it, I can show the switch to minimum maintenance.

  2. Doodle – I had the same aspiration AND the same actual results. You have reminded me that I still have a few larger pots to give away – I’ll do it this week!

    For a birthday gift, my friend is going to plant some annuals for me. I can usually commit to watering a few annuals and a couple hanging baskets for the summer – gives me a little gardening satisfaction without too much to do.

    • Seems I am not alone Vicki 😀 I think your idea to just have a minimum amount to do, to satisfy those ‘gardening’ longings is a good one. Alas me and watering commitments seem to part company after about a week.

  3. My husband and I are getting on and neither of us like doing the work, but we do want to have a decent looking garden. We do have a few fruit trees and I love my (raised) strawberry beds in summer! We finally decided on getting a gardener for an hour a week and he has transformed the garden! He mows and edges and weeds and prunes and does what we ask him to do, always working hard and with a smile. Taken away all the guilt! Well worth the money!

    I spoke to my husband about getting rid of all the garden tools out of the garage but he says “What if …” so I have left it for now. I will bring it up occasionally and eventually I hope to prevail! It would make such a huge difference in the garage. I want the space but he sees the money we’ve spent and doesn’t want to “waste” it. “Never mind, slowly, slowly catchee monkey!”

    • I think paying for an hour or two of gardening is an excellent investment into your quality of life Janetta. I think along side ‘living simply’, can go ‘living creatively’ and that encompasses tailoring your financial resources to live the life you want.
      I think your approach re the tools is a good one – you’ve planted the seed and then stepped back. Perhaps one day, the right new home will present itself for your tools so it won’t seem like a waste of money to your husband, but a fantastic charity donation that enhances the life of others, all thanks to you two.

  4. Ah yes, the garden! You are spot on with this one Doodle. I have definitely had big aspirations in this area, not just about the plants and flowers, but also about sitting out there, crocheting in the fresh air or enjoying a cup of tea. The reality is that it is usually too hot, too sunny as our back patio faces directly west into the Texas sun, or the mosquitoes are out looking for a snack, so it seems that the only times we actually sit out and use our patio furniture is when we have visitors from the UK! As for the barbeque, I can’t remember the last time we used it. All that stuff out the back is definitely on my decluttering radar. I have been toying with the idea of planting some seeds very randomly in a few pots in the hope of growing some flowers to cut to have indoors, but it always seems like a losing battle between the heat and the rabbits who climb up into the pots to eat the flowers. My parents were both avid gardeners, my mother could make anything grow and would happily spend entire days working out there, and my dad at 82 still does lots of yardwork. Fortunately he has help with the mowing and hedge-trimming, but he grows lots of fruit and veg and it is a great hobby. I guess I didn’t continue the tradition!

    • Hi Christine – I had to laugh at the thought of how much cuter rabbits sounded eating all your plants than slugs and snails! However, the end result is still the same!
      Re your unused barbeque, you have reminded me that the next job is to clear the tiny shed – in their are 4 folding garden chairs. I bought four because like you I had visions of sitting out there with friends on a balmy summer evening. Apart from the fact that balmy summer evenings can be rarer than hen’s teeth in the uk, we just never sit out there, other than on a permanent piece of slate mounted on bricks as a handy perch and certainly never entertain. So, I need to get rid of 2 of those chairs (the other two we use a few times a year for picnics at cricket matches).

    • Love the rabbits.

  5. Recieved via email
    How good I felt when I came inside to have a rest and read your story. I just cleaned up our garden for winter,garden furniture stacked up, cushions in the box, where they belong, plants in pots tidied up,empty pots in my potting shed, paving swiped.,dog bed washed. Even cleared the cobwebs, that won’t last too long. Next job,wash the windows. Is this autumn or spring. I live in Victoria,Australia.
    Thanks for a great motivating site!

    • I am so impressed! That is exactly what I long for, for the gardens I see from the train. That is a good job done! I hope it brings you quiet satisfaction over the winter that all is in order out there.
      I would imagine it is autumn for you as we move in to spring here in the Northern hemisphere.

  6. Hi Doodle, I loved the title of this post. I says it all. I am sure that all of us have some sort of aspiration delusion going on. The garden might be yours but there are no shortage of them to choose from.

    • Thanks Colleen. I am sure I will uncover some more as yet unrecognised aspirational delusions as time passes – it’s those onion layers of understanding again isn’t it.

  7. I love your approach to getting your husband to make decisions. I think I will try it in our basement! Glad your garden will be looking so much less cluttered.

    • Thanks Juhli, It has taken time to get the approach right but this one does seem to work and each time I use it, it builds more confidence into him that I mean what I say, that there will be no pressure to get rid of something he isn’t ready to. I look on anything going as a positive result, rather than focussing on it not being as much as I would choose
      Let us know how you get on with the basement.

  8. Like the ‘no pressure’ approach you used to getting rid of things; I am going to try that with myself – give myself the option not to get rid of anything but go through things one by one – such a good way to declutter and not stress myself out.

    • Hi t, definitely try it – keep it light and easy. That way, you can experience the positive buzz and benefit of decluttering a little without it being a burden or stress.
      And you may find, each time you try it, you find yourself naturally ready to tackle a little more…but the moment it feels a stress, stop again.
      Another tip is go on your gut feeling re the ‘yes or no’ Don’t beat yourself up if your gut says no but your head says but it should go, just accept the no straight away and move on, there will be plenty that will feel an easy yes.

  9. It’s almost planting time for flowers here! Thanks for the reminder to clean and clear out my gardening supplies 🙂

  10. We re-did many of our gardens last year and asked the guy at the garden shop for plants that wouldn’t die easily and wouldn’t need a lot of maintenance. We figured we weren’t keen gardeners, we don’t mind a blitz in Spring but apart from that we didn’t want to spend all our weekends in the gardens. It took some time and effort to do this, but we’re very happy with the result. We just had to be honest with ourselves that we weren’t keen on gardening.

    • Moni, you idea of getting things for the garden that are easy care is what I would do if I could. It’s a great idea. Yesterday and today we had a guy come and weed, cut back the bushes, and clean up. Now the garden looks nice . If we can just keep it this way.

      • Deb J – what we took from the exercise is that garden isn’t a priority for our next home. We could happily opt for a small section.

        • Moni, I know what you mean. I wish we had bought this place but it didn’t have all the fruit trees and bushes. They all just grow like crazy.

    • Very very sensible Moni – I was always seduced by spring madness of happy colourful flowers and a firm conviction that this year, I really would water daily….hahahahahahha