Lingering Impulses

This post is especially for those with lingering impulses to do one, some or all of the following…

  1. Impulse shop.
  2. Keep things that you once loved or found very useful even though you no longer do.
  3. Have a had time resisting stuff you can be creative with, repurpose or revamp.

Let me begin with a little example not related to clutter. I like a good cup of coffee or tea. I will admit I drink far too much of the stuff. This has been going on all my life. It is a regimented habit too, just like my eating.  generally I’ll have a cup, of either, when I first get up in the morning, another after my breakfast then one at morning-tea around 10am, another at lunch, then one at afternoon-tea around 3pm, another with dinner and then another at supper at 9pm. Mostly tea but usually at least two coffees.

All my life these caffeinated beverages have been accompanied with a meal or a small, usually sweet, snack. However, now as I get older snacking isn’t advisable in order to keep a rein on the waistline. So I try to resist the temptation. I have discovered something about this. The lingering impulse to accompany my cup of tea/coffee with a snack is totally imprinted on my brain. I have been doing it for so long now. The trick is not to have snack food in the house but that doesn’t always work because I can always make a snack with ingredients in the house, and when out there are all sorts of temptation.

But here is the good news. I have also discovered that that lingering impulse only exists during the preparation stage of the routine. As I make my cup of tea/coffee I get the urge to acquire the snack. If resisted the impulse disappears the instant I sit down and start drinking my beverage. Gone, just like that.

My husband discovered a similar impulse when driving home from our son’s the other day. As we drove past the street we used to live on he got a sudden brain impulse that he had gone the wrong way.

Here is where the clutter comes in.

Impulse shopping can be hard to resist. You have done it so often in the past and it always feels good to acquire something new and exciting. Therefore your impulse is to ignore common sense and give in to the impulse. However is you can ignore the impulse and walk away you will probably not give the item another thought once you get home. Money saved and clutter avoided.

We have all had trouble parting with things we once loved or found very useful but don’t anymore. When we inspect the item during our decluttering tasks the fond memories and or appreciation for them resurfaces. So we tend to put them back and go in search for something else we would find easier to part with, something more mundane. Instead of giving into the impulse to keep the item try being realistic about it and let it go. I can almost guarantee once it is out of your house you will never give it another thought.

Now if you are like me and have a hard time walking past stuff you think you could use in a creative way, revamp or repurpose, then have faith. That desire in you to create or revive is as ingrained in you as the need to breath. That is regardless of the fact that you may not of participated in such activities for a long time. Seeing the potential in things is a positive trait. And, like all the other situation above, the trick is to resist the impulse in that moment and walk away. It is likely that you will not give it another thought and, if you do, you might also realistically think ~ “I would never have got around to doing something with it anyway.”.

In summary – these impulses are  as fleeting as they are inevitable. They may also never leave you and the best you can do is ignore them in the moment and they will be gone. Do you know of any impulses like this that you have? Share them with us and how you manage to resist them or not.

Today’s Mini Mission

Eco Tip for the Day

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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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, ironically, I was dealing with #2 yesterday and will continue to this week until it’s done. In my studio, I brought with me lots of vintage books, papers and photos that I used to make altered books. That was when I lived in a 200+ year old, antique-style home. Now that I live in a 15 year old modern one, my tastes, style and colors have lightened and brightened. Plus, in almost a year of living here, I haven’t used any of it. That was the most telling to me. Hence, I don’t need or want all those supplies so I am being ruthless about getting rid of and selling to an artist who’s work uses all those things mentioned. I just hope she is interested…I am still awaiting a reply…..

    • Hi Kim, the mind gets imprinted with these patterns and sometimes they just stick around. I am glad you have recognised that these ideas no longer work for you and have come up with a plan to declutter the remnants of what, for you, was once a very enjoyable craft. I wish you success with selling those supplies. Life style changes often make stuff we own redundant. I have discovered this myself over and over again.

  2. Colleen, this is good. I think I have stopped all my impulse buying (scrapbook supplies was my worst) except for when I go to the gorcery. I still have to really cub my impulse to buy foods I shouldn’t eat. Maybe it is because there is very little that interests me in the way of food.

    • It is interesting that you should choose food as your impulse item. The person who inspired this post also had the food impulse issue. She also has health related dietary restrictions.

      • I think having dietary restrictions makes it hard to come up with foods you can eat as well as recipes to use them. For me it also means that most of what I eat has to be made fresh and that can really cause an issue (having to buy more often, having to stand more, etc.). There are so many more things out there that I shouldn’t have that are much easier to fix, freeze, & pop into the microwave.

        • I imagine that would be so Deb. I guess in that kind of situation, not only do we need to let go of the physical remains of a lost era but we also have to let go of the wish that the situation would be otherwise and just totally adapt to the new normal.

  3. It is hard to shake off the idea that “I could do something with that”. But I buy very little any more with that idea in mind. I’ve been out of sync on the missions since I have been culling videos, DVDs, cassettes and CDs. I was sure using Deb’s comment “Why do we still have this?” on a regular basis. So though I wasn’t dealing with jewelry I kept thinking Why in the world do we still have this stuff. Some were of poor quality and were trashed, others were donated, and I kept the CDs in current use and some favorite cassettes that are still listened to. Yes, we are dinosaurs, and have not tried MP3 or whatever. When DVDs became the way to go, I bought a player which plays videos or DVDs which I sometimes watch while riding an exercise bicycle (for range of motion in bad knee). Saturday I was looking for some elastic and realized the sewing supplies had been cullled enough to probably fit into 2 chest of drawers so guess that is my next mission. This has been done as I had time–just checking out one video, etc. as i had time and deciding its fate. Since this was the first major media culling, I’m sure more will go on the next pass through. The thrift store does seem to be able to sell videos, etc. So even when I don’t follow the exact mission, it always gives me something to think about, and I may take Deb’s “Why do we still have this” for my mantra.

    • That is a good mantra to follow Nana. So long as you are decluttering something it doesn’t matter if you are following the missions or not. The idea is to do a steady declutter and you sure are doing that.

    • Nana, “Why do we still have this’ is my mantra now too. Works great.

  4. I don’t seem to be tempted to buy. My problem is when someone is getting rid of something that I see as useful, old lumber, old lightfixtures, when we remodeled the bathroom at work – the old tiles. The tiles came off so cleanly that I absolutely could not bear to see them all go in a dumptster. Plus, I had been pondering making mosaic tile stepping stones for my garden for several years, but never got around to buying tiles. I WILL get those stepping stones made before the garden is in full bloom!!

    • Hi Michelle, I thought this would likely be your weakness. It comes of years of renovating your home. Although, even I see stuff like this and think it is a shame to be wasted and feel the urge to at least find it a new home. I must confess I acquired a small bag of fabrics from my mother today. I have an immediate plan for it but never the less it was tempting to acquire a lot more. I was thinking how handy it would be to live near her so that I could come over and shop her house instead of the craft shop when I need fabric or haberdashery for a project. It wouldn’t cost me a cent because she has so much of it that she would be glad to share it with me. My sister encouraged me to take as much as I wanted so we didn’t need to sort through it when the inevitable happened. Mum just laughed of course.

      • Colleen – I like the idea of “shopping” your mom’s home. 🙂 That is great.

        When I grab onto building materials, etc., that people are getting rid of, eventually I either use it or there is a building salvage place that I can donate to. So that’s a plus!

        This past weekend, we assembled Mr. Scarecrow but didn’t get him installed so that is #1 on the list this weekend, but I’m thinking of having a stepping-stone party with my cousin-in-law who is always up for a crafting good time and Lord knows I have plenty of tiles!!

        • Hi Michelle, having a plan to hand the stuff on if you don’t use it within a reasonable length of time is a good set up. Just accepting it and letting it linger and go to waste would be a shame. I have the same set up for my craft stuff. If I don’t use it I can hand it on the a local men’s age care facility. They really enjoy doing a little craft occasionally and they really appreciate donations.

          I am looking forward to a photo of your scarecrow.

  5. Hi Colleen! As usual our minds seem connected 😀 ! I was thinking the other day how much stuff has outgrow their use in our house and I just let go. That was provoked by my oldest child was also asking me about the cradle we still have assembled in the spare room. I told him I was keeping that because I want to have another baby soon. Then he asked if we would keep the cradle for when HE had his children. I said no, as soon as the baby comes and grows out of the cradle, we sell it. And he said “so if we are not using something we can get rid of it, because we don’t need it anymore, is that right?” Both me and my husband agreed. And he did ask where he would put his children and we said when the time came he would decide that…hahahahaha 😀
    I do get the odd impulse of keeping stuff I will not need, or that “I might need one day” (i.e. a cradle for a grandchild…- just kidding!!! 😀 😀 😀 my oldest is 6 years old!). However, the cost of impulse (keeping/buying) is too high. Eventually I get back to that object and I just ask “why are you still here?” (thanks Deb J!) and realize I kept the darn thing on an impulse or a old habit long gone.

    • Hi Moni, it is good to share the decluttering process with your kids. Well done you! Once upon a time people used to keep a lot of stuff to hand down. But that was in the days when there wasn’t so much stuff, used and secondhand, available. There is still nothing wrong with keeping good quality useful items to hand on but that habit isn’t one I care to follow. Unless of course the kids specifically ask for the item and then I give it to them now since they have left home and have their own space to store it in.

  6. When comtemplating some items, and the above mantra didn’t quite work, I found myself saying a new one, “Get real. You know you are never really going to–listen to that again, wear that again, read that again, etc, etc.” This one works pretty good and ended up putting 3 more videos in the donation bag..

    • I like your mantra as well Nana. Yours is one I have used over and over again. I use a similar one when I consider buying something. “Will I use this enough to warrant buying it?” The answer is usually no.