Materialism = Clutter and worse

Before I write anything here I would like you to watch the following video that I have linked to below. It is almost 40 minutes long so make yourself comfortable and please watch all the way to the end.

So if you are willing to accept what that video is suggesting then you will understand how most of the clutter arrived and built up in your home. It certainly makes a person think about the things we purchase and why it is we do so, or have done so in the past.

I would like to think that many of my readers have stepped away from this sort of rampant consumerism/materialism, and that that move has helped them to reach their decluttering goals and maintain that level. Because, without coming to such a realisation, one is destined to repeat the cycle of clutter, unclutter, clutter, unclutter over and over again. And unfortunately one’s home and one’s stress levels are not the only things that suffer from such a habit. The environment of our planet is also a big loser in this cycle.

Having this knowledge, giving it serious thought and taking action is the only possible way to avoid the clutter. You can also use this information when you view your clutter as it may help you to make decisions on what is really useful and meaningful to you.

However all purchases don’t have the same environmental impact. Acquiring secondhand items has a far lesser impact on the environment. Nevertheless, they have the same impact on your home and are purchased with the same fervour as any new items for the same reasons the video suggests. The same goes to accepting free items. Any item entering your home has the potential of it’s novelty wearing off, the sentimentality around it being misplaced, and it’s usefulness not being what it promised to be.

So be very selective when admitting stuff into your home and use the same logic when deciding what should stay.

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. Wonderful.

    Minimalism = Clutter and worse

    I can’t agree more with you.

    Thank you

  2. I have certainly stepped away from consumerism. I remember when I fell into this trap. I think becoming debt free finally made me realize what an never-ending loop I gotten myself into, and once I was free of it I never wanted to return to my old ways. I worked hard to become debt free as well as clutter free, and I never want to fall back to my old ways again.

    This blog as well as my neighbor moving keeps me reinforced. My neighbor has 2 storage pods of stuff two hours away, just started 1 or 2 more. The moving company picked the stuff yesterday and will see how many pods it takes. She’s selling 2 couches, 1 queen bed, 1 huge tv, taken numerous items to a consignment shop, given stuff away, & is having a garage sale, & has a local storage unit. I never want to own that much stuff!

    • Good for you Calla. the consumerism hamster wheel is a great thing to dismount. It is run, run, run, run, run, run, and never getting anywhere except exhausted and poor.

      And lets hope this experience for your neighbour will be a learning one and she will also realise the acquiring is a futile and exhausting habit.

  3. Excellent video, thanks Colleen. I am currently teaching a sustainability unit at school and this ties together everything we have been looking at.

    • I hope your students are old enough to absorb the message and young enough to not have formed too many consumer bad habits already.

      • They are year 10 (14 years old) so old enough to absorb the message. I’m not sure how much they are taking on board in their own lives though. They are subjected to advertising at a very early age and sometimes in quite subtle ways. Think McDonalds and happy meal toys, cartoons that are based around popular toys etc. I am constantly having to remind them that they must wear plain socks to school and not the popular Nike tick ones. Despite the fact that we discussed how Nike use slave labour. Then I hear myself saying – just go and get some from Kmart – they’re only $3! Arggghhhh!!!! The Kmart dilemma!

        So yes, the only way out of the trap is to consume as little as possible. As for me, my weakness is Lush cosmetics. At least they are an ethical company I guess.

        • Colleen Madsen

          Hi Shelly, yep it is an uphill battle, especially with teenagers. And also an uphill battle to buy ethically. I just buy as little as possible or secondhand for the most part so I don’t have to drive myself crazy trying to tell the difference.

  4. Wonderful and thought provoking video. Thank you Colleen for that find.

    I watched it to the end and I am sure if this video was shown in schools, it might make some (if not all) think again when they WANT and not NEED to keep buying things. If they start their thinking early it may become a good habit as they get older.

    In the video, the amount of landfill is astonishing. Thank goodness for recycling and Freecycle groups, at least some of the stuff stays out of landfill.

    We have never owned a car. Of course some people do need one. But many families don’t need 3-4 cars (one for each member.) That’s my thinking anyway. City roads are just choked with cars. I always think of children in prams/pushchair, how much of the fumes they must be inhaling being lower down.

    Thanks again Colleen.

    • Hi Katherine, you comment reinforces my response to Shelley’s comment above. The earlier kids come to this realisation the better the lives will be and the better off the planet will be as well. I have asked my 10 year old granddaughter what they are taught in school about being environmentally friendly and her response was “Nothing”. I am appalled. I know it isn’t the same for all schools but her’s is obviously behind the eight ball.

      As for the car issue, I have a car but I try to use it as little a possible and when it finally dies we don’t intend to replace it. I hope we can live up to that intention.

      • Colleen, it is part of the NZ social studies curriculum at year 10 (same as Australian year 9) although it probably needs to be introduced earlier. Little kids seem to really embrace ideas in sustainability.

  5. Idgy of the North

    Thanks for sharing the video. It’s very insightful and thought provoking. Every now and again I feel the pang of “want”. I try really hard to push past it and wait it out. Most of the time the “want” disappears in a couple of days.

    My spouse and I have been having a lot of discussions about more environmentally friendly appliances for when our current ones are no longer repairable. For example, when our hot water tank needs to replaced, we will buy a tankless one. Not sure why a tank (heats the water constantly) is so common in North America when you don’t use hot water 24 hours a day.

    • Hi Idgy. Speaking from experience, before you buy an on-demand water system, check around with reliable suppliers in your area and find out if others have and are satisfied with them. Mineral content in your water may effect how they work. One was installed where I worked (we sold hot water tanks and the boss wanted to promote the product) and it failed in short order because of the hard water. The plumbers who installed it said they would not sell the product. Reports of long-term satisfaction from people who live near you would be the best bet when considering ANY new technology. They don’t all live up to the hype. However, I do love my super-efficient washing machine.

      • Idgy of the North

        Thanks, Wendy. Our water is super hard, but we do have a water softener. There is a reputable tankless dealer near us. We are still several years away from having to replace the current hot water heater. We love our energy efficient front load washing machine, too

      • This is interesting information, thanks Wendy. There are also tricks to using on-demand hot water systems too. My mother-in-law has always had one and I have to remember to treat it differently when I am visiting her house.

  6. Idgy of the North

    Err…. Not super hard

  7. I have just watched the video you sent us last week and was very impressed.A lot of my generation(baby boomers) have been doing this-reusing ,upcycling,repairing etc most of our lives as this is how we were raised and can’t get out of the habit which is very good habit not to be able to break.But saying that this video gives even us something to think about.Its more the older generations that are trying to cut back,tree change and that sort of thing.Slowly and surely I think the younger generations are starting to realize that maybe we are the right ones.Keep trying to get your message out their Colleen you are doing a great job.

    • Thanks Denise.
      Since semi retiring my husband is often asked by fellow work colleagues what they need to do to achieve the same thing. Keep in mind they are all on a similar page scheme as he is and have had all the same if not more opportunity to set themselves up for a similar situation. He tells them that all they need to do is decide what sort of lifestyle they want to live and work out how much money that will take. We live simply for the most part but also like to travel and factored that in when deciding if he could make the move to semi-retirement. He tells them that if they want to life a more lavish lifestyle then they will just have to keep working to afford it. Needless to say this message as got through to a few who have followed the same path as him.

      I hope you are right about the younger generations. Time will tell I guess.

  8. Dear Colleen, I love your blog. I have been on a slow and ongoing journey and still have a long way to go before I can say I’m a minimalist, however more and more people around me are commenting on the change. Some are puzzled and ask how I keep our home tidy and others seem pleased and surprised because I’m so different than the rest of my abundantly-stuff-keeping family I grew up with. 😉 I realized when someone recently drilled me for tips that my little family has come so far and I hadn’t even noticed. I only see how I have much farther to go, and it was really encouraging to see the progress after the nudge to notice it. Thank you for all your posts as you have encoured me for years now! Still moving forward and enjoying the now too!

    • Well, good for you Sun. It is easy to lose sight of the progress when you haven’t reached your ultimate goal so I am glad there are people around who can point it our to you. I feel the same way myself sometimes. And like you I do feel at times that I still have work to do. So congratulations so far and keep up the good work.

  9. Fantastic video clip, really enjoyed it,thanks so much. I have been aware of these issues for some time now. I look at things I bought over the years, vases, big bowls etc and just think oh why did I feel the need to buy this junk?! Needless to say it can be quite depressing because even if I send it to a second hand store it will still end up in landfill one day. As will every single item we see in the stores we walk through today. I will keep plugging away…