Mini Mission Monday ~ Clean to identify clutter

Mini Mission Monday is about finding ten minutes a day to declutter. To make it easy for you, each Monday I set seven declutter missions, one for each day of the week for you to follow. It takes the guess work out of decluttering and makes it easy and “fun” for you to achieve some quick decluttering.

I have begun reading Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui – by Karen Kingston. I borrowed it from the library, of course. One thing she suggests you do to clear the stale energy from your home is clear away physical grime. It is only too easy to be oblivious to this grime even being there because, for the most part, our home look clean but it does lurk unnoticed nevertheless. Or worse still, we know it is there but ignore it. Therefore this weeks mini missions will revolve around cleaning some of those hidden, sometimes in plain view, places while noticing how clutter can contribute to that grime.

Monday – Dust your skirting boards either throughout the whole house or just in the most cluttered room. One thing I have noticed, while cleaning skirting boards, is the number of obstructions that get in the way of the task. Furniture would be the biggest culprit, but many other little bits and pieces can also get in the way. For example, in my walk-in wardrobe there are some things stored on the floor which obstruct my efforts in this area of cleaning. If you encounter a lot of these obstructions during this mission, consider whether you have way too many of them and if you can or are willing to do something about it.

Tuesday – Clean behind a piece of furniture that is against a wall. This job will, at the least, include making enough space in the room to be able to pull the item away from the wall so you can clean behind it. At worse, if the item contains breakable items or it has items resting on it you may have to remove them first. For the sake of this exercise, as clutter is the special subject here at 365, choose an item that does require emptying. It will make you think twice about whether you need or want to have to go to this much trouble every time you clean behind it. Keep in mind that in order to keep your home properly clean this task should happen at least quarter yearly.

Wednesday – Clean the outside of, and behind your fridge. If you have stuff on your fridge this will all have to come off first in order to do the job properly. If you have an old fashioned fridge with the element visible you should also gently vacuum this element. Once again this task ought to be executed about every three months and the less there is to move each time the easier the job will be.

Thursday – Empty and dust the most cluttered shelf in your home. This might be in a bookcase, a display cabinet, a shelf in your kitchen or even in your linen closet. Either way, doing this job will bring your attention to just how many items are on there, and may just inspire you to get rid of a few.

Friday – Empty, sort and clean out your cutlery drawer. In the last two houses I have lived in, the cutlery drawer has been right below the bread board. As a result crumbs get into the drawer. My children also had a tendency to go to this drawer for a pair of scissors to snip off the end of food packaging and then, as kids do, leave the snipped off piece in the drawer. Also twist ties and rubber bands tend to accumulate here. Being as we no longer eat much bread and the kids have left home I no longer have most of these problems. However this drawer still needs a good clean out every now and again.

Saturday – Dust around the frames of all of the wall art or photo frames you have hanging on the walls in your home. I do this at least every two weeks. A slightly damp microfibre cloth is the best tool I have found to do this job, as it will not only hold any dust it encounters but will also give the glass a nice polish. Glass on the walls can tend to get grimy over time if not wiped regularly.

Sunday - Sunday is reserved for contemplating one particular item, of your choice that is proving difficult for you to declutter. Whether that be for sentimental reasons, practical reasons, because the task is laborious or simply unpleasant, or because the items removal requires the cooperation of another person. That last category may mean that the item belongs to someone else who has to give their approval, it could also mean there is a joint decision to be made or it could mean that the task of removing it requires assistance from someone else. There is no need to act on this contemplation immediately, it is more about formulating a plan to act upon or simply making a decision one way or another.

Good luck and happy decluttering

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t throw perfectly good items in the trash just because it’s easier than taking it to the thrift store. Collect them up over time and do one big drop off or list them on if you want to save yourself the bother of delivering them.

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. Sorry the blog posted late today. I had hid the publish button but put my computer aside before checking that it had done as directed. Considering how uncooperative the web host has been lately I should not have assumed all had gone well. Never mind it is out there now. Enjoy!

  2. Colleen, these are great suggestions. I was looking around our house as the housekeeper did the skirting boards this last week. We only have 4 pieces of furniture that keep her from doing the entire house. One of those pieces is going up for sale soon. One is attached to the wall and dust can’t get to the skirting board. That leaves the couch (which she can pull out) and Mom’s dresser (too heavy). Can I say that I was really excited to see all of this?! Even though we haven’t cleaned behind that dresser more than once or twice I plan to get that done next week when the housekeeper comes. If we take the drawers out it can be moved. Our fridge is clear except for 4 Victorian house magnets on the front that make it look less stark and two nice oven mits hanging on the side. We have not pulled it out though and I want to get that done. I may need to have my honorary brother do it when he comes over the next time. I want to have the stove pulled out too as it needs to have some cleaning done again along the sides. Our shelves are no longer cluttered ans can be cleaned quickly and easily. The same with the cuttlery drawers as we have decluttered them to where we can quickly pull out the trays, clean the drawer and then clean the trays. ALl this makes me feel so good because it means we are getting more and more decluttered. Happy dancing here.

    • Deb J – isn’t this a great place to be? I’ve let it slide since we’ve rolled into Winter here, but for a number of months I just wiped out one shelf of the pantry per day or one cupboard or drawer. Usually I’d get onto a bit of a roll and do a few extra, especially if I was talking with the girls or waiting for a pot to boil or whatever. I’m not sure why I let that habit slide but it was a good one.

      • Colleen & Moni, yes it is a great place to be. I like the habit you had of wiping done one shelf/drawer a day. I need to add that to our habits. Things like that stay pretty clean but it doesn’t hurt to especially take the trays out of the drawers and clean the drawers often.

    • Hi Deb J, it is nice to know that ones house is deeply cleaned not just appears clean on the surface. I am glad you are able to feel the joy of this situation.

  3. A room by room spring clean is less disruptive than a total house overhaul.

    We keep a pencil case in the desk drawer that holds the 3D glasses for going to the movies, but I discovered that we had an extra 3 pairs as the pencil case was so full it was only half zipped. I suspect that my younger daughter (the main movie goer in the household) agrees to carry her friends glasses in her handbag as they leave the theatre and they’ve ended up mixed in with ours, so I fired off some quick texts and they’re being returned to the owner.
    Of course, that in no way relates to this week’s mini challenge, but a few weeks ago there was a post on returning stuff, so I might be a bit late to rise to the challenge but I can tick that one off.

    A number of items leaving on Freecycle this week and a few items which will be going to goodwill later in the week. I continue to work on everything I’ve pulled down from the ceiling storage. It is very satisfying watching the storage bins one by one being “retired” ie emptied and joining the stack of assorted sizes that is accummulating in the corner. I am leaving what is being kept over the other side of the room and I’m going to look at what can be swapped for a smaller storage bin. Smaller space allocation equals more decluttering right?

    What happens to all the retired storage bins in the world?

    • Hi Moni, having a decluttered home that is easy to keep clean eliminates to need for spring cleaning altogether. If that isn’t incentive to declutter I don’t know what is.

      I thought that you could leave the glasses at the movie theatre, when you left, and they would be cleaned and reused. At least I hope this is the case or else I will be bringing mine home next time so they will be used more than once.

      I am happy that you are having success with your ceiling storage decluttering. I bet you are loving the feeling of letting go and that you won’t have to lug it back up there. As for the retired storage bins, I think they end up in the hands of those who haven’t seen the light yet. 😉

      • Colleen – hmmm interesting. We have to buy a pair but they’re good frames, I can’t remember how much they cost once upon a time, but I made a specific place for them so we could find them easily before going to the movies. To be honest I’m just as happy going to a 2D as a 3D but not everyone in this household would agree. As its been some years since we’ve gone to a movie as a family we probably don’t need a set of 5 any more but as they leave home they shall be gifted with a pair.

        • Hi Moni, my parents have several pairs of the glasses but that is because the have a 3D TV. I must admit it is fun to watch but having to wear the 3D glasses over my prescription glass annoys the heck out of me.

      • Colleen – stuff from the ceiling. An ongoing mission. Yes I am happy with the amount of storage bins that have been retired and happy that so much stuff is filtering out of the house. Am pleased we were able to work thru the emotional attachments that flared up initially.

        Have two boxes set up for two people who are away on vacation at the moment and came across someone on freecycle who is in a ‘starting over with nothing’ situation so am starting a box for her too. Would love to see these items leave a bit sooner than the two weeks they (coincidentally) will both be away, but in the meantime these things are now being viewed as ‘nuisance’ and ‘why are you still in my house?’ rather than ‘loved’ or ‘valuable’ or ‘must go to a good home’.

        And there are a number of items that I’ve got to get my head around what quantities to keep. I can return them to the ceiling storage with a ‘use-it-by-XX-date-or-lose-it’ or I can keep them on ground zero until I make a more firm decision. And LOL I can’t decide which decision to make.

        • Hi Moni, sometimes there are just going to be harder decisions to make. It sounds like you are doing a great job. I always find it is easier to let things go when you know someone out there has a greater need for them than I do. I was scrolling through freecycle the other day looking for some things for my daughter when I saw that someone needed a whiteboard. I had been thinking about letting go of the two we have that have almost been forgotten about behind something in the garage. It felt good to give it away to someone who had a real need for it.

      • Colleen, I am finding that many of my storage bins are going others who use them to replace boxes so that they can now see the contents and know what they have. S says it is so much easier now to see what she needs and what she has so that she is not as apt to go get it again.

    • Moni, I love to see storage bins going out our door. I have gotten rid of so many of them and most went to S. SHe has been using them to better store her Christmas and seasonal stuff. She is still making progress and I am proud of her. ONe room to go and they will have the house cat hair free. Maybe I will then be able to go over and do more than just take a quick look at her progress.

  4. Doing these thorough cleaning tasks will certainly make you want to show off the hard work accomplished. It will be inspirational in getting rid of things that may be blocking the view or simply finding other homes for things as we are doing these tasks so it will be easier to do in the future. Great mini missions for sure!

    • Hi Jen, you understood the underlying idea behind the tasks. Cleaning properly and often becomes easier with the less clutter there is blocking access to areas collecting dust and grime.

  5. I remember reading in the Frugal Zealot’s book that if you are dissatisfied with your house, you should just clean it because a house looks so much better when it’s clean. These are good reminders, Colleen. Now that summer is here, I’m trying to do a couple of things every day–two, not one, to make up for the days during the winter when I get home too tired to care 🙂

    • Hi Willow, working outside the home sure does add a certain difficulty factor when it comes to finding time and the inclination to keep the home clean, tidy and uncluttered. Sadly some people have to work too hard just make ends meet while others work hard to earn enough money to make it possible to accumulate clutter that ultimately they don’t even need. It is a funny old world we live in.

  6. It took me a while to figure out what skirting boards were. I asked Hubby if by chance skirting boards were what we call base boards here in the USA. This will not be an easy chore. It is really going to make me think about some of the stuff we have.

    • Hi Margaret D and welcome to 365 Less Things. This mission has had the intended effect on you. I was hoping it would inspire people to declutter stuff that would make getting to the skirting boards easier. I am glad you managed to figure out what skirting boards were.

  7. When I read this post this morning , I quickly wrote a comment, I have just discovered it must not have gone through, so I would again like to say;
    Great Post Colleen! Clearing away the grime that builds up certainly makes me feel better about my homes appearance. The windows are important too. Shiny, sparkly clear windows make everything seem better too.
    I think I have tackled the clutter side of my life with changing my habits. I am hoping that the cleaning side of my life will be just as successful. 🙂

    • Fingers crossed for you Wendy. Mind you, having furry friends running around does and add a bit more difficulty to keeping a home clean. But a difficulty factor that all pet owners are happy to contend with.

  8. I spent the w/e catching up on the tasks set for last week. I am very happy to be ahead of the game on the cleaning picture and skirting boards for this week. I started this before the post came out. Yep, you are right about the things that seem invisible, until you have to move them to clean. So much more to do!

    My husband actually got rid of some stuff this week-end. He had a very nice computer monitor that was no longer used because he got a Mac. He allowed me to put it out on the curb with a note that said “free – it works”. One hour later it was still there and he commented that it had not gone yet. I recommended leaving it out for the day. Another hour later it was gone. We sometimes put stuff out on the curb with a note and it is usually gone pretty quickly, vs selling it which takes time and energy. I just want the stuff gone. By the time we were done I had cleared out boxes, papers, CDs, an old wallet that belonged to my dad, a bunch of collector coins from England and a plate, glass and mug from Diana and Charles’ wedding. Why did I still have these? They are now in the Goodwill box. Funny, the more I do, the more there is to do.

    • Hi Sheryl, I am glad you are ahead of me with the cleaning missions. That just goes to show you aren’t oblivious to these areas that need our attention. Good for you.

      I am also glad that your husband in in on the decluttering effort. I also use the footpath as a decluttering tool. So long as the day is fine I leave things there until they go. It usually doesn’t take long. Like you, I always leave a note so people realise the item is still in good working condition. It is more likely to leave that way.

      On the subject of computers ~ My husband has been working at updating our household inventory as we are likely to be moving at the end of the year. Last night he said that he had been all over the house getting the serial numbers for all the technology and was amazed at just how much computer related stuff we have decluttered. I am glad he was pleased with his decluttering efforts.

  9. I really like this week’s missions, Colleen!
    Although I hate our skirting board as they’re cheaply made… Cleaning really is a good incentive to clear clutter.

    • Hi Sanna, cleaning something that never looks good is always more difficult to pluck up enthusiasm for. So I understand how you feel. I have noticed that in humid climates mildew tends to settle among the dust on skirting boards which is one of the reasons why I am so fastidious about this task. That and I suffer from allergies and would rather eliminate the cause than treat the symptoms.

  10. Hmmm, so not happening here. Sadly. But noticing that there is no way to deep clean while struggling with the regular cleaning already REALLY makes me want to become more decluttered fast. (which is also not happening … but at least I am going bit by bit by bit)
    The cleaning of pictures though is a good job to do within a few minutes, so maybe I’ll don’t have to flunk totally.

    • Ideealistin, don’t be too hard on yourself!
      You’ll get it done at your pace.

    • Hi Ideealistin, as Sanna says, don’t be too hard on yourself. But also don’t get into a rut of letting things go. Your baby will be mobile before you know it and you will be wanting a clean an safe environment for her to explore in.

      I think I reacted to the challenges that weren’t in my control when my kids were babies by channelling my need to have some control into my house. I had little control over whether they fed well, slept well or grew at an “acceptable” rate. However I could do my best to control the environment we all lived in. While they weren’t needing my attention I got in and cleaned things because I could.

  11. While waiting for the flooring installer to show up Saturday, we cleaned out and organized the shed and then I weeded the garden. Good for weight loss too, as it was about 150 degrees in the loft area of the shed. Yikes! Who needs to exercise when you can just sweat it off?? Got the final coat of paint on the baseboards aka skirting boards. ha ha! Those and the shelving will be installed tomorrow so that should be the end of it. That is if I get the touch-ups and one top trim piece painted.

    I’ve been quite frustrated with this process as upon reaching the “no turning back” point, I realized the work configuration is not as functional as it was before and a 10-minute preconstruction meeting with some masking tape on the floor would have saved me some hard feelings. But plumbing and electrical have been done and it is what it is, so I am just going to have to adjust. I am having to be more inventive/ruthless re: storage. I was thinking that if I could get just one single room in the house back in order, maybe I wouldn’t be so annoyed. So we moved the upright freezer in the mudroom and I emptied the room of everything else and those baseboards got a good cleaning! That little room looks good again except for the stack of dirty blankets that had been laid down to protect the wood floors, so progress was, in fact, made. Have to make a trip to the laundrymat for the big washers. Oh, and sorry to Mama Spider living under the freezer but she had to go!

    • Hi Michelle, I am glad you made progress in other areas of your house but am disappointed for you that the laundry didn’t turn out as you had hoped. Sometimes all the forward planning in the world can’t really help you visual what the end result will be. Perhaps it will all turn out best in the long run and that your feelings of dis-functionality will disappear once you become familiar with the new layout.

      A little story of change ~ I have recently decided to move my toaster from the bench top into the pantry because we don’t use it much these days. I then moved my utensils racks from another bench over to where the toaster used to be. While I was out the other day our son came over, with our daughter to pick something up. They went into the kitchen and noticed the changes. When I came home they had moved the utensils back to their original position (because the changes I had made were “stupid” [their words]). How they came to this conclusion without actually working in the kitchen is beyond me but I assume that they just weren’t comfortable about things being changed around and decided to change them back. Needless to say, I put them back and am liking the new set up. I was prepared to change things back if I wasn’t happy but it turns out I was right. The kids can just suck it up, since they no longer live there. 😉

      • Colleen – I have been told by someone whose kids have all left home, that initially the kids were quite resistant to changes she made around the house after they left. I suspect it is some need for home to stay the same safe place while they get on with their exciting new life. They’ll get over it.

        • Hi Moni, my kids ought to be used to it because I have always been one for changing things. Especially in the last three years. Not forgetting also that even the houses and locations have changed dramatically over the years as they grew up. Their reason for moving the utensils back was that the bench I had put them on already had lots of stuff on it while the other bench was empty and looked bare.

    • Michelle – I feel your pain, I find it very hard to function in upheaval. What is a mudroom?
      I do know what skirting boards are though 🙂 I think you have the right strategy to win back even just one room so that you have somewhere to go when you need some peace and sanity.

      • Colleen, I appreciate the encouraging words and I liked the story about your kids. A lot of people have difficulty adjusting to a change. For years we had a clock on the wall and then about 4 years ago, I moved it to a different wall. My husband and I still look at the old wall. hee hee One thing is certain, I am going to have to adjust -there is nothing else I can do in this regard.

        Hiya Moni. A mudroom is a room that you first enter into, usually on the back of the house, but ours is on the front. It’s where you can put your muddy shoes or have a closet for coats. Lots of people have a bench to sit on to put on shoes or a place where kids can leave bookbags. Kind of a drop-off point, I guess. In ours, we have a coat rack, a lift-top bench (so I can hide hubby’s muddy boots), a chair, a tall cabinet that I use for a panty, and our upright freezer. It’s about 6′ deep x 14′ long.

        • Hahaha Michelle is the measurements you quote for the cabinet, the freezer or the room??? 🙂 When I first read it I thought wow that’s a massive freezer!!! I love the idea of a mudroom. In England, a lot of the houses had a portico area at the front so you could shed the grotties and coats and then proceed into the house without making a mess. I actually had a ‘mudroom’ in a house over here in WA, it was before you entered the laundry area and it was tiled and had a rack for coats etc and a nice storage bench. It is a great idea and I find it a lot more common in the farming areas. Saves you finding wildlife in your wellies!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  12. I am having a terrible time doing any deep cleaning because of shoulder injuries to both shoulders. I have little to no muscles in my right arm and because I must use my left arm instead (not my dominant one), the rotater cuff there is having issues. So, I do what I can and just tell myself that doing something is better than it was before. Over time, I hope that doing a wash or wipe to the same area will eventually make it look better. This week, I will dust around my windows (cobwebs abound) and wipe the baseboards. Also, plan to clean off my mantle and wipe down my pictures. This is a good idea. I am looking a a picture hanging in my dining room and the glass really needs cleaning. I can get those done and that will make a difference in my downstairs. Good ideas today.

    • Hi Maggie, sorry to hear you are in pain right now. Hopefully if you take the clearing carefully like you suggest the exercise might actually aid in strengthening your left arm. Follow doctors orders and hopefully you will be feeling better soon.

  13. You read my mind! Public holiday Monday I moved the sofa and coffee table to vac around it and do the skirtings. Declutteted a candle jar by smashing it – second breakage in a week :s

    • Hi Sarah, I did this a couple of weeks back while I was cleaning and conditioning the leather sofas. I discovered where my husband broke a glass when I was away last. First there was a big chip in the tile where it landed and then I found shards of glass under his side of the sofa. I’m glad I noticed before I stepped on it.


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