Mini Mission Monday ~ The Dreaded Black Hole

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.

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom last week mentioned those dreaded “clutter black holes” that most houses have. These phenomena suck in all sorts of stuff that you mean to do something with or haven’t got a real home for. They lurk in numerous places, most people have at least one but some have many. For this weeks mini missions I will name seven common black hole locations and you can check them all to make sure you don’t have any. Even if you don’t you may find an item or two of clutter has gravitated to these places anyway, so declutter them or find them a home. For those of you who do find the odd black hole use Cindy’s advice to try to eliminate them for good.

Monday – On the kitchen bench or breakfast bar.

Tuesday – In or on any furniture or large appliance near your entry ways.

Wednesday – The third drawer down in any room ~ kitchen, office desk, bathroom cabinet… It is a strange phenomenon that the third drawer is often the receptacle for clutter.

Thursday – By the telephone.

Friday – The bedside table.

Saturday – A desk top.

Sunday – The coffee table.

Good luck and happy decluttering

Today’s Declutter Item

I no longer have any black holes but I do still have a backlog of craft item photos that I saved to post for while I am convalescing.  Here is an 8 x 8 Scrapbook that was too good of a clearance bargain to resist as 75% off. That was at least five years ago. The 25% I did pay was clearly a waste of money because I never used the scrapbook. The lesson here ~ A bargain isn’t a bargain unless you actually have a use for it.


Something I Am Grateful For Today

The two lovely vases of flowers I have received from friends in the last week. Not only are they pretty and brighten up the living space but the arrangement I made with one has lead me to the perfect solution for what is the right balance for a decoration on my dining table. I may well get rid of that artificial plant yet.

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. “A bargain isn’t a bargain unless you actually have a use for it”.
    Colleen, you hit the nail on the head, so to speak. If we lived like our parent’s and grandparent’s did, focusing primarily on “needs” rather than “wants”, we wouldn’t have clutter issues. I don’t know when society started buying “just in case” I might need…fill in the blank. If we moved backwards to shopping with intention, perhaps that would be a good start. I don’t ever recall shopping as a child/teen for sport. And, we never purchased items that weren’t needed right away. Of course, back in the stone ages (haha), we also had to pay cash. Credit cards? What were those?

    • I agree Kimberley, back when I was a kid we didn’t shop for pleasure or sport either! We lived on a farm, so grocery shopping was done once a week in town, and a major shop was done in a larger regional centre once every few months. On those days, we spent the whole day shopping, but it was always to a list. And yes, no credit cards either. Once I left home, I found I still automatically shopped in the same way; it actually took me years to realise that now I lived in that regional centre, I didn’t have to save all my shopping up for once a quarter (although it was probably still a good idea!).

      Hope you are feeling well, Colleen. Thank you for continuing your posts while you are recuperating. I always like to check in to your blog for your thoughtful, motivating posts. My office would be my black hole. Not so much for the paperwork, but for the random boxes stored in the cupboard, with things like multiplying CD and DVD covers, software I’m not sure whether we’ll use again, and memorabilia from school and uni days. I will do some sorting in there today, thanks!

      • Hi Kim @ Extra Organised,
        thank you very much, I am feeling better and better all the time. I am being a good patient, taking it easy and not doing to much or anything heavy. Thankfully my house is so easy to keep clean and tidy these days.

        This Thursday Moni has written a guest post about Just In Case. It is really quite good. You might find what she says will help to motivate you to get rid of some of the stuff in your office. Good luck and happy decluttering.

    • Hi Kimberley,
      when did all this craziness begin I wonder. I remember buying more clothes than I needed and other useless clutter soon after I started working in my early teens. Probably due to the fact that I finally got my hands on more money than could buy me a packet of lollies at the store. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with the way I was bought up. We certainly weren’t spoiled with stuff. Perhaps television had a lot to do with it. Not just the advertising but just the glamour and peer influence of it all.

    • I remember even as a youngster that there seemed to be some “disease” going around called greed. Not so much in our home but in others around me. They seemed to have the idea “you could just write them a piece of paper” (my brother’s words about why we didn’t get a new car). I remember as a teen that most of my friends had their own TV, stereo, car, etc. This was in the 60’s, friends. I didn’t have all of this stuff and didn’t see the need. I don’t think I had my own TV until I was in my late 20’s and then it was a hand-me-down. I had been off to college, had my own place and was living with a housemate when someone gave us the TV. Anyway, I think it was about the time I was in high school that people started needing their own stuff. Why they couldn’t share I don’t know. Now everyone seems to have their own everything even when they are living in the same house.

      • We didn’t even have a colour television until I was out of high school even though they had been available for several years. The black and white one still worked perfectly fine so why get rid of it.

        We only have one TV in our house and even that is one too many for me at times. I know couples that have three TVs ~ why do two people need three TVs ~ I really don’t understand that. We do however have two dest top computers, one laptop and two iPads between three people though. Now that is crazy.

        • My friends (a couple) had three TVs, now they have two and my apartment has one. Of course it’s not ‘mine’ (cause God forbid they be short one) and they have the right to recall at any time (I really don’t expect it, but would be fine to hand it back)

        • I think video games may also have something to do with it. I’ve lived in houses with two tv’s for a long time. In the case of my parents house, we’ve had a CRT that we’ve had for as long as I can remember, and my dad won a free flat screen tv. With only one good room for a tv, they are right next to each other, and we used one for our normal viewing, and the flat screen for watching movies. Having two tv’s also allows my parents to DVR shows (Apparently out of the 6 shows they watch, five of them air on Thursday night)

          In my rental, we have two TV’s (CRT’s picked up for cheap/free). Both have one of the renters’ xbox 360’s plugged in, which means that all four of us that live here can be playing at the same time. We don’t have ANY tv stations we get here (don’t even have a converter box hooked up, though we have one). The TV’s are prettymuch only used for the video games (last year three people had systems that would rotate through being used), and the occasional movie, using a laptop as a DVD player. One of our TV’s in the rental last year was in a guy’s bedroom, but this year they are both in the living room. They aren’t strictly necessary, but if one TV is on, the other is usually on within a few minutes of that. We certainly don’t waste away in front of them (I have a full time job, and the other three are taking summer courses towards engineering degrees), but I’m happy to have both. It means that when we’re taking a lazy break, we’re all together, rather than sitting in front of our computers.

    • Exactly Kimberley- “shopping with intention “. Couldn’t agree more! And yes it’s as though “shopping ” has become a sport or a hobby – people go on “shopping holidays ” . They need to visit this blog before they do!

  2. Colleen, I wonder if you could get rid of your fake plant on your dining room table and treat yourself once a week to a fresh flower arrangement. Then you would still have a nice centerpiece and no clutter. Just a thought!

    • Hi Jennifer L, I have to admit that thought has occurred to me as well because I have very much enjoyed the floral displays of the last couple of weeks. In fact the one on the table has been this just over a week now and is still looking good so maybe I could stretch them out for a week and a half. There are so many places to buy lovely fresh cut flowers near where I live it really wouldn’t be hard to arrange.

      The only problem I have with fresh cut flowers is they are usually grown in heated greenhouses for at least half of the year leaving them with a very big carbon footprint.

      • Wow – even hot house flowers have a carbon footprint! I would never have thought of that.

      • Colleen – I am still marveling at the idea of hot house flowers having a carbon foot print, I’m not arguing with that because now that I think about it, growing things out of season would require a lot of energy.

        It has brought to mind a few years back a well meaning politician tried to implement a carbon tax on all the sheep in New Zealand (keeping in mind we have about 45 million sheep here) for all the sheep farts as emissions. Not surprisingly it got strongly protestested against by the farmers. And ridiculed by everyone else.

        • However, fresh cut flowers needn’t be hot house flowers. In spring and summer you can buy flowers from farmers directly (at least over here) and in winter you could arrange other natural things like branches or pine cones, stones or sea shells or whatever you have in your area.

          I admit, I’m sometimes buying hot house flowers myself, but really just a few times per year – usually in the very end of winter, when I can’t bear the cold and darkness anymore. I’m okay with that.

          • I agree with Sanna, sometimes fresh flowers are too tempting, especially out of season when everything is grey outside. Beside that, flowers are such a great reward for yourself if you manage to end a “messy period” (okay, that doesn’t apply to neatniks like Colleen but admittedly and unfortunately I fall into messes again and again and need a cleanathon from time to time when cleaning has gotten too superficial for too long).
            To avoid getting too wasteful of resources (and to save some money as well) I use some tricks:
            -I decluttered the big vases that needed lots of flowers/large flowers to look good
            – in addition to the natural finds that Sanna suggested I sometimes use cuttings from houseplants that need to be trimmed anyway
            -trying to buy long lasting cut flowers or branches
            – just one or two flowers can jazz up a branch arrangement tremendously

        • Thanks for the laugh! Now who exactly would pay that tax and suppose you had a really “active” herd – do you pay more?

          • Thanks for those arrangement tips Sanna and Ideealistin I will experiment with those when all my current flowers die off. I have lots of bushes and ferns in my garden that need constant trimming that I can use.

        • Moni, don’t laugh too much about the Sheep Fart Tax (Snigger) because the carbon farmed animals produce is one of the arguments for vegetarianism.

          • LOL I would have thought heavy industry would have been a better target. I have a friend who has a big sheep farm down in the King Country and at the time he told me all the counter arguments which sounded a lot more logical than the politician who was trying to push thru the bill. Unfortunately I can’t remember it all but the animals generated a heck of a lot more carbon ‘positives’ than ‘negatives’. And a byproduct negative was that most farmers have small areas of native forest on their land, usually in areas where it was not practical to clear way back when, keeping in mind that NZ is a very hilly, mountainous terrain. The native timber in those is very valuable and most farmers were going to have mill those trees to pay the extra taxes – it would be more possible these days with rigging and heavy equipment, helicopter lifts etc. I believe part of the trade off was those areas have been protected. Which is quite funny because they’d been there all along and no one had even thought of logging them until they suddenly had to consider raising extra cash.

            AND wool is a much better product than synthetic.

            Hubby has just wandered out and explained to me something-something-something about why sheep emissions weren’t a big deal but it went over the top of my head.

            Anyway, it didn’t get passed into law.

        • Do you not have organically farmed flowers in the US? Our Swiss supermarket always has a small choice of Fair Trade cut flowers, so if there really is nothing from the garden I can use for a bit of fresh greenery and colour, I like to get a bunch of flowers when I shop each week. I have noticed some American flower arrangers with beautiful bouquets of flowers that simply aren’t in season at the same time, so have become quite critical! Presumably they are therefore greenhouse grown (tulips in late summer, for instance). Or is it the variety of climates in the US… it still means a lot of distance travelled and a high carbon footprint.
          I noticed my daughter, who has just moved abroad and has nothing in her house, so far, not even a bed (!), has flowers on her windowsill, so I guess that habit rubbed off!!

          • Hi MelD, both Moni and I come form the Southern Hemisphere so American flower growing habits don’t really apply to us. I was making assumption really about whether or not these flowers are grown in heated greenhouses. I might go and ask at the local florist at the end of my street whether they sell heated greenhouse flowers or whether they only sell what is in season. I know they sell a lot of natives so that is a good thing.

      • I too would not have considered the carbon footprint of hot house flowers (and I’ve visited Sydney’s greenhouses (and fridges – for the european stuff we like out of season, like poicettia’s (sp?) in our Christmas heat).

        My flowers at home come from my parents irregular dinner visits (I think it’s mum’s guilt that I’m cooking for her, and Dad just loves me! Now it’s become a habit after the first time when I was down and it really brightened my week), or I get leftover/dying flowers from the church display when I replenish it!

  3. Oh, I forgot. I went through the mini-mission list and I am happy to report I don’t have any of those black holes mentioned except my actual desk and it’s looking better since Cindy’s post. I’m trying to decide where to put my “in progress” file. Once I have done that, the black hole is no more. I’m so thrilled.

  4. I think some of the massive changes in society have contributed to our increased consumerism .I’m old enough (only just) to remember the little corner shop that sold all the cooking ingredients etc in packets and most suburban families only had one (or none) cars and we walked or rode our bikes so you only bought what you needed and what you could carry home.We shopped at the corner store , the butcher and the fruit and vege shop. We caught the bus into “town” to buy clothing and shoes etc from the big department stores. I remember the very first supermarket in our suburb “Tom The Cheap” .I think the supermarkets , TV’s( and subsequent advertising) , and cars, have meant that we visually and practically surrounded by “stuff “and we have to make a conscious effort to be mindful and discerning with our purchasing .It is so easy to load up that supermarket trolley with stuff .And the plethora of “discount variety stores ” are another trap – full of low cost items that look like bargains except when we go in for one item and come out with six “bargains”. I think consumerism has snuck up on us but hopefully there will be a trend away from the mindlessness of it and not just because of the global financial crisis.And Colleen -all the best with your convalescing – glad you are back home safe and sound!

    • I Jez, I remember those days too. We has one larger supermarket called Stylers before Woolworths and Coles took over. Then there were the smaller 4square stores closer to home for when we needed something quickly. Where we lived in America even independent butchers, bakers and green grocers had virtually disappeared. I am glad to say we still have them here in Newcastle.

      Thank you for the well wishes. Everything seems to be going well so far.

      • Hi Colleen – we still have 4Square stores here in NZ, they’re more of a corner dairy than a supermarket.

  5. I like these black hole challenges! I really try to ‘clear’ my black holes regularly, and Cindi’s last post really got me onto it!

    I love that where I live I can walk to 4 butchers (!), 3-4 bakeries, 1 IGA (small grocer), great fruit/vege shop (where I start before the pricey grocer), 2-3 laudromats, 2 ‘video’ stores, 2 ‘chinese’ stores, 2 pharmacies. It’s really a lot, and all within a block or two. So I don’t ‘need’ a car for groceries, and I shop for each meal. Easy!

  6. This isn’t really black hole related (though I have two black holes I am working on and they are scary, scary black holes) but considering my comment in the previous post, I thought I would come here and update the “international cheering squad”. (That phrase just puts a smile on my face!)

    My daughter has really outgrown her bouncy seat. This is the same bouncy seat that my son used 4 years ago and it has been hard for me to consider letting it go. It can’t be sold as the music doesn’t even work half the time (you have to hit the toy bar into the bouncy to start the music before you put baby in).

    But! I am ready to throw it out. 🙂 I think I will turn the covering into a pillow for the kids but the frame, toy bar and unnecessary fabric left over from the pillow are all being tossed. BIG for me.

    I also threw out a 20 year old dog that my father gave to me because honestly, that dog probably had more scary insides than an old, used up pillow. I just made sure to give him an extra big hug before tossing.

    • Well done Lynn,
      I am sure you probably have photos of these items in their glory days as well and when you stumble upon them in years to come you will have such fond memories. I have been looking through photo albums of late, decluttering the duplicates and bad photos and have been enjoying reminiscing over all the different houses we have lived in over 25 years of marriage and the pictures of our kids when they were little. It is fun to do occasionally but my memories are really all I need. Things happen often enough in everyday life that jog memories of the past so I don’t find the need to keep things to remind me. Life is good!

      • Well done Lynn!!! Yahoo!!!! Thanks for the update and continued success, one item/day.

        The “international cheering squad” LOL!!! I love that!

        Speaking of flowers and international, when we lived over the pond we could go to a farmers field and cut flowers and leave money in a box. Now that we are back in USA, I love to see those cut flowers while I’m at the grocery stores, but I haven’t yet had the heart to purchase them because I was too spoiled in Germany during the warmer months. Well, now I just will have to find a farmers field (harder to do in a major metro city), I’ll check at the local farmers market this Wednesday! 🙂

        Speaking of TV, in Germany, we didn’t have one. Now back in the states we did get a TV and have it hanging on the wall in the kids playroom area, but the stations are only tuned to the foreign language ones that we can pick up via free frequency (NO CABLE or whatever, just a good ‘ole antenna in the attic)!!

      • Yay Colleen – progress on those photos. I know that’s one clutter area you’ve been politely awaiting!

  7. Colleen, yeah, out with the fake plant!
    (have to defend my reputation as fake-plant-hater, don’t I ;-))

    • Ideealistin ~ Fake plant hater. Such a good title it suits you.

      • Well, I hope I don’t come across as a hater too much in general. But for fake plants I’ll glady make an exception. We all need our pet peeves, don’t we?!

        • Ideealistin, I’m in with you on that pet peeve!!! Oh and I really have a pet peeve for when folks put fake plants OUTSIDE in their window boxes and garden, and leave them there YEAR ROUND!!! (there’s nothing worse looking than an outdoor fake plant, all colorful with flowers, in the middle of winter with SNOW on it!!!!). Gag.

          “Hi, my name is Annabelle and I’m a fake plant hater!!!” That’s what I would stand up and say at the local ‘FPH-pet peeve’ meeting!!! hee hee hee.

          • That is so true! I cant stand fake plants outside! It’s wrong on so many levels

          • I know what you mean. I live in Arizona and we have lots of people who put fake flowers out. Most leave them all your round. When we moved here the previous owners left three hanging baskets of fake plants on the screened in front porch. It took a couple of years for me to get Mom to get rid of them. Yes, it would be nice to have something there but at this point neither of us feels like going to the local plant store to get flowers or vines (grown in the fields behind) and then have to water them daily in this heat. We have some fake plants in the house and I hate them. I don’t see why we have to have so many live and fake plants. I don’t think that add that much. One or two in a couple of places are okay but not 10 live ones and 7 fake in two rooms!!!! One of those things I am still working on. Oh, I forgot. We also have 4 aloes on the porch.

    • I agree. Fake plants are often just sad looking. I don’t have the energy/budget to put out fresh flowers all the time, but instead we have rotating displays of rocks, shells, and peacock feathers. There are about four spots in the house perfect for displays, so I just rotate as I see fit. Fresh look, without the maintenance.

  8. I love the concept of the “black hole”. It is great now that I have a proper term for the phenomenon. I have found that when I do a really big clear out, often off to the side is a small remnant of items that either need a bit more thought or are the ‘too hard’ pile. Now they are officially considered “black holes”.

    Over the weekend I completed (or so I thought) an ongoing project inspired by another post Cindy wrote back in May and I have been working on my home office area since then. This project was hindered by kids needing the computer for end of term exam prep and completing assignments over the last three weeks. Right now, behind me across the room, on the floor beside the two seater couch are three filing cabinet suspension files which contain items which need to be incorporated into my new system. Since they were put there on Saturday, one daughter has dumped a ring binder of her work on top and the other daughter has added several completed assignments that she needs to sort thru. The magnetic pull of the black hole has begun!

    • You are certainly experiencing the magnetic effect of clutter. I think this is even stronger when parents are the first to lay down an item, that gives kids permission to follow suit. I do this sometimes by putting a dirty dish on the sink instead of in the dishwasher. The next thing I know Liam has come along and put dishes there are well. When I pick him up on it he says “But you put your dishes there.” I tell him that “Thats OK, because when I do it I know that eventually I have to take care of them but when you put them there you are hoping I am going to do that for you and that isn’t fair.” He can’t understand my reasoning. Fancy that!

      • Colleen – I am VERY familiar with dishes on the bench. I pulled my son up about it, and he tried to tell me that I (me) like doing things for the family and he was just giving me the opportunity to do so. Cheeky!

        Yes I will tackle that little black hole tomorrow.

        And now the now the household wildlife have gotten in on the blackhole……right now one of the cats has decided that on top of all those files, folders and assignments is the place to curl up and enjoy the heat pump above it. (couch occupied by daughter)

  9. LOL how did you know EXACTLY where my black hole exist!!!????!! You are one smart mate! 🙂 (and you haven’t even been to or seen my house in photos!).

    This is just too funny, i HATE those black holes, and the most hated one is for today (MONDAY, kitchen). So I’m off to my kitchen black hole to declutter and ATTEMPT to eliminate said spot! (if I don’t return you will know that I’ve fallen in!).

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Update for weekly decluttering:
    Then on the kitchen bench some clutter built back up.
    Done again.
    Then some more clutter on the kitchen bench.
    Then decluttered again. (it feels like “GROUNDHOGS DAY”, the movie!).

    🙂 Well, it has turned out to be a quick place to ‘stash’ something (yikes, sorry mate!!!) till the item(s) can either go out to the garage or downstairs into the kids playroom or basement storage! It is ‘easy’ to say “oh, just don’t put stuff there”, but overall, that small ‘stuff’ has to go somewhere like a staging area, if only for an hour or two! I’m just trying to make sure it is at least ’empty’ before we all head off to bed!

    • Hi Annabelle, don’t feel too bad, we all have our staging areas. I put things on the bottom of the internal staircase all the time. I then take it up the next time I go otherwise I would be up and down all day long. My craft desk tends to be a staging area too but it is constantly cleared over and over again. It is the first thing I see as I exit my bedroom. Somethings need to be left out where they will be dealt with and that can’t always be immediate but soon. I like that you have set the goal of making sure it is cleared off before bed every night. That is the difference between a black hole and a staging area ~ how long the stuff sits there.