I have experienced examples lately on how clutter can lead to disorganisation which in turn causes more clutter. Actually, in the cases I am thinking of, the clutter is useful and used stuff but in such abundance that it ends up scattered making items hard to find. This can then lead to acquiring more of the same because of the mistaken idea that things have run out.

Of course this isn’t something new to me, I have written about it more than once already. However it is worth a repeat mention on a regular basis. My own craft supplies can get like this at times. Usually due to the fact that I like to use up every square inch of paper or cardstock that I have, so I punch shapes from the little leftovers which build up if I don’t make a concerted effort to incorporate them into a card design. Also sharing supplies between friends can lead to the organisation of lots of little bits of this and that getting out of control. I am making that concerted effort to use up or consolidate such items at them moment.

But enough about my own example as I have encountered far worse in my travels. When it comes to supplies of any kind I have found it best to allocate a space for such things and be determined to confine my supplies to always fit within that space. As soon as there is an overflow, storage of like items become scattered. When required the first place to look is the usual location, and then it gets tricky, because you then have to remember where else you stashed the stuff. Inevitably the conclusion is arrived at that you are indeed out of a supply and a replacement is acquired. Then as sure as snow is white, the others shows up when searching for something else soon after.

In the case of large pantries things get lost behind other stuff. I find this is especially so if you are inclined to stock up on sale items of frequently used food stuffs. Inevitably these items end up at the forefront while less used items get shuffled back. Then on the rare occasion when the less used stuff is required it is so hard to find that a replacement is acquired. Thus cluttering up the pantry even more with things going out of date before ever getting used up. This is especially so if more than just grocery items are stored in a large pantry. Add paper towel, food wraps, medications, appliances, utensils, shopping bags etc and things can get really out of control. Being disorganised has its own cost on your time and sanity, so weigh up the pros and cons of whether cost savings are really worth it.

Then there is wardrobe overflow. Too many clothes equals not enough space in your closet, then items get stored in whatever spare space is available. When there is an abundance of clothing one can also get rather blasé about the necessity of regular laundering. Then when an item is needed, especially a work related item, it isn’t unusual for it not to be in immediate wearable condition. This is bad enough when the item needs ironing when you need to be out the door in ten minutes, but imagine the panic that sets in when an item is soiled beyond use in this situation. My experience is that a limited, organised assortment of clothing forces more attention on to the care of them, which generally results in keeping better control of their rotation through your wardrobe.

So think twice about overstocking. It really can add complication to your life that you may not even notice until you feel the relief when it is gone. If you don’t believe me try reducing in a small area ~perhaps your stationery supplies or your bathroom cabinet ~ and just see how much easier it is to keep the area tidy, find what you need and not waste time choosing when less variety is available.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item from a bedroom of your home.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

Save on waste by not allow perishable supplies to go out of date in your home. The best way to achieve this is by not stocking an overabundance.

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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  • Clutter, why? Clutter isn't about what we have, it is about why we have it.  We acquire stuff for many reasons, aesthetics, functionality, sentimental, recreation and entertainment and even […]
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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, this is an area that my friend, S, was so bad about and how her house became such a mess. For example, her pantry was so stuffed with items she would have the countertops covered with food items too. Much of it would then go bad because she would buy more and more. She is better at not buying but still buys more than she needs too. With calue matching here in the US, rather than having to go from store to store to get bargains you can take another store’s flyer to the store you use the most and they will give you the equivalent for the same price. So you don’t have to wait for a sale at “your” store. We figure out what we will use for the month and buy only that. Thus we have a pantry that is organized and not stuffed. We can easily find what we want. I also installed pull out. shallow baskets so that you can see everything that is in the pantry. Works like a charm.

    Another example from S. She had things like 3 winter coats exactly alike but in 3 different sizes. You guessed it. She kept them to use depending on her size. If that wasn’t bad enough, we these were down filled coats that she only used when she went back to visit her family at Christmas. She had other things like this. Needless to say, her house was a real mess because she had more things than she had storage and than she needed.

    • Hi Deb J, I like that price matching idea. However, in a grocery store, wouldn’t that cause chaos at the checkout if there were several items to change pricing on? I am pretty sure they do that here too but I don’t get the flyers.

      The multi sizes of clothes is a problem for a lot of people. But a coat one only wears once a year? I’d just keep the biggest one and deal with it being a little loose. I am a bit of a perfectionist and yet I wouldn’t worry about the size not being exact. There are a lot of people who concern themselves way too much about their appearance though.

      • Colleen, yes the price matching can cause an issue in the checkout but it is worth the hassle. Some cashiers keep the flyers from the other stores and are quick to handle it. Others aren’t quite as happy with it.

        I agree with you about the coat deal. I don’t even own a coat. If I ever have to go anywhere cold I would just either borrow a coat or get one from a thrift shop and then give it back when I left.

  2. I’m getting better at this.
    Especially with the food! I have found that I go through this journey of letting go of stuff, what I am really letting go of is FEAR. I think I was afraid that I might not have enough in the future or it would never go on sale again or that I might not be able to afford it later or it might be taken away somehow. Lots of latent fears that kept me want to cram MORE into my pantries and any other space that could fit cans or boxes (garage, basement, under the bed). I have finally got to the point that I trust there is enough money around for food, enough food around to buy, the sales ALWAYS come around again and even if it is taken away (really, who would take it?) it can ALL be replaced.
    Every canned and dry good in the house now fits in the kitchen! I still have enough to make pretty much any recipe I can think of at a moment’s notice, but not crazy amounts of each thing. In this part of the world (west coast Canada) we are enouraged to have 3 days emergency supplies in case of earthquake. No problem here! But at least I am no longer a sweet target for looters like I was before! LOL
    And with the newly found spaces where food used to live, I let it simple be S P A C E sigh, it’s nice to have breathing room!

    • I hear what your saying creativeme ! I never looked at it as a fear but you have analyzed it correctly. I try to be clever and save time and money, 50% of the time it works.

    • Creativeme – I have a friend who went thru the Christchurch earthquake that destroyed much of the city. She was actually about to go to the supermarket when it hit. What is more, two other families had their houses destroyed and came to stay with them that night and stayed for several weeks. So they didn’t have a lot of food to begin with but they ate well. Everything in the freezer had to be eaten first and from then they had to become very creative with making food from scratch. She said the barer the pantry looked the better they seemed to eat, and if it took several hours to make dinner, well, its not like she could go to work or could go shopping or anything else. She said something always worked out and they were never worried about not having enough to eat.
      I used to keep emergency supplies on hand too, but after hearing my friends experience I realised it would be ok and I only keep the minimum required for an emergency kit now.

    • Great comment creativeme. It will be the subject of Friday’s post.

  3. I noticed the other week that they have invented Project 333 for pantries. Sorry I deleted the article yesterday so I can’t include the link. I won’t be joining that one but I do admire those who can manage it. To many of my friends my pantry looks on the bare side, but it is at the level where it works for me, any more or less and I find it doesn’t function as well. That is my concept of minimalism, the least amount that you can function without causing inconvenience.

    • Hi Moni, my pantry is pretty minimal, as you can imagine it would be, and yet I make everything from scratch. Even salad dressings. Most of my food is fresh food. I still could easily manage to get by for those three days in an emergency. And I agree with you ~ ‘…my concept of minimalism, the least amount that you can function without causing inconvenience.”

  4. Great tips Colleen. I’m totally guilty of this. I’ve just gone thru my bathroom cabinets, decluttered a few items, and reorganzied the rest before putting it back. I put all the like with like: shampoos all together, body lotions all together, etc. I also put the oldest up front. I will not be buying any more of these types of things until my “stock” is used up. It will be several years I’m sure.

    • Good for you Kayla… I love to hear stories of my readers coming to understandings of what they need and what they don’t. Old habits can die hard but when they do it can be blessed relief.

  5. I think you covered the bases pretty well Colleen. I have been guilty of all of these at one point or another. I also keep all of those scraps of craft/scrap booking paper in one of those clear plastic envelopes.
    We do keep an extra shampoo or body wash and a small soap stash around which I think is reasonable. I am so glad I am over the stuffed clothing closet thing. For some reason that was an Achilles heal for me, right after papers and sentimental cards, notes etc.

    • Hi Jean I am glad you have these areas under control. Isn’t it funny that after a while of breaking such habits we often wonder why we ever did these things in the first place. When I shake my head at finding evidence of other people doing these things I just think that I wasn’t much different not that long ago. I think my first incident of breaking such habits was when we were about to return to Australia after living in America for seven years. My main target was toiletries, and I never returned to that habit from that moment on.

  6. Just a dumb question if you don’t mind me asking you all – I like my line up of Tupperware or Click Clack pantryware to hold the dry goods, all uniform. I like my cereals in plastic cereal containers. My pastas in uniform canisters etc. Does anyone out there just leave the dry goods in the boxes that they come in from the supermarket?

    • Yes, I leave everything in the original packaging except sugar, and that’s just for ease of measuring into recipes (I leave flour in the original paper bags because they’re large enough to get the measuring cup into, and I store it in a tied plastic bag to keep the flyaway flour contained). But we have a very good climate for such storage. In year-round warm areas, I believe there can be issues with critters (moths, worms, etc). The only thing I ever had a problem with was rice – and the critters were IN the sealed packaging as it came from the store, and were detected before opening. I can’t imagine how much extra time it would take me to transfer everything to pantryware, because I’m a perfectionist, and I’d have to have everything match, wouldn’t know what to do if the contents were too much for the container, and would start getting antsy when the item was just below the halfway mark! Were you wondering about how to stack the assortment of packaging? It’s kind of like packing a car trunk, or playing Tetris – just fitting things in. I find that Colleen’s post today is important to keep in mind because it is so easy to lose the smaller boxes behind the larger ones (eg. pasta in different size boxes). Less is easier.

      • Jo H – a friend of a friend of a friend doesn’t use pantry ware as they move regularly due to work and as they get closer to shift time she runs down her stock, one less thing to pack.

    • Not me. I am like you. Things hold up longer in the containers I think.

    • Hi Moni, I also have Tupperware to take care of this task. Although as I have reduced what I keep I have also passed lots of tupperware on. My daughter benefitted from that. I also sold some on ebay. I find the containers easier for access purposes, however, I do actually think the bags of ingredients take up less space in the pantry as they reduce in size as the item is used up. There for I don’t use freezer tupperware because the real estate in the freezer is precious because I only have a small one.

      • Colleen – Real Estate in the freezer, I like it. Since we took away the big freezer in the garage we’ve had to be more careful with freezer space. It’s had its benefits and disadvantages but we’re hanging in there.

    • Hi, Moni. Yup, I do that too. I transfer dry goods, rice, pasta, cereals, and other stuff into stackable, air-tight containers. They are easier to store, access and monitor. Not a dumb question at all :-).

  7. I actually can’t think of any overflow except some notes on a story I’m writing, and I’m actively working on removing that. Goodness, I used to have enough to fill two bedrooms — literally. Now one has free space in it. I have come a long, long way, and I’m proud I can’t think of any overflow I’m not actively working on.

  8. This is so true. During one of my recent runs, my earbuds stopped working. My first instinct was to go buy another set. Turns out I already own NINE that came free with electronics and were stashed in various locations. Only one of them is the style I like for long runs, but I can’t imagine that someone would want opened/used earbuds (yuck). So the good ones will be saved for the long runs, the others will be used for short runs/made into artwork (my new declutter passion), and the unused ones will be donated.

    • Hi DLC and welcome to 365 Less Things. This sounds like a familiar scenario. My husband just found an unused pair of ear buds just this week. They didn’t fit into either of our ears so they will be heading out the door one way or another. It was a really shame because my current pair have stopped working in stereo. It seems in your case thought that you may still be keeping too many. If those short run ones aren’t good enough for a long run, then I can only imagine they won’t be great for short runs either, so maybe they could go too.

  9. I love hearing everyone’s stories about pantry goods. I have decided to try very hard to stick to a budget for food. I spend WAY too much money on food. For the first time ever, I am trying meal planning in two-week increments (I get paid every two weeks). We get a quarter of a beef every fall so we have a freezer full of beef. I seem to cook a lot of pasta and chicken and there sits good beef. I checked my two main cookbooks and I’m not seeing a lot of beef recipes. I’m a basic cook, nothing fancy here. I’ll be checking the Food Network site for some more recipes. Anyhow, then I went through the pantry and we have got a TON of stuff in there too! I have got to stop buying and start cooking. This weekend, while a nice stew is cooking in the crock pot, I’m going to go through all that stuff, get rid of the out of date items, and figure out a meal plan!

    Somewhere on tv I had seen a pantry that was shallow, so you could see pretty much everything at a glance. I wish I was better organized that way. Also, I have been trying to stick to my specific grocery days. We are out of cat treats and hubby keeps yipping for me to get more. The cat can live until Saturday when I go shopping. I’m out of my under-eye cream and I can manage to wait until Saturday. 😉 Instead of whipping out my checkbook every other day, I am learning to wait or just make do.

    Great post, Colleen.

  10. I find myself in a bit of strange headspace today. I am grumpy things in my home that won’t just disappear. I am aware that they’re inanimate objects and can’t choose to stay or leave the property, but I’m all “why won’t you just disappear”. Items that I haven’t been sure about whether they should be decluttered or not, items which I have been umming and ahhhing over, items which have been given a future expiry date. Some switch has been flicked in my head and I want them out, out, out…..today!

    Has anyone else ever had one of these moods?

    • I can identify with the part about wanting something “out, out, out … today”, Moni – I figure it’s clutter’s day of reckoning, once all the free passes have run out.

      Sometimes, when I’m tired or not in a ‘sunshiny’ mood, I find that it’s easier to let go of certain items or to cull an overflow. I’m alert enough to be aware of what I’m letting go or getting rid of, but too tired to be bothered to ponder the myriad ramifications of getting rid of the stuff. It’s a variation of using your most productive time of the day to get your important work done, I suppose.

      • Nicole V – I think you have hit the nail on the head with ‘too tired to be bothered to ponder the myriad ramifications of getting rid of stuff’ – sometimes I just wish there was a Fairy God Mother wand that just made things dissolve into thin air.

    • Oh yes Moni I surely have at times. It is a real bummer though if the items belong to someone else in the household and they want to keep them.

  11. I have two deep drawers for food and one shallow drawer – I love being able to see my food so easily. Currently I am trying to buy the minimum of food so it fits in just the two deep drawers. The other place where I have food is in my fridge freezer. Oh, and I keep potatoes in a little cupboard so they don’t go green – currently they are sitting on some cookery books! I don’t have much spare space as my kitchen is part of my open plan main room.

    My stock is reducing slowly, but I’ve realised several things while it is happening.

    1. Jars of Marmite last for ages – I did not need to have 4 of them, all are now passed their best before date. I am just finishing jar 2 but still edible.
    2. There is no need for 3 jars of marmalade at a time, even though they were home made and all looked lovely when I bought them one at a time.
    3. No need to buy identical packets of pasta – I obviously don’t use it often enough or I would have realised I had some in stock.

    etc, etc,


    • Diana – use a bit of marmite (vegemite to me) in stews, casseroles, meatloaf, burger etc it is an excellent substitute for beef stock.

      And most cats like the flavour. I put some on a bit of toast and put down for the cat.

      • Diana – back in 2012 we had a nationwide shortage of marmite here in New Zealand as the factory was damaged in the earthquake. It became a big deal and made the news and was dubbed ‘Marmageddon’. It was a hot item on Trademe, your remaining two jars would have been worth gold, even the Prime Minister had to weigh in on the topic.

    • Hi Diana, you have come to some good realisation when it come to storing food. That is what slow, deliberate decluttering is all about. Not just question to keep or let go but the ask those questions as to what ought to be done in the future when it comes to buying/storing stuff.

  12. It is not always just the overflow or stockpiling too much of the same item. It also has to do with the size that you purchase. The typical “buy it at Costco because you get more bang for your buck” when you buy in a large quantity. Then convince yourself that you save money this way, when in reality you throw most of it away because you don’t use it up before its expiration date. My sister in-law belongs to the Costco cult which is what I nicknamed this mindset.

    • Hi Kimberley, you surely are right about that. I was always very particular about what I bought at Costco when I lived in the US. If the quantity was too much I just didn’t buy it. Some people just can’t see past the price tag though.

  13. Hi, Kimberley. I think I’ve come across a few members of a related cult – the “Two is always better” cult. I was at a supermarket looking for a bottle of sauce and the particular one I wanted came packaged in pairs, a two-for-the-price-of-one promotional deal. That would not have been a problem if I would have been able to use them both by the expiry date. The sales promoter was stunned when I asked if I could just get one bottle and she couldn’t get over the fact that I was refusing a second bottle at a ‘great’ price. She kept looking at me as if she didn’t know what to make of me. When I need one, I really just need one … it’s not rocket science.

  14. I have a tidy little bin where I keep winter accessories like gloves and scarves. It wasn’t overflowing but I thought I should assess what is in there since it is partway through winter here and I rarely look in there. I had 5 scarves in there – and I really hate anything around my neck, so I do not wear scarves, ever. I haven’t worn a scarf in probably 20 years. !!! Two were hand made from my mother and sister and I will keep only those for now. One was from a trip to Venice, Italy in 1991, still in excellent condition. That one was tough to part with. I’ll never forget that trip to Venice, even without the scarf!

    • Oh Claire, If you haven’t worn a scarf in 20 years just get rid of them all. I am sure by now that your mother and sister have long since forgotten they even made you a scarf and, if they do, wouldn’t expect you to keep them if you don’t wear them. They have become obligation clutter. Offer them back to your mother and sister if it makes you feel better than just disposing of them some other way. I also had several scarves that my mum made me some years back and also felt slightly guilty at letting them go but at the same to felt a whole lot better about not having stuff I don’t want hanging around the house. I also know that there a lots of thing I have given her over the year that are no longer evident in her home when I go to visit, and I am fine with that. Just like the stuff we buy stuff we give and are given soon rotate through ours and others homes. So don’t feel bad about letting go, no matter where the object came from.

      • Lol! I sure set myself up for that one didn’t I?! I am so gung ho about decluttering and minimizing my life and I’m still hanging on to sentimental scarves I never wear! The two I kept are still special to me though, one my mom made and gave to me within the last year and one my sister made for me in high school. I used to wear it a lot back then. She has been disabled for years now and can’t make anything like this now. It still feels pretty special to me. So, because I can’t get rid of them now I am committed to getting rid of other things less meaningful and useful…..I just added 3 pair of surplus scissors to the give away pile! I think I probably have a lot more meaningless stuff I can cull. I’m going try and make some more progress on the easy stuff today!

  15. Reporting in on our big clear out here at work, we emptied one workshop into an empty workshop next door for some renovations and re-paint. Earlier this week we got to move it all back but my husband scrutineered everything that came back and a big cull happened. He has added up the info on the dump receipts and in total 1.6 tonnes went in that direction, two more rubbish dumpsters and one recycling dumpster will leave today, (the same dumptsters left full last Friday too). He has given a friend 1 tonne of timber off cuts and slabs that are not useful for firewood.

    When I say dump, we have quite a gauntlet at our rubbish dump, your vehicle get weighed on the way in and out and there is a huge assortment of recycling opportunities before the actual dump part and even that is segregated into different types so that they can be re-utilised. The price to dump stuff is based on the weight difference on the way out.

    • Hi Moni, are you saying that the recycling centre comes before the weigh-in. I hope so because it would be a bit of a rip off if the charged for your whole load and then made more money on y0ur useful items.