Plant Clutter

The mini mission for today is plant related clutter. This could be potted plants that have seen better days, potting supplies and tools, gardening equipment, or even wild overgrown garden plants. But the thought behind the inclusion of this post was people receiving potted plants as gifts and not being able to part with them even when they have become straggly and unattractive as potted plants often do over time. This can happen if they are kept in the wrong environment with poor lighting or harsh conditions like in an air-conditioned office.

Let me create a scenario for you. Mary works in an office with no windows and thinks it needs a little sprucing up with a plant or two to add a little Mother Nature to the atmosphere. She generously gifts the office some lovely potted plants. Neither Mary nor her colleges have green thumbs but do remember to water the plants so they stay alive at least. The lighting is poor and the plants grow stringy trying to reach the light as plants do and they are never fertilised so they don’t thrive. Mary eventually moves on to a new position in another firm near by but drops in often to visit her old work friends. These friends realise that the plants are looking pretty sad and frankly detract form the otherwise cheery atmosphere of the office but are now reluctant to replace them because they were a gift to the office from Mary who drops in on a regular basis and would notice them gone. So it would be wrong to get rid of them right?

No! Mary probably thinks they look dreary too and is probably wondering why they are still there. My advice would be to give them a holiday from the office, take them home and see if a little tender loving care will revive their previous healthy condition. If that doesn’t work just replace them with similar plants using the old planter pots.

* * *

I gave my mother a plant for Mothers Day once, it was a golden cypress bush. I must have been about ten at the time. She planted it in the from yard at our house. My father later decided to put a driveway in down the side where the cypress was growing. Instead of just cutting it down he moved it to a new position. I don’t know if he did this under mum’s insistence because I had given it to her, until now I have never given it a thought. Anyway the cyress thrived in its new position and soon grew to about ten feet high. A couple of years later they sold the house and moved to another and the tree was left behind. So I bought my mum a new golden cyress for her next mothers day gift. She seemed to like the first one so why not. About three years later we moved from that house too but we never continued the tradition of the golden cypress plant and it didn’t matter to either off us. It never did matter, the original gift was just another gift the second one just seemed appropriate and by the third house I probably came up with better gift ideas or had more money to spend.

* * *

My daughter bought me an indoor plant for mothers day just after we moved into the house in which we currently reside. It had been in the same position for four years until this past Christmas. I used the planter I bought for it to hold the Christmas tree (twigs) and put the plant outside in a shady part of the garden for a little holiday. Alas its leaves got burnt by the sun and I had to trim it back so much that it no longer was big enough for the planter so I bought a new plant and left the other in another spot in the garden to see if it would recuperate. If my daughter noticed it gone when she visited last week she certainly didn’t mention it. I just went out to check and the plant has actually sprouted a new shoot, something it has never done indoors. Had it died so be it. I am sure my kids haven’t kept every gift I have given them either.

* * *

One last story. A friend gave me a blueberry bush as a thank you gift because she knows I don’t like clutter. I liked this gift simply because I like blueberries and hoped it would grow into a thriving bush and yeild a bountiful crop. I realise this could take a while and wasn’t expecting miracles in the first year. It took me a while to plant the bush but since then, probably thanks to the abundant rain this year, it has indeed thrived. Keep in mind it was only a tiny bush and now it is three times the size. My tiny bush yielded me only three delicious blueberries last year but I am hoping for a bigger crop next spring. If next year the rain is not so abundant and my blueberry bush dies from neglect because I am a lazy gardener it will be not big deal. If this was the case and my friend asked what became of it I would tell her it didn’t survive my brown thumb. I have a natural culling process in my garden, that is if it survives my neglect it must be a good hardy plant meant for the local conditions and belongs in my garden. She would understand, not that I think she would even ask or that it is going to die because I have actually taken particular care of this plant.

So the moral of these stories is a plant is just a plant. Like humans they live and die and sometimes it takes more expertise than you have to take care of them properly. So do your best and if it doesn’t work out don’t loose any sleep over it. And if you work in an office with sorry looking plants offer to take them home and give them some tender loving care and if that fails just replace them and either admit to your failing or pretend the replacements are the old plants that have thrived from your green thumb.

Today’s Declutter Item

What’s worse than real plant clutter? That’s right, fake plant clutter. This pathetic example  was “decorating” the top of my kitchen cupboards until I was up there cleaning them off a couple of weeks ago. It was so caked in kitchen grime and I didn’t like it anyway so I threw the plant in the bin and donated the pot and stand to the thrift store.

Fake Plant Clutter

Something I Am Grateful For Today

A break in the weather so I could walk to the post office to mail some ebay sales.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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. Oh my!! Does this fit our situation. We have 9 artificial plants/flower arrangements and 14 live plants. ALL in the house. My mother can’t stand to let a plant die and has a green thumb. Unfortunately, plants thrive for her and are always needing to be cut back. She won’t throw out the trimmings but instead roots them and puts them in pots and then tries to find somewhere else to put them. I keep telling her that if she can’t throw them out then at least take them up to the clubhouse and put them out for others to take home and enjoy. We certainly don’t need them all. She can’t stand to have anything just cleaned off and pristine. Everything has to be “decorated.” Drives me bonkers. But, I have lived with it this long so have learned to just let it go. I like live plants but I don’t think we need so many of them. One or two would be fine.

    • Deb J, this sounds like my mother; she can make anything grow and look nice, and can’t bear to throw away a leaf if she can make it root into another plant. But she lives in her own place so that’s up to her. She has stopped trying to give me plants because I can’t grow them and the cats tend to eat them anyway 🙂

  2. Wow, Colleen, I am amazed that your declutter item of the day withstood your fervor so long … But well, top of the kitchen cabinet … we all have our blind spots, don’t we, shortie 😉

    • okay, all kidding aside I sort of relate to people who feel sorry for plants. If something survives my “care” this vegetal being has my respect and I try to find it a home rather than throw it away if I can’t or don’t want to keep it. Your post was the right kick in the butt to list one of two dracaenas I have to give away for (nearly) free. It has really gotten too large for the place.

      • I don’t think I have ever experienced an plant getting too large for its place although there is at least on in the garden that is in need of a good prune at the moment.

  3. The Other Lynn

    I was involved in a nursing home that was often the recipient of both cut flowers and potted plants after funerals. They liked it; it brought cheeriness to what could often be a dreary place, and they had green thumbs that took care of them. Families liked to have somewhere to take the abundance of plants they didn’t want after the funeral. Now, I’m heading upstairs to take care of those two languishing in my bathroom!!

  4. Ugh, fake plants. If they ever looked good it was for a week or two in the mid 1980’s ….kinda when neon legwarmers did. No coincidence though.

    The fake ivy & faux flowers we pitched out from my MIL’s house were unbelievably thick in dust & strangely sticky to the touch. Gave me the heebie jeebies & kept me running to the sink to re-wash my hands again & again.

    Anyways, every Spring we buy 2 or 3 “disposa-palms” from a pop-up plant seller that comes up from Florida & sets up a little plant stand in an old parking lot.
    The palms are $10 each & they live about as long as the Spring & Summer last. Come Autumn – the palms are disposed of & that’s that. No hard feelings & no heroic efforts are put into prolonging their usefulness/life.

    • Disposa-palms, now that is a new one on me. I must admit I have had plenty of disposa-plants in my time. I usually just call them victims. And you are right I have one more fake ivy on my dining table but it will stay there until I find just the right thing to take its place.

  5. Hmm … sounds a bit like my situation 🙂

    I am still trying to figure out why a lot of people have an aversion to pruning thin or straggly plants that need it. Maybe it’s because they’ve never seen it done and therefore never realized how much fuller and healthier the plants will look after they start to grow back a bit. My suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.

    I am also trying to understand why people keep plants when they get too big for a space. Either give them to someone with a very high ceiling or just discard them, in my opinion. But it’s not a popular opinion amongst those I know.

    But then again – I have kept many things that other people would question. We are all different, that’s for sure.

    • And my thumb is browner than yours, Colleen. It’s black 🙂 If I took those plants home, I’d kill them dead. I cannot afford to replace them!

    • Oh well Jo as you say we are all different. Just get out the secateurs and have at it when no one is around.

  6. I’ve also been given house plants over the years. While they look nice I keep them in the house. If or rather when they get straggly and sad I plant them in the garden and donate the pot to the opshop, no regrets. Sometimes the garden ones do well, in fact quite often, those that don’t make it – ah well never mind! I have three house plants and two plants in pots outside, that’s enough for me.

  7. Haha I remember that ‘fake clutter’ from your newspaper interview photos… I congratulate you on decluttering it…!

  8. Colleen – my thumb isn’t brown, its beyond black – its more of a gangrene. Plants commit mass suicide around me. So apart from ones in the garden – which I am under strict instruction NOT to go near – I stay away from plants. So no pot plants inside. Live, dying or fake. It makes it really simple.

    Thank you for bringing to my attention the area above the kitchen cupboards. I am short and so out of sight, out of mind. Will assign tall hubby the task of surveillance and retrieval…..and cleaning.

    • Moni,
      Lena gave me a good tip for the tops of the kitchen cupboards. line them with paper, I used lumch wrap. That way the paper gets dusty and greasy not the cupboards. It then just need changing ever so often. Not sure why I didn’t think of this before. If only it were possible to do the same to the inside of the oven.

  9. I used to feel bad about discarding plants that were gifts until the day I figured out that if I put them in my compost pile, they’d go back into the “cycle of life”, and that made me feel better somehow, as if I wasn’t just callously throwing away something that had been a gift.

    That’s probably a strange way of looking at it, but it helped.

    • I think of it this way too, Becky. It does help, doesn’t it!

    • Hi Becky,
      I like the way you think about this. Isn’t it great when you finally come up with a formula that allows you to let things go. I think I might have written a blog about this that will publish in April so stay tuned.

  10. Hahahaha I used to have 2 houseplants, they were the lucky bamboo plants that I decluttered when I did the garage. They suffered in the house and then I overdid the watering outside, they perished!! Shame but still I did get rid of them quickly.

    In the garden I have flourishing standard Iceberg Roses. They look beautiful and are thriving, they get everything they need without being a chore and the blooms are gorgeous to bring in everytime I get a new flush of blooms. I don’t have to spend a lot of time with them so they can stay, I just dead-head them everytime I see a bloom expire.

    Speaking of heads (sort-of) I found the bears head! His name is Baxter and his head was in the cupboard with the joint pliers! I can only assume that I went out there with the bear to get the pliers and got distracted and left him in the garage. Hubby probably put him in the tool box to keep him safe ‘what the’ or I did it in a moment of madness, nevertheless the parts are together, he has been dusted off and I shall drive him to the Salvo’s and donate him this afternoon.

    Why did it take 15mins to put him together and stitch him up yet he was in the garage for god knows how long and headless at that!?????! What time warp picked me up and threw me around!!??!! Seriously 15mins to complete, I am stunned at my stupidity!! Proof again that if you stop something you may never start again, bit like breathing!!

    Have a great day everyone 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Dizzy, your comments are priceless 🙂

    • Ok Dizzy you win the prize for strangest clutter item of the month. Decapitated bears surely can’t be beaten by anyone else.

      • Ok you lot how’s this for a ‘what the’!!!

        1x one legged frog? I kid you not, he was languishing on the tool rack behind the cordless drill right near the tube of supa grip! Obviously I intended to fix him, poor little blighter. On closer inspection I could not find said leg so I thought in the bin with you. Off he went. Home comes hubby and I laughed telling him about the frog ornament and he burst out laughing (I thought it was because he thought I was a nitwit for caring about a broken thingy) Nooooo!!! He was laughing because during his chuckout in the garage (before I started) he found a leg!! Didn’t want to take it any further than the bin so in it went.

        I can only hope that the little froggie finds his leg at the re-cycling centre! Hahahaha I just love it when I get to see a stunned look on my hubby’s face! He loves his cleaner garage and I am glad!

        P.S I have yet to visit my ‘Dolls’ box, I’m sure to find some goodies in there! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  11. I have a green thumb but I don’t really enjoy having plants inside my house. Right now, I have one–a shamrock which was given to me a year ago. I’ve kept it because my birthday is St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish friend Maureen gave it to me 🙂 If it dies this year, oh well.

    However, I’m reminded to check my front porch and make sure I love all the plants out there 🙂 If not, out they’ll go to the compost bin.

  12. Thank to everyone who helped me with their comments on plants and why it can be hard to part with them. What a great bunch you are!

  13. black thumb (or its the lack of sun in my flat) – but every year I am again trying to get them in, because I love green homes. I like to think that the green thumb comes with age and wisdom. So I will stop killing plants when I am around 80… until that there is still hope.

    • oh and the ones I reckon as dead, I bring to a friend of mine. he saves each dead plant. we sometimes call him secretly ‘the plant whisperer’… His flat is quite minimalistic, so he has a lot of space for plants and flowers.

    • Ha Ha Lena I must be more then half way to being a good gardener then.

      • haha colleen, you probably are. you know we say here “hope dies last”. Give it a shot!

        but seriously. the less stuff you have, the more you can relax and take care of things like plants, etc.. although my dad was a clutterer, and he took good care of plants too. seems there is no link after all 😉

  14. I think this post was written just for me. When I met my husband 24 years ago, he had a small avocado plant that an ex-girlfriend had started for him. You’d think I would have disposed of it then and there, right? Not me. Can’t bear to kill a living thing. It still lives with us. It is taller than I am, and it is a bedraggled mess. We kept repotting it into larger and larger pots, but we can’t go any bigger. It is too cold here to move it outside. My husband keeps asking me if we could throw it out. I guess I should say yes. It is so ugly…but it was beautiful once…

    • Hi Nora and welcome to 365 Less Things. I thought you were going to say that your husband is too attached to the plant and that you wanted it out of there being as it was given to him by an ex-girlfriend. Do no you are just very kind to living things. I would suggest you wait until the weather warms up a little and then put it out on the sidewalk with a FREE sign on it. That way it might end up in a new home and you don’t have to kill it.

    • Hi Nora
      Do you have ebay? Is there a gardening section on it? In NZ we have Trademe and every imaginable plant, tree, shrub, bulb is listed, so I imagine ebay will have the same. List it. Put the story on it – bidders love a good story – even if you only ask $1 to cover listing and success fees. If you were in our area, I would know 5-10 people who would be around in a flash to grab it. Or is there a ‘free stuff’ page in the local newspaper?

  15. I have a soft spot in my heart for plants like some have for animals. They are like children to me and as such can provide both great pleasure and a lot of work. I do have a green thumb and have revived many a plant thought to be dead. I have a pot of three poinsettia that I bought in Dec 2010 which bloomed through early fall of last year and is now a healthy green bushy plant. However, in order for a plant to be invited to live in my home, it must be well-behaved. I have no fear of using pruning shears. Some of the cuttings I pot and give away or save for our garden club plant sale in the spring. Some plants winter indoors so I don’t have to re-purchase in the spring. I must admit, however, I get antsy for spring to place them outside again. If I keep the plants under control and keep them looking green and healthy, they don’t become clutter to me any more than pets or children. 🙂

    • beautiful. a green house especially in winter is SUCH a nice thing. one day I will develop my green thumb just like you…

    • Nice to know that there is a least one green thumb amongst us Di. And plants are a whole lot less trouble than pets or children, I can sure vouch for that. I seem to be having more trouble keeping my son alive these days than I am the house plants. The key must be not to let him out of the house. 😆

      • Colleen,
        Sit him by a south-facing window, give him plenty of water, fertilize him once a month, and as you care for him, talk to him and tell him what a wonderful boy he is and how beautiful, strong, and healthy he’s looking. You might want to have him listen to some nice calming music also. Works every time for me!!! 🙂