Positive attitude to decluttering

Here is a great comment from Kimberley that I didn’t want anyone to miss…

“Selling vs. Donating…..
When we acquire an item, there was an obvious need for us to do so, real or imagined. It may have served its purpose where we feel we “got our monies worth”. Then again, some acquisitions are what we needed at that time in our life whether we “got our monies worth”, or not. I have found over the years that everything that has come into my life, came in for a reason, sometimes very temporary and all at some cost. Our lives are constantly changing as we grow as individuals. I have always donated my “goodies”. I feel so fabulous knowing that things that are no longer useful to me are the very things that other people actually need. I also take tremendous pride in how I prepare the items I am donating, knowing that my discards will be someone’s blessings. It’s part of the circle of life, in-out, in-out.”

There are a couple of points in this post I want to comment on.

  1. The first half of Kimberley’s comment shows a good attitude towards stuff, so that one can easily let it go without the need to recoup their losses. However I was a little concerned that it sounded a little too “Easy come, easy go.” This is good for decluttering as easy go makes the task a lot less stressful. However, for the environment  as well as increasing the likelihood of re-cluttering ~ maybe not so good. But most certainly I think it is a good attitude with which to view our clutter and if that is the only area where we apply this attitude then great.
  2. Kimberly writes ~ I also take tremendous pride in how I prepare the items I am donating, knowing that my discards will be someone’s blessings.” I love that Kimberly not only donates her stuff but she also isn’t one of those people who drop their stuff off at a charity in a filthy, dishevelled and damaged condition. Charities appreciate donations, however, volunteers aren’t always plentiful, paid staff are usually at a minimum and facilities to bring such items into a sellable condition are often limited. So please anyone who donates to charity, please, please, please donate your items in a clean and functional condition.

A quick update on yesterday’s post: As soon as I finished my self indulgent rant on selling v donating I immediately opened the ebay site and listed the items I had been procrastinating about. As one Facebook reader commented ~ “Sorry, but that didn’t seem very helpful…..” but it sure helped me to quit whining and just make the effort.

I found that ebay had actually simplified the listing process by eliminating a few steps. Also I decided to follow their lead and simplify it a little further for myself by sticking to the basic info and allowing the bidders to research any extra information they might want for themselves. Previously I would include as much information as possible and a little encouraging spiel to temp the interested parties into making a bid, but not this time. So, in less than half an hour, including some photo editing, the ebay auctions were up and running.
Now if they don’t sell the next step will be to donate them. One way or the other they will be leaving my home.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter some paper clutter ~ magazines, paperwork, old tax papers, expired warranties…

Eco Tip for the Day

Organise your weekly menu prior to grocery shopping. This will help avoid extra trips in the car to the store.

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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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen,
    I did not mean to imply an “easy come, easy go” mentality in my comment. Even if our purchases are well thought out 99% of the time, be it large or small, every so often we make a mistake. I am just advocating that we quit beating ourselves up over the 1% of the time we err. Life is too short to worry about the prom or bridesmaid dress/shoes that we wore once and didn’t get our monies worth. Or, that special spice we purchased for a recipe that didn’t quite turn out as delicious as we thought. Or, that beautiful baby furniture that was purchased when we only had one child to use/enjoy it. Or, that silly chatchke we purchased on holiday/vacation. I don’t know of anyone that will be thinking of their misguided or special event one time only purchases when they are on their death bed. As my sister always says, “Everything has an expiration date”.

    Mahalo (thank you) for further addressing how we donate our items. I even press/iron clothing that I am donating. I volunteered for many years in sorting through donations, and I was shocked at how some people use thrift stores to off-load their extra garbage.

    • Kimberley, I love your sister’s comment. I need to remember it.

      At times I’ve made donations and hurried off before they open the box. Not that I didn’t wash things (though I could have dusted a few a lot more) but I’m never sure if they take some of the things. I periodically go through the charity shop looking around to see if they sell things I want to donate but sometimes I don’t see certain things. I guess I could ask.

      A few times they’ve asked me what I was handing over in boxes and I’ve panicked but that’s just me. My real issue is not wanting to see what’s in the box and grabbing it back to repack into my house… sigh.

      • Ron B – I know what you mean – I feel ‘vetted’ when I drop stuff off at our goodwill store and it makes me quite uncomfortable/panicky too – no reason why, it just does. Everything I donate is good but one volunteer is a bit snooty and made comments that I didn’t appreciate ie that a jersey was more polyester than wool in the blend. So I told her that I didn’t realise that bargain shoppers were quite so discerning.

        Over the last year they’ve put up cameras and threatening notices about leaving stuff outside of their open hours and that they have the right to refuse items etc etc. As I have to drop things off on my way to work, which is a good hour before they open, and on my way home I travel take an on-ramp that goes in a different direction. So I leave the box outside – smile and wave to the camera – and leave a note explaining that I had to go to work and that if there is anything in this box that they don’t want to accept as a donation……here is my name, my text phone number and my work number, let me know and I can arrange to pick it back up. I figure that’s a win-win situation.

        • That is a reasonable compromise Moni. The reason behind them seeming so fussy is because they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year disposing of other peoples junk. Although I agree this is a problem but one would think that the local council would allow charities to dump for free given how valuable they are to the community.

      • Ron B.,
        Don’t beat yourself up over some of your donations being given in less than pristine condition. I am sure that after reading both Colleen’s and my take on donating, you might give your items that little bit of extra pixie dust as they leave your home and bless someone else 🙂

      • Hi Ron B, for many people the reason they do this is because they don’t want to deal with another method of disposal. So they just dump stuff at the thrift shop and walk away, often after business hours and out in the weather. As you say, it is best to ask the store what do they take, as there are some things that they can’t take. The thrift shop I volunteer at don’t take baby items except textiles, microwave ovens or old television. the first two for safety reasons the last because no one wants to buy them and we just become a dumping ground.

    • Hi Kimberley, I didn’t think you did mean it that way but I felt that if I could read that into it them maybe others could also. So I thought I had better clarify. It wasn’t until I read it through the second time that I saw this myself. When I first read it I thought wonderful and I still do because it was such a positive way to view ones no longer useful to them stuff.

      You are so right about no matter how much thought we put into our purchases that we can still make mistakes. I still find myself doing that these days on occasion. And you are right we need to forgive ourselves and move on. Your examples were great to and make the point very well.

      And once again you are so right about the terrible state some people send donations in. I am regularly appalled. Well done you for making such and effort to do the right thing.

    • Kimberly – I love the ‘everything has an expiry date’ – I have ‘expiry’ dates on some items, a time in the future when the likelihood of it being re-used will drop from 50-50 to zero.

      What we are forget to factor in when we suffer guilt over getting rid of something, that the item might still be good but it doesn’t mean it didn’t serve its purpose for me. Time for it to go and serve someone else.

      Its shades of that Japanese decluttering guru (I’ve forgotten her name) who says we should thank possessions for their service and let them go.

      • Moni,
        And….the negative energy we feel every time we look at the prom dress, lipstick, chatchke, hurt like hell shoes, fill in the blank, that we feel we didn’t get our monies worth out of. It’s as if we get our monies worth by keeping it, even if it is not being used, by beating ourselves up emotionally. So silly.

        • this exactly. I can see this sad behaviour or thought process by so many people and it makes me so sad that they are beating themselves up for something that could be solved so easily – GIVE IT AWAY, for heavens sake…

          I keep bringing up the word “wasted” – because sometimes people think its wasted, if you just “throw it out” – I try to explain, that in my opinion not giving things away for someone to actually use it is wasting them.

  2. Colleen & Kimberley, I think the thing I got from this post and what you both said is that we need to think our purchases through but when we have made a mistake in a purchase to not let it bog us down in a guilt trip. We should just let it go and move forward. I’m all for that.

  3. While your recent post about Selling vs. Donating may not have been as applicable to readers as some of your other posts, I think it points to the importance of accountability in decluttering (as in other areas of life). (Putting the post out there helped you put your “whining” into action.) I’ve been working on decluttering as well as trying to be thoughtful about how much clothing, etc. our family needs. I recently discovered that my friend is thinking through her wardrobe as well so now we can share tips and purposefully help each other along.

    • Hi Patty and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for your comment and you are right, it did spur into action. Sadly the items didn’t sell but I have another outlet for that coming up soon.

      It is great for you and your friend to be able to help one another with this. I had a friend over last week who asked when seeing inside my baking tray cupboard ~ “Do you really need all those?”. I immediately said to her ~ “You know, I probably don’t. I’ll give that some thought soon.” and I already have. I sent a text message to my daughter today asking if she wanted any of the items I decided to declutter.

  4. Hi Collen and Kimberly! I really liked your comment and the post it originated. I struggled many times in my decluttering journey hanging on to stuff that I had bought and never used or used once or twice. As for donating, if something is in good working condition I hand it to someone that I know will use it or will pass it along. As for clothes I donated clothes in good condition and what wasn’t I just turned into rags. We suffer most of the times because we want to get our moneys worth. And the pain of “losing” an item is very hard if we get attached to it. Still I have many clothes I have not wore in a while that I am struggling to let go.

    • Hi Andréia, I work on the idea that if I have plenty of room to store the item/s that I am in two minds about then I just keep them until I am ready to make the decision. This concept isn’t a problem for someone like me because I am not a hoarder, that is another problem altogether.

    • Andreia,
      I am a big proponent of using old clothing for rags, or sewing a top out of a dress, or a pillow out of a skirt, etc. etc. Let the clothing that isn’t working for you, go. You deserve a closet/wardrobe that is filled with clothing that not only fits but makes you feel fabulous 🙂 Here is a tip that I have used for many moons: I never go shopping when I am feeling out of sorts. I only buy things that I absolutely love and look great on me. I love and wear them to expiration date in most cases. And, if they stop looking great or making me feel good, out they go.

  5. I got on today’s mini-mission and went through more papers. I shredded about 300! Since we moved a year ago I have shredded approximately 2500 pieces of paper that we mostly moved with us. I’m sure there are more left that I could shred but it takes time to deliberate over whether we will need them or not in the future. I can’t believe we need to haul the paperwork from the purchase and sale of 2 homes with us for the rest of our lives. There are hundreds of pages in all of those files. I got rid of some of the copies but think I need to keep the originals for now.

    • Well done Claire, a chunk at a time is the way to go when there is a lot of paper to sort through. I do have a question though ~ Why do you have to keep the sale papers for homes you no longer own? I can understand you doing so for one you bought and still own but sold ones I am questioning. But better to keep any papers you think are important.

      • Thanks Colleen! I was able to shred another 150 yesterday too!
        I am actually not sure why I need the sale papers to the home! I’m pretty sure I have heard that before but not sure why. My husband is sure we need to keep them too…..but isn’t sure why either. We are guessing for tax purposes. Maybe we only need to keep them for 7 years (in case of a tax audit). We have one set of purchase/sale papers that are 17 years old. I am going to keep my ears open for whether or not we need those ones. I think they could probably go by now!

    • Claire – if you need the sale and purchase agreements for tax purposes, consider scanning them and story in the cloud something like dropbox.

      • That is sounds like a great idea, Moni! I will have to work up my ambition to scan all those though! For some reason scanning puts me off more than shredding. Probably because we have a slow scanner. I have a few other sets of old legal papers that I might just do this with. A worthy project for the coming week! Thanks!

  6. I was chatting to a lovely fellow yesterday, he was discussing an offer a friend had made to him, it involved a lot more income and equally a lot more hours of work. He declined the offer. He said the more you earn, the more you spend and he was happy with the quality of his life. His final comment was ,’ what we have is only borrowed anyway, we can’t take it with us when we die.’

    • Wendyf, what a smart fellow you talked to. I wish we would see more of that in our world.

    • I like the sound of that Wendy. That man has his head screwed on right.

    • So true, Wendy.
      We even live on borrowed time which is why we shouldn’t waste any of it thinking about purchases we regret. I taught my daughter that every experience whether good or bad is actually good if we learn something from it.

  7. When we had garage sales, we tried to put a reasonable price for even the person with little money, and some items we would give away if it seemed it might meet their needs, but I have seen garage sales with huge prices on worthless items so I can only guess they were trying to “get their money’s worth”. Frankly sometimes we felt we should pay them for hauling it off, especially after we moved to the country. All people have pride though, and a free box didn’t cut it, so we might price something at five cents and then say, oh, you can just have that, lol. Just so it went.
    We no longer have or go to garage sales, but do donate and shop at a thrift shop and sometimes at Goodwill. I had some items I did hang onto because, you know, I did not get my money’s worth but did not have a good way to sell, so I finally reached that good point where I could just donate most items. The other items I take to a consignment shop. My children buy what they want so giving it to them wasn’t really an option. I was very happy to feel how much the load lightened when certain items left, and would never go back to worrying about getting my money’s worth. A car dealer has been advertising on TV “We all drive used cars” (to sell his used cars, of course} and I laughed and said “And we all wear used clothes”.

    • I am hearing you Nana. I always priced low at garage sales and expect the same if ever I go to them.
      It is a good thing when it feel easy to just donate. Most of my stuff has gone this way but every now and again I still try to sell some things. I usually only give them one chance to sell, two at most and then off they go ~ Donated or Freecycled.

  8. As a general rule I donate. There are two reasons, the first is pure laziness, I find listing stuff on Ebay, answering inane questions (for example I almost always give the actual physical dimensions of an item of clothing and then I get asked “is it a 14?” or whatever…. sigh) and then lugging it all to the post office. I really can’t be bothered for the relatively small amount I earn. Secondly, I do feel that I paid for them, I wanted/needed (or thought I did 🙂 ) and I am fortunate enough not to really need the money I could get by selling them. Thus it seems in the spirit of moving on to give them to a charity

    However, I have just done a 150 mile round trip to an auction house to deliver the stuff that they couldn’t fit in the van that was passing us last month. Some furniture, some jewellery, some valuable books and some valuable silver. There are some things that I won’t give away because they are worth too much.

    So I suppose that sums it up in a nutshell for me. If the sale value is less I give it away. We would hope to net (after fees etc) about £ 4-6,000 from the stuff we sent to auction. That is a tidy sum that will help put our eldest daughter through her first couple of years at university. To be fair we have been doing a HUGE declutter and had a lot of stuff ready to go in one go. But ironically I have probably given away clothes, books etc to a similar value over the past decades, just in smaller handfuls, so I never noticed.

    I’m happy with the balance 🙂

  9. At least we know Kimberly isn’t a horder, she seems to easily let go of her stuff after it has served her purpose (or not) 🙂

    • Exactly, Kayla. However, I do keep some things that serve no purpose at all except in the wonderful memories or positive energy that they give me. For example, a pair of cufflinks that were my late Father’s that I remember him always wearing. A silly small flag from the Indianapolis 500 which he loved and attended every year since I was a child. What I try to do is set limits in the numbers of items and the size of the items so they are manageable, and in many cases on display where I see them everyday, not socked away in some long forgotten box. I have my daughter’s first pair of baby Nike’s in her closet (the upstairs suite she uses when she comes home) that says, “nobody can fill your shoes”. I also have a collection of collectible spoons from every place I have travelled to. Decades ago, I outgrew the need to display them on spoon racks which are long gone, but they are now in a large clear cylindrical vase in our office which is decorated in a travel theme. So, while I may not be a horder, I do keep things that are meaningful to me or my ‘ohana (family). I do not live in a sterile environment with zero personality. It’s all about balance and a constant process of editing.

      • You are certainly coming up with some great comments this week Kimberley. I love your collection of sentimental items and I also love that you don’t “sock them away in some long forgotten box”. I also like your idea of displaying the souvenir spoons in a vase. If we get another batch of them in at the thrift shop I might just suggest we display them that way.

      • These are great ideas for keeping and displaying the things that you hold dear. I wasn’t suggesting that you should live in an undecorated, sterile home. You are right, balance is key!

    • And that is a great thing Kayla.

  10. For me I’ve set a 2 box limit for each room. In other words could most of the stuff (not furniture or consumables) fit into 2 boxes. For example could I fit all my clothes and stuff in my bedroom dresser (and my radio alarm, etc) into 2 boxes? I think I can and want to try packing the bedroom up when I get a few days off from work.

    On my last move I must have had a 5 or 6 box “limit” for each room and it wasn’t fun.

    I’ve got a way to go before I get to where I want to be but this gives me an idea of what I think maybe work for me. I could be wrong and may have to adjust the number in the future. 🙂

    • wow Ron B, this is a smart idea. estimating my stuff and the size of my boxes I might need 7 boxes in total. counting all movable goods, except for furniture. it would be okay to get that number down to 5 for a two bedroom apartment anyway. that reminds me: I always wanted to write a list of things I own, just like Colleen had to do when she was moving. I assume its the biggest motivator to declutter ruthless.

      I decided yesterday to just get done with it and put all my decluttered items together in one “fleamarket box” and put it online for free. I find myself procrastinating about giving things away (because I need to sort through what goes where) and then they stay here after all. so silly…

    • Ron B – that’s a great method to decide how much stuff one should own.

    • Ron B,
      That reminds me of a gentleman friend of mine who back in the 70’s lived in furnished apartments and would own only personal items that could fit in three suitcases. I still remember his reasoning. He told everyone that it made it easy to move. He was a minimalist before it was popular.

    • Hi Ron it sounds like a good number to start with. Even with my diminished quantity of possessions and that I now fit into a two bedroom apartment, there is no way I could comply with a two box per room limit. Even if they were full size tea chest boxes.

      • I was thinking about that because some rooms would require much larger boxes than other rooms at my home. I’ll aim for the same boxes for everyone room.

        Again this goal may take some time but I’m there for some rooms already.

        Wow… a 3 suitcase guy, Kimberley. Mind you it would make moving very easy.

        Decluttering: eying the fishbowl I’ve had for 30 years. In recent years it’s only held plastic bags. Hmmm. And then there is my last Christmas ornament from when I was a baby and my Mum wrote my name on it…..

      • I was thinking about that because some rooms would require much larger boxes than other rooms at my home. I’ll aim for the same boxes for everyone room.

        Again this goal may take some time but I’m there for some rooms already.

        Wow… a 3 suitcase guy, Kimberley. Mind you it would make moving very easy.

        Decluttering: eying the fishbowl I’ve had for 30 years. In recent years it’s only held plastic bags. Hmmm. And then there is my last Christmas ornament from when I was a baby and my Mum wrote my name on it. I’ve not put it out for years…

      • Colleen – I initially wondered that, but then I thought that if we averaged it out over the house, allowed extra for extra people, it might be realistic. In my dining room there is literally just a table and chairs. Nothing to pack. In my big lounge there is the sofas, the coffee table and the entertainment centre. Not a lot to pack. In my little lounge there is a sofa and another entertainment centre, once again, not a lot to pack and once we’ve achieved digitising everything…..even less to pack. Contents of both bathrooms would probably easily fit into one small box and products would be run down in advance. Hot water cupboard ie towels and linens. OK these are a bit more bulky. And hall cupboard has a bit more ‘stuff’ that would require containing. Kitchen. Ok probably would need extra boxes here, but would run the pantry down first. Bedrooms – not a huge amount of random stuff. So I’m thinking it might not be far off being possible.

        I remember one shift, once upon a time when we were a young couple with a baby, most of our packing when shifting was all the wedding gift type stuff like crystal ware, china, ornaments etc etc that needed so much wrapping and protecting when being boxed up. Fortunately having three toddlers in quick succession took care of all such fragile items and are no longer a problem.

        • Hi Moni, good for you but having just moved I know how many boxes it took to pack us and it was a lot more than an average of two per room. Once all the packing is put around everything to ward off breakage the boxes tend to mount up. But good for you if you have that little in your house.

          • Colleen – yes it it is the packaging which is the problem. We had to shift a number of times in a year back when we were a young couple with a baby, rentals were being sold during a housing market boom. The first time I packed everything diligently and carefully, but our 8th shift 18 months later, I just dumped things in boxes and figured that anything that was too fragile to survive being put in a box and transported in my car, really was too fragile to survive this lifestyle. Fortunately that was our last shift for 9 years. I imagine it is a bit different when packers and a shifting company is involved.

            I remember when we shifted to the house we’re in, there were something like 19 or 20 boxes of books. Now there are only a few books and 3 e-readers. Isn’t the digital era a good thing!

          • Moni, I have been extremely fortunate that I have never actually had to do the packing or delivery of my house contents myself. I perk of being married to someone in the Australian Military. They certainly don’t want to pay for breaking my stuff so they are fairly careful about how they go about it for the most part.

            And yes, the digital era is fabulous in my opinion.

        • I have way more boxes per room, too, but then again, I am already living in a 1-bedroom-apartment, meaning we have “just” five rooms (counting everything from hallway to bathroom”, which of course leaves less space to average out dinnerware, clothes, shoes, blankets, books, cleaning tools and other stuff that takes up those boxes easily. A move with just 10 boxes (for the two of us) is still way out of reach – and will probably only happen when we move overseas, because I don’t really see me living constantly with so little stuff.

          • Hi Sanna, I’m with you on this one. Although I would like to decrease what I have now, I can’t see me every going so far as an average of two boxes per room.

    • Wow! What an interesting idea. I think everyone will have a different number in mind and it could also depend on the size of the boxes you are thinking of, but overall an interesting concept. Thanks for sharing!