Prolong the difficult decisions to avoid declutter regrets

Last week one of our readers, Bea, asked for advice in this comment on how to avoid feelings of regret when it comes to decluttering sentimental objects. My advice, and one of the principles of my slow and steady decluttering style, is to work on the easy stuff to let go of first. Tackle the harder stuff later on when you are better at disassociating yourself from stuff.

Sanna then posted the following advice which gives a perfect example of this…

We often tend to focus on the hardest decisions. I was really having problems with my difficulties of letting go some of my pottery and vase collection. I KNEW I had too much, but it was all there because I couldn’t bear parting with it and I let that drive me mad. However one day I finally realized, I needn’t worry about them, if I didn’t feel ready to part with them. After all, if I had no other clutter at all, that collection could easily fit in my home. So I went about other things I didn’t feel as attached to and – believe it or not – in letting go of that thought that I “must” declutter some of the pottery, I also let go of my inner child’s reaction to stubbornly cling onto it and I realized that I wasn’t actually that attached to ALL of the collection. It’s always best to just go with what you really feel good about. Read Sanna’s entire comment here.

What a great example of how this principle works. Thank you Sanna.

When I started out on my decluttering journey I had no idea what would stay and what would go. I am sure there were things I thought I would never declutter. However from the beginning my intention was to make my journey a smooth one and deliberately charted the easiest course. I started with the easy stuff, bypassing the difficult decisions and soon enough the harder stuff became the easy stuff. Practice hones your skills so that actions become second nature.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter items adorning benches that just make cleaning more of a chore. Kitchen benches and bathroom cabinets are  areas prone to this nuisance clutter. In bathrooms particularly there is not need to keep everything you use, once or at best twice a day, sitting on the bench top. It takes a fraction of a second to open a door or a drawer.

Eco Tip for the Day

Prolong turning on lights until you really need them and turn them off the moment you no longer do. Every second counts and there is the added bonus of a lower power bill.

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, this is so good. If anyone had told me in the beginning that I would get rid of the majority of my scrapbook supplies I would have laughed. It took awhile but now I am there and am not at all sorry. It feels great to be rid of all that because it made me feel like I HAD to use it all.

  2. I believe this is a good technique to utilize in a person’s decluttering journey. Why put pressure on yourself? I have frequently bypassed an item with the thought that I am not ready to deal with that at this point. I’ll come back to it later. And that’s okay because I do continue to declutter in other areas. The other morning before work I was making my shopping list and going through the cabinets. I got rid of a couple of items and found something that will inspire a dinner this weekend. 🙂

  3. Hi Colleen! That was exactly what we talked about when you asked me about my cassette tapes. It seemed and impossible task and now I am letting go.

  4. Such good good advice from Sanna. I too, when I started out never thought I’d get rid of some of the things I have, that somehow had sacred and untouchable status.
    I was helping someone de-clutter clothes this week. One coat she no longer wears she felt in agony over getting rid of due to sentimental attachment. So I simply said, don’t get rid of it then. Enjoy the memories it gives you. Get rid of other things you find much easier instead.

  5. This post really rings true to me. Thanks! I think that’s the strategy to go with my clothing which has been hard for me to whittle down. I can just work on gradually removing the clothing that obviously needs to go until either I have a reasonable inventory to maintain or something crystallizes for me and makes it easier to make the harder decisions.

    Off topic, but I pieced the top of a small “crazy quilt” to use up all of most of my little scraps of fabric. It was kinda fun to piece, and the resulting look is better than I expected.

    • Rebecca J – I love the idea of your “crazy quilt”! I had a ton of wee scraps tossed in a basket that I had for YEARS and I kept thinking I would do a crazy quilt. I never did and I donated them to a charity that will use them to make stuff to sell at fundraisers, so maybe someone ended up with a quilt after all. 😉

  6. Once it is gone there is no use focusing on regret. Look forward to the good things in your life and let it go.

  7. I completely agree with this.

    I feel like a lot of the time the standard approach to decluttering is to get rid of everything in one day and this is one of the reasons I dislike that method of decluttering – because it puts pressure on you to declutter things you would like to, or think you should, well before you are actually ready to.

    And the silly thing is, even if we only get rid of the easy things it will still make our lives easier and our homes tidier, after all, every item gone is 1 less to tidy up after or maintain, so what is the use in making ourselves feel awful by throwing away everything in one day? Or because we think we should?

    Get rid of an easy item instead, an item is an item after all. And let’s not forget the decluttering the 365 way is like taking layers off an onion, as each layer comes off you see your surroundings differently – our perspective changes. Perhaps we’ll never get rid of it, perhaps we will, as long as we’re moving forward I think it’s perfectly fine. No one’s perfect, we all have hangups and problems items/areas.

    No regrets 🙂

  8. Thank you so much, Colleen, for bringing up this subject again. What Sanna said does make so much sense. I also appreciate all the comments and encouragement from others. I have things they have gotten rid of (china, dried flowers….like Deb, that I feel since I dried them, I have to use all of them to make cards!!!, and cassettes – uh oh!) that I have yet to make inroads on, but I do have hope. I have let go of some things I never thought I would have (gifts from others, sentimental clothes, an old painting I did – hope someone liked it!, etc.) I like the idea of not forcing things, or doing it all in one day (thanks, June). As for regrets, sometimes I think for a few of us like myself, it is like a “default” thought that I have to train myself out of. I never have regrets if I “see” the home something is going to, but this is not always possible (I give mostly to charity.)
    I did make a homemade chicken noodle and vegetable soup this week (going through my cupboards…inspiration from your blog!) from the recipe I discovered on the back of some cans of chicken broth (almost expired!) and thus using leftover chicken, half a pack of dried noodles, and vegetables we have on hand!!! It’s cold where I am!

  9. Great post and so very true! I got rid of stuff eventually that I’d kept for over 20 sentimental years including some miniature cups and saucers and cutlery – all my grans and all had been looked at and put back in the too difficult to part with pile many times. Now all released for someone else to enjoy.

  10. In the category of Easy Things to Declutter…yesterday at work, I got rid of all the pens, pencils, rulers from my pencil can that I don’t use. Today I was so aware of how much I used to stumble around trying to find the exact pen I wanted. So simple.

  11. I enjoyed this post and the comments as well. I have found this strategy to be very true – if I try to “force” decluttering, I have a very hard time and don’t make much progress. If I declutter the easier targets, eventually, the things I never thought I’d part with become easier to say good-bye to. For example, I inherited my mother’s good china, I’ve always been very sentimental about it and thought there was no way I’d ever give it up. I started to become aware that I never used it and never thought about using it. I finally got to the point where I’m ready to part with it and would be very, very glad to give it up to a new home. Of course, that brings it’s own set of problems, right? The desire to find a good home for something we consider precious. Oh well, I figure I’m more than half way there as I now look forward to bidding farewell to the china.

    On a different note, I recently took great delight in removing a large, clunky, no longer used TV. I took it to a recycling place that actually pays you money for anything electronic. The amount you receive is a very small sum, but hey, it’s more than I started out with. The TV, a couple old monitors, a keyboard and some cables yielded about $7, money that will go to my church quilting group for donated quilts. Although it was nice to get a few bucks, the huge reward was getting rid of the TV!! I’m still loving the empty space where it used to be. 🙂

  12. Wonderful comments. Obviously many share similar experiences!
    I am getting less and less sentimental about things. I spent some time decluttering today and got rid of even more decorative clutter that somehow managed to stay until today. I was also pleased to realize that the “use it up”-clutter pile is getting smaller and smaller.

  13. When I was a young girl my mum always kept a large garden and I was expected to help with the weeding, whenever I got stuck with a big stubborn weed that wouldnt budge, mum told me to pull the little easy weeds around it and then the big weed would come out much easier. I feel it is the same with decluttering, if something is too hard, move onto something else easier and re-visit later, if it is something similar or related even better as it will help loosen the dirt around the roots of the tough weed/item and if you still want it out it will be easier and if you still arent sure, at least it wont be surrounded with other stuff to cloud the decision.

  14. This make sense. One of these days I might be ready to let go of my comic collection or the part I can’t quite let go of just yet. Because I have let most of it go but there is that one part that even though I don’t read it very often I keep thinking I’m not quite ready…

    • Funny that this comment came through right now as there is a documentary about Comicon on TV. Anyway, that aside, keep working on the easier stuff for now. You may or you may not ever declutter those comics. Once you have let go of so much stuff you might decide you have enough room to keep them.