Proof of the benefits of decluttering

So, ten days ago I went into hospital to have an operation. I was in hospital for three days and then returned home to convalesce for four weeks. I made sure the house was as clean and tidy as it could be ahead of time, which quite frankly just meant I performed my usual Monday morning housework ~ dusting, wiping down benches, cleaning toilets, baths, showers and kitchen and vacuuming and mopping. The washing was all up to date. My son and husband were left to fend for themselves, keep the house tidy and do their washing until I was ready to resume my usual household duties.

I wasn’t home long before I started slowly doing a few light jobs ~ wiping down a benches here and there, doing the occasional load of washing, cooking a simple meal, doing a little sweeping ~ nothing heavy of course just the odd little thing to help stay on top and to get me up an moving. One can only sit on the couch for so many hours of the day.

The things is that I thought the worse part of my recovery was going to be the frustration of my house slowly slipping below my high standard of cleanliness. Thinking that the men of the household would fall short of my expectations. But the truth is that my home is in such good shape that there really isn’t much effort required to maintain its upkeep. Sure it isn’t quite as pristine as usual but nothing that I can’t happily settle for.

My daughter and her boyfriend are coming to visit next Saturday and aside from getting the men folk to do a quick whip over with the vacuum cleaner, clean the bathtub and shower and make up the spare bed, I fail to see that anything else needs doing.

I love my uncluttered house!

Don’t feel bad though if you don’t think you have reached this stage yet, it is just something to look forward to and to keep you motivated. And of course it isn’t this simple if you have young children or even teens with lots of activities. But the truth is that under any circumstances the more organised and decluttered you are the easier it is to maintain a tidy and smooth running household. So keep at the decluttering and before you know it you will have a home that requires minimal effort to remain tranquil and inviting.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter any stuff accumulating on your kitchen bench or breakfast bar.

Today’s Declutter Item

More of the snow gear sold in ebay last month. Selling this gear has freed up a drawer in the foot of my bed. As a result I have almost emptied a box that has resided under our bed for five years. I will be discussing the one remaining item in it with my husband and then hopefully decluttering it and the box as well.

Snow Pants

“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. So great to hear about your cleaner, simpler way of living!

    A few months ago I started following blogs dedicated to minimalism and decluttering. You have helped keep me motivated and I read your blog every day during my break at work. Since moving into my current place in San Antonio two years ago, I have gotten rid of about 50 boxes of stuff I don’t need. This might not seem like a lot to some, but keep in mind I am living alone. My to-do lists are now smaller and much more manageable. In the recent past, it has taken me two hours to clean if I knew someone was coming over. Now, my house is visitor-friendly, though I do like to take 10 minutes to do some final touches, like sweeping or giving the toilet an extra scrubbing. I remember growing up, it would take my family hours to clean for short visits. Sheesh. I knew I didn’t want to live like that when I was an adult!

    Is it also weird that I like seeing what people are decluttering? I’m glad people on this blog enjoy discussing their journeys to a decluttered, less-hectic life.

    • Hi Quinn,
      I have always thought that one of the things that keep people coming to 365 Less Things is the fact that I interact with my readers and they interact so well also with each other. So welcome to our blog and I hope you continue to interact as well. The more voices we have adding their accumulated wisdom the more rounded view we all get on every subject.

      You are clearly reaping the benefits of your decluttering efforts and being able to accept visitors without embarrassment of the appearance of you home is certainly one of them. I do the ten minute whip around myself just to be sure and at the end of it I always think “How easy was that? I love my decluttered home.” Not that my home was ever particularly messy but it sure is even easier now to keep tidy.

      Seeing what other people are decluttering often makes you think “I have one of those, am I really using it?” and the next thing you know there is another thing in the donation box.

  2. Hello Colleen,
    I have been reading your blog and the archives for a couple of weeks and decided it was time to say hi. You and Cindy and your community of commenters have given me tremendous inspiration and encouragement to start decluttering my home. Your post today really resonated with me, because two months ago I was injured in a car accident and was unable to do much with a fractured wrist and burns on the other wrist. It made me realize that I don’t want my home to be a burden and an anxiety, and I don’t want to spend my time perpetually cleaning and reorganizing stuff that we really don’t need or want anymore. I have already donated two carloads of things to Goodwill and feel very motivated to continue. Thank you, and best wishes for your continued recovery, I am glad that your surgery is over and went so well for you.

    • Hi Christine and welcome to 365 Less Things. And thank you also for the well wishes for my recovery. I hope also that you are recovering well for you car accident. My son broke his wrist at Christmas in a motorcycle accident and it is amazing how much trouble that tiny little break caused, including surgery. I love it though when something bad turns into something good. In your case it sounds like your accident opened your eyes to how much easier it would be to maintain your home if if has less stuff in it. What a great revelation you will find that was as the unwanted stuff exits and the space opens up, the dusting lessens and getting to the good stuff becomes easier. We are about to reassess our home contents insurance and stand to save $500. Now if that isn’t another huge benefit nothing is.

      Good luck Christine and just remember we are always here with encouragement and to listen to your stories of achievement so drop by often and let us know how you are doing and to share your acquired wisdom.

      • Oh my, imagine my annoyance when I was trying to tell the insurers I didn’t have the contents they imagined! they were sure I had more ‘stuff!’

  3. Now this is what I live to hear. It does pay to have less stuff and what stuff you have to have it in its place. Love it.

  4. Yes Colleen I have no doubt that having a lovely decluttered house would be helping your recovery and minimising your frustration at having to go slowly and gently for awhile.(actually, I think you just enjoy this “go slow” time – it will pass quickly enough believe me!)

    • I actually am enjoying the go slow time. Perhaps it will teach me that slow is possible because I am usually a hectic sort of gal. I think that my decluttering efforts and the ease that has bought to my household chores has already slowed me down significantly to what I used to be like and now this will drive the lesson home.

  5. Glad to hear you’re already on the up and up!

  6. Glad to hear you are feeling better. Take the doctor’s advice and continue to get your rest. As the recoverer of several surgeries, I find that I did want to get up and do things and that does help the recovery process. Just keep getting your rest, too. Glad your family is helping out. That goes a long way toward helping you to stay sane.

    • The staying sane was the one thing I was most concerned about but as I said to Jez I think my newfound ease of doing things has taught me to slow down significantly already so I am actually enjoying this. Sometimes I think we get busier in the head than we actually are in reality. Worrying about what has to be done wears us out more than actually doing it. I think I wrote a post about that once, I should dig it up so we can all read it again.

  7. I recently had the flu and went to bed for a couple of days under the promise from my hubby that he would take care of everything. By day two I noticed he hadn’t taken care of anything. Upon enquiry it because he hadn’t notice anything that needed doing. I wrote him a list ie put thru laundry, laundry later needs to go into dryer (wow who’d have thought?), loaded dishwasher needs to be set off! Bathrooms to be cleaned (he’d assumed I would do a catch up when I felt better) and if the kids haven’t done the vacuuming by Thursday it doesn’t happen over the weekend, so please enforce it.

    He was surprised so much needed to be done! So next time I am to supply him with a list for each day.

    • What can I say Moni except that you would not be alone in this situation. If you are the main care giver and house keeper in your home then you must never assume anyone else has a clue as to how much needs to be done to keep things running smoothly or how you manage it all. It is amazing how oblivious one can be about messes when they just don’t care that they are there.

      • Hi Colleen – admittedly it was a lot better given the house has so much less stuff in it but (big sigh) they really don’t have much of an idea. My older daughter is very organised and could run the household if she had to, but she was snowed under with assignments for her Level 1 year and also spends at least two hours a day in at the dance school.

        My hubby did try to say that it is so nice walking into a clutter free home everyday, in his mind it looked great without all the extra stuff. But yes he did acknowledge that with the winter rain here, laundry can’t afford to be backlogged otherwise the dryer gets backed up.

        I have a friend and once a year she goes home to the UK to spend a month with her family, leaving hubby and daughters to muddle thru. She discovered that hubby was using paper plates and bowls the entire time she was away to save doing dishes and using the local laundromat’s wash, dry and fold service plus getting a cleaner in, and then he would claim that he didn’t know what housewives complain about…….

        • I must say Moni I wouldn’t blame my husband if he pulled the same stunt as your friend’s husband ~ after all he earns enough money to pay for such services and works or is travelling to and from work for 11 hours a day five days a week ~ but if he claimed that that he didn’t know what housewives complain about I think I would go the the UK and stay there next time, never to return. I love looking after my home and family though and think of it as a privilege to be able to do so on a full time basis. Not every can afford such a privilege and I have my husband to thank for that. We are a good team.

          • Hi Colleen – the next year she didn’t pre-prepare casseroles, lasagnes and other freezable meals in the deep freeze for him. I have reason to believe that they ate a lot of Chinese takeaways………….

    • Men seem to be blinded to dirt, clutter, etc. If you have to point out mustard that is right in front of them, no way will they see the clutter across the room. Plus, it seems most of them don’t care anyway.

  8. It is amazing that when we are sick our husbands and family still expect the household chores to get done.

    Colleen, pleased to hear that you are recovering well and that your decluttering has made it easier to manage the household cleaning

    • Thanks Wendy. I am even having visitors next week and the only things that needs doing that I shouldn’t do is to put the sheets on the guest bed, clean the bath and shower and run the vacuum over the carpets. They will be a job for the men. The visitor is my daughter who I will engage in the cooking of meals, not because I can’t manage that but just because she enjoys it and I can take it easy. 😉

    • Not just when sick! My boyfriend and I are students, and he is taking a single summer class (about a fifth of the normal load we each have) and I’m working full time. He still expects me to make dinner 5 or 6 nights a week (there are cheap eats in college town, so we eat out at least once if not twice a week). Thank goodness for crockpots. I’m “working” as an undergrad researcher, so we don’t technically have to take/be given lunch breaks (oh college life – at least they let us snack at work, and the job pays extraordinarily well) which means I come home quite hungry at the end of the day. Yet it never fails, if I didn’t make dinner in the crockpot, he’s already eaten a hot pocket or sandwich for dinner by the time I get home, and no offer of making me anything. Silly boy 😛

      On the plus side, he’s excellent about doing dishes and cleaning up his half the room spotlessly if I remind him. I think he sees clutter/messes, but just won’t bother unless I mention it.

      • Hi Amanda,
        perhaps it is time to mention that he needs to take over the cooking a couple of nights per week as well. It is never too early to set the boundaries of a relationship. Being as you are both clearly planning on have careers in the future it is clear that the home workload needs to be spread out evenly.

      • I agree with Colleen. You should definitely make it a priority to even that out.
        No matter whether you’re going to have a carreer of your own or going to be a housewife in the far future, you should make sure that he notices that housework and cooking is real work and that the workload in a relationship should be devided between both. I. e. if you’re both going to work, both should do the housework and if one is staying at home the other should know from experience that he/she is not doing “nothing” at home but is working and contributing as well.
        There’s no reason that you should do the housework just because you’re female.
        Another possibility is to share the tasks, if that is more like you. E.g. here most of the days my boyfriend and I are cooking dinner together. One is cutting the onions, the other is peeling the potatoes, we’re sharing doing the dishes and in the end we share the meal as well.
        As there are no children yet to take care of, this works well for us and we have a lot of fun cooking together.

  9. This is so true! I am selling my house and since there is no clutter the house shows very well and it is easy to be ready for potential showings on short notice. I love my uncluttered house! And soon I will love my uncluttered new house. 🙂 Moving is a great way and reason to go through all your existing stuff and make sure that you really need it. I am looking forward to paring down even more. I have some of that hobby clutter that I know will be getting the boot soon!

    • Hi Angie Kay,
      take it from someone who has been viewing homes recently there are a lot of people out there that could benefit from visiting my blog. My goodness one really has to look past the clutter to appreciate the potential of some homes.

      I used to declutter ahead of moving in the past but as it turned out I was really only skimming the surface. This last two and a half years of minimising our possessions has been a whole other ball game. It sounds like you have got it right though.

  10. I just wanted to share (maybe inspire a post, I don’t know?!) I just dropped off two bags of stuff at a charity store (when they were open!). I felt ‘weird’ about it. I’m happy to freecycle almost anything, but there’s the bother of arranging pick up. So I thought I’d drop in, but then I wonder ‘will someone use this, will they sell that?’ And cause I have so few bags, I always ask them to empty whatever I brought the stuff in and return the bag, I can’t help seeing them pull everything out (and in my head, appraise it, and I assume they think ‘really?’). I am glad those puzzles, boots (I think I mentioned them a while ago… one last wear assured me they were not preferred), tackle box, belt, and ornaments are GONE though!

    • Hi Snosie,
      this is why I am glad to work at the thrift store I donate to. That way I can monitor whether my stuff is sold or not ~ which it generally is, quite often before I even finish my shift of the day I bring them in. I can understand your trepidation though but even with people who pick up through Freecycle could just be hoarders who are taking it home to clutter up there own space. In fact I am almost sure one lady who claimed some of my stuff was just that. All you can do is hand it on and hope for the best.

  11. Colleen, I’ve had a similar revelation just a few days ago, as I think I mentioned here.
    I’ve been painting furniture and partly due to that my kitchen has been a huge mess. Just so many things lying around and noone put them away, I really was angry at my boyfriend and myself, for I thought we were extremely lazy. However, as soon as the furniture was rearranged, the mess disappeared. Without us doing a huge clean-up. It was just that our usual ways and cupboards were blocked due to the painting that made the mess build up. Our “normal” apartment is in a state where you actually CAN put away everything anytime without shuffling and rearranging. We already sort of have the “self-cleaning home”, I’ve been fantazising about. I’m so happy that decluttering brought us so far already and motivated to keep going to get those few little things in order I’m not quite happy with.
    But I really came a far way. Maintenance cleaning equals spring cleaning these days and that’s a huge deal I think.

    All the best for your recovery, Colleen! And let those men work their own pace, but let them work. 😉

    • You said it all in this one sentence Sanna ~ “Maintenance cleaning equals spring cleaning these days and that’s a huge deal I think.” This exactly where I am at as well. No more spring cleaning because the house really only ever needs its weekly spruce up and that is it.

  12. Hi Colleen,
    Glad to hear you’re recovering in an orderly house 🙂 Wish I lived nearer so I could drop around some home-baked goodies!

    I wasn’t taught ANY housekeeping skills when I lived at home and I lived at home ’til I was *cough* 29. Pathetic. My husband and I are really making the effort to teach the kids to look after themselves, and at almost 12 and 9 they are getting quite competent. Must admit, I do find it a bit odd getting them to wash and dry dishes on a daily basis, almost as though I’m being lazy and shirking my responsibilities! We are all right on board with the decluttering though; got a bit of work to do these holidays as my husband has just brought home the remaining ‘treasures’ from his childhood home as his parents are moving. Thankfully it’s only a small bag full, and I’ll do some ‘extra’ decluttering of my own to compensate.

    • Don’t feel guilty! I’m sure they did some of the ‘messing’, so they can do some of the cleaning! And as you said, it’s teaching them responsibility and skills for the future!

    • Hi Loretta,
      judging from the photos you sent of your last home you sure made up for lost time when in comes to housecleaning skills. And what a wonderful thing to teach your children the skills they will need to also keep a decluttered clean home. You are certainly not shirking your duties by getting them to do their share in fact from my experience it is easier to do it yourself than the guide and cajole kids into it without argument, so you are probably working harder for the task.

  13. I agree. Before I started my declutter journey, my desk was always a mess. Now it is much emptier.

  14. I’m glad you’re up and around now.
    I’m out of town and in a place where there is no electricity due to a nasty windstorm so I may not be commenting much for the next 1 1/2 weeks.

  15. My problem with my husband and decluttering is that he can see the things he thinks I should do but his corners and beside his chair in the living room are really messy with papers and hockey tickets and bank statements. Yet, my bookcases are such a thorn in his side. I have tried to make agreements – I’ll give away some of my books if you clean up your corners but as yet he is not interested in moving or sorting his accumulations. Meanwhile, I keep tossing one or two items a day from your list and hopefully, he will see that the house is looking better. I have now got 2 buffets in the dining room decluttered and have kept them that way since Christmas. The D.R. table is always a challenge but we (oops, I) are constantly working to keep that clean. We will be going to the beach on Friday for a week so am just trying to get us ready to go so not much decluttering going on this week. When we return, I plan to really look around and work hard to continue the decluttering. By the end of this year, want to have the entire dining room and living room looking fresh and tidy. Thanks for the ideas of what to toss each day. It is really helpful to me. As you know, some things are just looked at and not seen so I like the nudges.

    • I don’t know your husband, but here it has been just a question of “how” and “when”. Like: there’s no way he would have gotten rid of stuff that is on his desk – or any computer related stuff in the living room for that matter. Me pointing them out only resulted in defense. In his eyes, he needs them and they are important to him. On the other hand, decluttering his wardrobe worked well, when I just looked at the stuff with him and pointed out that I didn’t know the things in the back at all – “oh, of course, THIS can go” was his answer. He completely forgot about it and “would you declutter your wardrobe?” just led him to thinking I wanted to get rid of his rather few nice and new things, he never even considered the old stuff. The same with the desk-related clutter. Though he didn’t get rid of any of the stuff on the surface, he very quickly emptied some drawers and boxes, when I just pulled one cable or anything out and asked “What is this for?” – the answer usually was a promt “Oh, that’s trash.”
      As we emptied many of the drawers, baskets etc., meanwhile his “important things” which were scattered all over the place do fit in a few baskets etc, so they also don’t bother me any more.

      I think, a good rule for both oneself and one’s spouse is: start with the easy stuff. Even if it’s something else that is annoying you, in a decluttered home you have more space overall and even those annoyers decrease over time – even without tackling them deliberately.

    • Hi Maggie,
      when it read you comment for the first time this morning it inspired a post, so thank you for that. The post will publish on Tuesday in case you are interested.

      Meanwhile all I can say is keep setting a good example by chipping away at the things you have control over and I am sure your husband will follow suit eventually. Devise a compromise solution that would be acceptable for both of you regarding his stuff and see if you can get him to comply.

    • Years ago on Flylady, it was a piece about how you love going on holiday because the holiday home/beach house/condo is so nice and clear and clean and bare that got me thinking about decluttering! If you can get your husband to appreciate the clarity of the place you’re going to, maybe he can turn fresh eyes on your home when you return!
      Having said that, I have a small bag of stuff I take to the apartment we stay at when we go skiing because they never have a cosy blanket for the evenings spent reading and knitting or a nice candle for a bit of atmosphere and smell of home and as I hate the surface of the dishes and mugs they have there, I take a couple of my own, just as many as we are people and hey presto, things feel cosier!!

  16. Easy house keeping and cleaning is one of the great benefits of minimalism.
    I just spent a whole day cleaning out the kitchen here at my dad’s house. Even a neat house like this still has a lot to do when you have a thorough cleaning and organizing session.. Lots of expired dry food stuffs that we would not be likely to use anyway, and just too much bowls and such.. WAY too many glasses with stems and small vintage coffee cups and…

  17. Just catching up on the 365 website since I got back from vacation. Sanna, you are so right. My husband gets defensive if I touch his desk and his papers but we have been going through some dresser drawers since we got back. I bought him some new t-shirts with pockets (hard to find but did find them at an outlet mall at the beach) and he is agreeing that some of his old shirts (that look like hell), can now be tossed out. No room for the new ones without getting rid of the old ones. HAH! They are even too ratty to use for rags. I noticed that he wore one of the new ones this morning and was quite pleased at the color. You really forget how faded the old things are until you put on something new. Perhaps this will be a start to other things going out. I can dream, can’t I.
    MelD, we do take a special coverlet for the evenings and some of our homey things but mostly just glad to have an uncluttered space for a few days. Of course, with 9 people in the condo, it begins to get messy but everyone (even the kids) are responsible for picking up their things every evening. So it’s not too bad but I did get a new look at my home when I got back. Still trying to put things away but slowly making progress.