Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle Re…

Bea at The Zero Waste Home lives by the principles of ~  Refuse, refuse, refuse. Then reduce, reuse and recycle. I agree wholehearted with this but I have another re to add to that list.


Respect the things you own treat them well and you will get many many years of use out of them. And if you lose your need for them they will also be in good condition to hand on to someone else.

One thing I have noticed since I have reduced my belongings is that even though I have always been one to take care of my things I am inclined to take particular care if I only have a limited number of certain things.

If you only have a couple of good sharp kitchen knives you will find you are more likely to care for them, keep them sharp and handwash them so they have a long life and serve you well. If you only have a limited wardrobe of clothing you are more likely to be mindful of laundering them well so they don’t get stained or damaged by to frequent and harsh washing.

I have about six hair ties bands. Yes that is right those little elastic rings to put hair in a ponytail. I keep one in my purse, one in a drawer downstairs to save me running up when I need one and there is often one in my hair. That doesn’t leave me a lot of spares so I am careful to keep a track of their whereabouts. In the past I bought these by packs of about 50 and as a result I didn’t bother to be precious with them. This doesn’t cause me extra work it just makes me mindful to put them back where they belong. It is not going to save me a fortune but it will help to reduce the number of them that go to waste.

Now that I have a limited number of kitchen gadgets and utensils I am conscious of how useful they are to me. I look after them and appreciate their worth. It gives me a certain amount of pleasure every time they serve me well.

The fact they I have weeded out the less useful items and sent them on their way contributes to this situation. Also I have no desire to be wasteful with my time or my money or resources buy having to replace things prematurely.

Have you found this to be true for you too? Now that you have weeded out the excess what is left behind is a little more precious and you are taking care of it better. Do you have any particular items that you treasure more. Tell us your stories.

Today’s Declutter Item

If I searched throw the archives of decluttered items I am sure I would find that we had at least 25 caps in this house at the start of my declutter mission. Now I think there is probably only about 10 and maybe not even that many. Being as there are only three heads even ten is too many. One day at a time though, one day at a time. I would like to point out that I personally have one.

One less cap

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Good neighbours that can help you out when needed even in the most obscure ways. Getting to know your neighbours can be very helpful to both of you.

“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. It’s funny that you brought up kitchen knives. I was going to write a post about it on Saturday and didn’t have time. I used to have a drawer full of knives, because I cook a lot. I finally got a few really good knives and they are all I would use so I donated the rest of the knives and use my 3-4 different knives for different things. I have not missed having the other knives for a minute. I like having a better quality knife to use and am happy to wash it as often as I need to use again. That was over 10 years ago that I did this, and I don’t have any regrets.

  2. Great post. This is one of those areas I would like to change at our house. When I was about 20 I bought a set of Cutco knives. These are really good knives and have a lifetime warrenty. Since mother and I became housemates, we no longer use them because she had her own knives she was used to and wanted them to be primary. For 19 years they have been in the back of a drawer. I want to get rid of them. Mom wants to sell them. You know, I could probably do that but I know someone I would rather give them to. We cycle through that argument every so often. Hum! Maybe I need to bring it up again.

    • Hi Deb J, maybe this should be the last time you discuss it with your mother. She needs to make the choice to use yours or hers and if it is hers then you should just bit the bullet and give yours to the person you feel could use them. Selling things can be such a pain.

      • Cutco knives are the BOMB! I love our set. That said, we also have quite a few other knives. I like particular ones for different tasks. But, since I use them all, they’re not clutter to me. Now, ask me about piping tubes!

  3. We still have way too much of everything for me to know whether I cherish what I have. Which probably means I don’t. Ugh. Decluttering is a lifelong task, isn’t it?

    • Hi Chelle,
      if you know you still have way too much and you are getting frustrated with how long it is taking to feel the benefits perhaps it is time to have a one off big purge. Get rid of the stuff that obviously needs to go and then settle back into a slower routine once that done.

  4. We have 1 cap and 2 sunhats and there are 3 people in the house…I don’t think we need to declutter any of those!

    • I don’t think so either Low Income Lady. I have figured out through all of this decluttering that even though I am the people person while my husband isn’t so much he is more sentimental when it comes to clutter. It is not people sentimental stuff but his life experience sentimental stuff. Work, sport, travel and other interests that sort of thing. I find it very interesting. The caps fall into the first to, work and sport but they are slowly dwindling and I am happy about that.

      • It’s funny, I decluttered some china yesterday but I had to mount an argument with my Mum to do that. It was just sitting in a cupboard and it was ugly but Mum didn’t want to get rid of it because her sister gave it to her and it was a good brand name. Her sister tends to give her stuff and we keep what we want, its mainly clothes and Mum does wear them so that’s ok. But if we kept everything we wouldn’t be able to move…I’m really pleased to get rid of the china!

        I’m looking forward to a post on downsizing as we have rather a large house and one day I may have to downsize…I think I saw you mention that a post on that topic was coming 🙂

        • Yes Low Income Lady there is a post on downsizing coming up. As for getting rid of that china, good for you. Just because someone gives something to you doesn’t mean you have to keep it. People chose what they give us for all sorts of reasons, none of which are valid reasons for keeping it if you don’t want, need or like it.

  5. I find this is definitely true for me. I appreciate my belongings more when I don’t have extras lying around. It’s like I can “see” them better. Like the extra clutter takes something away from the really useful, good stuff, my favorite stuff. Without the clutter there life is simpler, I get more pleasure out of using my stuff, and I take better care of it. This old-fashioned way is so much more satisfying and healthy than throw-awayism.

    • Hi Cat’sMeow,
      you have expresses exactly what I was thinking a just a few sentences. And I do love your new word “throw-awayism”, nice!

    • My Mom-in-law passed away last June & we had to clear out her house & all her stuff. She had lots of Dollar Store junk in & on every possible surface & then stacked vertically on that. While she wasn’t yet a full blown hoarder, she was in our book.
      Anyways, she had maybe 6 items in her entire house that she cherished & coveted (and made mention of or that my husband recalled her saying she coveted)…..but those things were half-hidden under the piles of plastic Dollar Store junk & mindless/senseless other purchased or found items.
      We kept 2 of her prized possessions (the others went to her other son & grandson) & we display those 2 items singularly & without other distractions & they look great & really remind us of her. One item is a 1973 wooden cutting board (complete with 70’s Penn Dutch style floral pattern) which we have displayed in our kitchen. The other item is a handmade birds nest & Cardinal bird – which took forever to gently remove the half- inch thick dust off of it. That we have prominently displayed on its own shelf in a glass cabinet.
      Less competition from all the clutter that she surrounded it with now lovingly easier to “see” and enjoy in our minimalist home.

      • We hear so many horror stories from our readers having had to clear out so much clutter when a loved one passes away. the situation is sad enough when you loose a loved one without the frustration of this responsibility. I am glad that you managed to find the precious pieces among the clutter and are honouring her memory by displaying them appropriately. It is just a shame that she did not get to enjoy them so well.

  6. I have found that if I own more than two chapsticks at a time, I get careless and lose at least one of them. I keep one in my bedroom and one in my purse. Anymore chapsticks than that and I don’t know where any of them are. Chapstick is one little insignificant item, but the principle applies to everything we own as you pointed out so well. When I had fewer books, I reread and cherished the ones I owned. Now–so many books that I don’t always remember what I have. Dishes, clothes, mugs: ditto. Value increases inversely to the number of items owned.

  7. Well I’m looking forward to getting to that point! Meanwhile today I packed two large bin liners with my corporate jackets, slacks and blouses as well as a pair of brown jeans that fit, but…brown? What was I thinking? I’ll be taking them to the second hand shop tomorrow.

  8. I hear you! I have two lip balms by the bed (one too many really!) and one in my purse.

    I have hair clips, far too many, thanks mum! They do split, so I keep them for later. Hairties, there’s almost always one on my wrist – the other week a friend needed it, so I haven’t replaced it on my wrist. I’m a little put out she didn’t give it back to me, cause like you, hair elastics are tracked! I only use them for water polo, and I always forget I need one (so much so hair elastics now live in the water polo bag!!) If I borrow one from a team mate, I always give it back, so it may be there to borrow again! Crazy much?

    I have two knives – a chef’s knife and a paring knife. Sometimes it’s annoying, after living with lots at mum and dads, to have to wash the knife to cut the next thing (ie when I’m doing sweet and savoury at once). But I don’t NEED more, I’m just used to more! Had to wait for a saucepan last night – needed to reuse for sweet, so it needed it’s savoury contents to cool before I could use it!

    • Hi Snosie,
      you are certainly taking a crash course in living with less. But you are resisting the temptation to add to the mix so good for you. It often does take a little time to get used to it when it is suddenly forced on you but after a while I am sure you will wonder why so many were necessary.

      Microfibre clothes are great for cleaning knives between uses.

      • Yeah I must perfect my microfibres and their use, for a while they were my only cloth. Then they got stinky (never drying properly) – which is happening now with the sponges I moved to. But they did work well for getting marks and stuff off, better than alternatives used since…

  9. I agree with Bea, if we refuse to buy things we don’t really need and could refuse excessive packaging then half the battle is won.

    • I hear ya Karin, there is so much stuff out there that we just don’t need including the packaging it comes in. Since starting my declutter journey I have also reduced my kitchen rubbish from three bags a week to only one. My garden is enjoying the compost and I freeze my meat scraps until I tie off the trash bag for the week and put the bin out on the curb. The wheelie bin looks a little silly with only on little bag inside it. We also seem to even have less recycling and I am pleased about that. There must be less packaging coming in.

      • Wow Colleen, that really is commendable!

        I’m trying to have no ‘trash’ trash, but so far, the packaging is killing me. I need a coop style place for flour, rice etc, and that’ll solve that waste. Wooden skewers (for checking cakes) are also prominent in my waste…

        • Snosie,
          Why not pick up a metal meat skewer from a second-hand shop? I keep one in with my kitchen knives, and use it for all sorts of things. It just gets washed, and is ready for re-use.

        • Snosie, those coop style stores are far more plentiful in American than they are here. I wish we had one where I live too. I use my wooden skewers more than once. Like everything else I just wipe them down with my microfibre cloth. The whole food contamination thing is so highly over exaggerated. Skewers are a reusable as wooden chopping boards.

          • Brilliant idea Ann and Colleen! I agree, I’m not a big scaredy cat of cross contamination (I don’t eat a lot of meat, or when I do, it goes from package to being cooked).

            I shall reuse the wooden ones, and search out some metal ones in a second hand shop!

            Bokashi is good (I made my own, not as functional, with two nested buckets, one with drilled holes…) Saves ‘needing’ to take out garbage!

            • What do you do with the compost when it is done breaking down? I have a tiny garden and I would have to dig a large section of it up in order to keep burying the bucket’s contents when it is full.

      • Colleen,
        You can put all meat and fish scraps into a bokashi bucket prior to burial or composting, then those weekly bags could accumulate in your trash bin for a few weeks without smelling! 😉

      • Sounds like de-cluttering has helped you in other ways, too, Colleen. It’s always a good idea to compost raw vegetable (and fruit) waste if you possibly can. I’m not so sure about bokashi, though. I wasn’t too successful at that.

        I hadn’t thought about freezing meat waste until collection day. That should certainly stop it getting smelly too soon. I think I’ll try that.

        • The freezing was an idea that my mother shared with me and it is working out very nicely. It was the smell in the bin that used to force me to empty it, not that it was full and this has solved that problem. I just throw my veggie scraps in the garden and let them compost naturally.

          • Yes we have sometimes had to empty the bin because of the smell, especially if we’ve put fish skin in there, but in warm weather any kind of meat smells quite soon. It’s so obvious really, don’t know why I didn’t think of it. Well done your mother.

  10. Definitely Colleen! I’ve never been one to look after my things; I’ve always been quite careless (unfortunately my daughter inherited this trait). My husband and son are very good at keeping their things nice though, so it’s something the females in this house are slowly learning. I realised a while ago, that my daughter’s problem was she had waaay too much of everything: clothes, craft stuff, books, so we’ve been paring down gradually over the past couple of years and she is so much better now. I also realised that she takes her lead from me and I cannot ask/yell at her to put her clothes away nicely if I don’t do the same!

  11. Colleen,
    You. Are. So. Right!
    Another nice side effect of having less: Not only do I make better choices when adding something new because I know by heart in which context it will have to fit in. I also don’t view so many things as shabby anymore as I used to do. I used to have things “to good to use” (cringing at recalling that I really thought that way once not too long ago!) and things that weren’t really used anymore because they either really were beyond their use or I had replaced them too early (without getting rid of them though) so I had a nicer version. So I constantly was surrounded by very nice but unused things by moderately worn out things and by shabby stuff at the same time. All these things seemed to be in competition with each other and of course there had to be losers. three black pants of similar shape and garment? Of course two of them seemed shabby to me. And I usually would deprive me of wearing the best one because it was for special occasions … I am down to one pair of black jeans now so if I wear black jeans I always wear my best ones now. Feels great :-). I like that the questions towards these jeans now are absolute questions: Does it look good/feel good/fit well? Instead of: does it look better (or worse) than another garment in my wardrobe? What does better or worse say? Not much. Comparison really is irrelevant with most things. People don’t look inside my wardrobe and tell me that the shirt I am wearing is more washed out than the similar one on the shelf. Your guests don’t drink out of one cup and then take another one from my cupboard to compare it.
    I think we really create a lot of the competition that we sense and feel pressured by ourselves by having too much. By buying new but keeping the old also so that the new feels too good while the old feels shabby …
    I am slowly learning to love the idea of ONE. And where I can’t (yet) get by on one I try to go for a sensible number of either exactly the same (works great for me on mugs, dishes, towels … not that I have everything exactly the same but I have some smaller sets like 4 matching cups, 6 matching plates and notice that I like it when everything is my favourite thing to use) or I opt for diversity. I might need more than one pair of jeans but black skinny jeans just don’t compete with wide legged blue jeans – and therefore can’t be second best 😉 Using your stuff gives it great value. But I think it is amazing how not storing the stuff you use next to unused stuff, throwing your mind into constant competition mode, adds almost even more value.

    • You also are so right, Ideealistin. Items constantly competing for your attention is fruitless and distracting. The less you have and especially if you love it is far more relaxing and enjoyable.

  12. Oh, I think you really got me (thinking) with this one 😉

  13. I have really short, like number 5 on the clippers, hair but I still found hair things when we moved. I used to have really long hair, but it was heavy & unruly so I keep it short…why I still have clips etc. I don’t know. When I find them again I shall let them go!
    Enjoyable post again, thank you Colleen!

    • My pleasure Karen. My posts are often inspired by the great comments from my readers so thank you for contributing. Now find those clips and get them out of there. 😉

  14. compost Earth?! I am sure any plantlover will snatch it from your Hands in no time of you don’t want to scatter it in your own grounds. Freecycle, ask the neighbours or a gardener or plant shop … that tralla shoulb Be the least Problem. Be brave and compost. Everyone really should. After the BFs Move in I’ll certainly revisit the idea of indoor composting and do more research on it as I have no garden.

    • The Bokashi doesn’t end up as dirt in the container is ends up as slush that has to be buried for a couple of months. It is the burying that is the problem as my garden isn’t very big. I would be willing to give it a try though but I might have to create a cheaper version for myself. A Bokashi cost $100 to buy in Australia and that is a lot to spend on something that may not work out well for me. At the moment I just throw my plant scraps in the garden but that produces a lot of methane gas I believe.

  15. Hi Colleen!

    Thank you for the post. This is exactly my experience with decluttering and also what keeps me on track with decluttering my “weaknesses”. Though I am a booklover, I found, like willow, that I don’t read my books as much as I used to – there are just too many on the shelves. My mind can’t keep track of them and good (or unread) ones just “get lost” between the others. I weeded out hundreds of books by now and it feels better.
    The same goes for china, vases, grooming items and craft items. Still way to go, but it’s getting better and better.
    My china/tableware finally fits into the kitchen cupboards only! 😀 All the time during my decluttering I kept rotating things, as I couldn’t decide which pieces should be easily accessible in the kitchen and which would be fine stored in the livingroom or otherwise as well. Finally, I got over that and have wine glasses, gold rimmed cups and Japanese wooden bowls all at hand in the kitchen. I know, I am still far from minimal in that area, but I reached a much more reasonable state.
    Funnily enough (don’t know if that’s a result of “respecting” things more), I haven’t broken a single piece of china since I started decluttering.

    • You have come a long way Sanna. And I know what you mean when you say there were just so many books that you couldn’t keep track. I call that stuff dyslexia, when there is so much of something that you just can’t see clearly when you look at it. I like a little order in my life or my head goes crazy.

      Your talk of rotating your things reminds me of something that came up with my son as he had an interview with his Care For Life case manager yesterday. His short term memory isn’t quite as good as it used to be since his brain injury so he uses strategies to help him remember. The case worker was asking him about this an he said “It doesn’t help that Mum keeps moving everything around.” I had to laugh because it is true.

      I am glad you haven’t had any breakages since you have started decluttering. I wonder if you are being more careful with your things without even realising it.

  16. Do you grow no flowers or vegetables at all, Colleen? Compost is great to add to the soil around most plants. You don’t have to bury it. You can spread it over a bare bed in early Spring a few weeks before planting, or fork it in around existing plants, taking care for it not to touch anything delicate. It’s great to improve the texture and nutrients of soil and make everything grow well. Otherwise sell it or give it away.

    • Karin, Yes I grow tomatoes herbs and strawberries and I do understand the fabulous uses of compost but the contents of a Bokashi bucket is not yet compost and needs to be buried first. Perhaps a compost bin would be better for me but I live in a townhouse with very little garden space.

  17. okay, I never heard about a bokashi bucket before and sort of assumed it was like regular composting … but why don’t you give worm composting in your garage or your backyard a try? Too hot in Australia? I read about the worm composting you do in a special bin (which apparently is a bit different from the regular compost heaps I know where you just add things and wait for some worms to come by themselves and where you definitely need a garden because the heap gets large and sometimes smelly). I also read that you could even do that in an apartment but I definetely have to do more research on it … Or probably you do the big compost post one day 😉 That would be great!

    • The beauty of the Bokashi bucket is that you can also add meat scraps not just veggies. And because of the way the enzymes work this method creates way less greenhouse gasses witch is better for the environment. At the moment I am just throwing mine into a heap in the garden which is actually working. I raked through it yesterday and it was well composted underneath so it is definitely working. I haven’t noticed it smelling either. I might check to see if they have small Bokashi buckets that might work better for me. More research needed for me I think.

  18. I used to keep a list of the books I read by author but I read a lot and it got very cumbersome. Our library has a website now and any book I check out can be kept in my history so I can see if I have read a book by an author I like. Now, of course, it doesn’t keep track of the books I have at home but I don’t reread those and once I read it, it goes to the library donation fund. At any rate, reading is way more fun than tracking the ones I have read on my personal list. If I purchase books (never new, only from the library sale at twenty-five cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardback), and find I already have the book at home, I just donate it back to the library. My new goal is only to read books I have at home until I have decreased my stash by quite a lot. Then I can go back to the library for new choices.

    • Well done Maggie, even if people are keen readers there really is no need to keep the books. Good for you, donating yours back to the library for others to enjoy. I do this too if I happen to end up owning one (usually because someone has given it to me. I rarely buy.)


  1. […] got some great responses on Tuesday to my post on having more respect for one’s diminished possessions. There were several comments that […]