Reverse Rationalising

One of my readers commented this week that she often finds herself trying to rationalise keeping items rather than letting them go. I have two pieces of advice about this behaviour.

1. If you find yourself doing this just put the item aside and move on to something that is easier for you to declutter. My experience has been that we get better at this decluttering thing with experience. The experience of performing it and the pleasant experience of realising the advantages of owning less stuff. I don’t need to repeat again what they are. There is nearly always something that we a willing to let go of rather than waste time procrastination over the stuff we aren’t.

2. Stay focused on the object of this exercise ~ Decluttering. If you feel the need to declutter then it is best to carry it through to the best of your ability. Take your time and, once again (and I can’t say this enough times), work on the easiest stuff at all times. The harder stuff becomes easier eventually. Focus more on what you are gaining than what you are giving up. The desire to have excess and acquire more stuff is a fools game, be determined to give it up. Especially if it is affecting you negatively and loved ones around you. One of the greatest joys of decluttering for me was losing the desire to acquire. That doesn’t mean I never acquire anything I fancy, I just don’t do it as a recreational sport on a regular basis.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item made from fabric ~ Clothes, linen, carpets, blankets, pillows ought to be items easy enough to find. I have something in mind for this one this week.

Eco Tip for the Day

When shopping, if you have the option, say no to a receipts. Of course only on things you will have no need to return. I do this at cafe’s, grocery stores, service stations and any situation where it is a choose and use up purchase.

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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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Love it or heave it (Revisited) As you may have guessed, due to the lack of them, I struggle to come up with new posts these days, mostly because I declutter much less now, therefore the inspiration for posts isn't […]
  • Control Issues All that "I might need it one day!" clutter is about control. Control over your future, a future that may never unveil itself. A future created in your own mind that won't allow you to […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I used to recreationally shop, but not now. Especially when I consider how much I have gotten rid of. I’ll go if there is something very specific in mind. Once in a blue moon, I’ll window shop, but that is darn rare.

    And, as a reference to my last post on the previous article (?), since I have five pieces of clothing coming in, that means five other pieces have to go. Oh boy.

    The Post Office is doing a food round-up on Saturday so I’ll be going through my cupboards for food to donate.

    • Hi Michelle , I don’t mind looking at what is in the shops at times. Just because I don’t want it doesn’t me I can’t appreciate it. I just don’t bring it home. There is a huge antique shop below our apartment and I often go for a browse. I haven’t bought anything there yet but I certainly enjoy the adventure.

  2. Good tips Colleen. I find myself confronted by the hard stuff sometimes, the hard stuff seems to be the stuff that I WANT to get rid of the most but is still hard for some reason or another, but I’m trying to ignore it for now and focus on broken, unwanted, un-useful and un-loved items first, these are the easiest to get rid of. Even small things are one less thing in my space. It’s a work-in-progress.

    • Hello Shoeaholicnomore – I completely agree with your statements. Sometimes it is hard to declutter perfectly good items – even if they are not perfect for me. The easy things are the “broken, unwanted, un-useful and un-loved”. *sigh* I have now gotten to the point of separating items into three categories: 1) donation, 2) the local store that pays cash for items (but they are choosey in what they accept), and 3) a yard sale in a month or so. I dread putting on yard sales. However, some things are not what I would want to give away for free and the store wouldn’t pay me enough for the items.

      Things that I will be selling: a solid oak credenza, a wing-back chair that has a torn spot in the fabric, a nightstand, a shabby/chic side table, a vintage folding outdoor chair, a solid wood armchair, two antique glass candle holders, and a few more of my vintage brooches. I figure if I make $100, I’d call that great. We’ll see. 🙂

      • Thanks Michelle! Those are some good ideas. I too am having a yard sale, mine’s at the end of the month and I can’t wait to get rid of my stuff 🙂 I have a large pile of stuff in my basement for the sale. Even after all that junk is gone, there’s still plenty more that I will need to de-clutter by donating, giving away, selling online, possibly another yard sale next year (or if I progress fast enough maybe toward the end of the “season”). Sometimes it seems that de-cluttering is never ending…

        • Hi Michelle, I always loved putting on yard sales and having stalls at fleamarkets but although I would still enjoy them I didn’t want to accumulate things for months on end in order to have enough to hold one. It is much easier to sell on ebay and give the rest away.

          • Hi Colleen, yes, the storing of the items for the sales are what is annoying because I keep looking at those things, taking up space, waiting for the sale to happen, and I just get irritated. LOL

      • I loathe hosting yards sales. For me I would rather donate unloved (but still valuable) items simply because I find the whole garage sale thing painful. I’ve had good luck with local online classifieds. Even $5 items, it’s like a garage sale with all the hassle, one item at a time, and I don’t have to wait around to sell stuff. Often I tell people I will leave the item on the front steps, if they like it when they stop by, they can leave the cash under the mat. I haven’t been cheated or robbed yet!

        • I understand not wanting the hassle of a yard/garage sale. I have done some online/Facebook selling too. If I weren’t trying to pay off debt while de-cluttering I’d just donate all the crap and be done with it 🙂

    • Good for you Shoeacholic… you are on the right track.

  3. Colleen, My mother is good at this but is getting better as, like you said, she gets more experience at decluttering. I think she is also getting more honest about her ability to not do things she used to thus not keeping things she might someday make/finish.

    • Hi Deb, I suppose it is hard to come to terms with the fact that one is just getting past things as they age. But it really is better to just admit it to oneself and make the necessary adjustments.

      • Yes it is. We had the possible move talk and her “I won’t” side came out. She always reacts this way but then changes her mind. I just hope we can find somewhere we both like.

  4. Item #1 is the key, IMO. Thanks for making it easy to understand Colleen.

  5. I am in an unusual situation whereby I need to start bringing items INTO the house. And it feels really weird. Let me back up a bit and explain I’ve been hard out decluttering for a few years and then over the Xmas break my husband decided to paint the house and so everything on a room by room basis was dragged into the garage and then later returned. My husband and I decided to not return anything we didn’t deem useful or loved. Was quite a pile left over, including art and some furniture plus all the usual jetsom and flotsom. A very interesting exercise. Initially we loved having the house so bare and fresh, within a few weeks thought maybe it was a bit too empty and now we agree that it is definately too austere especially if we want to put it on the market, its going to need a few bits and pieces to give it a more staged appearance. Sounds straightforward? No I’m so darn fussy these days. I’ve been to five stores today looking for the right shade of blue to make some throw cusions for the lounge. I don’t want to turn around and have to declutter them in the short term and I know all the cusions I have seen so far just aren’t what I want. And so many items that have been hiffed out in the last couple of years have been ‘make do’ purchases or “isn’t that pretty, it won’t go with anything but I like it so much I’m going to get it anyway” purchases. Where are Drew and Jonathon of The Property Brothers when I need them?

    • Ho Moni, I recognise those types of purchases you mentioned. Make-do often isn’t satisfying for long and isn’t that pretty often turns out to just be useless fluff on reflection. Been there done that.

  6. Do we ever consider the regret or remorse of a purchase?
    I am dreaming about buying a ‘Winnebago’ , I’m searching online, visiting showrooms etc. I am doing a lot or research in making this purchase. My mind is focused on getting one.
    Sometimes I put the same effort into decluttering .
    Can I say I have regretted decluttering anything ? No. Even after spending a long time deciding about getting rid of a quilt in summer, the cooler weather has not made me regret the decision. I’m sure the only time we regret getting rid of stuff is when someone points out they saw it on eBay for lots of money 😉
    I recently watched a movie with Wil Farrel in it called Everything Must Go. I was thinking about it after chatting to Colleen this morning. What was so poignant about this movie was he gave the most valuable of his items away .
    Whatever our reasons for having ‘stuff’ , clothes, cars, shoes etc, relationships are far more valuable . Cheers

    • Hi Wendy, I have decluttered the odd thing that I later had a use for, however I improvised and never gave the item another thought. Sometimes single use gadget are the best method of doing something but they aren’t the only method and having the best tool for doing everything will just lead a whole lot of clutter. I get much more satisfaction from improvising and have an uncluttered home.

      And you are right, relationships are more important. In fact material goods often destroy relationships. Working too hard to acquire them, maintain them and fighting over which to acquire can have bad consequences for a relationship.

  7. Colleen, it is one of the things I find so disappointing about modern life: shopping as a recreational activity.

    Can’t people find other things to do?

    And why do parents think it is the thing to do with their children? What happened to picnics? Going to the park? Taking their children to sport every weekend?

    And if it’s raining, why, lets go to the shopping centre!

    And the results are there to be seen in all sorts of ways – council clean-ups with tonnes of cheap tat, credit card debts, family issues. And are we happier? The rise in the number of adolescents with depression and anxiety is shocking. OK, it’s not all to do with shopping but trying to find meaning, purpose and happiness in buying more and more stuff is madness.

    Sorry, I’ll step off my soap box.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Lucinda, well said!

    • Lucinda – I agree that recreational shopping can be taken to an Olympic level but as long as it stays balanced it’s ok. I disagree on the subject of teenage depression but I don’t feel this is the forum for discussing such a complex topic.

  8. I can’t tell you the amount of freedom you’ll experience once you break yourself of the recreational shopping habit, and the, as Colleen says, “need to acquire”.

    My recreational shopping habit was broken for me nearly 20 years ago through a divorce that left me just about penniless.

    Even though I eventually remarried, that old urge to shop never came back, and I’m glad about that.

    I think recreational shopping can sometimes act almost like a drug, giving a momentary high or good feeling that fades quickly, and then requires more and more shopping to try to achieve the same high. People are left with a pile of unused goods that take up space, and a lot less money in their wallets, which leads to other problems.

    As somebody else mentioned, whatever happened to entertaining ourselves at home, or doing something with the family that doesn’t cost anything?

    I wish my husband’s “urge to acquire” would calm down. He’s starting to come around, very slowly and little bits at a time, but the habit is still strong in him. He doesn’t spend money on stuff–he brings it home free from the town recycling center, or friends give him things.

    I keep very busy trying to stay one step ahead of the flood of things he brings home.

    • Hi Becky, and that is exactly why I refer to it as the desire to acquire, because the acquisition of stuff doesn’t always cost money. I acquired some lace and synthetic fabrics for my card crafting from my mother and mother-in-law while on vacation. I have already used some of these items this week making Mother’s Day cards. I plan on incorporation them into more cards next week as well. It was very tempting to bring more home, free of charge of course, but I spent many years reducing the craft clutter I last accumulated. I am excited to get these materials repurposed rather than languish unused as they were doing.

      I wish you luck with changing your husbands habits. They can be very hard to break.

  9. I think I am in danger of becoming interested in too many different craft projects AGAIN. I don’t want to buy things. I want to create things. Well, that makes no sense – I don’t need anything. Why do I want to create things? UGH! I am getting interested in mosaic tile projects which need different tools and supplies. I’m still attracted to quilting, but have not bought anything new, so that’s good. I have several furniture pieces that need to be refinished before I can sell them. I like to make yard art from found items.

    Sometimes I am completely non-crafty and then other times, I get all excited to start new things. I wish I’d quit doing that.

    • Hi Michelle, I am the same but I don’t wish I would quit. I love to create and if you can do it with otherwise unused stuff then all the better. The trick is that you need an outlet for these items so that, once finished, they don’t then languish around the house. My card crafting is sending more stuff out the door than it is bringing stuff in so I am as happy as a pig in mud creating like a mad thing. However I have a desire to put together an art exhibition of upcycled objects de art which could make crafting a little messy around here. We’ll see if my enthusiasm for creating overrides my desire to remain uncluttered. It would only be temporary by nevertheless.

      • Hi, I shouldn’t have put it that way “that I wish I would quit” because that’s not quite right. I don’t know about other countries, but when I was in junior and senior high, we had classes where you would learn different skills such as I had a crafting class where I learned counted cross-stitch and other things in jr. high, but in sr. high, we had a (it wasn’t exactly a “shop class”), but where we did foundry, made leather pieces, used tools to make engraved key chains, etc. I wish there was a program like that for adults out of school. I know I’m not putting this in a cohesive manner. 🙁 I’d like to try something to see if I like it BEFORE I spend massive amount of money on supplies. For instance, many years ago, I took a Wilton Cake Decorating Class. Don’t ask me why. I have no kids. I never bake cakes. But I must have spent $100- $150 on different tips and supplies, etc. I gave that all to a gal I worked with a few years ago. I’d like to try leather-work, but I don’t want to buy everything and then realize I don’t like it or I’m no good at it.

        And YES, I agree that there must be an outlet so that I don’t just hang on to a bunch of old projects. 🙂

        • Hi Michelle, I knew that you really didn’t wish to give it up. It is too much fun, I know that. 😉 Trying new things is great but you are right, try before you buy is a good way to give it a go without the clutter and expense. We have a couple of what is equivalent to Community College here that hold classes for all sorts skills. Actually it is about time I took another of them. I would like to try ceramics.

        • Michelle, have you ever visited They have tons of videos on different art and craft subjects there, and many of them are free.

          I’m not sure if it would give you a complete feel for something, but maybe enough to know whether or not you wanted to buy materials for something.

          • Colleen, ooooh yeah – ceramics!! That sounds fun too.

            Becky – thanks for that site – I’ll check it out. 🙂

  10. Colleen, this was a really helpful post, especially tip number 1. Most of my items aren’t valuable but yet, I sometimes find it difficult to trash or donate. Also, I often find myself clipping articles from magazines to reference later. This is a huge problem. I do go back through from time to time and toss but then I continue to save new article. Yes, I could scan but then that’s computer clutter, isn’t it?

    If you or anyone here has a “cure” for article-itis, please help.

    Thanks and love your blog!

    • Hi Monique, the cure to article-itis is…
      1.Stop buying magazines. There is nothing in them that you can’t access on the web.
      2. Realising the fact that finding articles is much easier on the web.
      3. Being realistic about the fact that this information is likely not to be of any importance in the first place so your desire for it is somewhat irrational.
      4. That it takes a complete change of mindset to get past such a need. I think a cold turnkey is the way to go. Stop buying the magazines and start using the web as your source of information. Trial that for a month or two and by the end of that period I think you will be wondering why you wasted your money, time and space on the material version. There is the added bonus that you will be saving a tree or two.

      • Thanks, Colleen, for taking the time to give me some proactive suggestions that I’ll do. You’re right about articles not being important. I’ve returned to some of my clippings and wondered why I even tore the article out of the magazine in the first place.