Share ~ Borrow ~ Repurpose

Succeeding at living with less isn’t always just about getting rid of things. Sometimes it is about sharing, borrowing and repurposing. I shall give you an example from recent events in my life.

I found out six days prior that my parents would be arriving for a short visit this Saturday just gone. As you know my children have both recently left home so space certainly wasn’t an issue. The issue was that both children had taken the duvets (doonas) and pillows from their beds when, or shortly after, they left. I didn’t mind because they are young and not so financially established as their parents and if they weren’t returned I am better able to afford to replace them. Which I hadn’t done for various reasons which I will explain.

We intend to give our daughter her queen size bed, as her spare, and my son is undecided as to whether or not he and his partner wish to swap his newish double bed, with scrumptiously comfortable mattress at our house, for the queen one she owned prior to his moving in. This means that some bedding doesn’t need replacing while at the same time I don’t know what size bedding I will need for the spare bed we end up with. So back to the story…

My parents were coming for a week and along with them and old family friend would also be staying for the night and I didn’t have enough warm blankets, pillows and bed covers to accommodate them. But never fear, being the frugal and environmentally friendly person I am, I decided not to rush out and buy stuff in a big panic, possibly ending up with items that might later become excess to my needs or not what I really need. Instead I improvised.

First off I took a look in my camphor wood chest to see what bedding items I had left after all my ruthless decluttering. I had a single bed duvet and several spare throw rugs. As there was only one person sleeping in the double bed this was enough to make up that bed and have some throw rugs spare for sitting about chatting or watching TV.

Then I asked my daughter, now that she is fully unpacked and settled into her new home, if she had enough blankets etc. that I could briefly borrow back the ones she took from me. She had a duvet and a blanket spare to loan me.  This was enough to kit out the second bed minus a couple of pillows.

Since pillows need replacing on a reasonably regular basis my first instinct was, since the kids had taken the pick of the bunch, that I would by two new ones. Then possibly donate the oldest ones to an animal shelter when the guests had gone. However, in my travels throughout the house preparing the beds I spied something that had somehow, so far, escaped my decluttering efforts. I am not sure how, because this thing was taking up an enormous amount of space in one of the spare room closets. It was a body pillow. Same width as a regular pillow but twice as long. In an instant a clever idea popped into my head. I would cut this pillow in half and make two regular pillows and solve the pillow shortage crisis. Which I did. Bedding problem solved.

So not only did I manage to save my children from wasting money initially by sharing my stuff, I then was able to borrow stuff back from one to save me buying new. While at the same time I used a little ingenuity to repurpose something, effectively decluttering it buy changing it into something more useful to me.

When I know what my long term needs on the bedding front are, I will then address that problem but for now my extended family and I can work as a team.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that you have too many spares of.

Eco Tip for the Day

Challenge yourself to put every piece of recyclable material in the recycling bin no matter how small.. It is easy to be blasé about small pieces of paper or plastic but so long as they can be recycled they are best kept out of landfill.

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. Necessity is the mother of invention. It is amazing what we can think up when we choose not to go buy something we need. Whether it is cooking or having company, you can come up with some interesting and clever things. When we were in a hotel, we made instant mashed potatoes with a coffee maker. Whenever we talk about that trip, the kids bring up the mashed potatoes: it was fun and clever and we used the resources we had.

  2. Way to go Colleen. Good job.

  3. (laughing) I know I would have gone out and bought a bunch of stuff that later I would be upset about. You are one smart chickie, Colleen!!

  4. Great story, Colleen! I just found a box of pens that are at least 10 years old. They could easily have been tossed, but I brought them over to my guitar studio and used them there. many were give-aways too since people write me checks and forget to return the pen:)

    • Hi CJ, we used to have a problem in our house where the pens mysteriously multiplied. I think we had a pen kleptomaniac but since a certain person chose to use one special pen all of the time the pens stopped multiplying. He does not attend you guitar studio though. 😉

  5. Way to go, Colleen!

    By the way this reminds me that when we were children we sometimes brought our own duvets/blankets when we were visiting friends with my family (of course only if we went by car). I didn’t remember until just now.
    We’re quite fine in that we have one single spare duvet and a couple of blankets (also two sleeping bags). We don’t own a “proper” guest bed anyway, so elderly persons would rather want to sleep in a hotel. Whoever agrees on a matress on a floor or sleeping on an antique-ish chaise longue, is quite fine with our simple bedding. 🙂
    It’s one of the things I learnt while decluttering: You don’t need more duvets than beds, more dishes than seats and so on.
    (You might find more useful if they are used on different occasions: summer and winter duvets, deep and flat plates etc., but in general there is no use in having equipment for guests you can’t host due to lack of space)

    • Sanna – I like your quantities philosophy. I was just thinking last night that if we didn’t have the kids we could get away with a lot fewer dishes, glasses and mugs as they seem to eat and drink throughout the day. LOL At least we can say that the dishwasher never gets set off not completely full.

      • I think I realized that due to my china/pottery-addiction. I always tried to figure out how many of each thing would be a good number. Though I am not really there yet (as I also inherited yet another china tea set) I finally came to realize that there’s no sense in owning more than 12 settings, as I can’t seat more people (and most of the time we are only 2-5 for dinner, just rarely up to 10). For dinner plates, glasses etc. I’m about there, it’s just those tea sets… Oh well. Baby steps.

      • I had my kids each use a different color cup for a while when they were young. You can also write names on cups if you have company coming so everyone knows which cup is theirs.

        • I like this! I am thinking of doing one color per child because we already have 3 colors (there are 5 of us) since we have Fiestaware dishes. One of mine especially takes a new plate or bowl for each item because he likes to dip his foods so needs a dip bowl too.

          • I also visited a family that put their names on masking tape and left it on the cups and the tape and names stayed on in the dishwasher to get used every day. I thought it was a bit much at the time. They only had grown children living in the home, but perhaps it carried over from when they were little, and they did have a very tidy house. I might just try it here since all our glasses are the same.

    • Oh I so agree with you Sanna. I would rather find a way to make do than clutter up my home with stuff that is only likely to be used two percent of the time.

  6. My daughter just came up with her beat up marching band shoes and said she wanted to get rid of them. She wanted to buy a new pair, but I knew that she would only use them a year, so I said to wait until later to make the decision. Well, she asked one of her friends who was graduating for her shoes and now she has a nice pair and we didn’t have to go buy any!

  7. Colleen, my in-laws were over for lunch on Saturday and my MIL had brought cut up fruit in a bowl. She then tried to give me the bowl and I said “thanks, but I’m good in the bowl department”, washed it and home with her it went! Just say no thanks! 😉

  8. After my last ruthless decluttering of the linens, I was horrified to see holes in my youngest son’s sheets. I instantly scolded myself for getting rid of some perfectly good twin fitted sheets and keeping a set so close to self destruction. But when I calmed down I realized I still had enough – his bed would not be sheet-less. I happily tore the worn out flannel sheel into awesome garage rags and moved on.
    Moral of the story: I gave away something that I could have been useful, then thought I might need it, and my world did NOT fall apart! That should give me courage to let go of more “useful someday” items that are taking up valuable space.

  9. Darn it, Colleen! I have spare duvet inners etc sitting in my garage. If only you didn’t live over the ditch! Never mind.

  10. Great job on being innovative and some creative thinking there, Colleen! Way to improvise.

  11. Wow, Colleen. I just knew you were going to find pillows, but I was so surprised and happy about your solution. At first, I thought, Why is she cutting the body pillow apart?! Then I thought, Why she doesn’t need it! It’s taking up space! Oh boy. CJ and I are going to get a lot of mileage out of reviewing your ideas and putting them to action. Of course, neither of us can sew, but neither do we have a body pillow. We can find other ways to implement your brilliant ideas!

    • Hi Tammy R, I am so glad that my mother taught me to sew. She was a private dress maker from home so there was plenty of opportunity to learn. I was so young when I used a sewing machine for the first time that I don’t even remember the occasion, all I know is that I have been able to sew since before I can remember. I am not brilliant like my mum but the know-how I have sure does come in handy. There are certainly many other areas of know-how that can be applies to save time, money and resources and to help avoid clutter.

      As I write this my daughter called to ask if I can bring placemats and a frying pan to her house when we go for dinner tonight. We are having a family dinner and with my parents here she is pushed for resources. Sharing has saved the day again. I just have to make sure I get them back.

      • Did you say frying pan???? Mmmmmm.

        • Frying pan? Hilarious! Waaaaaaaay back when “Friends” was a hit TV show in the U.S/, a group of us gals would switch homes, cook dinner, and watch “Friends”. We asked a new gal to join us and she showed up with her own plate!!! LOL She said she wasn’t sure the gal hosting had enough to go around. 🙂

  12. Excellent ideas, as usual Colleen! I did keep extra duvets and blankets because they were good and for eventual guests, but today I felt glad I did and saw it was not excessive. Both children decided to wet their beds quite thoroughly and as we are experience cold and humid weather over here it was not possible to wash and dry in the same day. So, get the covers mummy kept for those kind of emergencies (which have been happening pretty regularly this fall) 😀 😀 😀 !
    As for borrowing I think it is great! You just get it use it, wash and return it and your house remains uncluttered.

  13. What a great idea to split the body pillow in two. I just donated one about a month ago. I wish I had thought to do that as it’s nice to have extras for kid sleepovers.

    The mini-missions are great this week. For yesterday’s, I decluttered some clothes that I won’t be fitting into anytime soon. For today’s, I got rid of 4 vases, a LARGE container of extra crayons, 10 coffee cups and a couple of drink containers (to make lemonade, etc.). Note that I still am not running low on any of these items, and just a couple of months ago, I donated several vases and extra dishes. This is one of those areas that I need to revisit every couple of months.

    Our basement has become the dumping ground for anything we don’t know what to do with. I need to have someone come in to look at our dryer, but I dread the thought of having anyone down there. I still can do laundry, so the basement is not bad to the point of dysfunction, but I’m so embarrassed about how awful it looks (spiders love it, though). My husband removed two filing cabinets over the weekend, one of which was empty and the other whose contents were shredded. It’s a start, and I’m counting this toward Wednesday’s mission. It’ll be a long haul, but the sooner we take care of it, the sooner a repairman can come over!

  14. That’s awesome that you thought of a way to use what you already have! I regularly improvise while making dinner because I am not going to stop mid-cooking to drive the 5 miles to store to get X. Most of the time it works just fine. Every now and then it doesn’t but even when it doesn’t work too well atleast I learned something. 🙂

    I am in the middle of having a repurposing project myself. I took my wedding dress to a seamstress to have it (and some beautiful red fabric) turned into a Christmas tree skirt. I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like! She said she’ll either be finished with it by the end of this month or the end of August. I just couldn’t see letting my big wedding dress sit around forever taking up space in our closet.