Sharing the wisdom of experience

Hi folks, I am back at the helm of the good ship 365lessthings and ready to set sail again on my declutter journey. In the two weeks while I was away visiting my loved ones afar my conviction to minimise my possessions was reinforced by situations I encountered. Although none of what I am about to write was a revelation to me, as I have already learned these lessons at different points in my life, I feel it is my duty to put into words the wisdom that is to be gained by what I experienced.

  • As you get older it gets harder to maintain your home when there is too much clutter. Too much to clean and too much to move in order to get at what else needs cleaning is not a good position to be in as your body becomes less agile and more frail.
  • Being too emotionally attached to objects makes it very hard to be rational about paring down when you reach the stage mentioned above.
  • It always pays to invest a little time and money preparing for the future. If you waste all your money on unessential items now you won’t have the money to spend on adapting your environment to suit your changing needs when the time comes that this is required. That is, a house full of trinkets and excesses will be no good to you when what you really need and can’t afford is bathroom renovations to better suit your mobility needs.
  • The rule above applies even when you are young, the option to change direction in your life is much easier if you have a little cash set aside to fall back on during the transition period. I am not saying hoard your money and don’t have any fun, I am suggesting you strike a balance between future needs and immediate wants and budget for both.
  • Don’t complain about your circumstances if you chose instant gratification possessions over planning for your future. You have no one else to blame but yourself for the life choices you make.
  • Wisdom doesn’t always come with age unless you pay attention to what is going on around you and learn from not only your mistakes but the mistakes of others. The good news is that it is never too late to turn things around.
  • Status symbols, that is things that you possess in order to convey a certain image of yourself to others, can be a hinderance even if you can afford the indulgence. Maintaining that image can become more important to you than altering your lifestyle to better suit your needs. You can fool your ego into believing what is best for you but you can’t fool your heart or your body.

Some of the statements above my sound a little judgemental, they aren’t meant to be. They are just observations I have made over the last couple of weeks that I will keep tucked away amongst the collective wisdom in my mind. Hopefully I will be able to recall them when I need their help the most and maybe today they will help you too.

Today’s Declutter Item

The item for today is probably an example of why not to declutter rather than what I usually preach but nevertheless I hope common sense will prevail rather than this be a bad example to you all. This iPod belonged to my daughter but some time many years back it stopped working properly. I suppose, because it didn’t take up much space, it has been overlooked during previous decluttering sessions. However it made its way to the surface but my son decided he would fiddle with it one more time before giving up on it and lo and behold it has not missed a beat since. During our recent trip up north we returned it to my daughter adding a little more clutter to her life but relieving our house of one more small item.

The case of the fickle iPod

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Although I am not what you would call an avid reader I am grateful to all the writers and publishers out there that produce works whether for our entertainment or to share knowledge and wisdom.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • How little we really need Every time I go on a long vacation I am reminded of how little one really needs to live a comfortable and functional lifestyle. My husband and I often stay in Airbnb places when on […]
  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
  • You just never know. Firstly I would just like to apologise for my recent extended absence from the blog this month. Unfortunately my mother took ill and I rushed off interstate to visit her in hospital and to […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Great post – as a person who has struggled with other people’s clutter after they have passed away, amen!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      I have written several posts on that exact subject before even though I have been lucky so far not to experience this problem. I have gained a lot of knowledge about how heartbreaking it can be from my readers though and many have been inspired to declutter for this very reason. Unfortunately not everyone sees the situation for what it is until they are too frail to do anything about it. I am doing something about it now because you don’t have to be old to die. I am lucky though that my parents have their possessions fairly under control so if something does happen we can spend most of our time comforting one another now sorting through endless pointless stuff.

  2. You are so right Colleen!! One additional observation is that if you continue to keep that clutter as you age then remember that someone who comes after you will have to do the decluttering while living with the grief of losing you. It is much better to do it yourself so your children (of executor) won’t have to do it. If you have things you think your children might want, ask them now. If they say no don’t be hurt, lifestyles and decorating styles change. Sell it or give it away and then it will be gone when you are.

    • Hi Deb J,
      exactly!!! I didn’t mention this because we have been over it before but it does bear mentioning over and over again.

      When I have broached this subject with elderly people if have received various responses, some, usually ones that aren’t surrounded with clutter, consider what I am saying and immediately start thinking about what they can do to minimise their possessions further, others, often those with a lot of clutter, tend to start making excuses why they have so much and how they couldn’t possibly part with it and then there are the really caring types that say “If my children are getting all my money when I go then they can hardly complain can they”. I am just glad my parents fall into the first category.

  3. I only just posted on freecycle ‘wanting’ a ipod. I’ve never had one (I’m 25) and I thought, surely with all the iphones out there now, someone isn’t using their ipod. Sadly, no responses 🙁

    On your observations – I couldn’t agree more!

    • Hi Snosie,
      I think with iPods that they either stop working because of the constant abuse they receive or they get sold on when they are superseded. Some of the older iPods and the newer video iPods have small harddrives in them that really don’t stand up to the punishment they receive.

  4. You know, one thing that really gets my goat is that I have a few family members who complain about how little money they have, or how they can’t afford to visit us, and then talk about the (often expensive) things they’ve bought or the holiday they’ve just taken.

    • Hi Susan,
      oh yes this sounds familiar. I like to be a cup half full kinda girl and use those kind of precedences to justify my actions should the situation arrise where I choose to do the same. It is annoying though when the other person can only recognise when you do it but not that they do it more.

    • Susan,
      OMGoodness, YES!!!!!!! Wow, you and I are kindred spirits – what you described is my situation EXACTLY (it totally gets my goat, too). ALSO, I’ve recently had to ‘declutter’ a friendship because of this EXACT same thing (complain no money; yet continue to have the most current ‘gadget’ or ‘thing’).

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more! I don’t want to leave my children a clutter legacy, and even right now with them being young I don’t want them to see a mommy that has to fight with all the stuff all the time to keep the house clean and safe. The more things I have let go, the easier life has been and the more time I have with my family. I am not exagerating! I am a reformed packrat!

    • Good for you *pol you clearly had an open mind that helped you see the opportunities that decluttering represented. For me the ease of caring for my home, the comfort in knowing that I am not continually adding to supply and demand and the time and money I save not being excessively spoiled for choice is liberating beyond belief. The emotionally attachment that some people have to the objects in their home must surely be a burden that they can’t even see causes them unnecessary work and sometimes discomfort. That is not the life for me and I am glad I saw the light.

  6. All of these comments have been so good! I am catching up with several posts and the comments while vacationing. Having had to clean two homes in four months when their parents passed away, my parents decluttered a lot so my bro and I did not have a major problem clearing out my parents’ home. I have promised my kids the same thing.

    And I so agree on all these lessons remembered, Colleen. Don’t whine to me that you’re broke and can’t change what you need to if you have been buying every new gadget and satisfying every whim.

    Again, great posts and I enjoyed Cindy’s take on photos, too.

  7. Karen (Col's big sis)

    Since my little sis is becoming so famous, I thought I’d better start reading her blog on a regular basis and am now inspired to do some decluttering myself – not that I have a lot of clutter (minimalism is apparently hereditary) but there are some things that I think are ready to leave my residence. Maybe I can find something to send to Colleen??

    • I don’t know about famous but i am glad you are on board. The best thing about decluttering is that you may end up with less things to dust around the house and you are such a busy fun loving lady that you don’t have time to waste dusting. Maybe you should teach Kimo to walk around the shelves wagging his tail around as it would make a great duster.

      Ha ha, you had better not send anything my way, except yourself. You can visit anytime.

      • Karen (Col's big sis)

        Yeh right! Kimo only adds to my cleaning problems – especially now that he’s an outdoor cat. But he is beautiful – he’s a walking (and whining I might add) ornament. And actually, Jetstar are having $9 flights again next Feb so I am going to get on there at 4.00 this arv and see if I can get some. xxx

        • At $9 a flight I am tempted to buy some myself but then I wouldn’t be here when you come so I wish you luck getting some and I will start stocking up on the wine.

  8. Colleen,

    Do you ever watch that TLC show “Hoarders: Buried Alive?” I am fascinated by it exactly because of the tension and rifts the hoarding put on the family of the hoarder. I do not understand how you can climb over piles of crap in your house, not even knowing what you have, be unwilling to part with true garbage (as opposed to all the trinkets and clothes and other crap nobody would want), and alienate every member of your family because of stuff.

    My husband and I have often said that if one or the other of us ever started to hoard, we would insist that it stop or the other is out the door with said stuff. My husband is a bit more of a packrat than me – he never throws anything away – but he is amenable to my saying, “Do you want to keep this?” and often the answer is no.

    Decluttering is a slow process – it’s taken us years to collect so many things. But I have found that the more I get rid of, the more I want to get rid of. It’s so funny. I had Justin build me a wall of bookshelves for my boxes of books that were in the basement. Now, I have pared down the number of books to probably half of what can fit on those shelves and am looking to get rid of more of them. I don’t want to be a collector anymore.

    You are an inspiration!


    • Hi Chelle,
      I have watched one of those Hoarders shows a couple of times and found them distressing not just because of the sad psychological position the hoarders are in but because of the lack of attention paid to fixing that during the show. I won’t watch them any more. And you are right that it is sad that this condition renders them useless to make good decisions. This infliction affects everyone around them but getting rid of the stuff feels like a threat to their security, so much so that they are paralysed to do anything about it. Metal health medical assistance should be made more accessible in many countries throughout the world.

  9. Last year my sister and I had to help my mother declutter and get rid of a lot in preparation for moving from her 4 bedroom house of 47 years to a one bedroom apartment. It was traumatic to both her and us because she felt we were “throwing her life away.” Finally done, she sold her house and moved after months of arguing, and even tears over it all. Sadly, then she passed away after only 3 months in the new place. When I think back on the time that we could have been “gently” decluttering and reminiscing over memories, Instead of arguing over every little insignificant thing, it makes me sad., So my point is, to declutter now and try to become unattached to your things. If she had less we could have spent more time talking and enjoying her last months than what we had. And no one knows when that might happen.

    • Hi Diane,
      thank you for adding your story to my blog, it is an important lesson for us all to learn. This is the message I was trying to get through to a loved one of mine on my recent family visit. I hope that person reads your comment and understands what this situation leads to. I hope that you have recovered from your loss and spend your reminiscences focusing on the happy times and good memories that you had together.

      Thank you again, this is a very important message. You are most welcome here at 365 Less things and please keep adding your wisdom to our community.

  10. I’m in the middle of this right now with my parents. I think. At the moment they are barely speaking to me. But they’ve decided to have a sale, probably this summer. I tried hard to help them sort their stuff, but I think the action of actually doing it freaked them out. They’ve been in their house for 57 years. They’re organized hoarders. Fortunately my son will not have to deal with this kind of mess in my waning years/death, and that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

    Great post and comment thread.

    • Hi Meg,
      it is sad that attempting to help your parents resulted in them getting upset with you. I understand how dealing with this could freak them out though, I think I would get the same result from my MIL if I pushed the issue too hard. Instead I just make suggestions in passing that will give her something to think about. I suppose you just have to be satisfied that you are not leaving the same issue for your son and be content with that. I hope that even if your parents don’t some around to the idea of decluttering they will at least forgive you for trying to make help them see the light.


  1. […] had a sad story to tell in her comment in response to my post Sharing the wisdom of experience. I so very much appreciate readers sharing […]