Simple Saturday ~ Clutter with eyes – Chrissie would like your advice

This week I received an email from Chrissie who has a unique decluttering issue that she would like her fellow 365ers and myself to give her advice on. Below is the message she sent explaining her issue.

“Although I’m quite successful in decluttering and drive my own project online ~einfach-weniger.blogspot (Simply Fewer in English) I’m lost as soon as things have eyes. No matter if cuddly toys from the childhood (they can be ugly as hell!), knick knacks, useless promo gifts, … as soon as they have eyes they are begging me to stay in my house. All available declutter strategies did not work so far. And please note that only small portion represent items that can be sold or given to charity. Most of items are old, ugly, used. I caught myself picking them out of the garbage once I managed to throw them away.” ~ Chrissie

So Chrissie here is my advice. I think you should get a trusted friend or family member to help you with this. Get together and choose maybe 5 of these items, the ones that you care for the least. Ones with the least sentimental value. Those promo items would be a good place to start. Give them to your friend to dispose of. She is not to put them aside at her house just in case you want them back, she is to dispose of them permanently as appropriate somewhere that you can’t retrieve them. With this method you not only have support, encouragement and rational assistance, there also is not turning back. No taking the items back out of the trash.

If you find you have dealt with this first attempt quite well do another batch. Hopefully over time you will desensitise yourself to this weakness when you realise that once the items are out of your home that you don’t give them much ,if any, thought.

Also, in future, just don’t bring items into your home that have eyes. It is possible to refuse promo gifts. Just explain politely that you are environmentally responsible and don’t accept items that you have no need for. This can apply to things without eyes as well.

The Weekend’s Mini Missions

Saturday – Declutter a gadget ~ Gadgets are so alluring but once acquired they often fall short of expectations. Get rid of one of those that has fallen short.

Sunday – On a trial basis ~ for now ~ Sunday will be reserved for contemplating one particular item, of your choice that is proving difficult for you to declutter. Whether that be for sentimental reasons, practical reasons, because the task is laborious or simply unpleasant, or because the items removal requires the cooperation of another person. That last category may mean that the item belongs to someone else who has to give their approval, it could also mean there is a joint decision to be made or it could mean that the task of removing it requires assistance from someone else. There is no need to act on this contemplation immediately it is more about formulating a plan to act upon or simply making a decision one way or another.

This Week’s Gratitude List

  1. Some lovely fine days.
  2. Outings with friends including one of my readers Wendy F. Thanks for coming Wendy it was fun chatting with you.
  3. Happening upon just the right box at the shop up the street to pack a skateboard deck in. It was so perfect for the job that there had to be some sort of divine intervention that lead me to it.
  4. The opportunity to be creative. I have been making Christmas cards this week with the added bonus of using up papercrafting supplies.
  5. My beautiful daughter passed her fitness test this week and will soon be a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. Congratulations baby girl you make us proud.

“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

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Chrissie, this is a very interesting insight. A couple of years ago we bought a number of stuffed bears at thrift stores – part of a joke we were playing on friends. Now, like you, I have a hard time getting rid of them. There’s no real attachment. The game has been played but is over now. Still…they have such sweet faces! Maybe I’ll blindfold them and then …get…them…out…of…here.

  2. How about getting rid of the eyes first?
    Paint over printed faces or tear out the eyes of a cuddly bear before putting it in the garbage. (If you have the heart to do that)

  3. I worked with a woman that was similar. I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to help her. What finally worked is to get a box and have her choose from the pile whatever she wanted that would fit into the box. Whatever didn’t fit, I got to take with me and get rid of how I wanted to. That way it didn’t stay around the house for her to have second thoughts. Maybe Chrissie can trick herself into thinking that it is helping her friend to give them to her and then not worry about what her friend does with them once they are gone. I have no idea why this method worked for this woman, but I was grateful because I was at my wits end trying to figure out how to help her. I would also ask Chrissie if there was something that may have happened in her childhood like her parent’s getting divorced or something that makes it so she is so attached to those things. Another thing that might work is to find a place like a homeless shelter or somewhere that has kids who’s parents can’t afford to get their kids stuffed animals, etc. and donate them. That way you will be doing a very noble thing helping someone in need.

  4. I can completely relate.
    My advice is to find a sturdy, clean box, and place them into the box as if they are sitting around to talk or having a sleep. Only fill the box to the point where it doesn’t look creepy (no mass-graves). Then say “goodnight, have a nice trip” to the dolls/friends and send them to a decent charity with a silent prayer that they will find a new loving home. That was the only way I could part with my too-bountiful soft animals collection that I had shared memories with since childhood.
    By honoring their existence with respectful handling (lets face it dolls can seem pretty alive to a child and that feeling can hang on) I felt okay… a little tearful that they were “leaving home” but good that they had a second chance to be loved.
    Embarassingly mushy technique, but I’m a softy, if I did it any other way I’d feel callous.

  5. I tried to post before, but it didn’t seem to go through – so I apologize if this is a double post.

    For the softer things like old dolls or stuffed things that aren’t in good charity condition, find an animal shelter that will take them. There are a few shelters that likes to have toy animals for the dogs to cuddle with if they know the particular dog won’t eat it. That way you know the clutter will be well loved and put to good use for dogs that don’t have homes yet – and they don’t have to be in great shape – I don’t think dogs care if a toy is ugly or old =) – as long as they can provide security for a scared or lonely dog.

    My dog loves cuddling with my teddy bear. If I’m gone and he’s lonely he will drag it from my bed into the living room for comfort. He’s torn up every toy we’ve ever given him, but never even scratched my bear – just used it to cuddle.

    • Hi Katie and welcome to 365 Less Things. Your first comment did come through it is just that when a person has not commented before the new comment goes to my approve folder to be checked for spam. Once one comment is considered legit and is approved the subsequent ones by the reader go through instantly.

      That being said, thank you for your comment, it was very good advice for Chrissie. I had a dog who used to tear up everything except his blanket so I know that your claim is certainly a true one. As you suggest giving the items away to someone that will appreciate them be they old and shabby or like new is a good way to make it a lot easier task to perform.

  6. Well, my stuffed toys are all in a plastic bag safely tucked away. I can´t give any advice because I couldn´t handle my own problem yet. Hopefully, she can get the help of someone else, because it might be the only way out.

  7. Hmmm….things with eyes. Trying to think what i usually do with them. The good cuddly toys always go to the charity shop to find another home and the bad ones i throw in the kitchen bin (eyes facing away/downwards so they can’t see me), then i add some tea bags, food rubbish or something disgusting that also needs to go in the bin straight on top. This prevents me taking them back out as -a) they are now dirty & b) i have no time to be washing toys i don’t really want anyway. I hope you find a way that really helps you, they are a tricky one!! x x

  8. I once used a “one degree of seperation” idea. Boxed up some toys with tape and if we hadn’t needed them back after six months, delivered the box unopened straight to charity. No begging eyes.

  9. Very difficult problem, which I have in a similar way with PLANTS (half dead tatty ones I don’t even like or have room for, but I feel so bad killing them off). I think the problem is really about me actually – feelings of abandonment and so on… I just take a deep breath and say to myself things die and that is the natural cycle and life itself is everywhere and it does not need me to take care of it. Chrissie, the love and care you are expending on your stuffed critters etc exists outside of them and can never be used up or lost. And Creative me, I think you advice is great.

    • Calico, a few months ago if that long ago, I put outside a bunch of plants with a “free” sign. I was busy doing other things to keep me from obsessively peeping out the window at the plants, but lo & behold, when I finally couldn’t stand the tension any longer & peeped out the window – all the plants had been claimed! I woo-hoo’ed & did a little happy dance.

    • Calico, I used to feel bad about getting rid of plants too, until I realized that if I put them into the compost, they’d recycle back into the soil, so it seemed like they were “still here” in some form.

      This helped me dispose of plants that were given to me by family members I loved.

      If I bought the plant myself, I didn’t have a problem getting rid of it.

  10. Wow, what an interesting dilemma. I really liked Katie’s idea of animal shelters using the stuffed toys. I also liked Creative Me’s suggestion about putting them in a box like they are having a little secret pow-wow too.

    I would for sure take photo’s of the items – either as a collective group or a bunch of individuals. Maybe having a record of them somehow preserves their legacy.

    I would also think that letting go of these type items would be best in one fail swoop. That is, do it all at once.

    The day you decide to donate these guys…go ahead & get everything ready that you would normally do to run any other errand. Then right before you would dash out the door & into your car, quickly put the items in question in box(es) & then take those boxes directly to your awaiting car.

    Get in your car & drive straight to the donation store. Don’t make any detours – go directly to the donation store. Once you are done with the donation store, continue on to your favorite coffee shop or tea store or any other place with the specific purpose of keeping your mind busy.

    I think if you try to part & parcel out these items to different places then it can get over-whelming & you would lose focus. Take the “all in – all out” at once approach & have it be over with at one time.

    Yeah, you’ll feel crummy but you knew you would. At least you’ll only have to go through that one time. One time. Done! Whew!

    And by donating these particular items does not make you a crummy person or a bad mother or any other negative. What it does make is a woman who found within her the courage she never knew she was capable of!

  11. I can really relate to Chrissie’s dilemma. It took me about six months to part with three stuffed animals. I washed them and bagged them up for donation, but it took me months to actually take them to the charity shop. I’ve heard that police and firefighters sometimes give stuffed animals to children during a crisis to comfort them. It might be worth checking this out. Pediatrics units in hospitals might also accept clean, like new stuffed animals.

  12. I think it’s quite common for people to attribute human qualities and feeling to inanimate things. This is easy to do if they represent people or animals. This can lead to a feeling of betrayal when thinking about throwing them out. If they were things that were used or loved, one idea, as mentioed above, would be some kind of farewell or decommissioning process that acknowledges the role that they played. Taking a photo is one way to do this. If they are in bad shape, I like to think of them as having fulfilled a purpose. If you see them as once useful things that have completed their mission in life, rather than junk, the feeling of betrayal may be less. Then you feel you are saying a reluctant farewell, rather than just having chuck out session. We all have to go sometime, soft toys included.

    • I like what Linda wrote; I had read somewhere on some post to look at the thing that I loved and remind myself that it is just an object and doesn’t love me back. We think it loves us back, but it is just an object. When I learned to get that objective, then I could part with stuff. It hurt, too, and was not easy, and I missed stuff, but then over time it got easier and I felt better being able to let go and move on and find better inter-personal relationships that did provide love back. 🙂 Just a thought here. All this decluttering stuff works differently for each of us. Like Colleen says, one thing at a time! There’s no right or wrong to how fast or how many all at once or anything like that. As we go through decluttering we are also learning more about ourselves along the way. Living with less stuff eventually opens up our hearts to new and amazing adventures and experiences.

  13. I can’t say that I have a definitive answer for this one. I do like the idea that was mentioned by Colleen, to have someone else along to help with this situation. Sometimes a second opinion will help encourage you, especially if you start with just a few at a time. I liked the idea also that was mentioned by Moni about putting them in a taped box and if you don’t need them after a period of time, then it is time for them to find a new home. This is my own take on this situation, though, and I hope that it is helpful. I was an avid collector of dolls for many years. These dolls were not terribly expensive but they were collectible and beautiful. Finally, I realized that it was kinda silly for me to have so many of them just sitting around especially when they could actually be enjoyed by someone. These dolls could be played with by someone who may not have any or perhaps could not afford such things. So over time, I gave them away and I felt better because they were actually being played with and not sitting around while I just looked at them. As I have gotten older, I find that if I am not using an item, and I know that it could be used by someone else, that helps me part with items. Helping those who are less fortunate makes me happier and helps makes the de-clutter process easier because I know things will get their intended use and won’t be wasted.

    Congratulations, Colleen, on your daughter’s terrific accomplishment!

  14. Chrissie, if you’re in the US, why don’t you box it alllll up, ship it to me and I’ll take care of it for you? 🙂

  15. The way I changed how I saw “things with eyes” was by realizing they were merely created from materials that I would have been able to let go, if I thought about each material individually (for example: furry cloth, plastic discs (eyes), thread, ceramic, paint) . It allowed me to detach somehow. Good luck, Chrissie.

  16. Here is a comment I recieved through my inbox by another reader.

    I have always thought of the eyes as going to a better home where they will get more attention. This is as I put them in the donation bag.
    I once had to “declutter” an aviary full of too many lovebirds and finches becasue I was moving. They all had real eyes. I advertised that I would come to the homes to see where they would be and sometimes I turned people down. But other times, it was clear that the birds would get way more personal attention than they were getting in my huge aviary. I felt really good about re-homing them and wished I had done it sooner.
    Jean C. in Oregon, USA

  17. Good morning from Germany – I am overwhelmed by all these helpful comments!

    Some of you really touched the gist of the matter, when you wonder what caused this dilemma ?
    Why I do I have this relationship towards things (with eyes)?

    In fact there we are at the point where I started decluttering some years ago:
    I realized that I connected objects and ownership with safety. This is what I learnt from my parents (who are besides not divorced).
    My house was overloaded with stuff due to this thinking. Someday the penny dropped and I started to declutter and I still do.
    Today my house is in a good shape and I have strong focus on decluttering and avoiding re-cluttering. Neverending story we all know.

    Actually I am hosting a blog dealing with declutter task in German language but on the other side I still have this very final building site…

    From factual point of view there should be no issue with that eyed stuff. I come from industry, I do audits, can tell you anything about production processes, especially about tool/form design.
    Knick knack with eyes on it is nothing but the result of plastic mould. It has no soul!
    … which is losing all it’s power as soon as I am sitting in front of a teddy!
    (if my colleagues or supplier knew about this skeleton in my closets I’d lose all my authority immediately ;-)))

    What are my next steps:
    I will prepare a list out of all your helpful comments (some of the ideas I already put into action, made some minor donations, and gifts to dog owners, put some xmas knick knacks into a box and gave it to someone else for disposal).
    I will go through it
    I will hopefully share my success (?) with you.

    Please don’t stop giving more advise to me. I count on you 🙂

    Once again – thank you so much!

    • When I was about 10 or 11, I felt ready to give away my dolls and stuffed toys but I can remember Mum’s reservations and “Are you sure?” comments. I was sure and the stuff went.

      Therefore I was more than a little surprised to come face-to-rubber face with one of my dolls in her loft more than 30 years later. 😉 It was still in excellent condition and I managed to persuade Mum that it needed to be given away, which I did via a charity shop as we don’t currently have any little girls in the family.

      The doll was bathed and its hair washed and the several beautiful hand-knitted layettes (it was a large baby-style doll) which Mum had made for it in my young girlhood were recovered from various cupboards and laundered and the whole lot donated together.

      I hope that the doll went to a child who enjoyed playing with it as much as I did in the early 1970s but I couldn’t have borne the waste of binning such a good item.

      I think there has been excellent advice given here about handling these toys.

      • Hmmmm – my Mom was always stopping me when I wanted to give away stuff (and this is still today a voice in my head when it comes to declutter action…).
        Recently she was in my house seeing that I wanted to sell a big sheep and she immediately said “how could you!?”
        My Mom is really that kind of person that is more than miffed when you give away what she once gave to you.
        (besides …. the sheep was no gift of my mom…)

  18. I like the idea of having a friend help by taking the things away.

    Update for all of you. I spent from Tuesday on with my friend, S. Stayed the nights and everything. We got a lot done so that on Monday I think we will have all of the craft room done and all the storage items she no longer needs gone. Now to tackle the rest of the house. I do want to say that S has been gradually working on other things like clothes, books (she had over 6000) and extraneous decorating items. I think we will be able to take a few more loads of those types of things to Goodwill and she will have some space again. Then we have to tackle the office and garage. OH MY!!!!

  19. Chrissie,
    Hallo! Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut. Ich verstehe! Dinge mit den Augen stört mich auch. Ich habe nichts auf dem Display mit den Augen (Fotos, Statuen, Gemälde…).

    It has taken me a long time to get to this point, so just take your process one step at a time; but at least let go. You have to start somewhere. Eventually it will get easier and you’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about! 😉 Remember from your own blog – einfach weniger (simply less!).

    Baby-Schritte! Einer nach dem anderen, und es wird einfacher! Tschüs!
    (p.s. I used google translate to help me with my spelling and verb tense and sentence structure! I’m enjoying reading (very slowly) through your blog and working on my German at the same time!)

    • Annabelle, dein Deutsch ist prima!

      I have almost nothing with eyes on it in my living area as well. Most of it is stored in the basement, boxed into “Ikea”.

  20. Colleen,
    I’m so happy for your daughter! Yahoo. This is a major smiley face moment! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 😉 😉 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks Annabelle, you will also be glad to know that Liam is going through his two year assessment for his brain injury and we were told today the he had an unusually remarkable recovery and that we should be exceedingly grateful. Which we are of course and I thank all the wonderful readers who sent their well wishes and prayers. It was the second anniversary this Saturday just gone.

  21. Something else to bring to the forefront, when I lived in Germany I had a hard time giving a bunch of stuff to local charities because they had very high standards of what they would take. That’s awesome because then what they had for sale was truly nice goods AND they didn’t have to sift through stuff and toss 90% of it away (which is a huge challenge at a lot of thrift stores around the world, they get great stuff AND a lot of not so great stuff that has to be disposed of at their cost!)! However, what that left me with was what to do with the stuff I had to give away that maybe wasn’t in the best or perfekt shape. I took extra time to figure out how to recycle as much of it as I could, and a lot had to go directly into the rubbish bin. So I wonder, Chrissie, are you in a situation where the thrift stores won’t take anything less than almost perfekt?

    • Annabel, in fact when you give e.g. clothes to charity (like Rote Kreuz) there are 2 different option what will happen to that stuff:

      1) what is good will be sold in most case in second hand shop (!) – they are not interested in clothes but in the money to run their projects all over the world
      2) what is in bad condition will be sold to industry for recycling – same purpose as above
      3) only very few items come to “Kleiderkammer” where poor people can access to

      Meanwhile I decided to give my clothes which are in acceptable condition to a reselling organization. ( This is not directly donating, but by this I am supporting a young company and that helps to create workplace.

    • Annabelle, I have that problem here, too. (not so much with clothes, but with other things – e.g. I want to get rid of some saucers for quite some time now, but noone will take them without the matching cups, as they obviously don’t resell that way). What mostly worked, though, is the freebie-box at the street-side. As the weather is fine, I will just take one out today again.

      • I was looking into clothing donations just recently because a friend wanted to know. I found out that only about 20% of what is donated in Australia is “good enough” for the Australian market. Another 40% is sold to overseas countries as secondhand clothing ~ clearly they aren’t so fussy. 20% is recycled and 20% goes to landfill.

  22. Ha ha – “they have eyes they are begging me to stay in my house”. I know the feeling! I’m not alone with this problem! I even felt bad throwing away (paper recycling) old school books that had pictures of cats – or old papers that had pictures of cats, or… I love cats! Also, I myself set high standards for what I take to the local charity shops – even though they never ask about or check the content of the donation bags that I take there. I ask myself is it clean, in good repair, would I buy it if I needed/wanted one even though many of the shops stock (if not sell) stuff that I would’ve binned/recycled. And binning (hurting Mother Earth or what not) makes me feel bad – guilt, guilt, guilt. I try to recycle but often the bin is the right address. I try to remind myself that I do more that a lot of people. Thanks Colleen, you inspire me a lot; I’m a more or less regular reader. I already told you earlier this year that I like you down to earth approach and style – instead of the a-bit-holier-than-thou-buy-my-book-course-starter kit-t-shirt approach and style I feel that I find in some blogs. I think you wrote then, you like to be more a friend than a preacher or a personal saviour – yes!!! Just took another bag to a charity shop yesterday, and yes, I’ve also binned (gasp) and recycled a lot.

  23. Hi,
    I am reading this Sunday morning and I like your idea for Sunday’s Mini Mission. We moved house 4 months ago and so have quite a few items that no longer fit or suit this house, for example a computer. I’m sure we can sort these items out quicker by taking time to make decisions about them.
    This is my first comment here but I have enjoyed reading your blog for the last year prior to our downsizing. Many thanks 🙂

    • Hi Claire and a warm welcome to you to 365 Less Things albeit a little late. Nice to hear of another person downsizing. Please let me know how that works out for you in your new home.

      It certainly does take some thought to work out whether some things should be decluttered or not, especially when the home downsize has already happened. Take your time and give it some careful thought especially with items that are expensive to replace should you find out too late you have made the wrong decision. Why not put the items aside that you are considering, maybe some time not using them will sort out whether you miss them of not.

  24. Environmentally responsible….I must remember that phrase. I tried explaining to a woman in a shop why I didn’t want the free nail polish (hardly ever use it and will use up what I have at home). She clearly thought I was insane and kept saying “but it’s free” and “it will keep”. I didn’t take it and could see her shaking her head as I walked away. Going to use that phrase next time!

    • Good for you Tracey. Some people just can’t take no for an answer when they think they are doing you a favour. I am sure her heart was in the right place but a little environmental education probably wouldn’t do her any harm.

  25. wow. I thought I heard it all before, and – bang – there comes another issue I would have never thought of. I love that.

    In addition to Annabelles great comment, that objects dont love back:
    my first advice would be to analyse the emotions behind that. why do eyes trigger something, what are they triggering? I ask that because I find it easier to let go of something if I understand my attachment first. I am an emotional brain-person. I like to cognitively “get” my emotions, otherwise they just overrun me, and I feel paralyzed, not able to change anything. but thats just me and for others that can be different.

    I like the idea of having help from a friend. I would even say it should be one you trust enough to be comfortable with tears/panic, in case you get overrun by emotions. decluttering or sorting through sentimental items or special objects (with eyes) can be hard and tough, and support is always welcome.

  26. Here’s what I did with a beloved teddy bear that a dog tore to shreds. (No, I still couldn’t part with it even through its face was horribly torn. It was THE bear.) I put pine branches in a box, placed the bear on top, added more pine branches, and put the box on the very top of my garbage pile where no other trash would be put on it. Then I pulled the garage bin to the curb.

    Other things that have been hard for me to give away for some reason I have given to other people to dispose of. The act of putting it in the trash is the hardest part for some of those objects.


  1. […] back in October one of our fellow 365ers needed our advice on getting go of her clutter with eyes. Read about it here. Well this week she sent us and update that she wanted me to share with you […]