Simple Saturday ~ One readers declutter story ~ By Mary Ellen

For the last several years I knew that something was really wrong. I always felt overwhelmed. I developed a real dread of cleaning my house, although I always kept it clean and neat. But there was always that unsettling feeling inside of me because of the constant – move it here, put it there, dust it, pack it away, get it back out. Also – what am I going to do with these knickknacks, all these extra mixing bowls, all these extra pans (bundt pans, muffin pans, pie pans, bread pans), ornamental baskets, electric wok, blender, food processor, etc., etc., etc. Then, I came to the conclusion I HAD TOO MUCH STUFF!!! DUH!!!

So, I began to read about minimalism. I have read several e-books, some of which include…

…and many, many more. The most recent was Dr. Robin Zasio’s book, The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life.

Two years ago this month (November) I put myself on a diet, began a program of exercise, and lost 45 pounds. It seemed like as soon as the weight began coming off I was also able to shed stuff. Along with boxes and boxes of clothing that was too large (I went from size 16 to size 8), I have given away boxes and boxes of stuff – kitchen items that I never used, shelves of books that I had read and would, no doubt, never read again, those dust-catching knickknacks and baskets, plastic garbage bags full of yarn that people gave me because they knew that I would take it. (I make prayer shawls, but prefer to buy my own yarn.), boxes of Christmas decorations, and JUST STUFF.

SometimesI wish I had kept a log of everything that went out the door, but I didn’t. And that’s probably good because keeping a log would have been a form of clutter. When I let it go, I let it go.

I found your web site approximately a year ago and have been a regular reader. Last week, I subscribed and now receive daily e-mails.

As with all who are trying to live a clutter-free life, I am a work in progress. I’m so glad that I found your web site. It has been an inspiration for me to not necessarily be a “minimalist” — I don’t like labels — but to just try one day at a time, one item at a time to keep clutter and over-consumption under control.

Thanks to you and all your wonderful readers who post comments. You are an inspiration, and I’m happy to be a part of your community.

The Weekend’s Mini Missions

Saturday – Get rid of something sentimental especially if you have a lot of it. Seriously you don’t have to own something to remind you of every event or period in your life. If it wasn’t significant enough to remember without a prompt then it probably isn’t worth remembering. And if you never look at these items anyway then what is the point. If you feel you need a visual prompt then take a digital photo of it and store that on your hard-drive.

Sunday - Sunday is 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.

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. What a wonderful post. Mary Ellen, congratulations on the weight loss both for yourself and for you home. I enjoyed reading about your success. I paid for a lot of our Christmas this year just by selling stuff we didn’t want or need or that didn’t fit. It made it easier to get rid of since I had a goal. We are happy for you and your success. I agree with you that Colleen’s website is very motivating for all of us to get rid of stuff and stay on top of it. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

  2. Thank you for telling your story, Mary Ellen. I am at the spot that you were two years ago. I have many pounds to lose and a house to declutter as I am rapidly approaching my 40th birthday. Your story gives me hope that I can conquer the weight and hoarding problems that I have. I sincerely believe that both issues are related. So, I can see why solving your weight problem leaded to sucess in conquering hoarding.

  3. Mary Ellen, this is a great post. Congrats on your weight loss. It’s great that you are doing so well with your decluttering.

  4. Nicely done Mary Ellen! I realize you still have some decluttering to go, but your weight loss & clarity of the problem of too much stuff is impressive!
    I did keep a log & it’s funny that I find that log book (albiet a digital logbook) super darn annoying.
    I’ll delete it without a doubt one of these days…but for now I keep it as a clawing reminder of what mayhem my shopping problems & rampant cosumerism resulted in. I don’t look at the list often except to add to it, but the few times I have looked back on it leaves me queasy & unsettled BUT more importantly it ticks me off enough to not never ever ever go back down that foolish path again!
    Best of luck & virtual encouragement to you in your continued journey to a healthier you & less cluttered you!

  5. Reply to Mary Ellen re. keeping a log.

    I started 365 Less Things mid August. I have kept a log of the things I have passed on. The main reason for doing this is because of my memory, at 67 it just isn’t what it use to be. I check the list first if I can’t find something. Occasionally it definitely saves me time. I find it really easy to keep going as I consider this process a “gift” to my children who will be here to deal with my afterlife. J I know they are going to appreciate it.

    Happy decluttering.


    • Roxanne, I think that would be a considerate gesture any adult child would appreciate.

      My parents own a farm with several buildings, lots of equipment, plus they were “savers” of all kinds of stuff. My father is gone now, and when my mother is no longer with us, we kids are going to have a GIGANTIC project trying to clear out everything.

      I don’t want to leave a lot of clutter for my daughter to have to deal with when I’m gone either.

  6. I have read your post three times, I am so impressed. Thank you for sharing your story. I find it very encouraging to read real success stories like yours. On an intellectual level I know exactly what I should be doing to declutter and lose my excess weight, but putting that into practice is a completely different matter. Congratulations on all your achievements! With the help, advice and encouragement of Colleen’s blog and its community I have really been enjoying my decluttering and making visible progress. The weight loss is a much more difficult area for me …

    • Hi Christine, I am glad you are feeling at home here with the 365 community. Be satisfied that you are happily making progress with your decluttering. Perhaps like Mary Ellen the desire to declutter your diet may be about to follow. Remember, just like my method here one can also change their diet by altering little by little without depriving themselves. Gentle exercise is also very helpful. My exercise of choice is going on walks with my husband. It is good for my health and never feels like a chore.

  7. Great post! I also lost weight (60 lbs) while getting started decluttering. I came across the book Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh somewhere in the process and I thought it was a perfect title. Maintaining weight loss is similar to maintaining a decluttered home, both are ongoing and require the constant vigilance mentioned in an aptly titled recent post.

  8. Congratulations Mary Ellen! Believe me when I say you have already succeed. Keep going and you will see more and more results.

  9. I’m so glad you have found people to connect with.

    And also very glad that you didn’t just read about it, but took action

    Congrats on losing weight and losing stuff. I’m sure you feel so much better for the loss!!!

  10. Your story is truly inspiring to me today. I, too, kept a neat and tidy house, but found that it was taking too much time and work to get it clean and keep it that way. I would rather spend my time doing other things that are more important than cleaning. I agree, it is overwhelming looking at stuff day in and day out, and having to maintain it just because I bought it. Eventually you realize that most of it is serving no particular purpose in your life, so why waste your time dealing with useless stuff on a daily basis. It eventually starts to zap energy right out of you. I continue to dwindle down the amount of things I own daily. The things I am getting rid of were taking up space in my home and were not making me happier.

    That is such an accomplishment having lost the weight! How much better you must feel also that your home is uplifting when you walk into it, rather than overwhelming. I believe that the two are connected. Our homes are sometimes a reflection of our life. That is so awesome that you were persistent and tackled clutter, and your health, head on! Weight loss and clutter loss, what perfect gifts to give to yourself!

    I have not kept a log of the items I have let go out the door. For me, when it left the house, it was good riddens! I did not want a reminder, but that is just me. I truly don’t miss any of it.

  11. “…but to try just one day at a time…”

    Absolutely! One day at a time! Just try!

    I am so happy for you! Mary Ellen thank you for sharing your story. It brought to my heart such joy (and I needed some big cheering up).

    Happy holidays to all the 365 ‘clan’!

  12. Thanks to all you readers who commented on my post. Just reading all of your comments was further inspiration to me to keep up the decluttering process and to stay connected. May you all have a wonderful “decluttered” holiday season and an equally “decluttered” new year. As we know, it’s a one-day-at-a-time process. Let’s all keep up the good work!

  13. Enjoy your well deserved break and thanks for all the inspiration you provide.

  14. My mom mentioned to me a while back that she had sold some of her collectibles just to downsize a bit. She described some of the items (a few of the things unfortunately had been things that I admired). I was glad to know because when the time comes for me to “take care of things” I would have assumed that some items had gone missing and been rather confused. I like the idea of a log.

    • Hi Michelle and welcome to 365 Less Things. I am happy that you don’t seem all that disappointed that your mother sold some of the things rather than to offer them to you. Good on her of downsizing and for raising a little cash for her to enjoy how she wants. My mother has been offering the beautiful contents of her china cabinet for a while now to her children and grandchildren. However I turned down her offer because even though I do admire many of her pieces I have no real desire to own them. As it is I have eliminated most of that sort of thing from my house too.