I was browsing Pinterest yesterday and this article, about what to do when feeling overwhelmed, caught my eye. Read it now if you are interested. It go me thinking that although I have a blessed life I still feel overwhelmed at times. More times than is healthy or logical actually, given the relatively easy life I live.

I got to the next to last paragraph and this is what it said…


This won’t necessarily help in the moment, but I still think it’s important to prevent it from happening again. One of my goals this year is to live with intention and cut back on the irrelevant things that drain my time. This can be as simple as swapping TV time with a book I’ve been wanting to read or simplifying my home. Whatever you choose just make sure that it matches up with what you value in life. Once you remove it, let it go and don’t seek something new to replace it.

…and it was those last two sentences that really struck me. It reminded me of something that had occurred to me on Saturday. Yes I have simplified my home and my life in many ways but I do tend to replace the deleted complications with something else. Those something elses, although seeming like good ideas at the time, often don’t necessarily pan out to be as rewarding as I had hoped. The trick is to identify this and move on. And sometimes moving on might just mean don’t replace that thing with anything else. Just take a break and give yourself some breathing room.

The first portion of Peggy’s comment yesterday also had this same message. Here is what she wrote-

“Since it’s the middle of Spring in my part of the world, I’ve been busy decluttering the garden areas of weeds… I decided that in recent years I hadn’t really been keeping up with the weeds very well… I had 5 garden areas that I was responsible for initially… We retired one of them in 2012 when our younger daughter graduated from college, thinking that it would be her parking spot… But I still wasn’t keeping up… So this year, I “weeded” most of our veggie garden area then asked my husband to finish the job & smooth out the dirt, plant grass seed, and retire this area… I really want to be able to keep the 3 remaining areas tidy… If I can’t, next Spring we may see another garden declutter! I love love love gardening AND weeding but I work at a very physical job (massage) 4 days per week… I need to let my body rest on my off days…”

Peggy has the good sense to realise that, although she loves to garden, it just isn’t working for her in her life right now. So rather that allow her gardens to torment her, as aspirational clutter, she is reducing the workload and maybe even removing it altogether for a while.

Like Peggy, I have leisure activities that I love. Also like Peggy sometimes these activities simply complicate my life more than they enhance it. I think it is time to reassess the activities I partake in and perhaps have a trial separation from some of them.

Don’t worry I don’t mean my blog.

Are there things in your life that complicate more than enhance. Give it some thought. Decluttering doesn’t always mean stuff, sometimes it is just about simplifying your life.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you keep out of financial guilt. Something you spent your hard earned money on that never realised its cost. So you cling on to it in the hope that one day you will finally get your money’s worth out of it, or summon up the effort to resell it.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. This is excellent! I’ve been contemplating some of these very thoughts lately. This is why I am cutting back on my teaching schedule beginning next year. I love teaching, but I got bogged down by the paper correcting which consumes my hours during the school year. A few years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to start a knitting blog AND a garden blog in addition to my regular day to day blog. You can imagine how long that lasted. I know there are more areas of my life where I can distill and concentrate my time and attention. Streamlining cooking is an area since I’m not a dedicated cook–I eat (cook) to live, not live to eat (cook).

    • I think it probably is about time you did that Willow. I can imagine the teaching doesn’t get any easier as you get older. As for the cooking, I simplified mine greatly when the kids left home. Then a couple of weeks ago I simplified it slightly more by making Friday Steven’s day to cook dinner. I really like that because the meals have all the imagination that mine don’t. Like you, I cook to eat these days. If I want a really fancy meal I go out for one.

  2. Excellent post.

    I have a friend who likes to share plants and flowers with me when she divides hers. I love to have my yard filled with flowers, but realized this spring (after receiving yet another big tub of lilies) that when she brings all these plants to me, it makes me feel overwhelmed, like I have to hurry up and plant everything, even though my body hurts and I lack energy, which takes all the fun out of it.

    We have a very busy summer coming up, so I told my friend that even though I appreciate her generosity in sharing her plants with me, I simply won’t have time to deal with any extra, so please don’t bring me any more this season.

    I felt relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to face planting all that extra stuff this year.

    • Hi Becky that is a fine example of what I wrote about in this blog. We get mistaken by the fact that just because we enjoy aspects of certain things doesn’t mean we have the time or inclination to do the work involved in achieving that.

      I have this thing about picture frames. I can’t say no to free nice ones. I fancy the idea of using them for craft projects but once they are in my home they just sit there. This is mostly due to a lack of knowledge about priming and painting them quickly and easily. I am inclined to do a class on that but haven’t got around to that either. The solution to offloading them again is easy enough because I just take them to the thrift shop. In the meantime thought there is all the aspiration clutter hanging around. See, even I who should know better can get sucked in by certain aspirations.

  3. In my part of the world, we’re in “kitten season”. 2nd kitten season is late summer. I foster motherless kittens, which depending on how young, can be a routine of feeding/cleaning every 4 hours. This intense schedule lasts until they are about 5 weeks old. When I have the young ones, I don’t volunteer for any speaking engagements or charity fundraisers or Sunday School substitute teaching. My focus and energy is saved solely for the wee ones. My RA limits my energy anyway and the kitten schedule disrupts sleep cycles. I love the kittens and the work is joyous, but I have to shepherd my energy. No scheduling clutter during this time.

    • That really does sound like an energy zapper Gail. I am sure it is rewarding work though. I am glad that you are smart enough to drop other tasks in order to carry this out rather than wear yourself out. I am fortunate that most of what I do is totally voluntary but I take that as seriously as any paid work, so I can imagine that you probably feel like you are letting the other causes down at the time. However we can’t allow ourselves to feel that way. We must make our choices and be content with that.

  4. Hi guys,

    Aspirational clutter is a painful kind of clutter indeed. I have an art studio and since I now work full time in tech support I am in another place so the art studio sort of hurts to be around, it makes me guilty that I don’t find the time. I still want to do it but for now I’m downsizing the materials to just the nicest and the best.
    This process actually has made me want to do it more ironically. Maybe aspirational clutter can block us a bit? Maybe finding the time in busy schedules can make the thing that brings joy a chore instead. Simplifying the tools, the time and the volume of these hobbies or loves is maybe just the key to bring them back into our very busy lives with work and kids or whatever it is we do.

    Great post Colleen, good food for thought.:)

    • Well said Sarah. Sometimes we also have to step back and decide how busy the money earning side of our lives need to be too. All work and no play can make for a pretty sad life.

  5. I believe most of us have been raised to be uncomfortable with “breathing room”. Old expressions like “An idle mind is the Devil’s playground” stop us dead in our tracks. Breathing Room is the place where our creativity flourishes and solutions to problems are discovered. There is a huge difference between being lazy and enjoying some breathing room. It took me decades to get my act together on this one, and I still struggle with it every so often. Letting go of outdated ideas, interests, people (yes, people) and the clutter that goes along with them is essential. I have found that when you create the breathing room you open yourself up to something wonderful to come in to your life or maybe even nothing at all.

  6. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for posting my comment! I liked that excerpt from Jesenia Montanez, so I went to the hyperlink and poked around a bit 🙂

    With regard to trial separation, I’m VERY glad that you stated “Don’t worry I don’t mean my blog.” I always look forward to your posts and the subsequent comments!

  7. I need to think more about this very good idea!

  8. Hi, Colleen. Nice post, with several points to reflect upon.

    Busy-ness is often looked upon as a status symbol. It is difficult for creativity to flourish when we are so caught up in doing rather than being. Many “aha” moments come in the shower or when we are not frantically trying to get something (or several things all at the same time) done.
    Studies have shown that single-tasking is better than multi-tasking. People perform poorly when they multi-task, even if they don’t think that they do.

    • Hi Nicole, it sounds like you have more than a casual interesting thing this sort of thing. Is there more of a connection for you with this sort of study?

      • I find the psychology of “busy-ness” interesting, Colleen, and I’ve also had (non-scientific) opportunities to observe people who wear “busy-ness” like a badge of honour.

        • There are a lot of dubious badges of honour out there I have noticed.

        • Nicole V – Hi my name is Moni, I’m a Busy-Aholic. I have been reducing busy-ness for almost a year now, its too hard to go cold turkey, because there are committments already in place and things you have to see thru to the end. I have had to give a lot of thought to why I liked to be busy-busy and there wasn’t one simple answer for me. I like being around people, I like problem solving, I like responsibility, I like having something to look forward to but it became a convenient way to not to deal with a complication. The thing about busy-ness is that it is very hard to untangle yourself from committments as they build a momentum all of their own and even if you figure out that you no longer want to be a part of it, there is either too much time or resources invested or possibly it has become entwined in too many other areas of your life. On the otherhand, being super-busy isn’t a bad vice per se.

          • Hi, Moni. I used to know someone who was constantly in an all-consuming busily-overwhelmed mode, in an attempt to be noticed and outdo the Joneses at the workplace. That was his conscious choice, but it made life difficult for his subordinates who had to either suck it up and deal with the avalanche of work or find another job. He always struck me as someone who took an inordinate amount of pride in being ‘busier than thou’.

            On a related note, if anyone is interested, google the following articles (there are lots more, of course):

            (1) “The ‘Busy’ Trap” by Tim Kreider (in The New York Times)

            (2) Jennifer Howard’s (in The Washington Post) review of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte.

          • That all sounds very familiar. I wonder why I do this to myself too. I guess the payoffs sometimes just outweigh the inconvenience. But on the other and sometimes we just don’t know how to say no even though it would be the best thing for us.

  9. Very thought provoking.
    I’ve been trying to have a “simpler” life, however when I get rid of something, I have found myself trying to replace it – so it leaves me at the same place I started.
    I always begin with the small things, like the kitchen drawers… then I have moved on to the closet where I just keep on weeding out and rethinking items. I am one of those people who hate to have regrets.. so the process takes longer.
    But, at least its started.

    • Hi Lorena, I just left the things I wasn’t sure about until the end of my declutter mission. Once you get he hang of how little we need most of the stuff you start to also realise the any regret would be minimal. I have had to replace the odd thing or two but so what. And I say so what because there are so few things that this has happened to. I enjoy the challenge of improvising.

  10. As my health gradually gets worse, I am learning to be more and more simple. There are fewer things I want and fewer things I want to do. I have some goals in mind for when Mom and I move into seperate places. I am slowly working toward those goals. It feels good.

    • I am glad you feel good even though you face so many health issues Deb. The easier you make it on yourself the better it is for you and you have done a fine job of that.

      • Thanks Colleen. I am definitely trying to do a good job of making things easier on me as well as on Mom. She has a ways to go in understanding that but I know she will eventually get there.