Staying ahead of the clutter.

Of late I have been getting the felling that maybe there is more stuff coming into my home than there is going out or being used up. Typically craft supplies is my biggest area of concern. Stuff regularly goes out in this area but some stuff does come in, through generous friends and because I am continually experimenting with new ideas, and then there are the supplies that have to be restocked (adhesives, white card stock etc). But there are also other areas of the house where items have also come in, perfume from a good friend, new glass spice container to replace the plastic ones (which are now at auction on eBay), medications, paperwork (not too much of this), some free baskets from the side walk to deck out my laundry… and so on.

For the most part items being replaced are soon parted with when I attend my weekly trip to the thrift shop. Other items, such at the perfume I already had are close to being used up while some things, like paperwork, are dealt with periodically. However I am a busy lady. Mostly doing stuff I love but busy nonetheless, and it is very easy to begin to lose track of whether or not my belongings are keeping under control.

So today, inspired by Sanna’s challenge I decided to start going through each, drawer cupboard, closet, side table and basket in the house to make sure no clutter is building up. A stocktake so to speak. Later in the week I will be posting a photo pictorial of the items I have decluttered, but I am glad to say that so far I haven’t really unearthed much. But I am acquiring the peace of mind that my suspicions of clutter build-up were, for the most part, unfounded. Mind you I haven’t got into the closet where those craft supplies are yet. But any outstanding project I find there will be getting a deadline for completion or will be sent to the thrift shop.

This is what I call maintenance decluttering. Staying ahead of the clutter so that it doesn’t build up again. Mind you I have noticed some small spaces opening up around in drawers and closets lately, despite my suspicions, which also leads me to think I am concerning myself about nothing. But you know me, if there isn’t some maintenance needed there is always a little bit of lifestyle change clutter that rises to the surface that I am only too happy to expel from the premises.

Have you got to the maintenance stage yet? If so be vigilant so your home remains decluttered. Doing a regular sweep through, which shouldn’t be hard given the work you have already done, is well advised.

Today’s Mini Mission

 Declutter any outdoor pet related items that are ready for the trash.

Eco Tip for the Day

Know where to send spent batteries and printer cartridges for recycling. My Library takes the batteries and the local office supply the cartridges. Do you know where to send yours?

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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  • 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 […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I think I am at the maintenance stage as far as my things Colleen. I can do nothing more until we are ready to move then I will be able to declutter my desk and phones. I’m looking forward to that. I will also be able to declutter the IKEA Epedit bookcase. It looks great in this house be we won’t need it when we move because we will have two places. Mom’s books can go with her into her new place with a new smaller bookcase and mine will go into my new place into the built-in bookcase/drawer sectional. I’m looking farward to that.

    • Hi Deb J, it sounds like your plans are set for the move, when will it take place. Do you have a definite date. I am so looking forward to hearing how it all goes and that you are settled in and happy with your new home. As I am sure you will be.

      • Colleen, it could be another year. There is up to an 18 month waiting list and I didn’t turn Mom’s name in until April. I can’t turn mine in until the beginning of Sept. I’m praying something will open up sooner. I can’t wait to be able to tell you all about it either. Just wish it was right away.

  2. I can proudly say, I am very satisfied with my place now. I have been very good with my clutter. there are no more drawers, boxes, corners that are not under control.
    I am also celebrating a frequent decluttering tradition for all of those items in use. food and spices, clothes and scarves, books. I already mentioned before that I am more or less decluttering without even thinking about it.
    I did however struggle with a lot of things during the last year, as I needed to adapt to this new lifestyle. I never thought someone could live without a desk, but there I am without one. I also never thought I would buy and own many clothes, except for hoodies and jeans, let alone iron my clothes, and this morning before work I quickly ironed my beige linen-trousers… I am glad I had enough experience in decluttering to accept those changes and let go of the old and now unnecessary items quite fast. And I am so happy it took me only one year. imagine there are poeple who hold on forever!!

    • I am glad for you Lena. The key to all of what you talk about here is being open to change. Being open to the idea that the norm for most doesn’t have to be your way of doing things. I love being different so I adapt well to change and love thinking outside the box.

      • Yes Colleen, thats the trick. I always thought, I could easily be different as well, and then I realized that it bothered me, if someone didnt approve of my decluttering. Or my way of living… I can easily shake this off now and know that I am happy with my home – Independent from what I do and who I am talking to and what role poeple expect from me.

  3. I read a good idea recently, I can’t find the link – if the idea was here, my apologies. The writer has a whiteboard in her kitchen for grocery lists etc. S has dedicated a corner for a tally of in/out. I recall she was also at maintenance level and concerned the was a small inwards trend. It worked like this: if she brought new sheets to replace a worn out one would be +3 (maths: pack of fitted & top sheet + 2 pillowcases = 4 new less 1 old = +3) so +3 would be added to the whiteboard. If she got rid of an item the next day it would be changed to +2 . If the next day she went to a flea market and couldn’t resist and came home with 10 items it would be then be +12.

    I thought it was a very simple but effective idea.

    • Sorry about the spelling and grammar, my iPad is a wonderful thing but sometimes insists on doing things it’s own way.

    • Moni, that’s a good idea. I’ve brought so little in that i can’t even think of when the last time was. But, then, right now we are trying to get ready for this future move. I like this idea for when we are settled again.

    • Hi Moni, it sounds like a lot of bother to me but that just because I know that I would get sidetracked before taking the notes and end up not knowing what came in and what went out. I prefer to take a look around occasionally because there are always items that aren’t build up but are just no longer needed. They might just end up lingering forever if the tally kept saying that all was in order. Besides I am not the obsessed about the levels going up and down a little. I think that might cause more anxiety than necessary.

      • Interesting comment Colleen – I put this idea past a group of friends on the weekend and the creative types weren’t keen but the analytical types loved it. I guess it depends on which side of the brain you operate from.

        I personally have to keep mixing it up as I let my visual side call the shots, not a lot tends to happen but I have fun. When I use more analytical methods, yes it gets a bit boring but I tend to make more progress. So I have to keep tricking myself.

        I am also probably at a different stage from you in that there is still an inwards flow – school stuff, newsletters, dance gear, stuff their friends leave behind, seasonal clothing etc etc.

        • Moni, I love that idea. Guess I am more of the analytical side. My new challenge for the rest of the year is to count all my belongings. I am very excited to do so.

          • Lena – I’ve been wanting to do that too. Colleen will probably think we’re crazy as she has to a full inventory every time she shifts and I imagine it is a bit of a chore and a bore for her.

            Someone commented here that the average USA household has 30,000 items in it, which made me wonder how I’d stack up. I don’t know of any similar studies held elsewhere in the world but I’d be interested to hear.

          • I dont know how many items I have at home, but I am sure it will be faaaar away from 30,000. I was never good at estimating, but roughly I would say 3 000 is an orientation for me to begin with. Now I am rather curious if I have something close to that number or if it was completely taken out of the blue.

            I will let you know as soon as I figure out the number

  4. I feel like I’m mostly in the maintenance phase of decluttering. There are still what I call pockets of chaos but, on the whole, I am maintaining instead of purging significant amounts of clutter.

    There is currently a pile of items to go to my niece and her boyfriend. Those will be moved when my daughter and I head out for our weekend visit on Thursday. There is also a bag of stuff and stack of dinner plates to go to a nearby thrift store. I figure my dad will be hauling that stuff off later this week or next.

    • Hi Rachel, I am glad that you are happy with where you are with your decluttering. And it sounds like you are doing a good job of finding new homes for your stuff. And you even have your dad in on the act. Well done you!

  5. I’m not to the maintenace stage yet, but even if we aren’t, we do have to maintain the progresses we have made, otherwise we won’t make any new progress. You know what I mean?

  6. I have been slowly decluttering for over a year now. I am proud to say my clothes are at maintenance level. I will be moving in a week and the clothing has been easily packed up in 5 boxes. I have also sent myself the goal if I want new clothes (except undergarments), I have to sew them. I really appreciate a new dress because of all the work I put into it.

    • Michele L – I am impressed! I can sew but am often put off by the cost of patterns and fabric. My daughter loves sewing and is good at finding pieces of fabric in the bargain bins, fortunately, she has access to the patterns at school tech class.

    • Good for you Michele L. And I admire your decision to only get a new clothing item if you make it yourself. I generally only get a new item if I buy it secondhand and donate one in turn.

  7. Mine is still a mix, although most things have been purged once. I think on the sewing I will go to the container limit method. I have 5 or six matching shoe boxes and I think by recycling some elastic as a loop to keep the lid secure, I can limit elastic to one box, one box of Velcro, one box of decorative items, etc. That way I could find what I am looking for a lot quicker and the boxes shouldn’t take up any more space than the large storage box does now. .

    • Nana – I wish I lived near you. I found six clear plastic shoe boxes in the very top shelf of our hall cupboard. That shelf is up towards the ceiling end of the cupboard and being short, not easily accessed for me. I was looking at them thinking ‘what am I going to do with these?’. They would be perfect for you, alas, I am across the Pacific.

      • Moni, I only wish I had the same talent as my mum. She never needs a pattern she just looks at a picture of a garment and cuts out her own pattern with butcher paper. I suppose that comes with the years of experience when she was a private dressmaker. This is how she made my wedding dress too. I showed her the style and what features I wanted it to have and she just whipped it up. She is amazing.

        • Colleen,
          Now I know why you still have your wedding dress! I always wondered why someone so organised had difficulty letting it go after all of these years. Today someone stopped by to pick something up and I was able to return some framed pictures of sentimental value for her. Yesterday, my husband relinqueshed 2 objects from the bedroom closet to discard (not clothing). Funny how sometimes things can leave without even actually trying….I’m all for that!

        • Colleen, my Mom used to be like that too. But she didn’t have the patience to teach me how to do the same or even teach me how to follow a pattern. I can sew but not anything like she used to. Now she even puts off hemming a new pair of slacks for herself.

  8. Colleen, your brief mention of your spice containers got me thinking about mine. I have spices down to a minimum but then remembered a large bottle of sugar “sprinkles” – you shake them on top of cakes or cupcakes for decoration. The bottle is a couple years old and I only used a very little bit for one occasion so it mostly full and has not degraded at all. I realized that these sprinkles are just large sugar crystals and therefore just sugar. I poured that bottle into my empty sugar bowl and voila! – I have enough sugar for tea for the next two weeks! More expensive that regular sugar but I was just considering tossing it so it actually saved me a bit to repurpose it and I got rid of the biggest bottle in my spice bin.

    • Nice bit of repurposing there Claire. That is thinking outside the box. I love it when I come up with this kind of idea myself. I save on vinegar these days by using the last of the juices in the pickle pepper jar to make salad dressings. And it is already flavoured with lots of yummy spices.

      • Great idea for the pickle juice instead of vinegar in salad dressing! That just reminded me that I can use lemon juice to make sour milk (for sourdough) instead of vinegar. I’m out of vinegar and hate to buy a new one since it comes in such large containers and takes me so long to use.

  9. I would say I’m at the 95% mark. So technically at maintenance, I just have to tackle digitising photos and editing family videos – its probably better than 95% but I know its going to be a big job considering its only a storage bin of photo albums.

    I could easily open my door to a stranger and give them a tour of the house, open any cupboard or drawer and not feel embarressed. I’m not saying I’m a perfect house-keeper, I’m just saying that that there aren’t any secret stashes hidden behind doors.

    But as mentioned earlier, I do have to keep an eye on the inwards trend as we are a family of five and stuff coming in happens.

    • Hi Moni, I am pleased for you and it has been nice to come along with you on your journey to a decluttered home. Isn’t it lovely to know that at any given moment you could welcome someone into your home. I know that feeling well and it is a good one. Although I was always like that, but only because the clutter was well organised and out of sight. I’ve been taking a good look in cupboards and drawer in my house this week and am quite pleased with the state I am finding them in. Especially considering we have far fewer of them than we did eight months ago.

      And you are so right, having a family of five makes the task of staying decluttered a whole lot harder. You should be very proud of what you have achieved. Give yourself a pat on the back from me.

  10. I don’t count the items I remove. Whenever I clean up it’s an automatic response to dispose of out of date or unused items. I would guess its getter less but I know I will never be at the point where I have nothing to dispose of.
    I am happy with how long it takes to get the house in order now. Cheers

  11. Once we have reached the maintenance level, I believe that two things happen:
    1. We continually re-examine what is left and rid ourselves of the excess without much thought or hesitation.
    2. We tend to revert back to our parent’s childhood or our own childhood and purchase 90% needs and 10% wants. Most people prior to decluttering would probably agree that those percentages were 90% wants and 10% needs.

    An amazing shift in thinking about “stuff” seems to happen automatically, almost like magic.

    • Well said Kimberly! I like the magic.

    • I am in total agreement there Kimberley. This attitude change almost immediately for me when I started my thing a day challenge, all those years ago. Four and a half to be exact. Becoming more eco conscience sure helped with that.

  12. The last weeks made me realize that I’m still not quite at that stage yet. Sunday I completely emptied our “miscancellous” storage (a cabinet/dresser in the living room, one shelf of the infamous bookcase and boyfriend’s desk), that means all paperwork, memorabilia, craft supplies, cables, stationery etc. Those things still fill 4(!) big moving boxes and in particular it turned out that paperwork has been a little neglected and needs a good declutter: both of us have their stack with things to go through sitting in the living room now. Also, our bookcase and the kitchen cabinets are still full. Yes, we have no books, comics, vases, dishes etc. stored anywhere else than there, but still, there is no airy feeling to it.

    • Secon part: I’m really looking forward to the day, I will be finally completely in maintenance mode, but seeing how slow my progress has been over the years, I guess it will take me another year or so. We have come quite a way though and especially the mind change magic has occured here, too, so letting go of thing is far easier than it used to be!

  13. I have noticed a funny “side effect” besides the one Kimberly mentioned. I will suddenly notice some house cleaning to do. We keep extra rolls of toilet paper in a paper bag crafted basket–maybe you remember those–this one came from a garage sale–and as I put some new rolls in I thought it looked dusty inside. It wasn’t dusty, but lint from the rolls had accumulated, as my trusty microfiber slightly damp cloth found. I am not sure I had every cleaned the inside of that before. So I think decluttering must improve our cleaning radar, too.

  14. I’ve lived at maintenance level for several years, but when I remarried, I married a man that is an extreme packrat and collector. He brought a LOT of stuff into our home, onto our property. I’ve had my hands full just trying to stay ahead of what he “acquired” and brought home. I’d be shoveling it out the back door as fast as he brought it in the front door sometimes.

    I’m happy to say that he is FINALLY, after nearly 17 years, starting to get how much easier it is to live when you aren’t jam-packed with clutter everywhere, how nice it is to always know where things are so you don’t have to waste time searching for things, and he is starting to come around to what I’ve been trying to get him to see for all these years.

    He has FINALLY decided that he wants to get rid of a “whole lot of stuff”. I’m so glad. It’s going to take him quite awhile to go through everything he’s collected, but at least he’s starting to take some baby steps.

  15. My comment goes back to a post dated 31 July, I think it was from colleen and my comment is could you post pics or statements about what you made from the craft supplies that you were decluttering I would like to get some ideas from you.
    Thanks .

  16. Hi Denise, I posted a collage on the first of August at the bottom corner there is a photo of the items I made from the decluttered craft supplies. Here is a link to my Pinterest page with the photo