The easy things to declutter

Some of the first items I decluttered

In order to write this post today I took a look back to Day 64 of my declutter mission. This was the day that I first began to blog about my resolution to declutter 365 things. Since then I have often written that the simplest way to begin decluttering is to start with the easy things. Looking back on the photos and list of items I had decluttered prior to blogging proves that this is exactly what I did.

Many of these items had never been used, hadn’t been used for a long time, I didn’t like for one reason or another or I had too many of. The items came from places all over the house, from drawers, closets, cupboards, cabinets, open shelves and even the garage. I dare say to begin with I would not have been able to tell by looking around that I had even decluttered much, but that did not deter me. I knew the stuff was gone and that was all that mattered.

I then looked a little further along in my photo archives and found that I continued on in this way for quite a while until I added a degree of difficulty by beginning to sell on ebay. Then it seems I began my first use-it-up challenges with toiletries, pantry and craft items. Next larger items, from outside, that required dismantling began to appear in the photo archives. Then obligation items began to show up, things given to us by friends and family that we no longer wanted. And by now my husband was well and truly involved in the decluttering effort.

By this point furniture began to be decluttered, furniture that was finally emptied and no longer required. This was all before day 200. It was easy to see from the following photos that I was really becoming ruthless. Sentimental items were heading out the door, as were useful items from my kitchen that I had decided I had too many of. Items that at the start I wouldn’t have thought I would declutter were also now fair game.

I won’t bore you with over two more years of my decluttered inventory. However I do hope that you can see the point of this post by now. Choosing the easy things first really is the less painful way to enter into this hopefully life changing mission. No matter how many things you have or how attached you are to some of them, if you begin with the easy stuff you will make a difference. You may not notice the difference at first but it will become obvious soon enough. Just be grateful that you are making progress and that it isn’t so hard.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter A Guilt item. Something you feel guilty about acquiring in the first place.

Eco Tip for the Day

Think twice about buying anything that you don’t need. Whether your use for it will last, whether it is just a novelty or whether it even adds anything to your life.

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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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Thank you for this post Colleen. Yesterday we hauled off our 3 weeks worth of decluttering efforts to Goodwill. It filled the car entirely- backseat and trunk. There was even a CD storage shelf in the mix. Then we had 4 huge boxes of books we took to a second hand book store to sell. What they didn’t buy we donated. It took quite a few hours to pack it all up and get rid of it and I was honestly feeling a little out of steam today, and this post reminded me that it’s worth it to keep chipping away. I won’t promise that I will jump to it right when I get home from work today, but I think I’ll find a few minutes to find something else that needs to go before I go to bed tonight. 🙂 Thanks for helping me keep my motivation up.

  2. Colleen, you are so right. this is what I did to begin with. You all know that it has taken a long time to get Mom on board so it was the easy pickin’s that I dealt with at the beginning. Personally, I think that is what works so good because as you see those easy things going out the door you start thinking of other things you really don’t need. Like any new thing you do there are phases of learning/changing that come with decluttering. One thing I have learned though is that sometimes you go through the phases more than once.

  3. HA! I was thinking about this exact thing, when I filled the public bookshelf with at least 10 books, after I sold another 10. How far did I come in this process!!! Giving away perfectly fine and only once read books, because I just dont want to have them at home! that was unthinkable 2 years ago. My ice breaker was my CD collection. I started with the crappy “How did I end up with THIS” CDs, and I ended up selling CDs that were clearly sentimental items. I became so ruthless over time… I had a couple of months where I was quite content with my amount of stuff, and I didnt do any deliberate decluttering. But I got a bit fed up with stuff again (after my mum forced me to take her clutter in order to sell it). So now I have been doing more daily decluttering in the last time, culling papers when I have to do paperwork anyway. Rearranging the living room forced me to go through my toolbox. And those books were for more than a month on my table. its spring clean time here. motivation is coming up again!

  4. I agree that starting with the easy stuff is the way to go. Especially as it helps you distinguish what is important to you after all – and what’s not.
    Also, you realize that there might be certain areas you’re not quite ready to declutter, even though they are filled to the brim (maybe the bookshelves or another dear collection). For me, to realize that these areas were too hard, helped me stop adding any more to them.

  5. When I first started decluttering a year ago I didn’t even want to get rid of anything, in fact I wanted to continue buying and pretending I was going to use it all. I was forced into it by my situtation – I moved back home, plus my fiance, thereby combining what I’d left behind, what I’ve taken with me, what I’d accumulated over the 6 months I’d been gone and my fiance’s items. There was no floor because it was knee deep in stuff and the mess in the cupboard was heading towards being as tall as me and at risk of toppling out as for underneath the bed, let’s not even go there. Give me a little while longer and I could have been on one of those hoarding TV shows. It was literally, unliveable.

    Now one year later the room is so much better, but I can’t wait for it to be minimalist. Still, I started slow and it appears I’ll finish that way too. The important thing is to get there. I am just glad I won’t be taking it all with me to our own home when we get to that point in our lives…recently I realised that by changing my attitudes now I’m going to save us a lot of money and time over the years which can be spent with together rather than cleaning up after endless amounts of unnecessary items. Something to look forward to 🙂

  6. For several decades, I have been subscribing to cross-stitch and quilting magazines. I had them stored in Girl Scout cookie boxes and in those magazine holders that stand up and fit on a bookshelf. I decided that I didn’t need many of these magazines so have started looking through them – 1 or 2 each morning before I go downstairs to get ready for work. The cross-stitch ones I am sending to my niece who can look at them and then toss them when she is done. Apparently easier for her than for me. If I find a pattern that I can’t do without, I just copy it and put it in a clear plastic sleeve and then in a notebook. For example, this morning, I checkecd out about 5 cross-stitch mags. Of these, I found 2 patterns that I was remotely interested in. I like making small tags at Christmas for the “grands” gifts, so kept the patterns for those items. The rest of the books will be sent to my niece. That meant that 1/2 of a plastic holder has been cleared out. Perhaps by tomorrow, I can get rid of the rest of them. While this doesn’t seem to make a big showing of “less things”, I know that I am making progress. I have another stack of quilting mags that I need to sort and they will be on the agenda beginning Thursday of this week. That stack will make a big difference in my room because there are so many of them. I put them in a notebook by the name of the magazine and then can review them at a later time.
    This weekend, I decided to clear out a bunch of baskets. I have been buying them and making gift baskets for holidays and birthdays or for guests in our home. Unfortunately, everyone returns them to me, for another gift the next year??? Anyway, I will donate them to the Salvation Army truck next week and then they’ll definitely be gone.

  7. Hey, Colleen! What an interesting journey this has been. As you know, I started with a resistant spouse so I began with my own stuff. Three years down the road, while Ian still isn’t at the point of not bringing stuff IN, he’s much more into the process of getting stuff OUT. Tomorrow I will be having tea with a friend who makes sculptures from glass dishes. When she leaves she will be taking a variety of candleholders, vases, bowls and other bits – some of them mine or my mother’s, others originally Ian’s, his mother’s and even his grandmother’s. Last week he mailed something to his brother that he’s been saying for a decade or more that he ought to send to his brother. We recently had a fellow install some ductwork in the basement. It took a whole 5 minutes to move stuff out of his way, another 5 minutes to move it back and in the process Ian gave me permission to put his records in the charity garage sale. All of this would have been unheard of a couple of years ago but that step-by-step and little-by-little approach has made great changes.

  8. Thank you for this post.
    Some things really ARE easy to declutter, and in some ways those are the most important items if you are new to it. For me, getting rid of the first few easy things proved to me that my life wouldn’t come crashing down with less stuff! A revelation to this hard-core packrat! Once that was proven, and it even felt good, I was able to move on to other stuff that wasn’t easy before because it became easier.
    little by little works best for me. I feel stronger with each choice to remove instead of feeling robbed and scared like the time I tried the “clear it out start from scratch” method.

  9. Colleen how wonderful to have a visual of your decluttering journey! While I don’t have one I can still feel a great sense of contentment that so many items have left our home.
    As you and many others have commented it’s best to start with the easy things. I’m always surprised at how after a while the once difficult things become easy 🙂
    Today’s eco tip is the real kicker though – don’t let anything into your house that is not absolutely necessary so you don’t start to undo the good level you’ve already achieved.

  10. I really wish I’d kept a log or taken photos, but can’t change that, so have to accept that.
    I feel that targeting the simple things is like pulling the loose weeds in the garden, it loosens the dirt around the tough weeds and then they’re not so hard to remove. How often to readers here comment that they have decided to get rid of something that they’ve hung onto thru all their decluttering efforts and now they’re not sure why they hung onto it so long afterall.

    I didn’t realise how long I would be at decluttering – I thought it would be a bigger version of my (up until then) annual skim of the surface and a month or two and all would be grand. I think I thought that if I could make everything fit without avalanche risk that was my goal. Well, decluttering takes more time that I realised, some days I feel like an archaeologist digging thru layers of history and other days I feel like I am constantly in therapy confronting emotional attachments to items, realising the emotional triggers that were behind certain purchases. Well, my decluttering is taking me to a very different household than one that ‘just fits and is avalanche safe’. Ironically at the time I started I pictured a minimalist household but I still wanted all my ‘precious’ tucked behind cupboard doors and in drawers, just stored neatly. Now I’m on the way to a minimalist household and we have roomy cupboards, almost no drawers in the house, a lot less furniture and hopefully by the end of winter very little left in the ceiling storage.

  11. Hi 365ers’,
    Firstly Thank Heavens I was fishing around on the Net looking for ideas on how to get rid of things and probably back then was hoping for a ‘magic bullet’ but at the time I wasn’t consciously looking for a de-cluttering site I think I just happened to fall into the WEB rabbit hole and realised OMG that’s me I have too much What the Hell can I do Blah Blah Blah. I jumped around a bit and realised, very quickly that I was one in about 123 456 789 0123 345 6789 people that were in the same boat and sinking fast.

    When I first started getting rid of and culling and paring back etc etc, I was a monumental tosser. Then, someone said the ‘money’ word and I got all bent out of shape and tried to re-coup some cash. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was more work than cash, other times I JUST WANTED IT GONE!!!!!! One thing I started doing, was to log how much I thought I may have spent on the item and I wrote it down. When payday came around, the first thing I did was add up what i’d chucked out! (by this stage I was just happy to DONATE DONATE DONATE!!!) although I had wasted money my goal was to have the stuff moved on to those who would and can use it because they probably only had the one, not like the old me that had 2 or 3 or even 4 of something!! Whatever the amount came too, that amount went straight into my de-clutter tin. (I know sounds a bit dumb but I bought the biggest saving tin I could find and it cost me $3.00. It was a tin that was sealed and it had $100 notes printed on it.) Believe me that tin started to fill quickly and got very heavy, very quickly. When I opened it I was gob-smacked at the amount, which suffice to say helped to fund our two week trip to the Dance Comps, helped pay for all the food, accommodation and all sundries for travel back and forth.

    I still do this, and I can’t wait to open this tin, although it has taken longer to fill, it reminds me everytime I get rid of something, that at one stage I paid for something that I probably really didn’t need, with money that I had worked hard to earn, but parted with in a flash of blinding consumerism light!!!

    I do still spend, but it is mindful spending, (and only if I have exhausted every avenue first). I do find myself saying more and more to myself, ‘I recently got rid of something similar, if I buy this it will have the same fate befall it, very quickly.

    I am so glad I stumbled and fell out of ‘Be More With Less’ and into ‘365 Less Things’ and along the way read some really good books about de-cluttering everything from your shed to your head. I daresay I will be on this journey for a while yet and there will always be something ‘ELSE’ that I’ll find and I just love still finding ‘What The’s’ and the ‘WHY??? will still ring out but I am getting so much done, by checking in and picking up tips.

    Finally, Huge thanks to Colleen for starting her own journey and opening her de-cluttering journey on the web and huge thanks to everyone who pops in with all their tips and advice. I really do believe this is the only site that gets replys and is updated daily. Cheers Colleen xxx I do hope you all realise that if we all did the tin idea, we could spend the dosh on meeting ‘Somewhere in the Middle of the World and have a 365 Morning Tea, & lunch & Dinner & Snacks & Chocolate & Icecream & ………… 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • I really like your idea of the money bank, Dizzy!
      Should also work to prevent you from buying in the first place, as you have to pay twice if you get rid of it.

      • Oh yes Sanna, I have learned to be a bit wiser when I shop these days. Sometimes still prone to get ‘smacked with the spend stick’ but I pull myself back and go have a coffee and really think about it now. Thank Goodness. I’m really looking forward to only having one trip, with a small van to move our goodies once we finish the house!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Dizzy, thanks for sharing this. I like your idea of the tin. I agree with you about Colleen and 365. We are blessed to have them both.

    • Dizzy,

      You described me and my purchasing and donation behaviors to a “t”. I have slowed down on my purchasing behaviors, but they are still there to some degree. I am finding myself being more mindful of my purchasing. I’m seriously thinking about trying your tin idea. Thanks for the great post!

  12. Great post today. Getting rid of the easy things first gives a person that breath of fresh air, breathing room if you will, and it will give you the energy to tackle more than you ever thought you would. It will make you want to keep moving forward because the effect that it has on a person and their home just does something to you.

  13. This is so inspiring – the post and the comments. I must see if there’s anything on my surfaces that I could get rid of, not put away to deal with later, but decluttered. Let’s see, something easy, even though I’ve already decluttered so many difficult items. I wish I had a record of the order in which I decluttered items so that I could look back at my thought process. (I kept a record of items but not the order.) I’m doing that now in my second year of decluttering.

  14. That’s 3 more things in the bin that couldn’t possibly be recycled or sold. Small things but it all counts.