The endless to-do list

Isn’t it baffling that no matter how much you reduce your belongings and simplify your life, there still seems to always be an endless to-do list. I think it is highly possible, at least in my case, that while I am un-complicating one area of my life I am filling that void with something else.

Actually as I write this, I am sure I published a post on this very subject not so long back. Nevertheless I am going to prattle on about it again today. If for no other reason than the fact that I obviously didn’t listen to my own advice the last time. 

Sometimes even the things we enjoy in life can begin to feel like a chore.  The effort of manoeuvring other activities just to fit them in can be exhausting. And then there is the physical clutter that sometimes manifests due to them.

I don’t actually know  where I am going with this post so I am just going to give some examples of things on my to-do list that are just draining me at the moment. Things that I aspire to getting around to doing but are actually just causing clutter in my life that I don’t need.

First Thing: On my balcony I have a louvred cabinet door and three picture frames. I can see the potential in them, which is why I “rescued” them from the gutter in the first place, but I really don’t have the inclination or possibly even the skills to do anything with them. But what they really are is aspirational clutter making my balcony look unattractive and harder to clean. They have to go. Should I find the time and inspiration later I am sure I can acquire replacements  just as easily as I acquired these.

Second Thing: I really enjoy creating my handcrafted cards and using up my supply of craft materials. However there are a lot of materials among them that  I don’t like enough to warrant the space they waste in my home. Allowing those to linger is making the decluttering process far too long winded. At the same time I find it hard to say no to interesting papers etc that I can see potential in.

Solution: On Monday I made a pledge to not bring in any more paper crafting materials for two months and I am going to stick to that pledge no matter what. In fact I hope to stretch that pledge out longer once the two months are up. Also I am going to round up a collection of materials among what I already own and donate them to my local thrift shop.

Third Thing: I have been taking on far too much responsibility and not delegating enough when it comes to my art space since taking it over in April. It is time I stopped being such a control freak and gave myself a break. One of these responsibilities has been to bring the space in line with the new standards of presentation. That is the reason for props such as the picture frames and louvred door mentioned in the first thing above.

Solution: I have started delegating and am resisting any temptation to acquire any more merchandising items. Especially ones that require upcycling.

Forth Thing: There are a few tasks on my to-do list that are unavoidable yet I have been procrastinating over them. Although avoiding them is not causing clutter in my home it sure is causing clutter in my head.  In my experience, doing is usually far less painful than procrastinating, so heaven knows why I still find myself doing it at times.

Solution: I pledge now that these tasks will all be completed by the end of next week.

I love repurposing, I love crafting, I love organising, I love helping others and I love to be thorough… but one needs to know where to draw the line. As it is impossible to be everything to everyone all of the time.

Are there areas in your life that need decluttering? Are you overtaxing yourself, even when it comes to the things you enjoy? If so maybe it is time to cut yourself some slack and take a break from it all.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that was given to you that you no longer wish to keep.

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

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t accept free promotional products that you have no use for. Accepting these just encourages the continuation of this practice while the environment would be healthier without the manufacture of cheap throwaway or needless items like these usually are.

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

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Clutter, why? Clutter isn't about what we have, it is about why we have it.  We acquire stuff for many reasons, aesthetics, functionality, sentimental, recreation and entertainment and even […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • How little we really need Every time I go on a long vacation I am reminded of how little one really needs to live a comfortable and functional lifestyle. My husband and I often stay in Airbnb places when on […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. The Fourth Thing on your list, Colleen, procrastination, is something that struck a chord today. There is one big thing I have been putting off for a while (because I would rather do anything rather than paperwork) .
    This morning I kept thinking of Mark Twain’s quote ” If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, It’s best to eat the biggest one first.” (Did I read that here somewhere?)
    Anyway, I had frog for breakfast…..haven’t finished it yet, but it’s not as horrible as I’d feared.

    • Exactly Dianna, the longer you put it off, agonising doing it the task, the easier it seems to be when you actually do it. Simply because the procrastinating was worse. Not that I am trying to encourage procrastinating, just making a point that it is more painful in the long run than the task itself.

    • Dianna G – I have a saying “the sooner I start, the sooner its done” but I do like the frog one. Yes we all have our frog to eat!

    • Hi, Dianna A. There is also a book, “Eat that frog!” by Brian Tracy, based on Mark Twain’s quote. One of the things that he talks about is “zero-based thinking”, where you ask yourself (about something that you are currently doing), if you would still begin to do it, with the knowledge and hindsight that you have today. If you wouldn’t, then you should probably think about stopping it.

  2. The endless to-do list – great post – this is so totally me!!! I feel like I have spent my whole life seeking the simple life, endless clearing out, sorting paperwork, helping others to clear out and now I have gone and taken on too much at work (which I enjoy) and too much voluntary work (which I enjoy), too much gardening (which I enjoy) and too much studying (which I also enjoy) eeek – now I have let the staying on top of paperwork and maintenance clearing out slip and if feels a bit enormous again – hubs and I spent last Saturday listing stuff to sell online – all part of the one in one out regime except that the things waiting to go out were no longer forming an orderly queue but a solid mountain – oops!
    Dianna – love the fog analogy – I need to line ’em up on my desk, lol

    • That is exactly what I am saying Fruitcake. Enjoying all these things as individual tasks in reasonable proportions is great but turning them into a chore by doing too many and too much is no longer fun.

  3. Potential gets us all the time, doesn’t it. That may be the third frog, lol. Paperwork for our sons’ businesses piles up worse than most other items, but is necessary. Potential items are usually something to sew or make some other way. The only way for me to manage that is to say do you really think you will ever get around to doing that? There are a lot of other items that need to be sewn first. Yeah, I give myself a good talking to at times. I am happy that occasionally some decluttering happens easily. Our daughter spied some plastic cups we used on road trips when she was a child–stacked to donate–so I said take them. I would have offered them to her ages ago if I had thought there was any way she would want them. So before she left I also gave her the 8 divided plastic plates (very sturdy for that type) we always used at the beach and on picnics because they didn’t fly away in the wind like disposable ones did.

  4. So many things to get done! And very few things I actually want to do…
    Watering, weeding, maintaining the yard (so I can later enjoy the harvest!)
    Doing the boring and soulless part of my desk job (so I can keep the clients happy to get paid!)
    Laundry, cooking, cleaning (So my husband doesn’t leave LOL – just kidding. So I don’t live in squalor)
    The big chores like renovating and other maintenance projects on the house that we never seem to have time to do, but now is the time.
    And then there is the stuff I want to do (in no particular order)… read, paint, catch up on my favourite shows, go for walks, hang out with family and friends… The other stuff always seems to be more urgent somehow.
    And there is always the “stuff” in the way too. The clutter that I am trying so hard to remove bit by bit to get out of the way of the other, more important things.

    • That sounds all too familiar creativeme, although I must say your list makes mine seem like child’s play. Perhaps on Friday I should do a post on the ways in which decluttering has simplified my life just balance the week out. I wouldn’t want people to think the decluttering and simplifying is futile.

      Just looking at your list again, apart from the renovating and maintenance which weren’t a task for us (rented), it looks much the same as mine did in my younger days. Now in reality I have very few things, that I fill my time with, that I actually have to do. Yet I feel busier now than I ever did. I think maybe because, to a certain degree, what I do now isn’t so routine as it used to be back in the day. Commuting and working all week, cooking housework and yard maintenance were neatly slotted in and leisure time was what was left over. Plus we were young and less life worn. My husband is always telling me I should schedule my activities, maybe he is right. I’ll have to put some more thought into that.

  5. Colleen! I think you have been reading my mind!!!! Just today, I have been trying to figure out, ONCE AGAIN, why I can’t seem to keep up anymore!!! Is it because I am older and slower? Is it because I married a man who has seriously complicated my life??? (endless paperwork, put us into horrible debt when we were debt free, never stops eating, and the list goes on! Ha!). Is it because I have 3 dogs in the house? (that certainly doesn’t help, I’m sure!)

    I have donated multiple carloads of stuff to a friends charity. I just had a yardsale last weekend. Got rid of a lot of things, sent a lot of leftovers to the thrift store, and only brought a few things home. Yet, I look around and nothing seems to be missing. I am almost 3 mos behind on hubby’s paperwork. And I took a break from paperwork to read your post.

    I have quit making cards, my former hobby, so I have time to enjoy posts like yours, and read on the Internet. I also still read at night before going to sleep. This is all I do for myself. Yet, my house is never even up to my non-perfectionist standard, and my to do list is longer than ever.
    Yes, I keep laundry done and put away, keep bills paid on time, and that sort of thing. But, my kitchen and especially my desk top always seems to need tidying and I’m never caught up on all the things that I NEED to do, much less WANT to do. I don’t watch TV at all, don’t shop. I keep groceries stocked so i don’t even have to buy groceries very often. I’m not lazy. I just can’t figure out what I should/can do to fix the problem!!!

    I would love to have more time to enjoy life and do things I enjoy. Hopefully, I will figure out the next step soon. I know I need to get rid of some furniture, but although I have too much of it, it doesn’t seem to be the issue!

    Goodness, I feel like I’m writing “Dear Abby”!!! Ha!!! Didn’t mean to dump on you, but I am just expressing my frustration over not keeping up!!! And I don’t mean to imply that my house is chaos, it is not. Just not where I’d like to be!

    Anyone else out there feel like this?????

    • Hi Brenda, without any further information I would guess that your husbands paperwork would have a lot to do with your lack of time to dedicate to other things. Is there a reason he doesn’t take care of it himself or that there needs to be so much of it in the first place. I would start drilling down on that problem first.
      Pets are certainly a much loved part of people’s lives that generate many tasks that need completing in ones day. Feeding, grooming, picking up after, walking, boarding when you have to leave them behind… That is why I don’t have any. Been there, done that, over it. In fact I am starting to develop a mind set about whether confining any animals to limited space, for our own emotional needs or enjoyment, isn’t a very humane thing to do. Even pet rescue could arguably be labelled as an enabler of people who get pets and then discard them when they find the responsibility more arduous than the return of affection and enjoyment. I am beginning to feel that animal breading for money should be deemed illegal. But at the same time I know in my heart how wonderful having a pet can be, which is why they use them as guide dogs, companion animals and even take them into hospitals to help with patient healing. It is just one of life’s dilemmas for me. But I have gone a bit off subject.

      • Colleen, my husband is HIGH maintenance!!!! Always has been, but unfortunately I didn’t realize it till AFTER we were married! : ). I have mentioned on this blog before that he was in a serious accident in Dec 2012. I still have to record all dr appts and mileage for workers comp. and even though I give EVERY dr’s office ALL the workers comp info, they invariably bill it to Medicare. Such as that is part of the paperwork. Then, as soon as he was able my husband spent almost all our money starting a business. (against my wishes! He is 75 years old!). He is not capable of doing the posting and paperwork involved. I refused to do it at first, but because it would cost so much to get someone else to do it, I have finally conceded. The business is a “dirty one”, so he ruins clothes practically every day. He is short and every pair of pants has to be hemmed. I recently restocked his closet and hemmed 11 pr of pants, including his Pj’s!! So, it is all very time consuming. Not to mention the cooking and continual cleaning of the kitchen! My joke is that my marital bliss turned into bliss-ters! Ha!

        As for the dogs…..well, I’m just a dog lover. Rescued all 3 of these. 2 from serious confinement, and one was set off near my house and he adopted me! I live in the country and they are free to run, but prefer most of their time inside with me. They are what makes me feel loved and needed and I’m quite sure I will never be without a dog. I seem to need them as much as they need me. But, just one would be nice for a change! : ). I am very much opposed to breeding dogs! I have certainly done my share of trying to save those with no hope, though. And there is nothing like the devotion a rescued dog will give you! It seems they never forget and are always grateful.

        Alas! Taking in thrown out husbands and dogs is keeping me pretty busy!! Ha!

        • Hi, Brenda. I was touched by what you wrote about your dogs. You reminded me of a few Pinterest quotes I came across, about rescuing dogs:

          “There is a special place in heaven for people who give their heart to an old dog”. (And I would like to add: “… and to people who rescue dogs and other animals”.)

          “‘Rescued’ is my favourite breed.”

          “Saving just one dog won’t change the world but for that one dog the world will change forever.”

          • oh, Nicole V, I love those quotes!!!! Thank you for sharing those with me!!!

          • You’re welcome, Brenda! I remember you mentioning that you have a notebook of collected quotations, so I’m glad you like them. Anyway, here are a few more:

            “Dogs, for a reason that can only be described as divine, have the ability to forgive, let go of the past, and live each day joyously. It’s something the rest of us strive for.” – Jennifer Skiff

            “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” – Unknown

            “The sadness I feel looking into cages is nothing compared to how it must feel looking out.” – Unknown

            “Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend … never owned a dog.”

            “Rescue: It’s not just a verb. It’s a promise.”

            “Shelter dogs need a home more than the pet store needs your money.”

            And Brenda, if you have the time, do google the following two moving poems about dogs (they are too long to reproduce here):

            “I adopted your dog today” and “Before humans die, 
            they write their last Will and Testament,” (I don’t know the title of the 2nd one, but that’s the opening line).

          • Hi, Brenda. The title of the 2nd poem is “A dog’s last will and testament”.

          • Very nice Nicole.

          • Call me a sentimental fool, Colleen, but I had tears in my eyes when I read those poems.

          • Nicole V, I just now looked back to see if there were anymore comments for this post (I never get enough of the 365ers!) and I found your additional quotes!! These were so great, and different than the ones I have in my quote book. And how observant and sweet that you remembered from past posts that I even have a quote book!!! I am touched. And I will include your quotes in my book, for sure!!!! I will definitely read the two poems you have told me about, too. I THINK I might have seen one of them in the past but do not have a copy. I’m sure they, too, will go in my book. I am going to wait a little bit to read them, because my husband’s brother is visiting and they will be home in a few minutes. I don’t want to have been crying my eyes out when they arrive. Ha!!!! It doesn’t take much about animals, and most especially dogs, to break my heart. You must love and have some (or one) yourself to know about these quotes!

            The quote about the cage reminds me of my Boxer. He is the most beautiful specimen you could ever want and SO loving. I renamed him Shadow because he follows my every step. Sits beside my leg while I am washing dishes. If not careful, I would trip over him. I was not wanting another dog at the time I got him. But, he had been in a tiny pen about 6 ft X 8 ft for maybe 3 years. I never saw anyone with him. Finally, I asked my Uncle who lived next door, if anyone ever interacted with the dog. He said no, that that just fed him and that was all. I asked if he thought they would give him up and he said yes. I called the people and they told me they had NEVER wanted the dog. An ex-husband had given it to the kids when they lived in an apt, so the lady had given the dog to her brother for a time. When she got a home, he gave the dog back and he was in this tiny pen where the doghouse took up almost half the space. I would drive by, and this majestic dog would just be looking out and it broke my heart. Now, he is a happy boy who straddles my legs when I am on the sofa (with his paws on the sofa) so he can lay his head over on my chest for loving! My other two dogs have just as sad a story. It makes me feel so good that I can give them the love they deserve.

            I always say that dogs are much like God. They love you unconditionally, even if you neglect them.

            Thank you again for sharing all those things with me!!!

          • You’re welcome, Brenda … I’m glad you like them. Thank you for sharing Shadow’s story … he sounds like an amazing dog!

        • Wow Brenda, you make me feel extremely lucky with my circumstances. And it is no wonder you thrive on the love of your beautiful rescue dogs and they on you I bet.

  6. My niece summed up my “to do list” when she was 12 years old. She calls me Aunt Kimmy.
    She said, you have an “Aunt Kimmy’s too many things to do list”.
    With age comes wisdom and for me the ability to say No. Not maybe, not yes…..No!

    • Good for you Kimberley. Saying no is a lesson I find I have to learn over and over again. I took a refresher cause last week and feel better for it this week. It was a week of probortunity. Sometimes it one needs a figurative punch in the guts by someone obnoxious enough to dish it out to help them see the light.

  7. Hi Colleen, agree with you entirely on the subject of pets, I finally gave in last year and we got a dog (Kids were desperate and I put it off for as long as I could until they are now old enough to help!) but I have been there, done that and am over it as you say. Our dog is cute and kids are happy but all the extra work I don’t need so I have accepted that our dog will be around for a hopefully long and happy life but that is it, no more! And yes my list never ends either…

  8. The infamous To-Do list. I find I make the most progress when a deadline in looming and I let myself off the hook too much. And so often I can’t do ‘A’ until I’ve done ‘B’ and I can’t start ‘B’ until I’ve finished ‘C’ and ‘C’ is waiting for something with ‘D’ and so on and so on. Ironically it ends up that I can’t do ‘E’ until ‘A’ is done. Just one of those annoying round and round situations.

    I draw up a table a bit like an agenda item. One column for the project title, the next column for what is required, the next column for who needs to be involved or is responsible for it, the final column for the date deadline. And each project gets its own row and I fill in the details. Once it is all spelled out in front of me I can usually get all the preliminary work done easily ie ring computer guy, pick up paint samples, order XYZ, make an appointment etc etc. So the preliminary work becomes its own to-do list. It gets things rolling. The next stage work seems to fall into place.

    I help my younger daughter make a chart for her assignments and what-not at school. She is in her final year and busy busy busy. This allows her to see who she needs to coordinate with to meet deadlines.

    I also use one of these charts, twice a year my husband and I go around the house and note what needs maintenance or some improvement, then we can chip away at the list, I can take care of things which I’m better at and Adrian can do things he is better at doing. We call it a ‘Toolbox List’ but it is based around a form I used to use for agendas/minutes when I was on the PTA.

    • I feel my head going around in circles just reading that Moni, but at the same time I know it makes a whole lot of sense. Simply because the more there is to do, or the worse one’s memory is, the better chance things will get done if there is a plan written down. I think the memory thing is half my trouble lately. Trying to keep my ducks in a row becomes part, if not the cause, of the problem. Well, at least life isn’t boring.

  9. Hi Colleen! As I am the girl who put the pro into procrastination, I am the queen of to do lists. I am especially guilty of having one too many to do lists. I am working on being more organized, which I might add is working, since I let go of some big clutter. Still, there is always work to be done.

    • Oh yes Andréia, you have proved that to be so over and over again. lol! Sometimes procrastination can be otherwise described as sticking your head in the sand and hoping things go away. Oddly enough they don’t and what’s more, sometimes they even get worse while you are pretending they aren’t there. Sometimes I wish I was the type who could stick their head in the sand but alas I am the worrying type that just has to do something about it for my own sanity.

  10. Colleen, right now I so identify with what you are saying. Not because I procrastinate so much or that I am doing too many outside things but that I have too many things on my home to-to list. Unfortunately, that are things I have to do. It would all be made easier if Mom didn’t procrastinate. She is also slowing down, which in my mind is understandable, and it is driving her nuts. I have cut a few more things out that were fun things but taking too much energy. Ah well. Life goes on.

    • Unfortunately yours is a whole other situation Deb J. I know you would be the get it done kinda gal if your illnesses didn’t sap you of so much energy. All you can do is try to eliminate the unnecessary and pray for more good days.

    • Hi, Deb J. I’ve been trying to think (unsuccessfully) of the right thing to say, since I read your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your tiredness. I hope that things get better soon. I also hope that the living arrangements that you are waiting for will come sooner rather than later. Do take care, Deb.

  11. “Declutter something that was given to you that you no longer wish to keep.”

    I saw this a day or so ago in one of your older blogs. At that time I thought of an afghan that my aunt made me as a wedding gift, and I felt that I could let it go. So I went looking for it, could not find it and decided that I had decluttered it sometime previously.

    “Declutter something that was given to you that you no longer wish to keep.”

    Aha! There it is again today! Once again I thought of that same afghan. And suddenly I knew exactly where it was!!! It’s on it’s way out today with a load I’m taking to the thrift shop. I’m also taking my baton. I was a majorette in high school and in college. That one was kind of hard for my fantasy self to let go of.

    • Deanna W, I can so relate to your afghan story! I had a dear friend who made me an afghan. It was in my favorite colors. As far as afghans go, it was beautiful. The problem is, I have never cared for afghans!!!! And this one had humongous tassels on the ends. I’ve never liked tassels.
      My friend passed away a few years later and I sold the afghan at a yardsale. I appreciated my friend making it for me, but I was glad to see that big, fluffy bundle go that had been taking up a lot of space!

  12. Brenda, my afghan was in pastels. It was very pretty, but I don’t like pastels. And I have other afghans in oranges and other bolder colors that I like a lot. BTW, I don’t like tassels either.

    Colleen, you know, it was hard for me to leave my baton at the thrift shop. I hope I forget about it soon. I’m picturing a young girl who is so thrilled to have a baton.