The Red Tape Challenge ~ A guest post by Moni Gilbert

The problem with long term decluttering is that you lose the heady gratification of sending car loads of stuff off to goodwill or recycling depots and you no longer find yourself staggering to the counter of the post office with arms full of ebay sales heading off to their new owners. Yes the house might be looking streamline but now that we have been honed into Olympic level declutterers, every now and then we still need a metaphorical shotput to throw or a marathon to pound out so we can still have our gold medal moment.

Slow and steady is always a guaranteed method to get across the finish line, but for today I’d like us to take on a challenge to stretch our muscles. This idea came from a recent post by Colleen where I stumbled onto the idea of “Lazy Clutter” and was defined as “no attachment, you just haven’t got around to getting rid of it”. I identified with this as I have plenty of space now in all my cupboards, but there are probably still things which don’t have any reason to stay either. The bar of deservedness (as in deserving to stay in my house) has risen and what was middle of the field a few months ago, is now sitting in a marginal position. It is just a few things, here and there, and over there, oh and over there too. Some of them missed first, second and third culls of that particular cupboard or drawer as they were found elsewhere more recently and returned to their correct place since. Maybe now that the cupboard has more room it stands out as the anomaly on the shelf. Maybe we’re just waiting for the right mini challenge to dig them out and send them on their way.

During this post I commented on Lazy Clutter and pondered the idea of getting some red X stickers made (as in CONDEMNED) and to slap them on everything that I felt constituted lazy clutter. Fellow 365’er Anita added that she uses dated post-it notes to do this and Fruitcake evolved/simplified my idea by saying she was going to use red tape. And just like that, the idea was launched on its maiden flight.

So your challenge is to grab some red tape – I’m using electrical tape as it is easily removable – and blast through the house and slap a piece on everything that wouldn’t be in your dream home anymore. You don’t have to eliminate it or list it on e-bay or freecycle it or anything else today or anytime in the near future if you don’t want to. You just have to slap on a piece of tape or a post-it note or a piece of paper and cellotape. Then you need to count up how many in your house and report back.

Those who know I am on a mission to eliminate a bookcase – well I don’t think there is enough tape on the roll to do that, so I’ll just count that as one, but the old glass measuring jug in the cupboard that I bypass for the newer one, that will also count as one. The vase in the bathroom that I have put off making a decision about, well today is D Day and the extra mop I have in the cleaning cupboard (I have no idea why I have more than one mop or where it surfaced from) that is getting slapped with a bit of tape too.

The purpose of this exercise? To get a visual idea of just how many items that have Lazy Clutter status, to see how many items I know I don’t really want but either haven’t gotten around to eliminating or possibly haven’t been able to justify getting rid of up until now or maybe have been avoiding making a decision on them.

So my fellow Olympic level Declutters…..on your marks, get set, GO!

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter excess kitchen items. This is one area of the home where people seem to think ~ “The more the merrier!”. For me it is the more the messier. I bet many of you could use up a lot of red tape in this area of the house. Especially if that red tape was to mark items you rarely use.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here are some items that had my imaginary Red Tag on for some time. They weren’t mine to declutter though but all good things come to those who wait. That’s one more box of stuff off to the thrift store.

Books etc

Eco Tip For The day

Keep a jug in your kitchen sink to save the water that would otherwise go to waste when waiting for the hot water to come through. This water can be used as drinking water, to fill the kettle, rinse dishes, water plants, rinse the sink etc.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Dithering? ~ By Peggy W I have dithered many times in my decluttering journey, unable to make a decision about my stuff.  Two of the “ditherees” left my house this morning because I needed soft fillers to […]
  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
  • Clutter Maintenance Every time I have moved house I have had a reasonable length of notice. Although, sometimes the definite ~ "Yes we are moving." ~ may have come a little last minute but the maybe had been […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Interesting idea! I have referred to decluttering as a three + phase project. You go through it in waves with each wave finding it easier to let go of more and more useless stuff. The idea of putting red tape on things might be another tool to help get over the mental anguish of letting go of certain things. Once it has been identified and you see it daily…you might finally start realizing that souvenir cup you got at the ballpark that you never use, really isnt all that important to you after all! 🙂

    • Hi Brian – sometimes just a bit of fun to mix things up will get things moving again. I agree with you that decluttering can’t be achieved by one cull, its an ongoing thing. What surprises me that areas that have reached the desired standard of de-cluttered-ness (is that a word?) if you leave them alone long enough, its like a jungle reclaiming cleared land, eventually other stuff creeps in.

      Do I take it that you have a souvenir cup from the ballpark lurking in the back of cupboard with a bit of red tape hanging off it?

  2. Moni, I again think this is such a good idea. We have been saving up all of this stuff for a yard sale a friend was having late this month only to hear yesterday that she is going to hold off now until next spring. Sigh! I’m thinking that there is supposed to be a sale here in our community in October so may have to bite the bullet and set up out on the carport. I really didn’t want to do that but probably will. I have lots of red tape things I can put in it.

    • Hi Deb J – I know it sounds like a hassle but I think you should push ahead and do your yardsale anyway. Initially I thought Spring didn’t sound so bad, but then I remembered you’re Northern Hemisphere – we’re just going into Spring 🙂 To give yourself some company ask around your friends if any of them want to join in and perhaps make some sort of deal with yourself ie some reward from the proceeds of the yard sale.

      I meant to ask – how have you gotten on with those collectible dolls you were talking about the other day?

      • Moni, the dolls haven’t sold. I have been checking on places that might sell them. So far I haven’t found one that will give me much for them. What I mean by that is they want 50% of the take and don’t want to sell them for much. I have a couple of other places to check that take less of the amount and will sell them for more too. I am also thinking of putting them in the yard sale. You never know what someone will buy. I do plan to do the yard sale. We need to get rid of all this stuff and if it waits too long Mom will put it all back in the house cause she doesn’t like the mess of boxes.

        • Hi Deb J – I don’t have any antique collectibles but I do know what it is like to have items which you just want to be rid of but feel obligated to get some decent money for them. I’m not saying you should do this, but for a couple of items, in the end I decided I’d rather give them to someone who would love it or would really benefit from it rather than the piddling amount of money I could get.

          Oh I do love your mum! Such a classic! I’d rather everything hidden in boxes than out in view but maybe she just doesn’t like things sitting idle or without purpose, even if that purpose is to be sitting on the dresser collecting dust!

          • Moni, I have tried to give them away but so far no takers. I will figure it out at some point. Just now I thought about someone else I can ask about one of the dolls. I’m going to do that tomorrow since I will be with her.

            My mom is a hoot. Always has been. She is the type that as soon as you think you have her figured out she comes up with something new to surprise you with.

          • Hi Deb J – good luck with that new option – I don’t know if there are societies for doll collectors or ???? A few years back I had to take my daughter’s favourite doll to the Dolls Hospital for new hair (Act of War by big brother) and there were all sorts of antique dolls that had been sent to her from all over the country. Is there a Dolls Hospital in your area?

            I bet your mum preaches minimalism when she’s with her friends, out of ear shot from you.

          • Moni, I wouldn’t be surprised if you aren’t right about my Mom and her preaching decluttering when not around me.

            We have a doll hospital in the East Valley. I will have to check there. Thanks for another idea.

  3. What a great idea! I thought I would use lime green painters tape since it is easy to remove and I have lots of it. It also shows up well. I decided to add todays date in black marker on the tape to see if I actually use the item anytime soon. I have a feeling that the tape with the date marked two months before I even look at the item again is going encourage me to pass it on.

  4. this is exactly what I have done to my tupperware. I got the idea, because I was decluttering my stickers collection (first grade sticker collection – anyone?) and I had three sheets of colourful letter stickers with only consonants, so I couldnt think of any obvious use. So I decided to get a visual help for my tupperware and I marked every single item with one of those letters. Sincec then everytime I have been using one, I removed the sticker or I checked if there was one that was without already. its been quite some time since I removed one, and I know the long, smallish container has its sticker still on the back. I guess its my mini mission item for today then 🙂

    and thanks for that eco-tip, I will for sure think about that!

    • Hi Lena – that’s a good idea – I swear plasticware breeds! Several months back our plastics cupboard was an avalanche zone. So I worked out quantities for each size container, made sure we had the right number of lids and freecycled out the rest. After a couple of months I have noticed that the quantities have crept up again and I know we haven’t bought any new ones.

      • I think plastic containers go around! lol When we buy icecream in our house, a new plastic container arrives. And when a relative gives us leftovers from a lunch or dinner (my aunt does that a lot to me), there comes some new plastic. Their numbers never decrease. 😀

        • Hi Andreia – yes I suspect some were stashed under my son’s bed – eeeuuuuwww – as he uses them as lunch boxes and some probably had craft bits and pieces in them that got used up or moved on.

      • like rabbits – although I have to say, I was lately good in “decluttering” by lending out and forgetting…
        I guess plastic containers have a similar fate like lighter and pens. you never really know how you came into possession of these items in the first place, then you have and use them for a while and then they are suddenly gone again. and there is no chance to get control over those items. 😉

  5. Hi Moni – re “glass measuring jug”- bought a new one the other day , with the numbers able to be read from the inside and put the old one in the recycling bin as all the writing had worn off. A few years ago I would have kept the old one too “just in case” but not any more !

    • Hi Jez – the same thing happened to my measuring jug, the numbers wore off and its quite scuffed looking if that makes any sense. I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone already. I’ve also found two drinking glasses similarly scuffed looking and curve in at the rim so they aren’t nice to to drink out of, they’re going to join the measuring jug.

  6. Great idea! And I love the concept of second and third culls. I often do that myself and go back a second time a few months later. It’s amazing how something that seemed so hard to let go of 6 months ago becomes easier over time when you know you haven’t needed it or used it

    • Hi Angela – I have argued to keep something, justified it etc and then within months virtually threw it out the front door. Would love to understand the mental process behind the transformation.

      • It’s because you have to become aware that it exists first before you can become aware that you don’t use it or need it. But once you become aware that it exists, sooner or later the realization will strike that you aren’t using it and you don’t need it like you thought you did.

  7. Hi Moni! I was inspired by your bookcase decluttering, but went one step ahead. I have two big wardrobes that I want to declutter. Not exactly declutter, but turn into a much smaller place to keep clothes, shoes, towels and linen. It is a challenging idea! When I first saw your post I was (to my shame) thinking that you were crazy to want to declutter your bookcase and everything in it. The reason I thought that is because I have a very similar one, and I didn’t want to think about decluttering it. But your post got me thinking: did I REALLY need all those books and EVERY little scrap of stuff on that bookcase? Now, I have decluttered some things, but still have a long way to go. I don’t know if I have any lazy clutter, but I will go around the house to have a second look. Thanks for your posts.

    • Hi Andreia – my mammoth bookcase mission is still going, in fact so much has happened in the last couple of weeks, the updated post I started writing is out of date already.

      Don’t worry about saying the mission is crazy ‘cos I KNOW its crazy, especially in the early days when I seemed to generate a lot of chaos. I will say that it is looking a lot more orderly and yes you’re right there are a lot of scraps of stuff amongst it all.

      I am intrigued by your mission, it sounds like a compacting mission. You may find that once you have everything in together you will see more obvious items that just don’t belong any more. Keep up the good work and look forward to hearing from you again.

      • Hi Moni. It really is a compacting mission. It is very difficult. I am still at a planning stage, because I have to have the old wardrobe remodeled, sell the other one, and while I am at it, declutter all the excess on the two wardrobes. I have started with the decluttering, because it is an essencial part of the project. But it is hard. I am surrounded by space and storage and I want to let go of stuff AND convince my husband to downsize too (THIS, I swear, IS THE WORST, because husbands are such stubborn people :D). I am doing one day at a time. Thanks for all the encouragement. Good luck on your declutter mission also!

  8. Moni, that is an interesting idea. I only fear I’d need huge amounts of tape, as at the moment my boyfriend is blocking my decluttering a little. (“We are already less cluttered than most other people, why can’t you just be at ease with those things?”) I think, with some things I need to be more patient and wait until they break and diminish the natural way.

    • Hi Sanna – my hubby went thru that stage and then he turned into an Armchair Declutter, which means he sits in front of the tv and points out things that could go. Don’t worry, its not a race, you’ll get there in the end. 🙂

  9. I LOVE the idea! Now, the only thing that I need to do is find myself a lot of tape. I’m thinking of using painter’s tape, an off white tape that is so easy to remove! (I don’t know about electric tape, never heard of it).

    Anyway, I have lot’s of use-it-up products, so I am still in the process to use stuff up. And for books: I think I really should start declutter some books – my bookcase is again, overflowing!

    • Hi Nurchamiel – yes masking tape is perfect. Books! I know what you mean, I am so glad I have an e-reader now, I can just imagine if they hadn’t been invented 50 years from now my house would have looked like the town library.

  10. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I needed to read today.
    First spot to get the cull is going to be the DVDs. Thank you.

  11. Hi Creative Me – go for it! I, too, am working on DVD’s at the moment. Best of luck.

  12. Hi Moni, challenge accepted, but I’m going to need a lot of red tape!

  13. I’m doing this!! What a great idea. This is perfect for a visual person like me.