Try before you unbuy

Strange title I know but it probably caught your eye and made you wonder what I am going to be on about today. The thing that triggered this post was a post my Jenny at Ex-consumer called Early To Rise about trying a new routine of getting up earlier in order to see if it relieved the stress of not having enough hours in the day to get things done. Let’s face it there is nothing to be lost in giving something a try you can always go back to your old ways if the new situation doesn’t work for you.

With that thought in mind, why not try it with decluttering if you are unsure how you feel about getting rid of things. This is not a new concept but it bares rehashing every so often.

Lets say you think you might like to declutter your kitchen, pare it down to the more essential items that you know you use on a regular basis but you are afraid you may find after the fact that you have gone too far. Why not have a practice declutter that you can reverse if necessary. Sounds feasible and here is the plan.

  • Get one or two packing boxes. The kind a removal company might use or anything else you can get your hands on.
  • Allocate a space in your garage or basement where you can store these boxes for three months.
  • Select the items from your kitchen that you think you don’t want to keep and/or rarely use.
  • Carefully pack all the items into the boxes.
  • Mark the boxes with their contents just in case you get desperate to retrieve something.
  • Store the boxes in your chosen place for three months.
  • Continue using your kitchen as usual.

When/if you ever get a pang that you would like something back don’t immediately try to find it among the items in the boxes. Use a little ingenuity and find a way to substitute that item with something else in the range of things you still have. Try not to resort to entering the boxes until the three month period is up. In fact I wouldn’t even make of a note of the things you thought you want back out of the boxes as the time goes along.

After the three months is up you can do what works best for you.

  • Donate the entire box of goodies to the charity of your choice if you didn’t encounter any regrets.
  • Have a garage sale and sell the boxes of stuff.
  • Open the boxes and retrive the things you did miss and donate or sell the rest.
  • Get a couple more boxes and repeat in another area of the house.
  • Or put all the clutter back into your kitchen and stop reading my blog. 😆

This concept is the opposite of trying before you buy. You are trying life without an item before you get rid of it altogether. Give it a try and see what you can live without.

Today’s Declutter Item

I sold this item a couple of months back on ebay. In order to encourage a sale I offered to store it until it could be collected by an out of town winning bidder. It took some time to finalise the sales due to this arrangement but we got there in the end. I was just happy to sell it and my daughter was happy to get the money.

My daughter's old keyboard

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I am grateful for stumbling upon the post draft above that I published today. I think I am coming down with something or I just have bad hay fever. Either way I wasn’t feeling great so it was nice to have a post up my sleeve so I didn’t have to try to focus on writing.

“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:

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  • 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. This is brilliant! I have been trying to declutter for so long. While it felt GREAT when I finally got one room done, there is so much more to go. The best strategy is to just do one huge cleaning/declutter, but it’s so time consuming and exhausting. Every time I try to just declutter a few items at a time, I get discouraged at the amount of stuff.

    It seems like I’ve becoming the go-to person for things other people don’t want in their homes, but it’s harder to get it out of my space. Your articles on how to get rid of sentimental clutter and gifts were really helpful (after all, the only reason I’m holding onto it is because someone else wanted to get rid of it in the first place), but I think this is the most practical article to date (not that I’ve read them all yet – still working on it 😉 ). All the practicality of one big declutter, but simple and even has a backup for if you need something you put away (I can’t tell you how many items – mostly clothes and books – I’ve started using simply because I can now find them). Thanks a lot! 😀

    • Hi Ami,
      may I extend to you a warm welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for coming forward to let us know you are out there.

      Don’t be discouraged by the size of the task at hand. Just think there are a lot of people out there who want a new decluttered life but can’t bring themselves to let go of anything so you are doing very well. Clutter and decluttering is mostly in the mind and what is required is a change of mind set. We have to change our desire for stuff, change our dependency of stuff, and when it comes time to let go we need to chose how we are going to go about decluttering and be satisfied with that. There is no point in swapping the dissatisfaction of a lifestyle we have lead for years which caused the clutter to build up over time for a dissatisfaction of how fast we are turning the situation around. If you have decided that gradual decluttering is less stressful and strenuous than a fast and furious declutter then you need to be content with that or you may just lose heart and give up. I have been at this for 23 months now and admittedly my clutter was mostly well hidden I still knew it was there and had to go. I made the snap decision to declutter slowly and an so glad I did. What I have learned from this slow and steady process will be lessons that stay with me for a lifetime and I expect I will never look back. I want you to focus on that last sentence in your comment, it proves you are reaping the rewards of decluttering already and that is what you should dwell on, the positives.

      So be patient Ami and be happy that you are making progress no matter how slow that my seem. Just remember the clutter didn’t appear overnight so it won’t disappear that way either. Good luck my friend and don’t forget we are always here to cheer you on should you need encouragement.

      • Thanks for the welcome! Your blog is really helping me. You help me remember to declutter and also make it a freeing process rather than stressful. 🙂

        • Good point Ami, it really is meant to be a freeing process. The stress is purely manufactured in our own minds and only we can change that mind-set.

    • amy I am like you have to do it slowly. One example of how this has helped me is this middle of last year 2010 I decluttered the bottom shelf of my pantry. There were a lot of party things( balloons, plastic glasses etc) in there. I got an old icecream container and put a few pkts (2) in it as well as some paper plates and plastic tumblers).
      the rest I put in plastic bags on the bottom shelf of my linen cupboard in the upstairs bathroom. this yr 1/1/12 I had my grandson’s 8th birthday. I knew exactly where I had put these things that I needed instead of searching through everything.

      • Denise, avoiding more clutter in by knowing where your stuff is one good step towards a less cluttered home. Getting organised is a lot easier the less stuff you own too. So go slow by all means so long as more is going out than coming it you will get there in the end.

  2. I think this is a great idea. Especially when you are fairly new at decluttering or when you have one area that is a sticking point that area has to do with who you are or what you do. For instance, for some who are book/reading lovers it may be hard to declutter books or if you love to cook and experiment in the kitchen declutting the kitchen is harder. Good post.

    • You are so right Deb J. Also sometimes it is hard to be honest with yourself on how little we actually use things. Therefore if we hide those sort of objects away for a while it will then become obvious whether we need them or not. Giving ourselves the opportunity to learn there are other ways to go about something that we don’t often do anyway without needing a special gadget for the job can help us realise how unimportant some items are to us too.

  3. Some how I am getting 2 posts in my inbox. Maybe I subscribed twice? Could you look into it and tell me what I need to do to fix it. Trying to unclutter my inbox, but do not want to unsubscribe to your posts! Love your blog!


    • Hi Marianne,
      perhaps you did subscribe twice although there has been a bit of a glitch with WordPress in that area for a while now so it could be their fault. I can’t actually do anything at my end. What you need to do is unsubscribe using the prompt at the end of your email. Do it with both copies of one duplicated email. Then subscribe again and see if that fixes your problem.

  4. I’m a sucker for a catchy title and this post lives up to the promise!

    Hope you feel better soon, Colleen.

    • I like a catcy title too, something that draws people in.

      Still feel like c**p today but I will just give myself permission to take it easy and hope it goes away soon. Thanks for the well wishes.

  5. Hi Colleen! I love this idea. When I was de-cluttering earlier this year, I sold some things that I later had to replace. Overall, I didn’t miss much. But there were a few kitchen items I sold in garage sales this summer that I ended up missing a little.

    We’re all fighting colds at my house this week, so I know how you’re feeling. I hope you feel better soon!

    P.S. Thank you so much for the link love. 🙂

    • Hi Jenny,
      there has only been one or two items that have been decluttered from out home that we later regretted but I am pleased to say I wasn’t the one who decluttered them. Silly little things that were easily replaced like computer cables and a phone line splitter for internet connection. Anything really small like this that may be needed if the used one fails are easily stored in the garage so I see no point and getting over zealous about decluttering them. I find that most things can be substituted by something else especially when it comes to the kitchen.

      I hope your family shakes their lurgies as well and are all better soon. Thanks for the well wishes.
      The link love is always my pleasure.

  6. Hope your feeling better soon Colleen, hayfever sucks.

    I read this on another blog, where he litreally packed everything away then only brought out 3 months later i think, what he truly missed, so i love this concept Colleen. I may try it with my wardrobe maybe for a couple of weeks and see what i really miss. It’s a great way for people struggling with what they can let go of.

    Sharron x

    • Hi Sharron,
      being as it is still hanging around today I don’t think it is hayfever but some nasty lurgy I have picked up. Oh well it takes something like this for me to give myself permission to take it easy and maybe that is all I need. Thanks for the well wishes, I am sure they will help the healing process.

      It is a good process. I tried it with a rotary grater that I really liked and used a lot before I discovered Microplane graters. I put it in the donation box for a month or two and made the one recipe I ever used it for anymore, without it, and discovered I really didn’t need it. I took it to the thrift shop a few weeks ago and it sold for $4 one day when I was on the register. It is nice to witness the items going off with their new owners.

  7. You got me with ‘early to rise’ – today I was up at 5.15 instead of 5.40, which meant I could pick up some second hand chairs and still be at work on time (7am). I got lost and still arrived on time, without the stress! Yay!

    • Hi Snosie,
      it is easier to rise earlier to get things done because we can always go to bed earlier to make up for it. We are less inclined to be doing anything useful near bedtime than we would at the start of the day so best to make up the sleep then.

  8. I do this with my permanent donation area in my closet 🙂 I leave a trashbag in the corner and fill it up from time to time with “maybe” items. I see if I can get used to not seeing the item around the house, and when enough time has passed, I donate the bag. With this method, I’ve never regretted anything I’ve gotten rid of, and I’ve given away at least 60% of my possessions. Never thought about doing this in the kitchen, good idea!

    • Hi Faith,
      this method works for everything and anything so why not expand your use of it and see how it goes. I have only used this method once and that was for a kitchen items and I was successful in coming to the conclusion I didn’t need it. I suppose though that I used this method minus the moving things to an out of the way place. I quite often see things during my decluttering that I feel I am not ready to part with yet but then stumble upon them again later on and think “I still haven’t used that since the last time I came across it so it can go.”, same method really just a different approach.

  9. This earlier to rise business has a lot going for it! I’ve always been a night owl, and therefore found it really difficult to get up in the mornings. About a year ago I decided to start getting up before 7am, and now, most mornings I’m up at 6 (apart from this week I must admit; I haven’t been sleeping well). It is amazing how much calmer and less rushed the mornings are! My friends cannot believe I managed to do this, but if Lazy Loretta can, then ANYONE can 🙂

    I like the packing things away concept. I’m currently boxing up all our books for the move and almost feel physical pain that I won’t be able to access them for around 6 weeks, which is so stupid as just because I can’t see them, doesn’t mean I don’t still have them. I KNOW I won’t be getting rid of any more books, as that was a long process I’ve completed already. I’ll just have to look forward to enjoying them at the other end (Warrnambool!!) in the new year.

    Feel better soon, Colleen

    • I can’t believe you are lazy Loretta. I get up when my husband leaves between 6 and 6:30am and that feels good to me. It usually gives me time to tweet my blog, answer comments etc before the other busy elements of my day set in.

      Warrnambool, that not in Tasmania. When did you change your mind. I checked it out online and it looks very pretty though.

      • Actually, Warrnambool was our very first choice a year ago, but the circumstances were not right at the time. Now my husband gets to work from home with his current firm when we move, which is perfect! Yes, it is beautiful there; a mix of country and the beach, with good cafes as well.

        BTW, I’m so pleased you got some cash for the keyboard. I was just too lazy to ebay my daughter’s one so I just stuck it out on the nature strip and it was gone in minutes 🙂

        • Hi Loretta,
          good cafes now that is the most important thing. If I am ever down that far we will visit one of those cafes and have another coffee together. I so enjoyed out last meeting.

          It took about a month to offload the keyboard after the auction ended but I was fine with that. I got $80 for it if I remember correctly.

  10. Colleen,
    I hope you’ll feel a lot better soon; it’s no fun feeling ill. So do “give yourself permission to do nothing” for a bit – I suspect that is something you don’t do often.
    Yeeharrr, I’m off my crutch and onto a walking stick. I swore I’d never use a stick; I’d just get back to ordinary walking – well, nearly thirteen months later, and still unable to manage uneven ground, or standing still, without the crutch, I’m THRILLED to be on a stick! And a quick thought – that means I can “declutter” the crutch!
    So far, with the decluttering, I’ve missed one or two things, but not for very long, and I haven’t felt the need to replace anything. Now, for about 80% of the rest of our belongings .,….. 🙂

    • Thanks Ann,
      I have been taking it easy today and only doing things when I felt like it. I was outside for a while and felt much better out there. I might grab a book and go out there again shortly.

      Congratulations on your graduation from crutch to walking stick. My goodness, I can’t believe how long these things take to heal. I have been having a problem with my Achilles tendon for months now luckily its not getting any worse but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better either. The doctor keeps telling me it will heal eventually. I am just glad it didn’t blow out altogether like yours did and I hope it never does. Your arm muscles must be good and toned by now though. I’m trying to be the cup half full kinda gal with that remark.

      One or two things missed isn’t much compared to the volume of stuff you have decluttered. I bet you never thought you would have made such huge inroads when you first began. Well done you and all while bed ridden and hobbling. You are an inspiration to others.

      • Thanks Colleen for those kind words! And I suppose my arms must be much stronger than when the year began, however “toned” implies something nice and firm and slim – and I’m afraid that doesn’t come anywhere near the shape of my arms(!). Oh well, they work, anyway.
        I hope your Achilles tendon settles down for you, perhaps you should rest it more?
        Well, back to decluttering, my fortnight as a “working woman” is over as of midday today, and the house looks as if I haven’t had any leftover energy for it – poor house!

        • Hi Ann,
          I am glad those arms are hanging in there even if they aren’t so toned.

          I spend so much time on my butt writing blog posts I think my Achilles tendon ought to be getting all the rest it needs. The thing is it only troubles me when I first start walking so if i just kept moving I would be fine.

          I know what you mean about house neglect. I was due to clean house on Monday but my parents were still here and once they were gone I got sick and refused to do it when I wasn’t well. I doesn’t look too bad though if you don’t look too close.

  11. I was intrigued by the title, too. Excellent, Colleen! That’s something which I teach my students–always write a catchy title!

    I like the idea of removing items for awhile before you finally get rid of them. I have tried that with my yarn stash. If I haven’t used it/remembered I had it, then obviously, I’m not going to knit anything with it.

  12. Sorry to hear you are under the weather, Colleen. Don’t forget to add plenty of fluids to your resting (Can’t resist the nagging, I’m afraid. Everyone gets it from me when they are ill. A spoon of pesto in a cup of chicken stock is a great fortifier.).
    Wonderful post. I think I will try this with my writing desk. It is always so cluttered with things I “NEED”, that I never want to do my writing. Maybe it is time to reassess what ‘need’ is.
    Yep, I can tell this will be a good idea. As soon as I visualized a bare desk, after typing that last sentence, I felt shaky. If I am that emotional about it, there’s bound to be an impact. Now, to summon my courage.

    • Hi Sabine,
      Reassess what need is. Now there is inspiration for a post if ever there was one. I’ll be contacting you about this ASAP so stand ready for a guest post request.

      Oh and thank you for the health advice as well. Are you a nurse, a mother or both? 😆

  13. I love the box idea! I have been using a similar method and I feel braver about decluttering this way. Often I will think about something but don’t get rid of it right away, but the next day I am sitting at work and decide it should go in the box after all. I make a note on sticky paper and stick it on my phone so when I get home I remember what I wanted to box up. Gives me time to process it that way…

    • Hi Veronica,
      this method really does work doesn’t it. I revisit areas of my home over and over again. As I get more ruthless with my decluttering, things that once weren’t in my radar become a target of my decluttering. Sentimental things often end up in boxes in the garage and then those boxes get reassess and slowly but surely they begin to empty. Sometimes they fill back up again with more stuff and then the reassessing cycle starts all over again. The garage always seems to be full of boxes but the stuff in the boxes is constantly changing and the cupboards inside are slowly emptying.

  14. Great idea for those who have a hard time parting with their things. I am so anxious to get the clutter out of the house, I just use the “Don’t cry over spilled milk” attitude that what is done is done and don’t worry about it. There are VERY FEW things I have ever wished I hadn’t donated and I cross that bridge if I need to in the future. If it was that important, I can always just buy another one. But, I think this is a great way for people who have a hard time getting rid of stuff. I helped someone who had a hard time letting go, and she kept going back to her boxes and getting the stuff out and putting it back and it was truly just clutter. I guess decluttering can really be hard for some people. It is wise to really think about what you bring into your home, because once it is there it is hard to get rid of.

    Hope you feel better!

    • Hi Spendwisemom,
      I agree, be very mindful of what you bring in and then there will be less chance of it turning into clutter. I am also mindful of what goes out because buying something back is also not a good option in my opinion, environmentally that is. That being said, I haven’t found it hard to part with very much, I find it pretty obvious what is a need and what is a want. Or more to the point, what was once a want and now just seems like a waste of space. There is very little we really need after all.