Use it or lose it!

Every home has items that are never considered for decluttering. Mostly useful items that are in service continually but also beautiful items that are admired or sentimental items that you wouldn’t dream of letting go. These items never feel like a burden to the household because they are a valued part of everyday life. They are used and used again, used up and then replaced or on display somewhere where they can be admired or remind us of happy times, successes or loved ones.

Then there are those items that are only lingering because we haven’t got around to donating, selling or tossing them. Stuff we’d have no qualms about decluttering if we could face the prospect of weeding them out and dispatching them. These items are the easy ones to let go of when we finely decide enough is enough it is time to declutter. Parting with them is only a physical thing no a metal challenge. These are the items to concentrate on first when we begin our declutter journey.

And then there are the problem items, these are the ones which we have trouble letting go. You know the ones.

  • Items you keep out of obligation, such as things that have been gifted to you by someone else and you feel obliged to keep them even though you don’t really want them.
  • Aspirational items that your inner most being craves to make use out of but the right time or creative inspiration never seems to strike or has long ago left you. Memory tells you these items are useful and that you should hang on to them but all they do is linger and make you feel a that you have failed them in some way.
  • Then there are the sentimental items whose lesser significance to the truly loved memorabilia merely relegates them to a box deep in the attic somewhere. Sure when you pull them out you oooh and aaarh over them remembering good time but then they get sent back to where they came from for another ten years.
  • And lets not forget the I might need you one day items. Sure you may have a use for some of these items one day but to say you may need them could be stretching reality a little. Stop and think about the things you do use all the time, even some of those are things you could live without. So don’t allow the thought of future regret plague your decision to let go of stuff the isn’t being used and hasn’t for a long time.

This blog post was inspired by a segment in Gretchen Ruben’s new book ~ Happier at Home. She talks about engaging with the items that you haven’t used or appreciated in a while. If you are having trouble deciding whether to keep them or to let items go try putting them into service ~ use them, bring them out and put them on display for a while. Give them one last chance to redeem themselves and if you still aren’t loving them or finding them particularly useful then just liberate them to someone who may find them more useful that you do.

This process can be applied to a few items at a time so you can focus your attention on them for enough time to assess their worth. This can be done while you continue to declutter the items that you are happy to remove immediately. With the slow and steady approach both processes can go on simultaneously so no time is wasted.

I have done this with many items over the last three years of my possession downsize. Some things I have used up and not replace. Some things I have put into use but not found them useful while others I discovered a newfound appreciation for. Things I have kept out of obligation have been viewed with a new neutral mindset and have either past muster or been added to the donation pile. Either way I have been satisfied that I am making the right decision for me and my home at this time and followed through on that decision.

So if in doubt give the item one last chance, in other words either use it or lose it.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a pair of shoes that you no longer wear. Perhaps ones that are pretty but a torture to wear. Ones that are old favourites but are really so shabby you never, or shouldn’t, choose to wear them anymore. Or maybe a pair that are so ugly you wonder why you ever bought them in the first place.

Eco Tip for the Day

Add a few one pot meal to your weekly menu. Cooking everything at once saves on electricity and your precious time. I often also cook the meat portion of my meals separately but cook all my vegetable together one way or another. A slow cooker or a set of steamer saucepans come in handy for this method of cooking.

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. use it or lose it- very apt title for the post …. decluttering summed up in the title itself!

  2. This one is good. Giving second chance should definitely make it easier to part with unloved/unused items, because you see, that they just don’t work. Actually that’s what I’m kind of doing now – it’s more using up, but that still counts right? After every empty box and bottle that goes out, there is less clutter left.

    Around Christmas time I was sick, so I stayed home and because of having a lot of free time I started to declutter… my computer. There was such a mess! I know, I know, those gigabytes don’t really take up much space, but if you think of all the additional memory cards/sticks etc. you might need… I wasn’t as strict as when it comes to stuff, but about 20-30 GB left my computer’s memory anyways. Who needs, for example, lots of similar or blurred photos, right?

    • Hi Anda I think I approved your first comment during my break but didn’t say hi. So a warm welcome to you to 365 Less Things.

      Using up certainly does count. I love a good use it up challenge.

      I did a bit of a computer clean up myself late last year. I had double ups on most of my decluttered item photographs. I deleted all the reduced sized doubles and that freed up quite a bit of space on my computer too.

  3. This is a good post Colleen because it reminds us that we need to not get complacent and forget those things we keep putting off just because they are hard to decide on. Good things to report: 1. Friend S spent 3 weeks in Missouri & Iowa over the holidays. While gone she helped her mom declutter a huge load of books. Smile! 2. We got busy over the holidays and decluttered all the Christmas decor down to the 3 foot tree, a wooden Advent tree in a box, a small container holding a centerpiece and wooden star, and the two 3-section containers with everything else. That’s 1/3 of what we had and all neatly shelved in the shed. 3. I spent some time decluttering my Kindle of the books I didn’t like and then put everything in virtual shelves according to type.

    • Wait, you can do that on the Kindle? I still haven’t figured out how to arrange them. I just delete them from the Kindle and never look at what’s in the cloud. I’d much rather have them on virtual shelves so I don’t have to search through the kids’ books to get to mine!

      • You can get a free app called Fire Dept Book Center or some such. It looks like a bookcase with books. You set up folders. It’s great.

        • If anyone want to know how to do this with Kobo – log on and in your myLibrary go to the ‘Im reading’ tab, select the book and delete. It will still be in ‘Purchased’. The next time you sync it will remove it from your device. When you want the book back, go to the Purchased tab, select the book and click on bookmark and say yes to returning it to “I’m reading”.

        • Thanks, Deb! I just downloaded it and will be sorting tonight. This makes me so happy!!!!

    • Well done as usual Deb J. And how about S helping someone else declutter. Woo Hoo!
      I don’t have a kindle so I really can’t comment on that but I do have three books waiting to be picked up at the library and two book reviews to do for my readers. Yikes.

  4. Great examples Colleen of the categories of clutter we face and how to deal with them. May I add another which to my shame I’ve faced a few times on my decluttering journey? It’s the ” I didn’t even remember I had it” category. At least there’s no hesitation for me with that one – it’s a definite “lose”!

    • Hi Megan,
      I like your new category, I don’t believe I have ever included that one. I am one of those people who forgets a lot of things but never what I own and I usually know exactly where to put my fingers on everything as well. Mind you that is a whole lot easier now that I have so much less stuff.

  5. Great post! I told a relative the other day (when we were discussing decluttering) my thought on getting rid of items that are difficult to let go of, especially those that are kept out of obligation. My thought is, “I have enjoyed that item long enough, and now it is time for someone else to get some enjoyment out of it.” It helps me sometimes when making difficult decisions. I like the idea of bringing out items, especially those you haven’t seen for ages, and giving them that final chance to stay or go. It is better to get things out in the open and force ourselves to deal with them. I have done that a lot with things in my kitchen. If I have things that do the same thing, I will pick the better of the two. It is even better when I have things that can serve a dual purpose. I am replacing a few things, here and there, that are a little outdated too. For instance,purchasing a collapsible strainer for my kitchen needs, because it takes up less room. I like ideas like that because the less room I need for my things the better. I am definitely part of the use it up plan too. I have reduced my toiletries down to one shelf in my bathroom. It may not sound like much, but it is a start and a little bit everyday counts.

    • Jen – I too find myself saying that “its time for someone else to enjoy it” quite often these days. Somehow it makes it a lot easier to part with something that we once really liked but just don’t forsee an active future for the item.

    • Hi Jen,
      let me know how the collapsable strainer goes. That is what I am planning to get when the one I have finally falls apart on me. It is having structural integrity problems now. I hate being disappointed with items that I think are going to be good but aren’t so a little feedback on that would be good.

      It seems you have been doing a lot of the same things I have done over the last three years. There are far fewer things in my kitchen now because of it. My toiletries, like yours, are minimal as well.

  6. “…engaging with the items that you haven’t used or appreciated in a while” That’s a funny way to put it! 😉

    • I makes sense though. It is one way to be sure whether they really are useful or meaningful to you. I won’t take credit for the idea though it was from Grethen Rubins book.

  7. This post made me think of some items and some clothes that have been out of sight and out of mind for a long time…

  8. I have to share this! I have to.

    My husband is giving up his beloved train set. He’s made the decision…I am gently reminding him to figure out how he wants to do it (donate or toss, since it’s broken) but he’s made a huge step forward!

    Also…I am posting my wedding dress on Freecycle. 🙂 Two HUGE things out of our closet!

    • Congratulations Lynn! It is very good to reclaim our space lost to stuff. Be gentle with your husband, you know how men are with their toys 😀 (my husband STILL keeps his train set…sigh).

      • I’m definitely being gentle. If he changes his mind, I’m okay with that, but…I don’t think he will. He might want to buy a new one later for our kids but that’s something they can do together and, well, it would work! Haha.

    • Hi Lynn, funny you should mention those two items specifically. I am the one with both the wedding dress and the electric train in the household. I think I will freecycle the train and be choosy which person to release it too. I would like it to go to someone who is really keen. As for the wedding dress I am going to see if it survives the wash first before I decide its fate.

  9. I have kept a lot of things out of obligation. Right now in my garage, waiting to go to the Salvos, are a pile of baby/toddler toys. My two younger children are only 25 and 3 months old, and yet I’m getting rid of them because either they haven’t been played with much or we have other toys that do basically the same thing. The only reason I’ve kept them are because we hadn’t finished having babies so we’d better keep them! One was a gift and is huge, and I feel really good about it being gone, because I never really liked it in the first place.


  1. […] Here’s how to decide what to keep and what to let go […]