What holds you back from decluttering

Finding the will to get started on your declutter journey can be far more difficult than finding the excuses not to start. Below I have written a list of excuses that may be holding you back from getting started or continuing on your journey as the case may be.

  • Needing to enlist someone else’s help.
  • Not knowing how to responsibly dispose of the items.
  • Can’t bare the thought of how big the job is.
  • Are not sure where to begin.
  • Your perfectionist tendencies cause you to give up before you begin.
  • There are not enough hours in the day.
  • You would prefer to tackle the task in peace but there is always someone in the house to interrupt you.
  • You get too sentimental about items you try to declutter.
  • You want to get rid of things but feel obligated to keep them so why bother trying.

Here is my advice to combat most of these issues

Never hesitate to ask for help even if you know you may encounter resistance, better that than making no progress at all. You might be surprised by how quickly people will come to your aid when you make it clear how important it is to you to get the job done. Enlisting help may include getting someone to sort through their stuff, cooperation on sorting joint possessions or maybe even getting someone to amuse the children for a day while you attack the task.

No matter how big or how small the task, it can be done by working away at it in as little as ten minute intervals. Just get started with one small session at a time. There is no right or wrong time to declutter. I sometimes do five minutes while I am waiting for the kettle to boil, there is no point in getting comfortable in that five minutes so why not do something useful. And intervals as short as ten minutes can be found before the children wake up in the morning or after they go to bed at night.

Forget perfect there is no such thing concentrate instead on BETTER. If you can’t get past perfect make a game of what kind of perfect little declutter mission you can accomplish in under half an hour. With each effort you get that little bit closer to all over perfect.

Decide what is more important to you, keeping things you don’t really want or freeing up the space in your home, in your time and in your mind. Start on the easy things to part with and then the more progress you make the higher decluttering will become on your priority list which may then usurp the once important desire to keep certain things.

Today’s Declutter Item

I actually sold these Kiss dolls for my son some time back but I just hadn’t got around to learning how to make collages out of photos that I want to include as a group. Making collages is a bit like decluttering, if I had known how easy it could be I would have started doing it a long time ago.

Kiss Dolls


Something I Am Grateful For Today

I went for a walk today but had no real destination in mind or even direction in which I was heading until I got the idea to go for a coffee while I was out. Then I thought ~ I have been out for coffee so many times over the last week perhaps I should abstain. That was went I remembered I had a frequent buyers reward card in my purse that I was due a free coffee on. Now that was something I was grateful for, a no guilt coffee, I love it when a plan I didn’t even have comes together.

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. I think all of that list have,stopped me at different times in the past! LOL but one thing at a time will eventually make a difference!

  2. YES! Thank you for this. You inspired me to “decide what is more important to you, keeping things you don’t really want or freeing up the space in your home”… and as a result, I made the decision to get rid of a storage chest and chaise lounge today! What a difference in the space!

    • Hi *pol,
      I am glad to be of assistance with your decision making. People often make the mistake of keeping stuff out of habit or convention and don’t consider the idea that they can live (perhaps even more comfortably) without it. Personally I like to buck the system if I don’t feel it is working for me (within legal boundaries of course). Not long into our decluttering mission I gave away our BBQ which seemed very unAustralian of us but we rarely used it and figured we could borrow one from the neighbours if we ever felt the need. We have only felt the need once in 16 months and that was for a BBQ we invited our entire townhouse community to so I had several offers to lend me one.

  3. Colleen, I know I hit at least half of your list, maybe more!

    I am working on my clutter, bit by bit and was able to take a large load to Goodwill today. I discovered when I dropped it off that not only do they take clothes and thrift store items, they also take books, children’s toys, games, puzzles, and furniture. I didn’t realize this and now I know I have a place that everything can go that is convenient, will benefit the community, will get me a tax refund, and will help me continue in my declutter mission.

    After taking everything to Goodwill, I have again filled up my dining room table with books I culled from my bookcase today, two stacks of puzzles, and a large box of sheet music which I can’t use that I inherited from my mom when she gave me her old piano. I no longer have the piano, so there’s no point in keep the music – it’s just taking up space.

    My son works for the local retirement home. I plan on sending the sheet music with him to work for the resident’s piano there. I am sure that the range of different kinds of music and the fact that some of it dates back to the early 1900’s or even earlier will be of value to people who are looking for ways to fill their days in their retirement. I also know that they do jigsaw puzzles in the recreation area, so I am sending those along with my son as well.

    I continue to putter along in half hour bursts here and there whenever the mood strikes and I have gotten so much out. But there is still so much to go. I am not letting that stop me though. Your method of ten minutes at a time makes it so much more doable!

    Thanks for the continuing inspiration. I next plan to tackle the boxes of old school papers and things in my three boys’ boxes in the basement. I think probably 99% of that can be thrown out!


    • Hi Chelle,
      i am so glad you found an outlet for your clutter. There isn’t a lot that Goodwill, the Salvo, Lifeline don’t take. I went to my Lifeline thrift shop to drop off a load on Monday and lo and behold the place has closed down. Apparently they are moving just a couple of streets away but they aren’t set up there yet. I don’t know what was more annoying, lugging the stuff back home again or the fact that regardless of the loads and loads of stuff I have dropped off there over the last two years they still don’t recognise me enough to say, “Hey we’ve moving at the end of the month”. Never mind I will just have a bigger load next time.

      Id am sure the retirement home will enjoy the sheet music and the puzzles, nothing like a little variety to bring some light to a day.

      I am so glad the slow and steady approach is working for you. Are you feeling much calmer now that you aren’t surrounded by stuff? And what do the rest of the family think of it?

      Don’t forget you can scan the boys school papers if you aren’t too attached to the originals.

      Have a great day and happy decluttering!

      • Colleen,

        I am feeling a lot calmer, thank you. Although I am still surrounded by “stuff!” LOL I still have all the pictures to go through and haven’t figured that one out yet.

        I doubt there are many of the kids’ original school papers that I will want to save. It’s just a matter of getting down there and going through the boxes. I would like to keep their report cards and maybe a hand print drawing or something like that for each of them. Otherwise, I don’t even know what’s in those boxes, so obviously there’s nothing of true value to me or I would have it out somewhere!

        The rest of the family has not gotten on board yet, but I’m working on them. I did get my youngest son’s room cleaned out, except for his desk, and my middle son cleaned out his closet. As he was doing it and finding shirts he’d been looking for, he said to me, “Hoarding sucks.” I think that sums it up really nicely.

        They had a Hoarders marathon on yesterday. I watch it because it always gets me to moving stuff out of my house. That show is an inspiration to all packrats!


        • Hi Chelle,
          well done getting your sons on board with the decluttering, your eldest is clearly learning from the experience. If Hoarders is inspiration for you a would say what it often and have at your stuff when the show is done.

  4. Chelle – what a great idea about the sheet music and puzzles for the seniors’ home!

    • Thanks, Jo. The thought hit me like a lightning bolt as my son was leaving for work one day. Of course they would like those things for recreation and how often do you think they get stuff like that at those retirement homes and assisted living facilities? Ben said they do have a piano, so I am hoping they will enjoy it.

      Goodwill will take the puzzles if they don’t want them at the retirement home. Either way, they are all on my dining room table, which is the way station out of the house. Once it gets there, it never goes back!


  5. “Not knowing how to responsibly dispose of the items.”
    That’s the big one for me these days. It would be so easier to just put everything in the trash but I won’t, so it takes time and energy to dispose of all the stuff my kids have outgrown. Since we are doing a big clean-up during summer break and selling a lot of stuff on craiglist, I started a “free box”. Anyone who buys something can take as much as they like from the free box. I just got the idea today and I hope it is going to work because these are kids items that cannot be sold or donated but that I just cannot trash them (partly used sticker sheets and coloring books, a fire fighter hat, party favors, play-dough, first composition books with only a few pages used, plastic scissors for toddlers, crayons, markers etc…).
    If someone has ideas how to responsibly dispose of these, please let me know. The teachers from my kids’ school were not interested.

    • Hi Natalie,
      most of the kids stuff you mentioned would probably be gratefully received at a school or daycare centre. It is worth asking that is for sure. I donated, scrapbook paper, pencils, pens, half used composition books, binder paper, binders, felt pens and similar stuff to my local school and they were as pleased as punch it it.

      • Hi Natalie,
        Just a suggestion for part-used colouring-in books, children’s puzzle books and coloured pencils and crayons: I gave some of ours to the paediatric department of our hospital, and some to our doctor’s rooms and some to the dentist (ditto). All were really glad to get them.

    • Natalie,
      many of the things you listed would probably be appreciated by churches for Sunday School children or summer VBS. It can get expensive for churches with limited funds buying supplies and craft items for all the extra kids who attend these summer programs.

  6. “I don’t have the time.”
    Of course I use all of these excuses but usually I blame the hours.
    Sometimes justified (coming home, falling to bed like dead, with chronic sleep deprivation: 5 minutes more or less sleep can really make a difference) but sometimes it’s just a lame excuse.
    It’s easy to recognize the difference. I don’t feel guilty in the first case. But there is this nagging feeling in the second…

    • Hi Sarah,
      I am only too familiar with that nagging feeling especially now that my kids are grown and I don’t even have a job. I think that is why I kind of like housecleaning days now because I feel justified and relaxing for the rest of the day once it is all done.

  7. I’ve been thinking about what my biggest obstacle in decluttering is. While I can easily subscribe to most of what you’ve listed, I think I struggle the most with – not shifting the stuff out of the house in timely manner. Once I form the piles somehow they tend to stay in the spare room for far too long.

    • This is exactly what happened to me.
      In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel it that it is like a vicious cycle, it starts with not having time – or not taking the time – combined with having space to put away the items, and then it gets worse months after months, or years after years in my case! Then there is just so much to do, I dread doing something about it. But I learned my lesson, and promise myself to never let that happen in the first place anymore. Can you imagine: I got rid of a diaper pail a few weeks ago. My kids are 8 and 10! This huge thing had been sitting unused in my house for more than 5 years!

      • Hi Natalie,
        sometimes I think if we didn’t have the space to put things away we wouldn’t keep adding to the clutter. My attitude to owning so much stuff changed when we moved into this much smaller home. Once I discovered how much easier it was to clean a much smaller home I wondered why I ever wanted to live in a bigger one previously. The status symbol thing I guess. The next step was to reduce our belonging to fit in this home and that cascaded into “The less we own the less time I will waste maintaining them as well.” so then I really get selective about what stays and what goes.

        My old diaper pails were just old industrial sized buckets with lids that I got for free so I had no problems parting with them as soon as my son was done with them. At that point I had no intentions of every having more children, thats for sure!!!

        • Absolutely. We actually plan on downsizing. We used to live in 1000 sq foot and it was a bit small with two very young children so we thought 2000 sq foot would be perfect especially if we had a third child. But since this is not going to happen, we are going to settle for 1300-1500 sq feet. I think that would be the perfect size for our needs.

    • Hi Ornela,
      do you have a plan for where to donate them to or is that part of the problem? It takes me a while to build up enough stuff to make it worth the trip to the thrift store to drop it off and then I have to wait for a day when I have the car. I can pile mine up in the garage though which is helpful. Unfortunately there are three pieces of furniture cluttering up the garage at the moment that I am hoping to sell but because I am about to go away for two weeks it is too late to deal with that for now. I really would like them out of the there and that bothers me but I just have to put up with it for now. If they don’t sell promptly when I advertise them on my return I will be donating them just because I don’t want them taking up space.