What Really Matters in your Life

Often someone else will turn on the television while I am in the room but I am not really watching it. It is however hard to ignore news broadcasts about all the natural disasters that keep happening this year. The latest disaster in Japan is horrifying to behold and conjures up a lot of feelings and deep thought.

I don’t know about you but my first reaction was ‘Oh my god, all those people dead, injured and missing!’ Watching the tsunami destroy everything in its path, lives, buildings, cars, ships… The sadness and misery felt by those left behind trying to come to terms with the loss of loved ones while having to deal with their homes being destroyed. Nowhere to go, no place of comfort except hopefully in the arms of other loved ones who survived.

When we witness disasters like these the last thing we think of, if at all, is the trivial stuff in those peoples lives. Stop and think for a minute. If this happened to you, would you really be thinking ‘Oh my God, what has happened to that  unused silver tea set Aunt Maud gave us as a wedding gift.’ No! So why do we have such a hard time parting with such things when times are good? Next time you are having trouble parting with items like this or any such trivial stuff stop and think for a minute how important this item would be in a disaster situation and be realistic about its importance in your life.

Maybe sell off these items and donate the money to someone less fortunate than you. This option would certainly alleviate any guilt you feel about Aunt Maud’s feelings. We really are lucky when we have the time and energy to concern ourselves with such things. Why not share that good fortune with someone else instead of hoarding it in the back of a cupboard somewhere in the comforting home that you share with the people you love.

Now before you get all up in arms about me being cruel, uncaring and insensitive about the fact that we all have crosses to bare in this world. I didn’t write this post to make you feel ashamed, I wrote it to help you let go of those items that you keep clinging on to even though you really don’t want them in your life. If you have items in your home that will never realise their worth, there is always someone out there who may enjoy them more or benefit from the funds they generated. I sincerely hope that this post will help you let go and I am prepared to stick my neck out in order to help you achieve that.

Today’s Declutter Item

Just another item of clothing that wasn’t being used. (Donated to the thrift store)

Things that made me  feel grateful today.

  • How privileged I am.
  • The joy I get from donating the things I don’t use to others who may use them.
  • Feeling safe even though I know anything can happen when you least expect it.
  • That in my life I have only ever lost two people close to me from anything other than old age.
  • That learning to let go of stuff gets easier the more I realise how little it matters.

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

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Stuff x Emotions ~ A guest post by Andréia It seems funny to talk about emotions and feelings when talking about inanimate objects that can be replaced, but we place emotion and feelings on stuff all the time. It can be good or it […]
  • Put away the emotions I received a comment from Michelle yesterday in response to the day's mini mission ~ Declutter a sentimental item that doesn’t bring much in the way of happy memories. Michelle took on […]
  • Sentiment v Obligation I know I have written about this subject before but it is one of those issues that are worth revisiting every now and again. Especially for those struggling with it or who have only […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I love that idea of selling things and donating the money to disaster relief, or any other charity, really. It gives a purpose to the letting go. Sometimes people are more willing to sacrifice for others than they are for themselves, and this idea puts that sentiment to good use!

    • Hi Jo,
      it makes for a pretty good excuse when someone asks “What happened to the (insert gift clutter here) I gave you?”, you can tell them you donated it to charity. Maybe they won’t be so insulted then.

  2. Hi Colleen! When I saw what happened in Japan and another ugly natural disaster (flood) about 100 km from where we live, I thougth the same as you. I felt sad about the loss of lives and people losing their homes, a secure place in the world, having no food, no water, really suffering. So I was thinking about all the unused stuff, and think we should put stuff to good use or get rid of them. We are all glad for the people who survived, and I thought that every object lost can be replaced. Lives can’t.

    • Hi Andreia,
      that is exactly right. When times are good these needless object seem so important but when the chips are down you would give them up in a heart beat.

  3. Preparing for Cyclone Yasi really made me assess what matters. If I lost my roof, what would I be genuinely upset about losing. I put all those things in the boot of the car with spare clothes and food: my computer and a framed wedding photo, and there wasn’t much I could do about the piano.
    Fortunately we didn’t have any damage at all, but I am glad for the lessons learnt.

    • Hi Susan,
      how are things up there at the moment the rain just never seems to let up? Are you having any flood issues?
      It is amazing that we can fill a house with stuff but when we are forced to pack up the things we really care for they can all fit into the boot (trunk) of a car with room to spare for food and clothes. What does that say about most of the things we own. I think I really am turning into a minimalist the more I continue on this declutter journey.

      • It’s raining a lot, all right! But I love wet season and all the rain, and my house isn’t flood prone, so I’m loving it.

        • Hi Susan,
          not living in a flood zone is a luxury not everyone can afford unfortunately. I have been lucky to always have been like you – high and dry. Another one of those fortunate situations we take for granted until something like this happens. Having grown up on Queensland I am acutely aware of what it is like to live with flooding and cyclones so I feel for those people who are affected. I am glad you are safe a sound for now.

  4. I read by accident (or luck) about losing things on unclutter in a fire. It opened my eyes: actually, everything that I own can be replaced, so why am I making such a fuss on holding on to something?

    Perhaps if I like an object I can better make good use of it now (as in displaying, or using it) or else it would be gone forever (or me, so I can’t enjoy it anymore!) instead of ending up in a box where I forget it.

    • Hi Nurchamiel,
      you are so right. If we are not appreciating an item it is best to send it on to someone else who might. The key here is the stop buying things that are really just a novelty because no sooner do we bring them home but the excitement wheres off and we no longer care about them. We then put them in a cupboard where we think we can hide from the spending guilt but then the cupboard fills up and can’t be ignored anymore. And the cycle goes on and on.

  5. I didn’t think you were at all insensitive Colleen – just a very real response to the disaster we are all witnessing on our screens and I really appreciated your comments. I’ve had similar thoughts – about how we have a tendancy to define ourselves by our stuff yet our stuff is not who we are. Perhaps too we find security in the familiarity of tangible ‘things’ but it is an illusion of course – life is risky and everything can change in the blink of an eye for all of us. To have everything ripped away at once must bring great shock though.

    After reading your post, I certainly have been able to identity a few more things I would be very happy to ‘lose’,but struggle to get rid of them voluntarily (interestingly , a few more small ornaments associated with my mum, that I don’t display either). I know I will address them in the next few months, once I have finished my current round of purging. At the moment I am challenging myself with hobby stuff – I make mosaics, but not constantly. I want to cull everything so it all fits in the corner of our front room designated my craft area. If it can’t fit, I’ve got too much. It doesn’t fit….argggggh. LOL.

    • Hi Katharine,
      I like your plan to work on the stuff that you can deal with right now and give yourself time to consider the more difficult things. You have identified them and will deal with them later on but not right now. At some point you will run out of other stuff to deal with and these will become the centre of your declutter attention. That is pretty much the system that I have used over the last year and it has certainly worked for me. By the time you get to the hard stuff you are so keen to keep decluttering that it doesn’t stand a chance. 😆 The desire to cling to things has been usurped by the desire to get rid of stuff.

  6. I’ve donated sentimental, somewhat valuable things to charity, because it made me feel like they were put to good use. Someone who loved them would buy them and the money would help out less fortunate people or stray animals. So I would choose a specific charity to take it to and didn’t feel guilty about rejecting the stuff.

    I’ve read people saying that they fantasize about their house burning down so that they would be free of all the clutter and didn’t have to make decisions about anything. Well, wouldn’t it really be easier to just let go? If it were destroyed and you would not feel sad but perhaps a little relieved, or indifferent at best, then maybe it really isn’t worth hanging on to.

    • I agree Cat’s Meow,
      best to donate it so that others can benefit from them rather than let them languish unused. Like you say when you donate the item the person who buys it can enjoy the item while the charity also gains the funds to help someone else.

  7. I agree with Katharine. Watching all of the news reports about Japan brings a lot of tears to my eyes. So many have lost absolutely everything—including their loved ones. It makes me realize that I am blessed to have the things that I do, but at the end of the day, it’s still just stuff. And maybe, just maybe some of it CAN go to bless someone else!

    • Hi Melissa,
      it is certainly sad and almost unbelievable. Let us just hope that the nuclear power plants don’t cause any added problems. With each natural disaster that happens this year it is getting harder from countries to help each other because the resources for rebuilding are getting so stretched thinner so the more we can help as individuals the better.

  8. What in the world are you doing with a sweatshirt from my alma mater (Southern Miss)? 🙂

    • Hi Odetta,
      I was wondering if anyone would spot that and make a comment like this. The T-shirt was my husbands and it was given to him by an American service man while they were both serving in the Middle East I think. My husband has never worn it as he is really a bit of a plain T-shirt sort of guy. He is also getting very ruthless with his decluttering so we sent it to the thrift store.

  9. Your posts are really helping me realize that sentimental things should only be kept if I find value in them! I am going to get rid of a few of my grandparents things that I always thought were ugly (artwork). i only kept them because they remind me of my childhood. But, I never liked them and I sure wouldn’t hang them up. So, I am going to take a digital picture of them and then donate them. That way I’ll always have the picture and it doesn’t take up space!Thanks for your posts.

    • Well done Angie Kay that sounds like a very good decision to me. We often tolerate items just because of the memories they recall for us, but the truth is that those memories will always be there and we do better to keep a few useful or beautiful things that remind us of the same things.