When you’ve been clearing stuff out but can’t yet see a difference.



A friend messaged me this week, with pictures of numerous bags of stuff on their way to a local charity shop, but bewailing the fact her home stills looks over full of stuff. Where am I going wrong she asked?

After congratulating her on what she had achieved so far – any clutter going is great and builds up your de-clutter muscle, I came up with a few suggestions:

I recommended now  focusing on one room. Choose the room that bothers you the most. Within the room, choose one cupboard or shelf and systematically go through every single item on/in it: handle each one and ask yourself:

  • do I love it,
  • how does this enhance my life now
  • would I buy it now if I didn’t own it already.

Being systematic will help join up the dots in one small area that you can then enlarge so you see results quicker, rather than removing stuff perhaps from random areas all over the house. (But keep randomly removing stuff from all over the house as a daily habit too… the 365 mantra of one thing a day really does make a difference over time and reinforces the mental attitude towards looking for things you no longer need to leave the house in a non stressful way).

It’s also a good idea to take some ‘before’ photos, that you can compare to ‘after’ that reinforces the reality that your clutter level is changing, even if you still have a long way  to go.

Something I do with clients, if we are dealing with a set of shelves or a cupboard, is rather than removing one thing at a time, is to remove everything. Give the shelf/cupboard  a wipe down and then choose what goes back on it: it can be very powerful, that act of choosing.

The item in your hand either goes back on the shelf as a deliberate choice (of ‘I love this’ or ‘I need it and use it regularly’), or  if it doesn’t go back on the shelf it need to go elsewhere – either to live in a different part of the house, putting ‘like with like’ or it needs to leave the house.

And keep remembering, everything that leaves the house, IS making a difference.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a seasonal item that you haven’t used yet this season.

Eco Tip for the Day

Practice fuel efficient driving. Here are some tips from the Australian Government  http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/transport/fuelguide/tips.html

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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  1. Doodle, this has always been a problem for me. I always seem to forget where I’m coming from and see only the remaining clutter.
    Over the last three weeks, I got rid of more than 500 items and I just caught myself thinking this morning “I still don’t see a difference” – but on a second thought, I can see the difference, especially in our storage/laundry room, but also in a couple of drawers. I am big at rearranging things, so whenever a convenient space opens up, I’ll usually find something hidden in a less convenient place to move there.
    I think, taking before pictures (or just pictures every few months to track slow progress) is really a great idea for everyone who struggles with that. But even if you didn’t take any, trying to remember how things looked like a year or so back will also do the trick. I may not remember every tiny thing I got rid of, but I do remember that at one point we used to own more shelving units and cupboards than we do now and that things still wouldn’t fit. So, whatever it was, there was definitely a whole lot more stuff!

    • Good for you, Sanna!!! I just posted my own comment below, but wanted to congratulate you on your progress. If we just keep plugging along, we will eventually get to where we want to be!!!! I sometimes wish I had made a list of all the things I got rid of, but at the time was thinking my time was more valuable than the list making. Plus, as I got rid of a lot of antique type things, I MIGHT would have looked at my lists with regret. Ha!! So, better to be, outta sight, outta mind!!!

      (On a different note, I have found the info I wanted to ask you about canning veggies on the web. Somehow, I had not found it in the past. I’d still love to “talk” to you about it, but don’t know how to get my email to you. Thank you for your willingness, though!!)

      • Thank you!

        Great that you found the information – I think, Colleen is quite busy at the moment, so maybe we can exchange email later. 😉

    • Sanna, Woooooo Hooooooo! You must be so excited. Excellent work!

    • Sanna – 500 hundred things on the last 3 weeks – woohoo. Standing ovation!
      I think sometimes we need to apply logic over feelings: we may ‘feel’ like nothing has changed, but the facts say different – things have left the house so there must be less.

      I love rearranging things too, and when I come up with a better idea, I wonder why I didn’t see it as a solution before.

      • Doodle & Sanna – regarding rearranging: I recently read an article about a company that you have move you into your new home. They take your furnishings and arrange them as they feel is appropriate for the space. Then you put in the small stuff. The gal was impressed with the way the company put things in a different, but very functional, way. At first I thought, NO WAY, but then again, it would be very interesting to see how another person views your space, eh?

        • Ooh, what an intriguing idea. I’d be interested to see how someone would re arrange the living space we already have.
          I wonder how many questions they ask before arranging your new home, or if they prefer to totally work without knowing you and just based on logic/intuition of their own.

        • That sounds really interesting, Michelle. We have a relatively small home, but had a few long-term guests over the last years. Each time, we rearranged furniture before and after their arrival (because we have no explicit guest room, but made up a room for them by e.g. swapping a desk with a sofa or so). It’s actually fun to do that because so often you realize that a certain arrangement, although maybe just meant to be temporary, makes so much more sense than what you had before.

  2. I kept a list of everything I got rid of for the first 2 years. Definitely an inspiration when I was flagging.

    • Hi Cindy, I sometimes wish I had, as well as taking individual photos of each item (I have photos of ‘before and after’ different areas, which are great). But I know for me, that at the time, that would have been a chore too many.
      Hopefully, the idea of lists and photos might prompt a reader to start doing it though.

    • I am listing my declutterations – 15 months, so far. It is a good source of encouragement! How long before you felt like you could SEE a difference, Cindy?

  3. Doodle, this is a wonderful post and very timely for me, as I have been thinking the same thing this week. I have gotten rid of GOBS of stuff in the last year, yet can’t seem to notice. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken pictures or made lists (surprisingly, since I LOVE lists). I guess most of the stuff was from “behind the scenes”. I think Sanna was correct when she said you move something from a less convenient place and fill up the space you emptied to make it more accessible. However, I KNOW I am making progress, so I’m happy. My environment isn’t cluttered, but I’m trying to pare down and have less to clean and care for. I’m in a big USE IT UP, WEAR IT OUT, MAKE IT DO, DO WITHOUT mode right now. Currently working on wearing old clothing and then discarding. I’ve cleaned out drawers and made them neater in all parts of the house, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve thrown away all the old makeups, and am down to the few things I actually use.
    It feels so good! And I’m very thankful for this blog and all it’s encouragement. It feels like all the contributors become family after reading for so long. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories!!!!!!

    • Thanks Brenda 😀
      I think your ‘knowing’ you’re making progress is the same as my comment above as believing fact over feeling. You KNOW you are making progress (Yay!) even if it doesn’t always seem obvious.
      You and Sanna are right I think – I too move stuff forward into more useful storage so you can’t always see the gaps, but that black cloud of stuff that lurks in unseen dark corners, both physically and in the mind is clearing.

    • Brenda, you seem to be on a roll! Keep it up! 😉

  4. These are great suggestions Doodle! I know I’m making progress, but sometimes it doesn’t truly feel like it when I look around my cluttered home. But, just a little bit at a time is a much more manageable pace without inducing any unneeded stress. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thanks Kayla. I think finding ways to keep the process stress free can only help us continue, and by doing little bits ata time consistently, we will avoid the ultimate stress of having to do what we are doing in an emergency, following illness or sudden life change.

  5. Thankyou Doodle for this wonderful post. My home has excellent storage and was and is extremely organised. I just decided I had too much stuff. I was tired of cleaning and maintaining it. Last August we became empty nesters and it was a good time to adjust our home to the new phase of our lives. We may choose to down size in the future and I don’t want to pack and be sorting through things then.
    The thing that has resonated with me was Doodles question, would you buy it now if you didn’t already own it?
    I think there will be more things I will be able to let go of now.
    Thank you to everyone for the comments. Love reading them as much as the posts. It’s great to be on the journey together.


    • Hi Mich, I’m so glad the post was helpful. I never know if what I write is going to hit the right note, but when it is the right thing fore the right person at the right moment, a simple sentence can make such a difference, as I have experienced from others.
      Empty nesting is definitely a significant life stage. I love the idea of clearing out now before you (may) choose to downsize. This is exactly what Colleen did – she started 3-4 years ago when her children were transitioning from home so that when the time came that she and her husband were ready to downsize, they were ready to take the leap and not held back by the stress of a household of stuff.
      And 3 cheers for having less stuff to clean and maintain!

  6. Doodle, two things have helped me in this area: 1. Taking pictures; 2. making a list. Both have helped me in many ways. I’m really thankful for Colleen and this blog because it is great motivation to keep decluttering.

    • Deb J – I agree wholeheartedly that this blog has been pivotal in my ‘staying power’ in the War Against Clutter.

    • Great Deb J, someone else who can testify to the power and helpfulness of lists and photos.
      And yes, this blog has been so helpful to so many of us. Thanks again Colleen, and to the community her who keep contributing. I love the fact we are from so many different parts of the world, but speak the same de-clutter language.

  7. Great post, Doodle. Sometimes I feel the progress isn’t go great, but usually I can look around and say, yeah, I’m making progress. The most notable area seems to be the bathroom supplies. Hubby will tell me we are out of something and, since I recently reorganized and decluttered those items, twice we already had the item and so didn’t need to add it to the shopping list or buy what I already had. 🙂

    • Now that is great progress Michelle. Sometimes when I go into clients homes, I am surprised by the vast quantities of half used shampoo and conditioner – I seem to be naturally someone who only ever has one on the go. I think it’s one of those common weak spots though.
      I have a blackboard in our kitchen were I always write up when I run out of something to remind me to get it when I next go shopping. That helps me avoid duplicates too. If it’s not on the board, I don’t need it.

    • Now that is progress Michelle, well done. I am often surprised when I go into clients homes over the large number of half used shampoo and conditioner bottles. But then I seem to be a naturel one bottle at a time person. I think it is a common weakness though, beauty products.
      I have a blackboard in the kitchen where I write up in chalk when I run out of something so I pick it up at my next shopping trip. That way I tend to avoid duplicates too: if it’s not on the board ,I don’t need it.

  8. Totally agree with taking pictures of a hotbed of clutter. Even a reduced heap is progress.

    My top tip to brighten up a room and get you into clean up mood is to clear a windowsill, wipe down the glass and surrounds. It has an immediate influence, and inspires you to carry on.

    When a heap is too much to contemplate, I vow to myself that I will rid myself of 2kg (4.5lbs) of “stuff” – if I turn it into a game/challenge I don’t get so bored.

    • Hi Sally – I love light and I think this is a good tip – we don’t always realise how much we are blocking out, either with lack of window cleaning, clutter on the surrounds, or over exuberant curtains/window dressing.

      I have never heard anyone here before get rid of clutter by weight! Sounds a great alternative suggestion. I think anyway that turns de-cluttering into an enjoyable game and challenge is brilliant.

  9. I do remember a time where the bags of outgoing stuff didn’t seem to reconcile with image left behind. I wish I had taken before photos or kept a manifest – another fun idea I have heard of is to weigh items has they leave, it was a one tonne diet.

    I think another reason it can take longer to see results is that we are often masters of organising and have crammed a staggering amount of stuff into every square foot in our homes. We have bought every storage solution on the market and with precision skill optimised all space. I don’t know about the rest of you but I used to pride myself on how well ‘resourced’ I was and clever I was at making things fit.
    Then when it’s time to reverse the trend, there are layers and layers to go thru,

    • Yup, spot on Moni! I loved storage solutions, and that previously was always my solution – it never occurred to me to have less stuff, lol.

  10. Ironically I was just thinking yesterday that I am finally seeing a difference around the apartment! I think that if you persist you will eventually see a difference. If you don’t persist in decluttering, you’ll most likely see a difference in the other direction = more stuff.

    • Brilliant Claire – I’m so glad that you have reached the stage when you can see the difference clearly. And I agree – part and parcel of persisting in de-cluttering is you learn to stop the flow of stuff coming in too.

  11. Doodle – great post!

    I think the problem is partly because you very quickly adjust to seeing the room/cupboard/shelf etc as it is now and forget what it was like before.

    I have now got rid of 1284 items or bags of items and still look round and think, still plenty to declutter. But other people, who see it with fresh eyes, notice the difference.

    I keep a running list on Excel: very simple – date, number of items, what it is with a running total. (I also don’t bother with noting down stuff which is thrown out rather than donated.)

    This is the most motivating blog that I have found and I always enjoy reading the posts, and the comments too. Thanks everyone!

    • Thanks Janetta. I think you’re right – the human brain very quickly creates a new norm. This does have lots of advantages in how we cope with change, or having more than one baby!

      Yes, it is such a motivating blog: it’s because of everyone’s contributions so we feel part of a like minded community. Colleen hit the perfect note with this blog.

  12. I just sold a book on Amazon that I purchased less than 6 months ago. Of course I am not recuping what I spent, but at lease it is one less book on the shelf and a little extra pocket change. Tomorrow is trash pickup so I’m going to see if I can gather more stuff from the bathroom to discard.

    • Well done Anna, for letting go of a book and not hanging on to it because you only just paid good money for it!

  13. Doodle, the idea of taking the photos resonated with me. Sometimes I don’t see a difference although I’ve decluttered regularly for years. Partly, it’s because I don’t remember what it was like before (hence the importance of the picture) and partly because I often declutter in drawers and cupboards where I’m not looking when I walk in the door or pass through a room.

    • Definitely time to start taking photos Willow. You can see from the comments above how others have found it useful.

      I’m going to be tackling our attic soon (as soon as the UK’s current heatwave has passed) and I am definitely going to take a lot of photos.

  14. Today my daughter got her suitcase out in preparation for a week in Thailand . It was full of clothes, I quickly suggested we sort through them. A keep and a discard pile. I am pleased to say the discard pile was larger than the keep pile. This is a huge step forward for her as she is a sentimental person. It was quick and painless and I offered to help her in her room when she was ready . Such a good feeling for me and I hope for her too. Cheers

    • Hi Wendy, how satisfying. I hope your daughter can hang on to the feeling of simple stress free decision making that you have demonstrated. And the benefit of having someone else helping.

  15. Doodle,
    You are spot on!. Once the easy bumpf (my new favorite word) is cleared from the home in a general declutter sweep, I have always suggested to friends and family that they start focusing on one room at a time by breaking down the room into manageable areas so you don’t feel overwhelmed and let discouragement creep in. For example, in a closet….one shelf or section of a shelf at a time. In a chest of drawers, one drawer at a time. Seems like the energy just comes to complete the task when you break it down this way. Before you know it, the entire room is clean and clutter free.

    • So very happy to have introduced you to the word ‘bumpf’ 😀

      It really is the way to do it isn’t it – as you say, breaking down an over whelming job in to small manageable parts, so often leads to an energy breakthrough and doing more. I think we need to experience the sense of achievement in a small task well done, to see ‘this IS doable’.

  16. At first I couldn’t see much difference since most of it had been stored in 3 closets, but now there is empty space on each of the closets’ shelf and some empty space on the closet floor. One son did comment on a wall I had removed a lot of items from. I do a very simple list on Qucken’s inventory–like books with a number (no details, just a number), then change the number when more leave. This also gives a grand total which lets you know how you are doing, and you love to see that number grow. It would probably be easy to do something similar on paper. I start over at zero Jan. 1st.. Since Sanna’s challenge the oddest small items are catching my eye. Like hand sewing needles, crochet hooks, craft needles, and of all things those tiny hand quilting needles–even at most ambitious I don’t think I ever thought I would hand quilt anything, so maybe they were my MIL’s. Although I had gone through sewing stuff and yard goods (stash) 4 or 5 times, I never noticed these, and certainly wouldn’t buy them now. 365 does keep coming up with new ways of looking at things, and the community keeps me reading the comments–and decluttering..

    • It never ceases to amaze me Nana, how I still keep seeing stuff I own ‘for the first time’. That’s another reason why perhaps at times we question how much progress has been made: we keep seeing stuff we never noticed before!

    • Great to hear that my challenge spurred you on! I also found some odd small items in my sewing box that I never used but only inherited from someone – like needles for knotting rags and so on: I don’t even know how to use that! I’m glad I finally got rid of them.

  17. Thanks for this post Doodle, it was a good reminder to appreciate decluttering successes and not get discouraged by what is left. I’ve been keeping a list since I signed on for Sanna’s challenge, I log the date and the item in Excel, as somebody else mentioned. Listing the items keeps me on track and motivated and also is a good reminder of my progress. Plus, it makes me think twice about bringing anything new into the house!

    • I missed Sanna’s challenge – but it sounds like it has been very motivational, which is fantastic.

      I do think before people start the de-clutter journey, they don’t realise that by doing it, they generally will also start questioning what they bring onto the house too, so eventually get the double benefit – de-cluttering the easiest way of all: by not cluttering with more stuff in the first place.

    • Wonderful to hear that you are making good progress as well! 🙂

  18. I had the same feeling just days ago. I looked around my room and tought that my room hasn’t changed much since I’ve started decluttering. I did snap some before picture, and especially the cupboard above my desk was completly full – I stuffed it to the brim, and hoped everytime that I opened it, nothing would fall out (which, most of the time, it did).

    Then I think again: how many bags have left the house, how many beauty packages I have made for friends (from my own beauty supplies that I wasn’t going to use all up), and suddenly, I remember I have decluttered quite a lot. Also, I’ve decreased my storage space.

    Anyway, I’m hoping to reorganize my current room, so I can move quicker to my new room. Also, I would love to see no clutter on my desk, but I’m afraid I’m not so neat as other persons. Perhaps I should clear it every night. Perhaps a new good habit to begin with.

    • Hi Dymphy: sometimes I take before photos with a view to posting them on here, but when I finished, the after photo looks just as full so I don’t post it: what I can’t show is that the new full shelf is an amalgamation of perhaps several areas.

      How about setting yourself the challenge of claearing your desk every night as you suggest. I sympathise as I am similar, but I have been able to retrain myself – every night I clear the seat on the sofa next to me here the day’ debris has piled up. It’s such a nice feeling in the morning to walk into tidiness. It is possible to learn new habits.

  19. I did this on Friday – I took a day off from work and invited my niece over (she’s an interior designer) to do a walk-through my house and take away anything that doesn’t belong, reuse anything in the house (except my dresser in my bedroom) and use it anywhere she thought it might look better or be more functional. WOW is all I can say! She repositioned several large pieces of furniture, changed my pictures and wall hangings and restaged my living room and guest bedroom, master bedroom and bathrooms. I had already disposed of several pieces before she got there and I have a pile in my dining room heading to the next garage sale and what’s left will be donated. While I don’t think I’ll ever achieve (nor do I want to) bare walls and a futon with a handmade wooden box for a coffee table, I want my house to reflect MY style, not the ‘stuff’ I’ve been given over the years that I neither wanted nor had space for. When I moved to this house 9 years ago, I was newly divorced and it was my first house to purchase, furnish and decorate alone. There were ducks and geese and deer and pheasants printed on the icky paneling in the living room, LOL…they went before the first box arrived! I had done the ‘Designed to Sell’ thing at my old house and had rented a storage unit to hold the ‘stuff’ that was excess. What I found when I got it ALL to this house, about 250 sq ft smaller than my old house, was that that which had been in storage for a few months really wasn’t missed all that much. I’d made a new life without it. When opening boxes it got to the point that I’d look at what was on top and just set it aside and passed it on to my sister – take what you want, give some to your kids, and donate the rest. Liberating! And then the next 9 years intervened, HA! Time to start again on purging new accumulations as well as some old things that have lost their meaning, or that my kids don’t want. The best gift my mother ever gave us (4 sisters) was the LACK of ‘stuff’ to deal with upon her death. She had purged and sorted and given away her things that had no use or no place for years before she died. Now that I’m in my mid 50’s I feel the need to give the same gift to my children when my time comes. When she started offering things to us, and getting rid of her (what I thought were important!) things, I didn’t understand. I get it now…I’m glad to have your blog – I find it gives me…insight? permission? and frees me to detach from my ‘stuff’ and make my life easier in the process. Thank you.