Why torture yourself

Following on from Tuesday’s post I have another idea to put to you.

Imagine for a moment that you are a prisoner of war and the enemy are attempting to pry information from you. They use inhumane torture methods on you to extract this information. Nothing painful like burning or lashing but more insidious kinds of cruelty like water torture, sleep deprivation or solitude. Things that, taken in small doses, don’t seem so harmful but can drive you completely crazy over continuous and long periods of time.

After serval months the enemy decides that they just aren’t going to get you to give up your secrets or come to the conclusion that perhaps you just don’t have any so they cease the torture. They release you to some menial labour task instead. How relieved would you feel. Labour is certainly more tolerable than torture right?

So here is my question. Why do we insist on torturing ourselves with the constant thorn in our side that is clutter.  We inflict this insidious burden on ourselves for months even years when we know that a much shorter period of physical labour and maybe some slightly unpleasant decision making would relieve us of our torment.

Here is another analogy  that Jane put forward yesterday ~ “…once we started tackling all those “little pesky’s” it felt as if we had made the biggest leaps in our decluttering as those kinda things are like a pebble in your shoes. Sure you can try to ignore it or even try to tolerate it, but ultimately getting rid of the irritation is the only solution. It’s just how long are you willing to “ignore” the pebble in your shoe.”

So explain to me why anyone would want to keep torturing themselves when the solution is relatively straight forward. How long are you prepared to keep torturing yourself for the sake of avoiding a little work.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a decor item ~ Perhaps excess cushions on beds or sofas, or one of too many adornments collecting dust.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here is something that has been a pebble in my shoe for a while. There have been a box of books in my garage since 2007 that have been kept for sentimental reasons. By me but at my daughter’s request. I would like to rid myself of them but she wishes to keep them but can’t collect them until she is settled. I thought that perhaps by now they had just become out of sight out of mind so I recently asked her if she wouldn’t mind me letting these Harry Potter books go to a good home. She consented to this proposal without hesitation so now I am one large step closer to emptying one more box. I will run the rest of the box by her on her next visit home in a couple of weeks.

The young boy that I gave them to was very happy indeed.

Harry Potter Books

Eco Tip for the Day

Food takes a lot of resources to produce so never let it go to waste. Have a few recipes handy that are great for using up left over bits and pieces, like curry, quiche or bubble & squeak.

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

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Can’t see the trees for the forest. Have you ever heard the expression ~ Can't see the forest for the trees. Here is an explanation of this expression according to About.com... Definition: overly concerned with detail; not […]
  • Decluttering Your Office – The Danger of the Paper Trail Cindy's Weekly Wisdom Offices seem to be the center of the vortex of flotsam in a house, particularly paperwork. If you work outside the home, your office probably still has files that […]
  • Same information different translation Among the answers to the ten questions post last week was a response from Cindy to question 2 (For Me)... Question 2. ~ My style of decluttering is “Slow & Steady” do you think […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen, I’m usually making a “traditional French” quiche – i.e. with a dough made from butter and wheat flour. However, I have a good friend with coeliac disease, so I’ll be happy to try the rice crust soon.
    Apart from curry, favourite leftover dishes here are lasagne or some kind of cottage/shepherds pie (i.e. well-seasoned leftovers topped with mashed potatoes and put in the oven). I also freeze leftovers and eat them another time – especially, when I’m the only one home for dinner: I love self-made frozen fast-food. 😉

    As for decluttering: I got going on some jewelry, I haven’t come around getting rid of yet, because I thought I should try selling (it is real silver – not particularly valuable, but probably worth at least about 10-25€ per piece), yet selling is work for me. I already found someone who is interested in one of the pieces, so I guess, it’s a step further!

    • Hi Sanna,
      it seems you have the leftover thing all sorted, Good for you. The quiche I make is a Tupperware recipe where you just mix the dry ingredients with flour and seasonings, also mix the wet ingredients together ~egg and milk, then combine them all and bake. The crust separates itself out like in an impossible pie recipe. One could skip the flour and just make it like a frittata.

      I need to do some jewellery sorting too. I have a friend whose neighbourhood is have a big yard sale in a couple of weeks which will be a fine opportunity for me to attempt to sell several things. That would be a good job for today.

      • I’m hoping to get Mom to get rid of some more of her jewelry that she doesn’t weat. She has over 40 items and only wears about 10 of them.

  2. I share your sentiments completely. It is hard, though, to help others understand the freedom they could enjoy if they would get rid of their clutter. For some reason, they feel secure with more things. They can’t seems to let go of anything. Whether the excuse is because it isn’t bugging anyone or everything is so special to them, they will continue year after year to be less productive and have more stress from so much stuff in their life. But, sometimes just helping them start one thing at a time, with little baby steps, they might begin to see how less burdened they feel. I wonder if the real problem with clutter is something that happened earlier in their life and they manifest it through hanging on to things even to the point of hoarding. The best thing I can do is to set a good example and try to encourage others and hope that they catch the vision!

    • I agree Spendwisemom but to add to that I think sometimes people focus on the negative side of the solution rather than the positive. Instead of thinking about decluttering the things that they will find easy to part with they just think of the difficulty of parting with things they care about ~ which really isn’t even necessary because if you love it it isn’t clutter. Then they see the task in it’s entirety and cringe at the very thought of even getting started. Sometimes I don’ think they are even aware that it is their clutter that is giving them that oppressed feeling.
      You are also right, all we can do is lead by example and hope our joy of less rubs off on others.

      • I liken it to thinning out flowering plants. If you don’t trim back some of the branches & even some of the buds, then you won’t yield near as many flowers & those you do get will be obscured by all the excess branches & leaves.

  3. Aww… I definitely couldn’t get rid of my Harry Potter’s, I just love to re-read them (that is one of criteria I use when trying to decide which books are to go – if I’d want to read them again, and I don’t think that is a waste of time because every time you get something more/different out of that book)

    But I surely have to do something with this clutter torture after I’ll get couple more shelves and cupboards for proper organizing.

    • Hi Anda and welcome to 365 Less Things.
      It makes a lot of sense to only keep the books you know you will read over and over again. It also makes a lot sense to pass those books on to your local library to store for you. Once they are no longer hot off the press there is often a copy sitting waiting for you on the shelf to borrow if you want to read it again. Better to be on someone else’s shelf I say.

      I know this may sound harsh but it isn’t meant to, it is just a fact ~ adding extra shelves to your home to arrange the clutter is not decluttering. The one thing I don’t talk much about here at 365 Less Things is organising because as I have always said “Once you get rid of the clutter the organising will take care of itself.” Which means it is easy to house your stuff logically and neatly when there is a lot less of it to arrange.

      You may be surprised to know that a vast majority of my regular blog readers that interact through comments are book lovers. Which makes me wonder is there a connection with cluttering there somewhere. Perhaps the overwhelming desire to keep books also rubs off on other items around the home. Or perhaps the act of reading soaks up so many hours of the day that there is little time left to deal with less pleasant pursuits such as keeping things in order. Perhaps I will pose this question to my readers and see what response I get. I know myself that trying to keep up with the comments here at my blog, reading other motivational sites and writing my posts can certainly interfere with my ability to get a lot of other things done in my day. Luckily my home is so organised now that it really takes very little to care for it. But the eBook I keep meaning to write is often dropped by the wayside.

      Anyway Anda, I have prattled on long enough and now I must get other things done. You have a wonderful day and don’t let this response scare you off commenting again.

      • When I wrote this comment I somehow knew what You will say about the clutter. 🙂 I know that if I really, really wanted I could fit in my current furniture but it would be hard as I don’t have much of them. Kind of not ready to part with everything yet. 😀 But the positive thing is that I do buy a lot less than I used to.

        • Buying less is certainly a great start Anda. Just focus on the positives and declutter what you are comfortable to let go of. Forcing yourself will probably only make the situation worse, so be kind to yourself and seek out the things you care the least about. Once your will power to reduce really kicks in you will find it easier and easier.
          Good luck and HAPPY decluttering.

  4. why do we torture ourselves? Good, valid question indeed. So often we don’t realize how little effort it would take until someone points it out for us, I guess.
    Decluttering is such a good exercise to see the little pains more clearly. Maybe it’s just one towel we don’t need that prevents the closet door from shutting nicely or a handful of books that we never read anyway to make our shelve go from looking stuffed to looking stylish.

    • Exactly Ideealistin, the focus is in the wrong place for some people. Instead of looking at the big picture pay attention to the detail and the offenders will soon reveal themselves.

  5. Torture is discovering the upstairs storage room at work that I did some work on earlier in the year – April-ish? (its my husband’s company) ~ has been added to and hit by a tornado of some description. From what I can gather ‘someone’ needed to find ‘something’ up there and kind of ransacked the place. I haven’t been up there since I started my mammoth mission at home.

    I feel a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo coming on!

    • I think I would be trying to discover the culprit and have them put their mess right or at the very least explain to them why this sort of thoughtless behaviour just isn’t on.

      This is one of the things that used to drive me nuts about my old job. People making it easy on themselves by taking the easy route to find/do something and then just leaving the mess for someone else to deal with. I find this to be selfish and thoughtless and just can’t abide by it. It isn’t the cleaning up after them that is painful it is that they didn’t take others into consideration in the first place.

      • Colleen – well I’ve gotten over the ‘surprise’ and pushed a few things here and there to reduce the risk of anyone breaking their leg should they wander in up there and have decided that this will be my next challenge and a potential treasure trove of trademe-selling opportunities. When given a lemon, make lemonade!

  6. Pebble in shoe analogy is perfect.

    We all keep massed produced items, which are easily replaceable…for what reason? I’ve asked myself that ? several times in my decluttering efforts.

    • Gail – I can’t remember which 365’er it was, but she pointed out that the things that we get the most hung up on ie reluctant to get rid of, are actually under $20 value.

      • I have one issue with that $20 value theory. The suggestion is why keep it if you aren’t using it often because you could just go out and buy a new one. Good for you but not so for the environment.

        I would say if you aren’t using it often enough to warrant it taking up space in your house then you probably don’t need it at all. If you do find a need perhaps you can figure out an alternative solution that already exists in your home that is well used. For example…
        1. Rubber mat for opening jars ~ rubber gloves will perform the same task but are infinitely more useful overall.
        2. Say your garlic press brakes that you only use to make pasta sauce once a month ~ A knife can perform the same task and is infinitely more versatile and easier to clean.
        3. Like the two pizza cutters I have even though I rarely make pizza these days. I really don’t even need one because a knife would do the job. My son would likely protest to this but at least one of these will be leaving today.

        Other things could probably be borrowed from a friend, family member, or neighbour. With social networking these days it is so easy to send out a blanket request for something that you might need to borrow occasionally.

        • All $20-or-less items were appropriately re-housed, nothing dumped. I used that theory to tell myself it was ok to let go of items that didn’t have a short term or medium term likelihood of being used again, better for them to find their way into the home of someone who really wanted it and would actually use it. If by some bizarre twist of fate that I found myself needing a particular gadget and I couldn’t improvise, it wouldn’t break the bank to replace.

          • Hi Moni, I whole heartedly agree with sending them on to a new home and you obviously have the same ideas as iI do about not replacing them if possible. I just didn’t find that principle in the original article. It sounded more like an easy come, easy go, easy replace attitude, that I read into it, and that which didn’t sit well with me. If we kept getting rid of stuff, even if responsibly, and then replacing it because it was cheap then we are just doing the environment a disservice regardless of the price tag. Wouldn’t you agree?

        • A good pair of kitchen shears will cut thru any & everything. My husband still chuckles at all the things I use kitchen shears to cut. From snipping bacon into bacon bits prior to frying to cutting pizza slices (not pretty but it works) to snipping up whole-canned tomatoes (cheaper than diced) to cutting up my steak (a throwback to the days when I only had butter knives).

  7. Agreed with the thorn in the side/pebble in the shoe – and I’m getting brilliant at getting all these things sorted. Things framed. Things fixed. Things changed to how I prefer them. It’s bliss.

    Last night I rejoiced in my ‘decluttered’ home. In the few hours I had, I went through my two ‘scrapbooks’ and removed any articles that relate to my upcoming holiday destinations (so I have them with me… not languishing in scrap books – once ‘used’ they’ll be disposed of whilst away).

    I then collated all my currently carried ‘stuff’ (my bag of goodies with band aids, feminine stuff, bobby pins etc etc) with all my ‘travel’ stuff that I need – grand sum total was a lot less stuff for my trip (decided I didn’t need three lip balm/glosses, just one, didn’t need eye liner, didn’t need random creams for various ailments, they’d all passed months ago). It’s nice to rationalise what I was carrying daily to less – and shuffle the rest to the skinny ‘medicine’ drawer.

    • Well done Snosie, I recently needed to buy a new handbag because the one I bought two years ago was starting to have zip issues plus it is now too big because I not longer need to carry some things due to changes in my circumstances. When choosing the new bag I decided in advance what absolutely needed to fit in it and rejected several things that I used to carry with me all the time. Needless to say the new bag is very compact and I can’t say I have missed any of the things I rejected.

  8. Great post, Colleen! If only people would focus on finding that one item a day to declutter, rather than giving up before they even get started because they feel it may be too overwhelming. Baby steps is the way to go.

    Love that your daughter was willing to get rid of the books and it was great that you found someone who will really enjoy them. I find that when I am dealing with other family members in my home, that if you ask to get rid of something that belongs to them, many times they may be reluctant at first. Usually I will ask about getting rid of something that I know they haven’t used in a long time. I find though, especially with my kids, that if I wait and ask again in a few months, that their minds usually change. Especially as they are getting older and grow out of certain stages, etc. Good luck on the remainder of the box.

  9. great post, Colleen.
    the torture analogy doesn’t only apply to clutter though. I had to think of other issues that are hard to face in the beginning, but ultimately improve your situation in the long run. Like freeing yourself from dysfunctional relationships, or stop using drugs. it feels scary to make this big step of recognizing your own patterns and admitting the problem. Once this step is taken, the mind change can come, and suddenly you find yourself in a different mind set, where the former behavior seems ridiculous… Was it Ideealistin who said something about the new perspective making changes seem less scary? That is exactly what I mean. Torture will continue until the scary part of change is less frightening than the torture itself.

    I found that there are a lot of people around me in denial, like they would understand that clutter (in general) might be a problem, but their home is not cluttered, no way, and they like their stuff, and giving away perfectly useful items is wasteful behavior. they usually tell me that while I am already secretly fantasizing about cleaning out their home (oh how I love those daydreams). And then sometimes, when I tell that I am on my decluttering mission I get into great discussions with other people. They fully understand where I am coming from and they are open to new arguments, why life without clutter is easier. I feel good about sharing my little moments of decluttering, and its good that I can celebrate my super successful “85 Euro by selling unnecessary stuff” week here.

    • What’s that old saying – if everything is your favorite then nothing is your favorite.

    • Thank you Lena and you are so right the torture analogy does apply to all those things you mentioned.

      And I too am surrounded by a lot of people in denial but worse still I am also surrounded by people who know they are in a mess but can’t bring themselves to do anything about it. In fact they are constantly exacerbating the problem by bringing more stuff in. All I can do is to keep trying to influence them with my success stories and by sharing my joy of living with less.

      • Makes you wonder if they are just using the mess as a convenient excuse to not take any action. That is the mess is simply too big, thus I better just go watch TV. When in reality, they have no intentions to ever tackle the mess, but in an attempt to save face – they use the size of the mess to defend their inaction.

        My now-deceased mother-in-law was quite the collector of everything & nothing at all & would always ask us to help “clean it up & throw it out” but when we would show up to do just that…she would quickly change the topic, discourage us due to the massive amount of work ahead of us & explain that she has “next week” set aside to start cleaning up. Of course, she never had next week set aside & had no intentions of ever cleaning it up. We suspect she just felt embarrassed by all the stuff when we would come to visit & would start back-peddling to save face.

    • Yeah Lena, isn’t it funny (as in „funny-strange“ as Gilligan would say …) how some people can point out the clutter of others but are blind to their own? My mum would wholeheartedly burst out that she thinks I don’t need this or that and have too much of it already but as soon as I point out, that she has even more shoes or whatever she thought she needed to comment on, HERS are all important, valid, needed, there for specific reasons, absoluteyl cannot be decluttered … Do I have to mention how it drives me nuts?! People seem to understand the rules so well but then have thousands of excuses why theydon’t apply to THEM. Is it so hard to understand that we may well all be individuals but that that doesn’t mean, we are the exception from the rule?

      • LOL, I used to walk in the early evenings with one of my neighbors who has since moved closer to her kids. Anyways, she would always comment about how much stuff was crammed inside other peoples garages when her own garage looked like a wall. A wall of tightly packed boxes & assorted stuff tossed willy-nilly with just a small path carved out for walking.
        I finally asked her about her own garage & she seemed genuinely confused & taken aback that it might seem her own garage was anything but ideal. She just couldn’t see what was so very obvious. That in turn confused me to no end!

      • Ideealistin, this is exactly it. Everyone is an exception to the rule, and dont you dare trying to point out that with exactly THAT perspective you are the rule again. I am so often joking about that, I insulted people more than once… I dont know how often I heard the line: “dont project your character onto another” (dont know if this is the exact translation) – and now I wonder sometimes, why exactly should I not do that again? Why exactly should I feel, think or act differently than others? because if I feel something, isnt it possible that others might see it as well? What would Kant say about that?
        I find it highly comical that the normativity of individualism leads to an collective attitude like this. but then again, the absurdity of society is neverending.
        thank god, we are the exception from the rule 😉

  10. Always wondered what bubble and squeak was when I read my Brit Lit. Thanks for the link to the recipe. It is just what my mom used to make for us on Saturday lunch. Leftover mashed potatoes as patties with other veggies tossed in if there were any. I can’t eat potatoes anymore but think I could just use leftover rice or pasta. It won’t “fry” but will still be a hodge-podge of goodies.

    • Sounds delicious Maggie. I just had leftovers for dinner. Leftover roast beef dinner that I didn’t even need to turn into something else. It was delicious and no cooking, how good is that.

  11. Our office is in the process of subletting some of the space since we have so few people actually working in the location. I have to move my supplies and equipment currently in a large storage room to various and sundry closets scattered around the space. Today, a co-worker and I were scouring unused offices for extra closet space and found a office filled with boxes of binders that had been prepared for a presentation in 2009 (2009???) and left there because the person was let go from the company. These binders are not just regular binders but the pad-folios that come with a lined pad and a logo of the front with the company name on it. They must have cost $25 each. My friend and I plan to empty them and donate them to one of our local school systems instead of just letting them sit there forever. What a waste of company funds. If we had not gone in there, someone from the relocation crew would have just cleaned the room and tossed everything. Several of us will probably keep a few for use by our staff but we can donate the rest. In addition, there were flash drives and CD’s (blank) and tons of other office supplies that can be redistributed to the remainder of us and we won’t have to order supplies for months. Prior to the subletting beginning Jan 1, we are going to look at the rest of the empty offices and put together a master supply closet with what we find and donate what we cannot use. Each division now pays for their own supplies but by pooling our resources, everyone can save a little.

    • Wow Maggie that sounds like an interesting task. I think there should have been a pooling of resources from the beginning so individual build up like this doesn’t happen. It is just as well fate played its part in revealing all that stuff.

  12. Awesome post! I’ve been decluttering for over a year now and making headway but not yet where I want to be. Part 2 of decluttering is to not bring more clutter back into the house. We’re avid thrift shoppers but I’ve been very VERY choosey about what I bring back in.

    • I haven’t been shopping – aside from groceries & parts & pieces for home improvement tasks ( sliding door mechanism, paint) – in the past 2 or so months. Well I did buy a scarf to replace a scratchy wool one that I since sold on Ebay.
      It’s been the most amazing thing to not bring stuff back into the house. While I do love new things, I’ve been decluttering so much that all those previously new things are now the very things I’m decluttering.
      It took me a lot longer to grasp that concept – the concept of bringing in less. But one day it just clicked in my brain & now I’m not only super picky about what comes in my home….the items have to serve a very specific purpose (such as fixing the sliding door) or sustain life (food, food for the pets). I’m seriously done with decorative items or magazines or anything spare or anything just in case or anything “because it’s pretty”. I’ve done enough of that type shopping in my past – what’s pretty to me now & spare & just in case is having a full bank account/retirement account! LOL

  13. Leftover roast beef and gravy will be on our table tonight, too. I made a nice roast on the stove Sunday and will turn the rest into a beef bar-b-que and freeze it for another meal later. Yummy!

  14. Thank you for being such an inspiring and sharing group of people. I started reading about minimalism about 6 months ago and am still learning how to do it. I’m quite good at not bring things in to my home but it’s still hard to declutter some parts of it. I sometimes find I have to put something in a “possibles” box for a week before I can really let it go. A lot of the time it’s because the item represents a bit of some Fantasy Me that is never going to come into being and I struggle a bit to let it go or let go of Fantasy thoughts. Of course the minute the object goes, the no longer necessary thoughts go to and then I get to feel quite liberated. I’m really beginning to experience and enjoy that lightness of being. Anyway it’s reading about all your experiences and solutions and interesting moments in several bits of the world, that’s kept me keeping on. Thank you. And yes Bubble and Squeak is rather good.

    • oh hey Salley, thanks and welcome to the gang. you know what the best thing is about decluttering with Colleens approach? Start with the easy stuff, empty out paper, give away those items that you never really liked in the first place. and once you have the feeling of success, you will get addicted, and aspirational clutter (the Fantasy Me) will not be a problem anymore. you might want to read in the archives of the blog, there is a ton of wisdom to find.
      and if you cant part with it just now, you dont have to. I have for 4 years now – a hammock here, used? not once, but I just can’t give it up yet. Time will come where I want to make the decision and I can wait until then. Because there is so much more to declutter in the meantime.

    • Hi Salley – this is the right place to start a journey to a decluttered home! I’m with Lena, start with the easy stuff, you can always re-visit and take another layer off next time.

  15. I had no idea what Bubble and Squeak was. If pressed, I would have guessed mashed potatoes and sausage. Interesting what you can learn here.