You can do things differently

Doodles blog post yesterday got me thinking about how out of character my decluttering method is to my usual behaviour. Of the seven sabotaging behaviours Doodle mentioned in the post, I am not guilty of any of them when it comes to my decluttering over the last four years. Although there certainly are a few that I would previously have thought I was susceptible to.  Lets go over them.

1. Do you focus on how much there is left to do rather than how much you have achieved?

This is something I would most certainly have done in the past. I would be constantly looking at the volume of the task and lamenting what is left to be done. Wishing that I was doing just about anything else.

2. Do you find your self apologising a lot to others and calling yourself lazy and other derogatory names rather than defining yourself in more positive language and a ‘work in progress’.

This I would be unlikely to have done regarding keeping house. I have been good about keeping a tidy home throughout my entire married life (I lived at home prior to that). As an adult I have always been a hard worker, thanks to a good upbringing. “A job worth doing is worth doing well!” was one of my father’s favourite sayings.

3. Do you throw away essential things that then prove how risky decluttering is?

This is also not something I would ever do. I am too tight fisted to waste anything so getting rid of useful stuff would never happen unless I definitely didn’t feel the need to keep it.

4. Do you create such a mess when decluttering that you give up half way through a task and have made everything worse.

I would be unlikely to have done this either. I am a finisher once I start a task.

5. Does being a perfectionist stop you from doing small 15 minute tasks; one drawer or one shelf at a time. Is it all or nothing; an entire room or it’s not worth it…but you can never bring yourself to face a whole room?

I am a perfectionist that is for sure which is why I am also usually an organised person. Therefore I would have set a goal and stuck to it because failing would be out of the question. Being organised also meant that my task oriented internal time clock helps me to know how much I can get done in a day and be tidy again at the end of it, ready to begin again the next day until the task is done.

6. Are you easily distracted, starting off one task in the kitchen, wondering off to the bedroom to put something away and start sorting the  laundry on your floor  which leads you to the bathroom to put dirty clothes in the laundry bin when you spot the sink needs a clean…

I am prone to do this during my usual daily meandering through the house doing things. But when there is a major task to get through I can be ruthlessly single minded.

7. Over complex or unrealistic plans of where or how  you might get rid of stuff.

Here is where my perfectionism comes in again. I do like things to go to the best home possible which can complicate the task. However previous experience put me in a position to carry this off quite easily. And then as time went by I learned of a few extra outlets to utilise when it came to rehousing my stuff. So although in other peoples view I would seem to complicate this task, to me it was a case of just sticking to a plan.

All that being said, it was a shock to me when I came up with the idea to declutter a thing a day. I suppose it was my previous experience of doing it all at once that put me off going through that again. I was determined to make it easy on myself. And lo and behold I embraced the method from the get go. Never looking back.

Anyone who knows me personally will vouch for the fact that I am like the Energizer Bunny. Flat out is the only speed I know. So for me to decide to reduce a household of stuff for four people to the amount that would fit into a two bedroom apartment, at the pace of one item a day, was ludicrously out of character. So if you think you don’t have the staying power to declutter your home at such a slow pace, think again. If I can change my mindset in an instant you can too. The desire to make it easy on myself usurped any of my other personality traits that said get it done in a hurry.

My father had another saying ~ ” There is smart lazy and there is just plain lazy.” Smart Lazy is being clever enough to find and easy way to complete a task effectively. And that is always more admirable than being just plain lazy and not achieving anything.

In this case I think I have done a great job of being smart lazy. Wouldn’t you like to be smart lazy too?

Today’s Mini Mission

 Declutter something from a bedroom.

Eco Tip for the Day

If you grind and percolate fresh coffee why not use the grounds as fertiliser rather than using not so environmentally friendly alternatives. The coffee than also serves two purposed reducing its carbon footprint.

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

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Large area declutter ~ Minimal disruption This post is all about breaking down, into steps, the task of decluttering a large cluttered area of your home without causing undue disruption. I am going to use the kitchen as my example […]
  • To be perfect ~ By Andréia We all are taught that perfection does not exist. What we fail to do is to believe that. I don’t really know about the rest of the world, but I am tired of seeing in all places the […]
  • Sabotaging your efforts ~ By Doodle Are there things you do to sabotage your de-cluttering goals? I got the idea for this post after reading “No More Clutter” by Sue Kay. She suggests the following as ways we […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Oh yeah, this is good stuff. I also can be a perfectionist in certain areas. One thing that drives me crazy is if the kitchen is left a mess overnight. I cannot STAND to get up to a messy kitchen. I’d rather stay up late and get it “put to bed”. A friend of mine prefers to have his dinner and enjoy his evening with his girlfriend instead of cleaning up. No thanks! But different strokes for different folks, as they say. 🙂

    I can end up distracted, but I usually can rein myself in back on task, especially if I have a limited time. Get busy and get it done and them move on to fun things.

    ”There is smart lazy and there is just plain lazy.” I definitely use this in my job. I’m always thinking of a more efficient way to get something done. We are not reinventing the wheel and why make anything more difficult than it absolutely has to be? There are people in my office who have been here for years and even though I have showed them, they still don’t realize that the copier sorts and staples. I try to help, but it can fall on deaf ears. :S

    • Hi Michelle, don’t even get me started on people who aren’t willing to embrace technology at work. My last job drove me nuts when it came to that. The things was that three of them didn’t use computers at home but two of the three would watch and learn and get the hang of it quite well while the other was just scared of the thing. As a result the rest of use paid the penalty by having to play catch up all the time. Meanwhile the person avoiding the computer would spend more time on the shop floor making sales and commission. It was like a double whammy. Imagine how annoying that was.

      • Well dang! I bet that was annoying. To my way of thinkin’, it is either learn new technology or get left behind!

  2. Colleen, you are definitely “smart lazy” and have done a great job with “one thing a day.” We are a lot alike and backing off with Mom to one thing a day or even one thing a week was out of character for me. But it seems to be working and that’s what matters.

    • Hi Deb J, you have done a great job with your decluttering too and learning to be patient with your mom has had the desired effect on the long run. It is good to step back and observe others and realise we don’t all tick the same. In order for relationships and cooperation to succeed we need to become familiar with each others traits and adjust our own behaviour to extract a good outcome in every situation. It can be a fun challenge sometimes but it can also be frustrating if we allow it. Success set a good precedent for the next attempt.

  3. I am usually an all or nothing person, but getting rid of one thing a day the past couple of years has really made a difference and hasn’t taken a lot of emotional energy away from the regular things I do in my day. It is easy to do and you can forget until the next day. There is a gradual change which makes it easier to adjust.

    On working smart, I had a conversation with a friend the other day who was telling everyone how her kids pay for all of their own college because they work really hard. (they work for their own parents) I hopefully didn’t offend her when I shared that we didn’t teach our kids to work hard, but to work smart. Getting good grades and scholarships gave them so much more money they they could ever have earned working part time each school year and full time in the summer. Both ways are honorable, but one is definitely easier than the other.

  4. I’ve bopped around perfectionism and distracted – I used to have the tendancy (in general) to grossly underestimate how long something would take, and then be caught short. So I started over estimating how long something would take, thinking a more realistic time frame would take the pressure off. Alas, I find that has had the opposite effect again.

    I often find, for me, that I need to make a big mess to get things done. The perfectionist part of my brain can’t stand the mess and will persevere until it is done. I don’t enjoy it, especially if it goes over several days, but otherwise I find that I’ll put off and put off. And I don’t really recommend it unless everything else has failed.

    • Hi Moni, I would love to give a tip on how to estimate the right time frame but I really don’t know. I just seem to have a knack for it.

      As for making a mess to get things done, I have been discovering lately that I tend to craft like that. Especially during to design process. And even more especially if I am doing a series of similar items all at once. That last one I don’t intend to make a habit of.

  5. Hi Colleen! Distraction is a great problem to me. I am doing something and I stop and go somewhere else in the house and forget what I was doing previously… 😀 Now I try to end each task as I approach it.

    • Hi Andréia, at least you have identified the problem and are going to try to avoid it. Discovering and/or admitting our shortcomings is the first step to making helpful changes.

  6. Love the post Colleen.
    I’m not perfectionist, but do I do like i’s dotted and t’s crossed and love nothing better than a good system. I wasn’t like this when I was younger though so am not sure when I became like this. I’ve also developed a taste for paring back over the last few years, hence one set of crockery each / and two of bedding/towels and small capsule wardrobe for myself. That is very different to how I used to be and I am not quite sure what wrought the change.
    I am definitely at risk of not finishing something I started if I take on too big a task: to avoid such overwhelm and paralysis I find I have learnt to that for me, it is ok to just get small bits done at a time.
    I do find it impossible to do many things regularly, be it house work, always hit and miss, or de-cluttering, so have never been able to do the one thing a day routine, brilliant as I think the idea is. Like you say, we all tick in different ways and it’s about knowing yourself and how you as an individual function means you can find strategies that work for you.

    • It is all about how we tick as individuals. I was just saying that to Andréia the other day. One system may work well for someone while another finds it unworkable. Sadly it isn’t always easy to stumble upon the system that works best for you but in that case it is best to just try and try again and don’t be deterred by failure. I don’t actually consider that failure I just think of it as a learning process and that I will get there in the end.

  7. Re point 1: I feel so much better now I have started focusing on the out tray rather than the in tray. My decluttering is all part of a marriage breakup and an enforced move and not wanting to waste money on unnecessary storage, but I do have messy feelings about a lot of the objects and the whole process which makes all these barriers real obstacles. I would rather not be dealing with any of it so I do get distracted. I’m going to try 2 x 15 min slots later today (I always feel that isn’t enough). Then tomorrow I have a friend coming to help declutter my clothes for a longer period. Anyway this week I am really pleased because I have shifted around 300 books out of the house: I’ve sold them to a bookshop that rents out rehearsal space, so I’m being paid in space rental hours which I need for my theatre work. That helps the bookstore cash flow and makes me see the tangible benefits of shedding the books. I was a bit torn about some of them but a day after they’ve gone I can barely remember what any of the titles were. This makes around 1,000 books that I’ve decluttered since the New Year, mainly given to charities and schools. The ones that have just gone are a bit more specialist and the right store to sell them to came along at the right time. Plus I have found, via a contact, a PhD student who really needs and will appreciate another stack of books I’ve put aside. Meanwhile I have devised a performance piece to use up some of my vast collection of art postcards. It will use 100 of them at a time and I can keep the ones I really like. So it’s all happening bit by bit.

  8. I know I am a bit jetlagged. I’ve just returned from a month in Australia, final journey Byron Bay to Coolangatta to Sydney to Dubai to London to Durham, approx 48 hours plus time difference. But that notwithstanding I am SURE I didn’t write a post for your blog. But I’ve just read it and it seems to be about me 🙂

    • Hi Gillie, I hope you had a wonderful time here is Australia. I am glad you found this post to fit with you well. And I hope you get back into your decluttering now that you are home.

  9. I’ve been doing the declutter thing for a few months now. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making any progress but I keep at it. The annoying thing for me was to move into a house where the previous owner had left clutter and the realtors did nothing to help me with it. Being the lazy type I tend to be I just left it and worked around it (fine I did corral it in the basement and other the porch but that was it).

    Now I’m thinking a huge house for just me is probably not going to work so that is my main reason for decluttering my stuff and the stuff that was already here. I do find immense satisfaction to move things on to new homes.

    But now I’ve told myself I’d better have a 2 box rule so for every room in my fantasy future place (I’m thinking a 1 bedroom or smaller suite) I’ll allow 2 boxes of stuff so ten boxes in all for five rooms (bedroom, bathroom, living/dining, kitchen and storage).

    Not sure if this is realistic or not (I would not include consumables in this like food or furniture) but it gives me an idea of what to shoot for rather just go wild. I am already downsizing the amount of furniture I have as well (7 tables in the living/dining area was really too much).

    Another carload of stuff to ReStore yesterday so I feel better about that.

    I’m tempted (though this sounds a bit much perhaps) to work through the house on a day off and try to fill those 2 boxes for each area and see what is left outside those boxes…

    Also another push for me was helping a friend move and he admits he has gone from collecting to hoarding… scary.

    • Hi Ron B, less stuff and a smaller home sure will make you life simpler. However I wouldn’t waste your time filling those two boxes just yet. I would just continue to declutter at a steady pace and try to work it down to what you think would fit into those two boxes. It may just be an unrealistic goal that could take the wind out of your sails at this point.

  10. You may be right, Colleen, and I would hate to give up having gone this far with my decluttering. Slow and steady would be best.

    I do want to try the Minimalists’ trick one day to pack up everything (I could do a room at a time) and then only take out something when I need it.

    I guess it is similar to turning your hangers backwards in the closet (which I have done as well) to figure out what you really need and want or care about.

    Added an older coat (not worn for years) to my donation box this morning. On I go.

    • Hi Ron B, here at 365 we call that a trial separation. If you are going to try this I would suggest to leave out the things you know you absolutely do use often. Then separate the the least used items from the one you know you use occasionally. While you are doing that declutter anything you encounter that you know you really don’t use or care about.

      I have used this method with plastic kitchen containers and socks at different times. It was quite effective.