Spring-cleaning — how to fight that feeling and declutter


Do you ever find yourself rummaging through an entire room just to look for something? Does the room look like a tornado has just torn through it when you’re done, but you still can’t find it? We are already well into a new decade, for heaven’s sake, so let’s just say no to clutter.

For those celebrating the Lunar New Year, there is time yet to free yourself from clutter and welcome the year with a clean slate.

Discarding the things that you have been keeping for years sounds easy but it can be very difficult for some people. To master the art of decluttering, you may have to face and overcome these six emotional battles. 

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1. “I may need it someday”

“There will definitely be a day when it will come in handy.”

“Someday I might wear it or use it.”

Fight!: Put them in the “KIV” box and set a time period for review.
Put aside the items to be discarded and set a timeline such as six months or one year to review these items. If you have not worn, used or even looked at them once in that period, it is perhaps time to let them go. 

For recyclable items like empty paper or tin boxes and paper bags that you think might come in handy someday, chances are they won’t. Time to put these items into the recycling bins.

2. The scrooge

“I have spent money on it, why should I give it away?”

Fight!: Admit you have made a bad decision and let go.
Impulse buying is often the culprit and it’s hard to admit that you have made a wrong decision in buying things that end up never used or hardly used such as that unworn dress in your closet or that kitchen appliance that has been gathering dust, just sitting in a corner of your kitchen for years. Why not give them away? They may be more useful in somebody else’s hands. 

3. “I hate to waste” 

“This still functions well. Throwing it out would be a waste.”

Fight!: Get rid of it, but not necessarily into the garbage bin.
Items are no better than trash if you keep holding on to them and do not use them. It is not good to waste, but discarding things does not mean turning them into trash. 

Here are some ways you can adopt a zero- waste approach: 

  • Monetise them — sell the items on second -hand marketplaces like Carousell, or exchange them for items that you need through barter trade groups on social media.
  • Give them new life — there are plenty of ideas available online to teach you how to upcycle and utilise old items for new purposes.
  • Donate or recycle them — donate unwanted stuff to charities or communities. Respond to various recycling activities such as 1 Utama Shopping Centre’s Eco-Fabric Bank that collects cloth items for recycling. Campaign ends Dec 31, 2020. For other recyclable items such as paper, glass and metal, spend some time cleaning and sorting through them before sending them to recycling stations.
  • Think twice before buying — above all, start making better purchase decisions. Think before you buy and value what you have bought. 

4. The distraction 

“I like this very much, I’ll spend some time admiring it before I give it away.”

Fight!: Stay focused on the task of decluttering.
You might want to try the KonMari method in finding whether a particular item sparks joy but the danger is one may end up indulging in all those “joyful” memories and forget the objective of the task at hand — to get rid of the mess. 

Being distracted in the process could leave you frustrated and unable to complete the task. Worse, you may end up with an even messier place. 

5. The keepsake

“It brings back dear memories, let’s keep it.”

Fight!: Digitise the memories using your smartphone.
Gifts and cards make lovely mementos but while it’s alright to keep some of these items that “spark joy”, keep in mind that the more you keep, the more space they will take up. 

One way to ensure the memories that come with them remain even after you have gotten rid of the items is to snap photos of these items or scan the cards or documents and save them on cyberspace or your personal computer. You can keep as much of these sweet memories as you desire and look through them whenever you want. 

6. “Close one eye and just throw”

“I want to get the clean-up done faster, thinking through is too tiring… I’ll just throw everything.”

Fight!: Leave some time to reflect.
We have been talking about getting rid of things, but sometimes we may become overzealous and go to the other extreme, and throw things out without proper consideration. It would probably be more effective if you look at it as a process of keeping what’s useful instead. Do not be hasty and end up throwing away stuff that you 
actually need. 

Leave the sorted-out pile there for one or two days and filter through them again. On the other hand, do not forget your original goal and end up keeping everything again! 

Four categories of things to get rid of

Expired and outdated items

Food in the fridge or cupboards, drained batteries, cosmetics and skincare products — if their best-before dates have long passed, it’s time to put them in the bin. The same goes for old magazines, CDs and DVDs as well as bulky disc players. You won’t be using these anymore as you have more choices online.

Worn personal hygiene items

Old blankets, old towels and old toothbrushes should be discarded for hygiene reasons. Travel-sized toiletries you’ve been keeping for years can go. Chances are you will never use them. Just pare it down to what you need, and get rid of the rest.

Stuff that does not fit anymore

Shoes or clothes that no longer fit or match your current style should be given away or sent to be repurposed/recycled.

Extra and unused items

Extra notebooks, calendars, plates, mugs, shopping bags, containers and water bottles that you received as gifts or as freebies will be better off with those who really need them.

This story first appeared in the pullout on Jan 17, 2020. You can access back issues here.

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