Thursday, November 25, 2010

Project N - de-cluttering accomplished!

I mentioned in a previous post that we have a LOT of stuff, some sentimental, some useful, some utterly outdated and irrelevant. It's not that we want to hang on to all this “treasure” rather, we don't have the time to consider whether an item should go or stay and, there isn’t a lot of pressure to sort everything out because, fortunately (or unfortunately), our present house is large enough for all the clutter to "disappear" neatly. I read this article on Apartment Therapy on de-cluttering, which basically said the same thing: the lack of time can lead to accumulating clutter:

"We live in a culture where we're supposed to be busy, working on this working on that, making progress, getting things done. But if this level of activity crosses over into a frenzy (always going out, never staying in, never having a moment of nothing in your day) there is no time to be thoughtful about what you keep around you or how you really want to live. And if you're in a state of busy-ness most of the time, you're not only more likely to hang on to things you don't love but you're more likely to keep buying things too!"

This is definitely the case for us. Richard and I are starved for time. Our family, work and social commitments are heavy and we want to meet all these commitments, be it a deadline at work, a walk in the park with Ryan, curling up on the couch with our pets, a game of mahjong with friends, or a family trip overseas. As a result of all this rushing about, we tend to buy indiscriminately and sometimes in bulk. We "buy first, think later". We simply don't have time to stop and consider whether the item is going to be loved/used or not.

So, I have clothes and bags which are brand new, with their tags still on and, yes, still in the shopping bags that they came home in. I have brand new shoes which I'd forgotten I had. I have CDs still in plastic wrap, because I don't have time to think about getting the disk changer out and deciding which CD stays in and which goes out.

We just don't have time to keep up with what we bring home.

Actually, ever since Ryan came along, we slowed down the buying, because now we don’t even have time to shop! On weekdays, by the time we get off work, fetch Ryan from his nanny and have dinner, the shops are already closing. If we still want to go out at night, we end up at the bookshop which stays open late. Weekends are shopping-free as they are devoted to Ryan and he isn't into shopping. Whatever trips we do make to the mall are short and focused - we zip in and we zip out.

We do still have our weaknesses and when we have the chance to buy things, old habits die hard and we still buy like there’s no tomorrow. We buy five to ten books and magazines at one go (when Ryan was starting his library, I would buy 30 at a time). We hardly have time to take them out of the shopping bag before we go and buy another lot.

Nevertheless, it is true that, overall, we now buy much less than we used to. So, hopefully, that will take care of the front end of the problem.

Next, we have the back end - the storage issue.

First the paper problem. we have stacks of old (paid) bills and other historical documents like bank statements. The correct thing to do, I suppose, is to keep perhaps 3 to 6 months' worth of statements and discard the oldest one when you get a new one. We just don't have the time for that level of organisation. We probably get more than twenty bills/statements every month and, after a long day at work, I'm certainly not in the mood for sorting and filing into individual files. What we do is leave it in a pile and when the pile gets too high, we do the filing at one go. Our sole aim is to file everything in so that things are neat and tidy, which already takes up a few hours each time (with two of us on the task!). We don't have time to discard the old statements, so our archive continues growing.

Come to think of it, that is how I ended up with a huge collection of clothes hangers. Each time my clothes came back from the laundromat on hangers, I would just hang them up in the wardrobe. When I put on the outfit, I would throw its hanger into a large box next to the wardrobe. The outfit goes to the laundromat and comes back with a new hanger and I hang it up again. I've been doing this for years. When I packed up my wardrobe last week and went through the hanger box, there were HUNDREDS of hangers in it. I was shocked!

I also found that we have about twenty caps which we accumulated from all the events we attended (actually, Richard had a period where he had long hair and wore a cap all the time, but that was a long time ago back in university). I also collected the pillows from all the bedrooms - I ended up with ten! Ten pillows! Every time we bought new ones, we kept the old ones because they were still good and we thought that our guests might need them - but I'm sure we didn't realise we had saved ten!

Well, we threw out all the old and irrelevant documents (it took us one entire night to sort through all the files) and we gave away all the extra hangers, pillows and caps, and more.

Then there was the other stuff I mentioned in my previous post - odd earrings and buttons, old red packets, stationery and stuff like beauty product samples, essentially stuff which I never had time to properly consider. Many of these items have become un-usable or irrelevant. I never intended to hang on to these things, my thinking was simply to keep them for a little while and deal with them later. Of course, "later" never happened, and I never had the time to sort everything out, until now.

I gave away what was still useful and I threw away the rest. I told myself that, if it was not "beautiful, useful or loved" it would have to go. I was never more happy to see a passed expiry date - it made my task so easy. Clothes and shoes that no longer fit or which we no longer wear were given away. All our bedsheets (about 10 sets) had to go, because they were queen-sized and wouldn't fit our new king-sized bed.

The last category of stuff was the most difficult - things that were still "beautiful, useful or loved" but just old. The stereo set in our bedroom works fine (and we do use it) but it is nearly 20 years old. My wok and some of my pots and pans are ten years old, although I still use them. Some of our electrical appliances are also old, although we still use them, like our rice cooker, our iron and our fans.

I gave them all away. In time, we will replace some of them with new versions.

All this de-cluttering meant there was less to pack which was good because, again, we didn't have a lot of time. We could only pack late at night when Ryan was fast asleep and some nights we were too tired from work/play so we didn't even bother. We tried to be as consistent as we could though, and I'm pleased to say that we now only have a few bits here and there left to pack and it looks like we'll be good to go on Saturday.


Subscribe to our feed



(function (tos) { window.setInterval(function () { tos = (function (t) { return t[0] == 50 ? (parseInt(t[1]) + 1) + ':00' : (t[1] || '0') + ':' + (parseInt(t[0]) + 10); })(tos.split(':').reverse()); window.pageTracker ? pageTracker._trackEvent('Time', 'Log', tos) : _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Time', 'Log', tos]); }, 10000); })('00');