Keep Calm And Declutter Your Home
by Vince Wong
“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
- Steven Wright
Think your home’s a perennial mess? The Americans may just have you beat, in terms of sheer numbers. The average household in the United States, according to the LA Times, contains more than 300,000 individual items. To get a sense of scale, some minimalists have managed to pare their number of possessions down to just a few thousands. Some even less!
But Singaporeans are no walkovers when it comes to accumulating worldly possessions. In a 2014 poll conducted by local self-storage company Extra Space, 67% of their 1000 survey respondents admitted to storing items at home that they hadn’t used for more than three years. 47% had never decluttered their homes.
Yet, more than half (56%) described their living space as cramped! (At least they are not amongst the one in 50 Singaporeans who suffer from a hoarding disorder…)
Indeed, for most of us regular citizens, this axiom seems to hold true: the more prosperous we become, the more things we accumulate. Doesn’t it make you feel tired, just thinking about taking care of all this stuff? Imagine if you didn’t have them.
To help you with that, here’s three strategies I totally just made up not five minutes ago, to prevent clutter from entering your life in the first place.
- Create A Quarantine Zone
Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear described in one of his books, For Crying Out Loud: The World According to Clarkson, a piece of furniture he called the ‘Cupboard of Sh*t’:
“It's a glass-front Georgian cabinet in which I keep all of the useless rubbish I've found in gift shops over the years. Pride of place goes to a foot-long alabaster model of the Last Supper in which all the disciples are wearing different-coloured glitter capes.”
He then amusingly goes on to describe other similarly tacky contents of the Cupboard of Sh*t, some of which made him a very, very, happy man, if you know what I mean…
What’s the lesson here?
Not that buying stuff can make you very happy; you already knew that. It’s more like: if you enjoy collecting the world’s crap just as much as you love travelling, but like Mr. Clarkson, understands how useless most of it is, then, instead of giving them a forever home, designate just the one cupboard for their limited-definitely-not-permanent storage.
And when it is full, clear it out on a ‘first in, first out’ basis – or what I like to call the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle:
“Nothing new shall be bought or stored in the Cupboard of Sh*t, unless something else already in there is first thrown out to make space.”
Of course, creating a quarantine zone won’t work for those of you who choose to live in entire Homes of Sh*t. Which is why I invented this next strategy just for you.
- Accumulate Experiences, Not Things
In the same survey, apparently 79% of respondents aged over 40 were still hanging on to their old school assignments. Whatting on to the what, now?
Listen guys and gals - nobody has ever laid in his deathbed and lamented not having kept all his stuff from childhood. Probably he was suffocated to death with a pillow before he had a chance to speak.
“Hey man, don’t get too attached to things, learn to let go.”>
And I say “he” because the survey reported that men aged 55 to 65 found it the hardest to let go of their belongings.
Now I know it was maybe Malcolm Forbes who once said ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’, but listen, this is me now saying “He who dies with the most toys, who did not also make his living from toys, dies sad, alone and undiscovered until his neighbours complain about a really bad odour.”
Ironically, this time right now, the annual season of giving, might be the perfect time to pivot to spending on more experiences instead of on more possessions. That’s apparently the secret to making you a happier person.
In other words, give your friends and family the precious gift of stories about you to cry over, at your funeral, instead of your precious possessions.
Unless your precious possessions include private jets, gold and precious gems, banded stacks of thousand-denominated notes, your entire estate’s bond and stock certificates, actual Iron Man suits, or deeds to multiple luxury properties.
In which case, definitely carry on, brah. You know we are friends, right?
- Don’t Buy A Cow When Milk Is Free
Some time back, I gave up a steady and lucrative career as a media practitioner to enjoy the nomadic freedom and creative opportunities afforded by freelancing.
In the two years that have passed, I’ve sold my car, cut back on eating out alone, and scrutinised my expenses to focus every dollar on what really matters to me – financial security and quality time with family and friends.
I am now officially in my 40s, and I think I have finally honed a finely-tuned sense of what I need to buy and own, versus what I can simply steal borrow, leech get via favours, or pretend I have lease to get by.
Not only do I save resources for who and what matters, when it’s time to declutter my home, I simply give all those things back to whoever owned them in the first place.
What I’m saying is, why buy something if you can simply enjoy its benefits for free?
In fact, why not just treat the whole world outside your home as your Cupboard of Sh*t? This way, you can fill up the holes in your heart clutter up your personal space with more of what matters, like love, laughter and happiness.
That… I think… is probably the best decluttering strategy - for the entire planet.
You are welcome.
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