Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Art of Decluttering

I recently borrowed a book from the library entitled "The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide" by Francine Jay. It talks about how to declutter, organize and simply life.

I've read a few organization / decluttering books and so far this one is my favorite. It's very simple, easy to remember and, hopefully, easier to follow through.

The book tackled how our stuff can be categorized into 3:
  1. Useful stuff - those that are practical and functional (our usual alibi for accumulating stuff)
  2. Beautiful stuff - pleasing to the eyes (the main culprit for buying stuff)
  3. Emotional stuff - those with sentimental value (who wouldn't want to keep souvenirs?!)
Most of the times I accumulate stuff because of their sentimental value (yes, I'm a bonafide pack rat). Other times because I see items on sale and assume that I could take advantage of the good deal even if there is no immediate use :(. After sometime, I feel like being smothered by so much stuff even if I have just "decluttered" a few months back! Add to that all the paper airplanes and boats that my two sons have piled up. It seems like the house is always filled with stuff - mostly unused and not useful.

The book stressed the importance of having less stuff and living with less stuff.


Who wouldn't want to have less stress in life, right? Who wouldn't want more freedom? Anything that talks about decluttering and organizing, I'm in it. It's the follow up that gets me into trouble. 

Probably most, if not all, moms / ladies (and some men and dads) also get stressed out from seeing to much clutter around the house (especially when you have kids around). It's like an endless quest to keeping our home organized and "livable". With this book, I feel that I'm REALLY one step closer to clutter freedom.

According to Francine (first name basis, we're friends???? hahaha), the key to serious decluttering and organizing is to STREAMLINE.

S- Start Over
T - Trash, Treasure or Transfer
R - Reason for each item
E - everything in its place
A - all surfaces clean
M - modules
L - limits
I - if one comes in, one goes out
N - narrow it down
E - everyday maintenance

Let me tell you more about this based on what I understand from the book.

  • the key is to take EVERYTHING OUT
  • emptying everything out, then bringing things back ONE BY ONE
  • you're selecting what you TRULY LOVE and NEED
  • the things we choose to surround ourselves tell our story - so choose wisely
I must say, starting over gives a really good perspective of all the things we have (depending on which room we want to do first) that we don't really need. All those old papers that I can't even remember why I kept.

  • throw away things you don't need --> RECYCLE if possible
  • TREASURE - things that you truly cherish for either their beauty or their functionality
  • TRANSFER - perfectly good items that are no longer for you. If you haven't needed it yet, you likely never will.
    • giveaway these items - donate to the less fortunate, pass on to friends
    • put up a garage sale
We have taught the kids to recycle. All the scratch papers, old newspapers, finished workbooks and the likes go to the recycling corner. In six months, we call the "karangguni" (Singapore version of modern rag and bone men who come door to door to collect old, unwanted stuff) and sell the heap of papers we've collected. One time we got $8 (the highest we've gotten so far), the other time was $6.

We've also taught the kids to set aside things that they no longer need or want but are still in good condition, so we can donate them when there's an opportunity. It minimizes things going to waste, at the same time we are able to help others.

  • deal with duplicates
  • ask what is the item for and how often do you use it
  • what is more valuable to you - the item or the space it occupies?
  • it's valuable if 
    • you use it often
    • it makes your life easier
    • you find it beautiful
    • it would be more difficult to replace
    • it's multi-functional
    • it saves you time
    • it's a cherished part of your heritage or family
  • PARETO PRINCIPLE (80/20 rule) - we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time
While decluttering one of our kitchen cabinets, I've realized we have so many things that we don't really use. Old plastic containers, containers without covers, etc. took up so much space from our cabinets. I've cleared most of them, and I think we were really left with only 20% of what was originally there. My husband, on the way to throw the trash, was wondering why all of a sudden I thought of getting rid of all the stuff I used to want to collect. I just said we didn't need them anymore, which was true. So now, I'm one step closer to have more space in our kitchen. That's a few more cabinets to clear out.

  • A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  • consider when and how often you use it (putting items into zones)
    • Inner Circle - space for frequently used items
    • Outer Circle - for things used less often
    • Deep Storage - outside of your living space
  • when you leave a room, collect any stray items and return them to their rightful place

  • if we don't have clear surfaces, we don't have space to do anything
  • surfaces are not for storage
  • gather things of similar functions together, eliminate the excess, and make sure they're easy to access and move around when needed
  • consolidate, cull and contain our stuff
    • transparent containers let's you see what's inside
  • Remember: You are not what you own
  • most effective when applied to like items (eg. bags, shoes)
  • The holy grail of minimalist living
    • owning just enough to meet our needs and nothing more
  • MINIATURIZING - saving a piece of the item instead of the whole thing
  • what we've started we must continue to do
  • keep STREAMLINE-ing

Let's take up the challenge. Now is the time to declutter our homes and our lives :) 

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