It’s the time of the year for family reunion, angpaos, festive feasts and delightful cookies, and of course not forgetting, it’s the time for massive cleaning and decluttering of the house.
With Chinese New Year just around the corner, it is traditionally considered auspicious to thoroughly clean the house in order to rid the bad luck and make way for the incoming good one.
I am sharing with you in this post some useful tips from Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Because, auspiciousness aside, it is always good to usher in the new year with a fresher and tidier house.
Decluttering and Discarding
The KonMari method advised discarding as the first step towards an uncluttered and tidy house. Some of us are hoarders by nature (think about those piles of stuff we stored away for years thinking ‘I might need it someday’ but never even knew if they still exist today, somewhere in the keeping), so discarding comes naturally hard on us. That’s why it’s the first on the list. And here are some more principles to help make discarding fast and, hopefully, less painful:
1. Choose what I really want to keep, not what I want to get rid of.
Because deciding what to discard is harder, we might end up with no significant less stuff. Scan each item with the “Do I really still need/want this?” question, keep the ‘yes’, and keep the ‘maybe’ to a minimum. Discard the rest. Do consider donating things that are still useful and in good condition, and recycling the recyclables.
*Someone did a great job compiling recipients of used but USEFUL goods donation here at http://honeykidsasia.com/charity-singapore-donation/
2. Do it by category not by location.
Done this way, we keep the focus and avoid having to sort similar items twice or more. *See below for help with item categorizing.
3. Sort in this sequence: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, mementos.
Start from the least-emotion-involving items (mementos invoke nostalgia and deep emotions) and items of the largest amount (usually clothes and books).
4. Let the things that have ‘fulfilled’ their purpose go.
Apart from special mementos, there are items which lie somewhere between ‘not really needed’ and ‘not really wanted’, yet are not easy to part with. Items like these are usually gifts we received, or souvenirs we impulsively purchased. Marie Kondo shared in her book that such items have fulfilled their purpose and it is appropriate to ‘thank’ them and let them go.
- Clothes that should be hung
- Clothes for specific events
- Paper that needs attention (bill, mail to be answered, etc.); to be discarded immediately once done.
- Important papers (contract, legal papers, etc.)
- Paper needs keeping (warranties, insurance policies, etc.)
3. Miscellaneous, in this order of sorting:
- CDs DVDs
- Skin care products
- Valuables (passport, credit cards, etc.)
- Electrical equipment and appliances
- Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
- Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissue, etc.)
- Kitchen goods and food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
- Others (spare change, figurines, etc.)
Once done with the discarding process, the next step is to put the shortlisted items back to their proper places. Here’s Marie Kondo’s advice on how to efficiently store things, maximize storage and keep items regularly organized:
1. Designate a storage place for every single item.
2. Store the same category of things at the same place.
3. Strive for as minimum location for storage as possible, i.e. do not scatter storage places all over the house.
4. Store similar categories of things near each other.
5. Use rectangular boxes instead of funny shaped ones.
6. Keep bath and kitchen sink free of items. It saves you wiping time and from having to wipe the brownish slime under those bottles of soap/detergent/cleaning agent.
7. Coins ALWAYS go into wallet.
8. Don’t pile things, store vertically (like books on bookshelves) if possible. The key is visibility. When piled, items at the bottom may get forgotten over time and end up being unused.
9. Store bags in bag, like the Matryoshka doll.
10. Items that usurp the floor space belong in the closet.
11. Unpack and de-tag new clothes immediately.
There you have it!
I hope the process of cleaning, tidying and decluterring our houses helps us also to appreciate and be thankful for our possessions, and to realize how we can actually be content with few things in life.
Happy spring cleaning and here wishing you a warm and wonderful reunion with your loved ones!
*Disclaimer: If you have little children at home, you will naturally have your kind of all year round spring-cleaning: things keep springing and you keep cleaning. Don’t feel discouraged to see the mess and clutter, see it as a mark of merry home and productiveness. Treasure this moment as the little ones will grow up and the house will be mess-free in no time. 🙂