When I was in High School, occasionally I would have to make traipses down to residential areas to perform community service, as part of my school’s holistic education curriculum.
One time, I knocked on doors asking for used newspapers for a recycling project. Business was bad in these parts… it was a less well-to-do neighbourhood, so most people would cling onto their heaping pile of newspapers for dear life, because at least they would be able to sell it to the karang guni man for a marginal cash-back.
Needless to say, I didn’t end up with a lot of newspapers that day. But in those houses I noticed a recurring pattern that was mildly disconcerting – many of the homes were packed to the seams with unused items and ornaments, insidiously taking over the living space.
What puzzled me was…
Why do people keep stuff they don’t need or want?
Why are you keeping that shirt you haven’t worn in months, which you know you won’t be wearing anytime soon?
Why do you stow those unused birthday gifts in a drawer you only open every 100 days for a cursory glance?
Why are you friends with people who are walking cauldrons of toxic habits and negative mindsets?
Over the years, after a boatload of self-introspection and reading, I kind of figured it out. The funny thing is, I then saw this “hoarding mentality” in the most unsuspecting person – myself!
The Expert Consensus on Clutter
“Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.” – Marie Kondo
According to Marie Kondo, widely acclaimed organisation consultant and author, we accumulate clutter in our spaces the same way we can’t let go of toxic relationships and habits.
Tidying up our belongings is in fact an exercise in putting our life affairs in order, as we are forced to confront our fears and reflect on what is worth keeping and throwing away.
The more effectively we can tidy up our belongings, the more we are subconsciously empowered to extend this prudence to other aspects of our lives.
3 Key Principles of Tidying Up
1) Only keep what sparks joy in you: For many belongings such as gifts and cards, we amass them only because we are guilty of throwing them away – it is ultimately fear that is keeping us from moving on.
To renounce this fear, it is essential to tighten your expectations. Keep only the most precious and heartwarming items that make your heart swell with joy.
2) Practice gratitude towards the things that have served their purpose: According to Tony Robbins, it’s impossible to feel any negative emotions while you’re immersed in a state of appreciation.
By giving thanks for your old belongings, you immediately circumvent the fear of losing them, which is what holds people back from tidying up.
3) Start small and progress: Begin with the least sentimental or difficult items such as clothing and stationery, before slowly progressing to gifts and letters.
By gradually conditioning yourself to tolerate the pain of throwing away old things, you increase your chances of sticking to the process, ultimately emerging as a more empowered person.