Decluttering is hard work

Photo shows one of the cluttered rooms in the writer’s house.

WHEN I moved to Kuala Lumpur from Penang, I arrived with one duffel bag of clothes. Inside were three pairs of long pants and polo shirts respectively, a few sarongs, and a packet of adult diapers. That was all I could comfortably carry with me. The year was 2006.

Fast forward to 12 years later. The three-bedroom house I share with my wife now is chock-full of whatnots. There is just enough space to manoeuver my wheelchair in the living room. The other rooms are packed to the brim. It is impossible for me to get in there to retrieve anything.

What have my wife and I gathered over these years? Books, many we have not had time to read yet. Cartons of them were acquired from the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales several years consecutively. We have stopped buying for the past two years, after realising we may never ever get to finish reading most of them. They are stacked all over gathering dust and turning musty and yellow.

The other culprits are boxes and boxes of Lego. We were keen adult fans once, still are, but we have toned down on our collection. We even lugged back one luggage of exclusive and hard to find Lego sets when we were in Tokyo for a conference in 2016.

We especially took a one-hour journey, changing trains twice, and walked quite a distance in the freezing winter weather to reach the Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo in Odaiba. That was how crazy we were over what used to be toys for children.

I have also accumulated cartons of conference and seminar materials, souvenirs and gifts from conference organisers, and notes and handouts from the various training sessions I have conducted. They were kept because I thought there would be a day I would need to refer to the information and data from these documents. I never did, not even once.

Now that I will be doing peritoneal dialysis, there is a need to make space for medical supplies. I was told the initial one-month supply would come in 20 carton boxes and require a space of at least six feet by four feet to accommodate them.

The room where I am to perform dialysis has to be as clutter-free as possible to avoid the accumulation of dust. Contamination while connecting tubes for dialysis can cause infection that could lead to serious consequences. If infections occur too frequently, I may have to go on haemodialysis instead.

We have started clearing and cleaning the house bit by bit. Admittedly, the going is slow. We are having a difficult time discarding and decluttering. Yes, whether we realise it or not, and whether we like the label or not, we are bona fide hoarders.

Every item we kept was thought to have a purpose one day in the future. Plastic food boxes, cables for electronic devices long discarded, reusable shopping bags, and even old cooking utensils were squirrelled away for that one day in the future. Some have been waiting to serve that purpose for the past decade. These will be the first to go out.

We have since realised that to prevent from falling into such a situation, we first must buy only when absolutely necessary. We were often taken in by sales and bought things we did not need. We even bought extras because they were cheap. Most times these extras go unused and wasted, especially food. Yes, we have items that have long expired in our larder and fridge still.

We also realised the amount of money we have squandered by buying things that we do not need or cannot consume before their expiry date. By my estimate, we could have saved a few thousand ringgit a year, money that could have been put to better use. We know better now.

Sometimes it is difficult to resist bargains when they are really attractive. Whenever I have the urge to splurge, I would remind myself of how much I have wasted and how much I could have saved, and walked away. I am glad I resisted those times. I left with my wallet intact and a few less items to clutter up the house.

I am trying to go the minimalist way of life, living with just essential items only. This is the way to eliminate clutter and reduce wastage. It is going to be difficult seeing I will be using a lot of single use disposal items required by dialysis. Nevertheless, what I cannot do in this area, I will try to reduce wastage in other areas, chiefly from shopping for groceries and buying as little as possible.

I have been reading about friends who have been decluttering with pointers from a book by Marie Kondo titled ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. She is a Japanese cleaning consultant and developed the Konmarie Method for simplifying the tidying, organising, and storing of items. I thought of getting the book to learn how she does it. But then again, wouldn’t getting the book add another item to the clutter as well? Decisions, decisions. In the meantime, the struggle continues.

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