By Gulrukh Tausif
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
If we take a good hard look around our homes and cupboards, we will probably find a gazillion things we no longer need. There are probably children’s clothes, toys, shoes and books taking up space, clothes that no longer fit us or went out of fashion a decade ago, ugly decoration pieces that were gifted by stingy relatives, mismatched crockery or things that we are emotionally attached to like birthday cards, picture frames or holiday souvenirs.
Having all this extra stuff in the house can have a very negative impact on our lives and emotional health, but somehow we cling to the stuff thinking we might use it one day. There is always a feeling of guilt attached to the cleaning process when we think of how much money was spent in buying the knickknacks or clothes that we now deem useless.
I always feel very depressed when I have to clean out a closet that is full of broken odds and ends. It is not only very time consuming but I am never sure which nut, bolt or wire might come in handy later. I also have a huge amount of books in my home and dusting and keeping the bookshelves organized is truly a herculean task. And yet, I am unable to sell them or give them away. In apartments or small homes which lack proper storerooms or attics, this problem is exacerbated where things always seem to overflow and there is jumbled stuff everywhere.
But having a clutter free home is essential for physical and mental well being. People who live in messy homes or work in cluttered offices are more prone to be stressed if they can’t find things they are looking for, it drains their energy and they are more likely to be short tempered. Too much clutter in the home also requires more time spent cleaning and dusting otherwise dust and mold can accumulate causing different allergies and health problems.
When it comes to handling clutter, some people find it easier to tackle a small area every day like a shelf or one drawer while some prefer to do it on a seasonal basis by going over the entire house altogether. Whatever approach works best for you, here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Know what you want to keep and discard the rest. Periodically clean out your closets and check your shoes, clothes and other accessories. Anything broken, outgrown or not worn for years needs to be disposed off.
- When it comes to de-cluttering, my best friends are cartons and a thick black marker. Keep 2-3 big card boxes for sorting out stuff. If unsure about certain items like books, greeting cards, shoes, clothes and crockery, place them in cardboard boxes. If you still don’t find a use for them in let’s say, 4-6 months, you can give them away. Things in good condition can also be put on sale online.
- Have neatly labeled files for sorting out bills, medical reports, school reports, bank statements, receipts etc. and make it a habit to file away papers immediately.
- Make it a rule to clean table tops and counters before going to bed and this habit needs to be inculcated in the whole family. Remember the maxim: A place for everything and everything in its place.
- Another important rule is to slow the rate of accumulation of stuff in our homes. Before buying things mindlessly or just because they are on discount, think whether you really need them and if you have a place to store them in the house.
- Be generous. If you are fashion conscious and love to buy the latest trendy kurtis, shawls or bags, make an effort to sort out and give away your old stuff instead of cramming everything in cupboards and drawers.
- Similarly keeping decades old clothes thinking you might wear them “someday” is also useless. Identify people and places where you can donate stuff such as heavily embellished clothes that you no longer need or last year’s school books. There are plenty of charity organizations and poor people who could benefit from school uniforms, books, toys, blankets, bed sheets, crockery and shoes etc.
Sometimes elderly people in the house are reluctant to part ways with old possessions. Since money was not spent so freely nor there was such accumulation of personal stuff, they think it is a sacrilege to throw away old blankets or bits of furniture or clothes that were bought decades and decades ago. It is however very important to understand and their state of mind. Sometimes, it is not about things but a host of emotions and memories associated with those possessions so these matters should be handled delicately and with empathy.
Having a clutter free home is a habit. Once you enjoy the physical and mental freedom and pride that accompanies a clutter-free living, you will find yourself making the extra effort to ensure that your home remains that way.
Story first published: 4th December 2017