operation: declutter

Our new yaya does a great job of getting the house clean with minimal supervision. But a clean house is only the next best thing to an organized house. When I thought I had a few hours to spare the other day, I raided the closet where I keep some of the boys’ old toys. Yes it was time for operation declutter. At least for that corner of the house.

We’re lucky because we always had some place to junk our junk. I keep old clothes inside old bags so when fire victims come knocking we have something to donate. Yaya sorts used cans and plastic containers and sells them to bakal-bote boys. She says she sells enough for her to buy cellphone load from time to time. Not bad. And we never run out of babies in the family who can use the boys’ outgrown clothes.

But this was the first time that I attempted to organize old toys. We rarely buy toys for the kids. In fact, we almost never buy them toys. Almost all their toys were gifts from Christmas and on birthdays. The only toys I remembered we bought for them were the bob-the-builders, like the one on this blog’s header. Still, we end up with a lot of toys. And my boys being the rowdy type, their toys always end up smashed to pieces or with parts missing. So I thought I didn’t have a lot of toys for cleaning up. Was I wrong.

At the end of the operation, I had filled two huge bags with old toys, plushies, bags and footwear. We are donating this to an NGO whose beneficiaries are organizing some sort of “ukay-ukay” or garage sale as fundraising activity.

Coming from the closet, the old toys really did look like stuff you had better throw out as garbage. But when I started dusting the little pieces and sorting them together I came up with little packs of toys that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell for ten pesos in a garage sale.

It was a relief for me to have to part with these items that are only collecting dust inside the closet. Even appliances that are actually still working but we no longer use anymore. But I can’t say the same goes true for other people. I know a lot of people who have this bad habit of keeping things because they still work or because it was given to them as a gift even when those things are not practical to use and is only eating up precious space that could have been allotted for something more useful or important.

Now that I think of it, decluttering can actually be an emotional process for some people. Because it involves a lot of stuff that you used to love, used to use a lot or saved up for a long time before you were able to buy. Hence, more than the sorting of old items, decluttering requires a change of perspective—from things that were originally treasures to stuff that can be more useful for other people and that you’ll be better off without.

It may take a while to get used to such feelings of losing precious belongings but believe me, it will be worth it. So how do you cope with such emotions and continue with your organizing activities?

1. Be sentimental but be selective. Rather than keeping all of your children’s photographs including the blurry ones and those that have their heads cut, why not get a nice box or a cute album to store only the best photos and throw out the rest. Keep only a few cherished baby clothes and give away the rest to whoever can use them.

2. Fix ’em or give ’em up. A lot of people have a tendency to keep broken tools or gadgets always planning to fix them up one day. But they never get fixed, do they? Give yourself a deadline for keeping broken stuff, say 6 months, and if you don’t get a chance to fix them by your deadline, I’d say you’d never get a chance to fix them. That’s the time you throw them away.

3. Gifts and presents. I love giving gifts. I do take pains to think of gifts that I give away. But I also accept that other people might not share my taste and no matter how much I like the gifts I give, other people might not like them as much. So if someone gives you an unwanted gift, accept it gracefully as it is the polite way. But remember it is your home where you keep those gifts and you have all the right to choose which ones stay.

4. What-if’s. Once we had an old stove that still worked but whose burners have rusted out and was wasting LPG everytime we use it. So we bought a new gas range but had a tough time deciding what to do with the old one. “What if the new stove gets broken, then we have a spare stove that we can use.” Wrong. Just imagine how much space that old stove will take. And if you keep everything that’s still working but don’t regularly use, I really wouldn’t want to imagine how much space that is and how much more useful items you can actually store otherwise.

So, learn to let go. It will take a while, but you can start in small corners, one closet at a time.


3 thoughts on “operation: declutter

  1. “Decluttering requires a change of perspective—from things that were originally treasures to stuff that can be more useful for other people and that you’ll be better off without.” –> i totally agree.

  2. i think there’s a rule in decluttering that if you aren’t using something for a period of time (3 months nga ba yun?) that means you don’t really need it and you can get rid of it.

    anyway, i don’t know what to feel after reading this kasi i put up an online store to sell my old clothes for a very cheap price. yes i could just donate them to my less fortunate relatives or to fire victims, but earning from them feels good too, right?

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