Residential clutter is not only a physical danger (increasing the hazard of fire and the amount of dust in your homes) but it is also a mental one. ‘Tidy home, tidy mind’ is an age-old saying, and while all our levels of tidiness may vary, science has proven that clutter (as opposed to untidiness) can negatively impact our mental space. Over here in Asia, Asia personal space is often quite limited and it can be trying at times as a result. It is no wonder then, that this part of the world has been pioneering the decluttering and minimalism trend which is all about downsizing and taking things back to basics. Naturally, the Japanese are best at this, so here are 5 tips from a Japanese decluttering queen, Marie Kondo.
Step 1: Choose a category
When preparing for a spring clean, most of us tackle it room by room which sometimes spans days, weeks, months or even years. Kondo thinks this is counterproductive and instead suggests choosing a category and decluttering everything in that category. For example, do you really need all those books and CDs? She advises starting with the lesser emotional categories first like clothing (although for some of us fashionistas this isn’t necessarily the least emotive place to start), before then moving onto more sentimental things like photographs and letters.
Step 2: Don’t be nostalgic
Nostalgia and sentimentality are two of the main things in the way of a lovely, stress-free, decluttered home. This is the reason Kondo advises to start on items that have less emotional attachment, as they will be easier to clear. There will surely be things you will want to keep, and we don’t suggest throwing everything out (!), so it is good to have a clear head before starting. Make sure you are feeling emotionally sound, and perhaps practice a yoga class or take a long walk to make sure you begin in good standing.
Step 3: Only keep what makes you happy
This seems obvious, but it is important. For example, with clothes, when you pick up an item you have, does it fill you with joy? According to Kondo, if you aren’t filled with love when you look at something then it’s time to chuck it or give it away. Your scruffy clothes, ornaments given as unwanted gifts, the albums of musicians that you no longer find attractive – do they all still bring you joy? Consider the sentimental values and you’ll have many things cleared out in no time.
Step 4: Make the items happy too
Okay, we know that this one sounds a little strange, but what Kondo really means here is you consider how you store your items – make sure they are happy and comfortable. When you only items that make you happy remain, it’s time to make them happy too! Do your clothes seem ‘happy’ squished and unfolded in the back of a cupboard? Do your shoes seem at peace clunked awkwardly on top of each other gathering dust? Whatever the item category, look at how they are stored, and if you make it more efficient and visually appealing this will make you and your belongings happy.
Step 5: Re-home your items
Don’t forget to declutter responsibly. There are many charities that will take donated clothes and textiles, and many shops that will even give you some spare change for items they can sell. You can even sell them yourself on sites like eBay and Facebook. However you choose to rehome your unwanted goods, just make sure they don’t end up being wasted or end in a tip cluttering our oceans instead of your home.
Macau clothing drive: www.iacm.gov.mo
Salvation Army Hong Kong and Macau donations: www.salvationarmy.org.hk
Oxfam Hong Kong: www.oxfam.org.hk
Find Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever’ on Amazon.