If you’ve tried decluttering, you know it’s not an easy task. As you clear your space, you unearth things you haven’t seen in years, see them pile up, get overwhelmed, and then decide to abandon Project Spring Clean.
To help see you through a clutter-free 2012, we sought the advice of Filipina professional organizer Kathleen Ong (www.spacethatworks.com).
Ong, one of only about 4,200 members worldwide of the US-based National Professional Organizers, once said “clutter is a physical manifestation of indecision.”
“There are things you want to keep but don’t really need, like mementos, and things that you don’t really want but need to keep, like a hammer,” she said.
While it’s okay to keep both, it’s important not to keep holding on to things you think you might use someday, or things you refuse to give up because it’s sayang. If you don’t use it, Ong said, “then hindi sya sayang.”
Just think about it: When was the last time you actually got to use something you thought might be useful someday? Chances are you’ve already forgotten you have it lying around in your house, anyway. Throw it away or give it away to someone who really needs it.
Here are Ong’s top 10 tips on how to avoid clutter from taking over your life.
1. Avoid the words “for now.” “For now” are the words we say to ourselves when we are faced with indecision. So you got another planner and you store it inside your drawer “for now,” and completely forgot about it until your next spring cleaning.
“That’s what you say when you want clutter mountains to appear in your space. Designate a proper place for everything and practice putting them there right away. This way you know where things are when you need them.”
2. Designate a holding area. This can be a basket or tray where you temporarily store the clutter lying around your house before placing them in their proper storage, like your children’s toys, your sister’s books, your brother’s jacket.
“All things in the holding area need to be dealt with or acted on ASAP,” she said.
3. Redefine the word “sayang.” Sayang does not necessarily apply to expensive things. Not using what you have is sayang. Ong said you need to experience your things to maximize them. “If you use your things, the more you’ll know what works for you. When you know what works for you, you will be spending and buying less,” she said.
4. Set limits. Ong said it helps to have goals when you set a limit to what you’re itching to buy. For instance, she said, only buy new books when you’re finished reading your pile of unread ones. Or buy only new DVDs when you’re done watching at least 50 out of the 700 in your collection. “It prevents clutter buildup and keeps balance within your space,” she said.
5. Edit your space regularly. Check your drawers, closets, cabinets and shelves every now and then and get rid of the things you don’t really need. Remove items you’ve outgrown. You might want to hold on to that mixed tape you received in high school, but it doesn’t make sense to keep the thousands of tapes you’ve had since your dad bought you your first Walkman.
If you must have some form of memory to cling to via these objects but do not have the luxury of space in your home to store them, Ong suggests you take photos of them instead and place them in an album, digital or print.
“Check your nooks and crannies, DVD shelf, or even pencil boxes regularly, say once a month, so by the end of the year you won’t be overwhelmed by the amount of junk you need to throw out,” Ong said.
6. Designate a permanent “Donate” area. These can be things you don’t want, things you don’t need, things you’ve outgrown. Put them all in a box or bag. Designate a permanent area in the house where everyone in the family can put things they want to donate. When the box or bag is full, donate it to the church or charity.
7. Be vigilant about things you allow into your life. Ong said there are two ways things enter your life: when you buy them or when they’re given to you. Discern which ones you’ll allow to take up space in your life. “Remember, whatever you keep need to be maintained—that means time, energy and money,” she said.
8. All gifts should be kept, you ungrateful person—NOT. You don’t have to keep all the gifts you receive. Gifts can and will clog up your space. If you don’t like it or you don’t need it, give it away to someone who deserves it. “As they say, keep the love and toss away the symbol,” she said.
Be open to the fact that people might not need or want what you give them, too, no matter how expensive. When giving gifts, Ong always attaches a message that says, “Hope you find my gift useful. If not, please regift.”
9. Just because there’s space doesn’t mean you have to fill it. When you receive a framed decoration for you home, think clearly, she said. Instead of asking yourself where you can install it, ask instead if you want it to fill your space: “Do I like looking at it?”
10. Decide, decide, decide and get it done. Clutter in your space means clutter in your mind. Decide what to do with it, and put action into that decision. Do not keep on postponing that action. “Use reminder systems like a planner, calendar, your cell-phone alarm, a smart phone app—anything to get it off your list and mind,” she said.