Day 58: Clutter

Photo: Michaela Cruz-Ungos (Teacher Mica)

I’d like to honestly say that I am not the most organized  (check out the trunk of my car!) nor the most-clutter free person on this side of the planet, but I am trying to.

In Eastern Philosophy, clutter is a form of energy. While some people may disagree with that concept, it is imperative in the Eastern practice that anything that is broken, unused for at least a decade and dusty, must be cleaned out and/or fixed. To the Eastern practitioners, an object that is broken is taking some of our energy away and can cause stress. A space free of clutter is calming and more. It is also more inviting for the people who dwell in that space/home to welcome positive chi (enery) to flow throughout the given space. When positive chi flows freely, it attracts more blessings. With lesser clutter, life is simpler.

Few months ago, I became a fan of Leo Babauta’s guide to Minimalism and Clutter-Free Home and Philosophy. I have tried to apply some of his recommendations and would like to share them with you.

These recommendations have tremendously helped me while cleaning out our place before putting it on the market. Without a cleaning helper or a maid that will come every week to do a thorough clean-up, I have to re-learn how to put things away to give a deceptive look that our place is thoroughly clean every time. Although, six months later our place is still up for sale, I continue to keep our place as tidy as I can whenever possible.

Below are some of the tips I have come to use:

1. Start with one small area of your house. I would recommend starting with a table in your room. If it is a dining table, make sure that it is used as a dining table, not a place for your unopened junk mails or keys. Once you identify what is the purpose of that table, clear it off and throw out all the papers or objects that are not going to be in directly useful for the purpose of that table.

If you decided to conquer your closet first, fine (Leo Babauta cleaned out his closet last because he felt overwhelmed to do so). Take out all the clothes that you haven’t worn in the past two years. Then, take out all the clothes that do not fit you anymore. Next, go through them again – and decide whether you are really going to use them.

What I did with mine was to put some of the clothes that did not fit me anymore in a balikbayan (care package) box and sent them back home. That worked out perfectly because that made me feel like helping some people back home by using some of my favorite clothes before.

2. Check your medicine cabinet and  clean it out – Many of us have prescriptions that are unfinished and have already expired, but they are still occupying some space in the Rx cabinet. When I was cleaning our medicine cabinets (yes, we have three) – I discovered prescriptions dating back in 2007! What I did was to completely eliminate all of the half-used bottles and threw them directly in the trash. I know there are some non-profit organizations that would take your unused prescriptions if you call them.

3. Bookshelves – I love books – they are my second nature. In fact, one day while I was given the opportunity to go to a house filled with books (read: his living room, dining room and one bedroom are all filled with books), I could not help but drop my jaws in astonishment! When my friend (who also brought me there) and is in the landscaping business saw my reaction the moment I saw those books, he said that it was like seeing himself go to Lowe’s or Homedepot – where he couldn’t make up his mind which way to go first. So, long story short- I am deeply in love with books, thus our basement is almost filled with books.

So, when it was time to go through these books, I cowered.

One of the reasons why I had a hard time letting go of these books- even though half of them were purchased through yard sales and estate sales with coffe stains and musty smell, was because deep inside I want to be a “show off”. I want to show to Tala the books I’ve read and how many of them have consumed my time on weekends or worknights. But, I know I was attached to them.

I had a hard time letting go of them – just like leaving a good best friend behind.

But, finally – I made the decision that if I will hang on to these books, I will never be able to make room for more. That was what made me donate these books to the Good Will store – the idea that: if I want to read more books, I have to let go of some of them.

4. Try to clean out your trunk and your car – Like I said in my beginning paragraph, my car is not the most organized place. It is also not an SUV, so I am limited with the space it can hold my clutter. I am glad that the trunk is wide enough to accommodate all of my mess. Actually, my car used to be the dumping site of all things I do not want to carry inside the house such as school projects, books (again!), graded essays from a previous course I took a year ago, extra clothes, towels – and all things related to having a very active preschooler! Not only that, my car used to be the second house of all things ugly.

That was before Leo Babauta influenced my way of thinking about clutter and living lightly.

Now, my trunk is in a much better condition. I cleaned out all of my books (donated some of them to the Salvation Army), shredded all the paperwork and projects I no longer needed and made room for our weekly grocery.

Today, I can say that I use my trunk to dry off Tala’s swimming gears and wet towels, as well as snow brush and scraper. My weekly grocery shopping bags can now easily fit there, with some room allotted for Tala’s stroller.

5. Lastly, enjoy your peaceful and satisfying space. - Once you learn how to do these recommendations, maintain it. Or go back to square one, all over again!

Daily with you,

- Alpha

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Comments

  1. mazemangriot says:

    Where is the Cat??? Actually thanks for the ideas. I’ve been kinda stuck in muck the entire summer. I didn’t know what to do I just contemplated and wondered. How to break through the clutter and organize my life. Why things were so cluttered I couldn’t find my sons or my wife. But after reading your post I have solid ideas. On how to keep my place straight throughout the rest of my years.

  2. Thank you for this practical post, I have been trying to keep my place clutter free and found two areas quite challenging- keeping the closet and book shelves clean.

    I have made it a habit to give away at least one garment when buying a new one. It has helped me a lot.

    I do not buy any new book until I finish reading at least one book from my book bank.

    Managing loose paper clutter is an area I am still working on, got any tips for that? please share.

  3. Mira says:

    Great tips Alpha, thanks for sharing! If I may just share, I used to be the most organized person till I had a son! I used to not function well if there were clutters around me, I’d rather clean them out first before I get on my usual business. But when I became a mom, my priority changed a bit. I learned how to ignore and not get myself so affected with clutter (only for a while, lol). I’m also very sentimental and find it hard to part ways with my personal belongings especially books too. But when I came to US my perspective changed. I’d rather that other people enjoy the stuffs that I don’t use or need anymore than for them to collect dust in my closet ;-) .

  4. Marnie Henry says:

    I did a major spring cleaning before summer set in. All our clutter are in Manila now :) But it does feel good to have the space where my kids can now play indoor soccer in our basement, for example :)

  5. This is so true, I know each time I see clutter at home, I get stressed out.

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