I used to drop by the shops on my way home after a long, stressful day at work.
The MRT train line which I take is dotted with easy-to-access malls.
I’d pick out a sports bra, a cute phone accessory, or a notebook — and head home feeling good.
But as soon as I’m back in my room and the beautiful packaging is unwrapped, the rush would wear off.
That ‘good’ feeling turns into guilt and I’d realise I’d just wasted another RM200.
The next dreary Wednesday evening, I’d be in need of yet another dose — and off to the shops I go.
Making the Decision to Declutter
One Sunday night, while drowning in the many tasks I had on my to-do list, I decided to clear out the clutter in my life.
I began my path to minimalism — for real.
Truth be told, I had been interested in the concept for some time, having absorbed tons of listicles and videos on the benefits of minimalism.
As an overthinker with way too much going on in her head, I wanted a life with focus and clarity.
So I sat down at my desk and drew out a plan. Clutter comes in three forms – physical, digital and emotional. Physical clutter was the easiest to get rid of, so that was where I started.
Decluttering the Physical
The Decluttering Process
Five weeks — that’s how long it took.
Clothes, shoes, bags, books, CDs, cards my friends wrote me in primary school, little knick knacks I kept from my travels; I went through every single item in my room.
I had two criteria:
Do I use it often?
Does it mean something extra special to me?
If both answers are no, off to the black plastic bags it goes.
Torn clothing and broken items went into the “Throw” bag. My clothes and bags, I gave to my family. The rest went into the “Donate” bag which I lugged to the donation bin outside my house.
Now, whenever I see my aunt, there’s a 90% chance she’s wearing something that used to be mine. It’s quite funny seeing someone 20 years older wearing what I used to wear. But my aunt’s always been young at heart.
How did the end of the process make me feel? Did it change anything at all?
For One, I Feel Much Lighter
All the ‘Weight’ I Gave Away
They say getting rid of physical clutter helps with your inner peace. I truly believe that.
Even if you are not attending to them, your things take up your energy and mental space.
The laundry on your chair, the unpacked luggage from your trip three months ago and the letters waiting for you to tend to — these things cause stress and anxiety.
Just like letting go of a heartbreak, letting go of unnecessary things was freeing.
With each black plastic bag that left my room, I felt like I was slowly purging negativity from my life.
Now when I get home from work, I don’t have to see a pile of things that at the back of my mind I know I should sort through.
I no longer feel overwhelmed and helpless.
Decluttering has freed me not only from physical clutter, but also the mental strain that comes with it.
My Relationship with Objects Changed
With all the sales happening in Malaysia, it’s hard to stop yourself from buying things you don’t need.
Especially with the mindset of having things “just in case”.
Yet, since decluttering, I no longer impulse shop.
How? By making sure what I bring into my room serves a purpose, or has a very special meaning.
After all, I worked hard to clear my room of the clutter. Do I really want to invite it back in? No!
Now every trip to the mall is planned: Before I go out, I make a list of items to buy and stick to it.
Also, I’ve stopped losing things.
I used to misplace things all the time when I was younger and I’d run off to mum asking if she’d seen it — a pair of jeans, or a crucial friendship anklet.
I’d go through all my drawers and stacks of clothes to find what I’m looking for.
Sometimes, it takes hours. Days, even.
But since getting rid of everything I don’t use, I don’t have that problem. Everything is where it should be.
I Created My Very Own Sanctuary
Dr. Esslin Terrighena, psychologist at Mind Balance, Hong Kong, says that clutter makes us feel frustrated because it invades our home, which is a ‘safe space’.
A safe space. That’s exactly it.
Our bedrooms are our special retreat from the world outside, a place where we can relax, find calm and do the things we love.
Whenever I have guests over, they’d often comment that it’s “so neat” or “so empty”.
Well, yes — everything that doesn’t serve me is out of the way, so I’m left with plenty of space to chill out.
My room is just the way I want it now.
It has everything I need, from my air purifier and lavender essential oils, to my yoga mat and pens for doodling.
Everything I Need to Relax After a Long Day
Most of My Money Now Goes to Experiences
True to my age group, most of my money is now spent on experiences. (This must be the most millennial statement I’ve ever made.)
Thing is, many articles and videos online say minimalism will help your finances. Perhaps. Certainly.
But in all honesty, minimalism hasn’t translated to frugality for me.
Just because I don’t spend on things I don’t need doesn’t mean I don’t spend at all. Instead, I now have more to spend on spas, travels and new dining experiences.
I am working on saving more (really, I am!), but if I’m going to be spending anyway, I’d rather it be on pampering myself than on another dress I’d only wear once.
I Spend Less Time on Outfits
I would love to be the conscientious working woman who plans her outfit and lays it out nicely the night before.
But no, that is not me.
I’m someone who watches Netflix past her bedtime and wakes up right at the last minute after I’ve pushed the snoozes to the max.
This is why it’s so important that I have curated a wardrobe that works for me.
My clothes may not be on trend, but my style is personal to me, and I’ve designed it to be in line with my personality and petite frame.
My Wardrobe Before Decluttering
Now that I have gotten rid of all the clothes that don’t fit me well or look good on me, I can pick out an outfit in seconds.
My Wardrobe After Decluttering
While decluttering, I created a sort of system where everything I have has its own place.
My accessories are in one drawer and my face masks and hair products are in the other.
My going out shorts are in one stack while my home shorts are next to it.
This makes it easy for me to find things and it’s saved me a lot of time (and headache).
The Decluttering Journey Can Be Difficult
If this has somehow inspired you to get decluttering, understand it can get difficult.
It is an emotional process.
There were many times where I felt like I was being heartless:
Throwing away a Christmas card from a friend I no longer speak to.
Asking my mum if she wanted the bag she bought me that I never used.
Returning an empty bottle to my boyfriend, which was once filled with this eczema cream he wanted me to try.
(He reminded me it was the first item he ever gave me so well, now, I still have it.)
There’s Also the Fear of Regret
Will I need this again in the future? Will I miss it?
One of the hardest things for me to let go of was my Barbie CD collection.
For one, this was my special thing. I never collected stamps or coins like other kids. This was the one and only collection I ever committed to.
And two, my mum had spent a lot of money and effort hunting these CDs down for me.
But I realised it was time.
Let’s face it. I’m a 25-year-old who’s never going to touch those CDs again. I don’t even have a CD player anymore.
I figured if I wanted to reconnect with the Barbie world, I could watch the movies online.
So I packed everything up – all the way from the very first Barbie in the Nutcracker to my favourite Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper and to 2016’s Barbie: Spy Squad.
I gave it to my aunt’s friend who had a daughter who would appreciate it more.
Some items are easy to toss out; others are harder to say goodbye to.
But the end result is so worth it.
It sure has been for me.
The next step I need to focus on now is getting rid of my mental clutter, clearing my mind of unnecessary thoughts and rumination.
Minimalism and decluttering isn’t just a trend started by Marie Kondo. It’s a journey towards a different lifestyle.
And my journey has just begun.
For more articles on self-care, read I Transformed My Appearance by “Reprogramming” Certain Habits. Here’s How I Did It and 3 Things Which Are Making You Lazy Right Now.