I’m not a very neat person. I don’t have a creative eye when it comes to interior decoration or design so I live in what is a fairly servicable, simple environment that isn’t Instagram or Pinterest-friendly. But I confess to having a bit of a bad habit – I’m prone to clutter and hoarding.
Perhaps it is the environment in which I’ve grown up. My parents and grandmothers rarely threw anything away unless it was completely broken down, broken or just unusable. Even then, it would be cannibalized for useable parts, before finally conceding defeat.
Perhaps also due to their life and times they grew up in, they’ve usually found it hard to say no to freebies. If there is an offer to buy 3 packs of toothpaste to get a free plate, you bet we’d end up getting that free plate LOL! Sometimes, in different designs. Our dining crockery is rarely a perfectly matched set. It is usually a hotch-potch of different free plates and bowls accumulated over the years. And never thrown away.
For some reason, these free stuff can be very hardy! LOL! 😀 I know some of you can relate 🙂
Perhaps it’s just me – a hoarder 😛
I still have random freebies, sitting alongside free storage containers or drinking bottles, notebooks, pens etc… and I realised one day that was the key problem to my clutter.
As much as I want to declutter, simplify and Marie Kondo my life (which only works halfway for me) I realised that I could not get much headway if I stuck to this freebie and hoarding mindset.
So I have made one little change in my approach to shopping, and to life, which I feel has helped me keep things a little more orderly.
Only accept free gifts that you’ll need or use
Say no to freebies you don’t need.
One way that retailers grab you and reel you in to make a purchase, is by giving you a perceived “good deal”. This could take the form of a discount, reduced price for buying more than 1 item, or packaging a free product or samples with your purchase. Notice that towards the end of the year, from October onwards, the push by retailers to buy is very strong. Sales, discounts, free gifts abound.
At one time, all these little promotional gimmicks would grab me, hook, line and sinker! I’d buy 2 items when I intend to buy one. I’d buy more than I need, because I want a little discount. I’d spend above a certain amount, so I get a little free gift. It made me think I was getting “better value for my money” but I wasn’t, really.
Aside from spending more money than what I first intend to, I often end up going home with a free gift that I eventually find little use for.
These free water bottles and containers end up in the cupboards, where you eventually forget about them. Or a free notepad ends up tossed in a corner, never to be used. The only free items I do get some benefit from are free pens LOL! I’m not terribly fussy about my pens so a free pen always serves, in a pinch.
I am no saint of course. I held off for most of the year end sales, but did capitulate a little during the Black Friday sales this year, for some shoes and skincare I’d been wanting to try. Hey, I was getting a discount! It made sense to splurge on pricey items then instead of paying full price – a tip I shared on how to enjoy a little splurge while saving 😉
Do you need that paper bag?
What I learnt over the years is that paper bags take up a lot of space. These days, I often refuse paper bags or packaging, if I don’t intend for a purchase to be a gift. I always carry a foldable eco-bag with me (I use the RuMe in various sizes and love it) or I fit little purchases into the bag I’m carrying that day.
I know it makes many people feel happy to walk around with a paper bag from a popular brand or store. I must confess that I’ve felt the same 🙂 But these paper bags can quickly add to clutter once you get home.
Paper bags used to be almost revered in my household. Mom will set aside the “nice bags” and they’d be taken out if we were giving a gift to someone. Often however, we’d take out these “nice bags”, look at them and go “Oh, so sayang!” (lit. What a waste!) and put them back in the cupboard. Years later, Mom threw them all out LOL!! 😀
These days, we and I still use paper bags as gift bags, but we don’t feel the need to hold on to nice ones anymore. I do still keep some fancy ones from some of my big ticket purchases. Some traits you can never really shake. Too “sayang” to throw LOL! 😀
Throw out the packing material as it comes in
There was a time when I did a little buying and selling on eBay, and did many swaps with people from overseas for makeup I wanted. This was many years ago when online shopping was not yet a thing. As a result, I used to hoard boxes, bubble envelopes, ribbons and bubble wrap. I had a whole shelf dedicated to just packing material which I’d recycle into each parcel I sent out.
I’ve found it hard to shake that habit as well. I shop online a lot these days, and if there’s one thing you get with online shopping, it’s lots and lots of packing material. Cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts etc. When your 11-11 or Black Friday or 12-12 or Boxing Day sales packages start arriving, you will know what I mean!
There was a time when I would still faithfully smooth out paper and bubble wrap that came with my purchases. I’d carefully stack up empty cardboard boxes, “just in case they come in handy”.
If you’re wondering, they did come in handy. When I moved house.
But not since then 😛
Now that I’m fairly settled, I find little need to hoard these boxes and packing material. I do send the odd little package out to random people and readers (I never announce it, you just have to be my friend and a reader, not a freeloader 🙂 ) so I keep a little supply of packing material on hand. But in the main, I toss them into the recycling bin as they come in.
I do still get the odd twinge of regret – “What if I need it one day?” But I tell myself not to be silly. I have enough, and more come in with each online purchase. I’m good!
Just say No!
So the key thing for me is to just say no. No to freebies or samples that I may never use. No to paper bags of varying sizes, where possible. No to hoarding packing material.
The problem with all these little bits and bobs that clutter our space, is that it is also a drain on the Earth’s resources. So much energy and money is being spent on little gifts and premiums that people eventually throw out. Often, they aren’t even recyclable. I’m no eco-warrior, but I try not to participate in producing too much waste, and all this adds up.
I have to say that from my experience as a blogger, events and product launches contribute greatly to this culture of waste. I sometimes feel terrible having to accept a huge paper bag, with the product and paper press release inside, or a package with fancy, impractical props. Yet, it would be churlish to stand there, and say “Look, just give me the product without the trimmings”.
These days, I try to avoid collecting things I don’t use nor need. If there is some activity I’m not interested in, I simply pass. I know organizers mean well, and they try very hard to please their guests. But I hope they will understand also that sometimes, not all of us are interested or keen to participate. My interest lies in the product or event. It isn’t in the little side attractions, as it were, simply because it means I bring home clutter!
I also avoid accepting and participating in products or brands I will not use, nor have an interest in. I don’t see accumulation of products as a sign of success. It simply means I end up with excess that could go to someone else who would appreciate it more than I would, or give a better perspective on it than I could.
I have a ways to go yet, before I can truly say that I have cleared my clutter, and am able to be zen about my surroundings. But at least I’ve found a place and a way to make a start 😀
Do you have any tips to control your clutter? Do you hoard?
Please tell me I’m not the only hoarder here 😛