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 😛
34 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Jacqueline Ambrose says
I can so identify with the hoarding mentality – my parents are the same and for that very reason, I could laugh and nod and the mismatched plates and cutlery, never throwing away paper bags (I had a posh uncle from Singapore who for Christmas once included all the ‘nice nice’ paper bags as gifts for us!) and the need to buy something if there was a gift attached! I am quite the opposite, not by nature but by choice as I noted that I too had that nasty gene passed on to me and so, I have spent years trying not to hoard. My parents’ faces are in a permanent scowl because they cannot tahan my don’t care attitude when it comes to things. I now throw and watch them swallow the “but can keep what, in case the new one spoil” dialogue.
P/S: I still keep a few “nice nice” paper bags lah…..
Paris B says
Haha I think those of us who grew up in that generation can identify with all the hoarding done by our parents and now passed down to us! Recently, my siblings and I did a big closet clean out and sent out clothes we didn’t want. But what we didn’t realise was that my parents had given them the once over first, picking out some items before sending them out. When I asked why, because naturally, we didn’t want them anymore, my mom said “But still good what!” LOL! I try hard not to hoard but yes, I still have some nice paperbags, and I still have mismatched crockery! LOL!
We have lots of Fresh and whites plates at home. LOL
well, saying no to paper bag is easy… But saying no to those free gifts which I may never use? Nawwwwwwwwww that’s really tough. Especially it’s why I buy it in the first place. Lol.
Paris B says
If you buy enough toothpaste to get a full set nevermind. It’s all those odd pieces that really throw me. And they are so hardy, they last forever! LOL! Free gifts are always our downfall aren’t they? So hard to say so. Like recently, we wanted to buy some frozen fish paste noodles. The aunty said if you buy 3 packs, you get a pack of free pau. Guess who went home with a free pau? LOL!
I can totally relate to everything here, from the mismatched freebie tableware to paper bag hoarding! I think it’s a very Asian thing, especially with parents who keep everything ‘just in case’ and the idea of ‘value for money’ when it comes to discounts and GWPs. I really want to de-clutter my room (as a start) but it’s really hard because everything still seems useful, or rather, wasteful if thrown away. >_< Wish me luck!
Paris B says
Haha yes, it’s parents from a certain generation. And also our deep seated need to accumulate things. I’ve struggled with the useful vs clutter question for a long time, and these days, I try to be practical. If you can keep them neatly out of sight, then maybe keep for “just in case”. But if it takes up too much space, or is beginning to escape from the neat pile, then it’s time to let it go, especially if it’s something I haven’t used in a while. Of course, Murphy’s law will dictate that once you throw it away, you’ll immediately find a use for it! LOL!
I relate so hard to this post!!
Paris B says
LOL! We all have that little clutter bug in all of us!
Oh the timeliness of this post. For the past week or so, I’ve been rethinking about the clutter and hoards in my room, pondering what to do with them and how I can really get rid of them or well, reduce them. What I do try to do is to wash up all the skincare bottles I’ve used to the best of my ability and send them to recyclables. Even now, I collect all the used batteries at home so that I can drop them at 1U Sen Heng or Concierge as they still runs the recyclable campaigns for batteries.
I’m terrible when it comes to books as well, so one of the things I’ve decided is to try my very best to avoid going into a bookstore, lest I come back with another book but no space to store!
It’s encouraging to know that there’s people who thinks the same as me, nope, not a green person but like you, wanting to try and contribute less to the waste and in hopes, sayang the earth a bit more 🙂
Paris B says
Yes, it’s hard for me to go totally eco warrior because I do still consume products. But I think cutting back helps, and then trying to find ways to reduce what we have, so there’s no wastage. Sometimes though, I find that keeping empty boxes and bottles add to the clutter too! Drives me up the wall to balance that 😛 As for books, I’m afraid that’s my weakness. But I stuff as much as I can into my bookcases. As long as it’s neat, I don’t feel so bad. It’s when it’s all over the place that I start feeling very irritated 😛
Ah..very apt post as I am clearing leave this 2 days with the main intention of cleaning up all the drawers of skincare products that I have accumulated as well as clothes that I’m quite sure that I can’t fit in anymore but still think that I may one day lose the weight and fit into them.
My weakness is only for Sulwhasoo freebies ?
As of leaving this message, I’m still being a couch potato.
Paris B says
HAHA! I hope you have since gotten off the couch and had a headstart on the cleaning up! 😀 I go through phases like this too when I cull clothes and skincare products and organize my wardrobe and cupboards. I can feel one coming, which I hope to do over the Christmas break! 😀 Wish me luck!
I give the boxes of my skincare products to my 8 year old. He uses them for his personal art craft. 🙂
Paris B says
That’s interesting, keeps him entertained and acts as a form of recycling! Well done! 🙂
Just yesterday I was thinking, what if we don’t take the goodie bags they hand out on weddings?! Will it be too rude? But we don’t need another glass-crystal-look-alike container. And where to put that thing?
Maybe it’s our culture that we can’t say no to freebies and too sayang to throw away things.
I found that when I’m decluttering, I’ve to switch on to “hati keras” or else I could never declutter. It is hard work!
Paris B says
Ooh I know what you mean Rahainah! I’ve actually stopped taking them 😛 I know at Malay weddings they give out the bunga telur right? I used to like the little kitchsy glass paper wrapped eggs. But I think these days, it’s all leveled up right? At Chinese weddings, we sometimes get little gifts as well – a pair of chopsticks, or salt and pepper shakers, keychain… I used to think what the heck I’d do with one pair of chopsticks or a keychain with the couple’s photo on it 😛 Nowadays, I don’t take them home anymore. Maybe it’s rude, but I think my own personal sanity is more important 😛 For my siblings weddings, I told them to just give chocolate. People will eat them, and it doesn’t force people to bring home something they may not want 😛
Yes, chocolote is so much more practical and the least wasteful!
I am so like you! I have trouble throwing stuff out, despite having read Mari Kondo’s book – I still need things to find a good home!
I am trying to be better about it though, and I am learning to say no to freebies I don’t need, or get rid of them quickly. It’s an ongoing struggle though; thanks for these tips!
Paris B says
I feel you Kuri! It’s a delicate balance between wanting a deal, and saying no. For me, I try where possible to find a good home for things I may no longer want or use. But sometimes, when that fails, I just steel myself and toss them. It’s easy if it’s a product that expires. But it’s the non-consumables that really stick around!
I know I am such a scrooge with Xmas around the corner, but I hope that I am NOT invited to one of those Xmas gift exchange, and oh,please keep the gift value below RM20, kind of party, when everyone gets what they don’t need.
Paris B says
LOL!!! K I so know what you mean! I think the whole concept of gift exchanges have to be relooked. Yes, we want to give someone something nice, but we should give whoever we like whatever we like (or they want). Not yet another mug or cheap trinket that the recipient doesn’t know what to do with. The best thing I ever got was some cookies. At least those can be eaten and done with!
hahaha, absolutely true… i just declined one such event today. No point in participating as i am also not fond of the people invited 🙂
Beauty Bee says
I can only add to the growing number of comments on this post to say that YES, this post is for me too! 😀
Keeping packing materials? Tick. Samples? Tick. Paper bags? Tick. *sigh….
So I will try and do better like you Paris!
One question I had for you is this, why would you get a free plate when buying toothpaste??? What’s the connection there? It sounds SO random lol! But I love it! My parents have a very similar mentality… old old habits are hard to change….
Paris B says
LOL! Ok maybe it’s an Asian thing. But for some reason, brands that sell detergents or toothpaste like giving plates or bowls as a GWP. Sometimes, it’s plastic containers, or sometimes it’s a waterbottle, but usually something unrelated, and something for the kitchen. Now that you mention it, it does seem a little strange LOL! 😀
Freebies with purchase. It’s not a problem at all if it’s brand that i’m not interested in or if they only give out a free water bottle. But if it’s from a brand I’m using and that i was making a purchase but juz a little more to reach that GWP level…. arghhh, so hard to resist.
I hoard paper bags as well, but that was many years ago. Whenever making a purchase, I would sure to take the paper bag. Now no more, I prefer to use my own shopping bag that can hold a lot more that a single paper bag.
Paris B says
You know what bums me, those tiny little paper bags you get from some stores. Ok, I get that jewellery stores will hardly give you a big paperbag, but with jewellery, I don’t really want to be carrying around a bag advertising the fact I just bought a piece of jewellery! LOL! Or the little Sephora paperbags. I find that so awkward!
Oh and I feel you when I’m already buying something and then they say, “Oh if you spend another RM20 you can get this GWP set” and I’m like “Damn! There’s nothing here I can buy with RM20!” so I end up spending more. Sigh.
I sometimes wish I could decline gifts I don’t need without coming across as rude. They sometimes contribute to clutter, and are so hard to let go!
Another thing I do aside from your useful tips above, is to not participate in giveaways or competitions if the prizes aren’t something I want. It is bizarre to see people clamoring for foundation shades that totally don’t suit them, and then sell or complain about the freebies they received.
Paris B says
I know how you feel about unwanted gifts! I think sometimes, people mean well. But I think for all our sakes and for the sake of our planet, we should just ask people if they’d want the item before gifting it to them LOL! I’ve had my fair share of dud gifts in my time, and often, I discover them years later, buried in the back of the storeroom cupboard. And they’re too old to regift by then 😛
Oh and this is why I can’t bring myself to run any giveaways anymore. People aren’t that appreciative anymore and really, it’s just ridiculous sometimes!
I can so relate to this post now.
In addition to those plates and paper bags…. Toiletries bags, comestic pouch and dozens of recyclable bags from conferences, omg it took me days to organize and repack what I should bring with me to my new place. Must learn to say NO to all these freebies.
Paris B says
OMG YES! “free” makeup pouches are a bane of my life! Usually I don’t even use them, and often, they are too small or impractical. Only once recently did I buy a trial set of products because I wanted the pouch and that was because it was a pouch that could zip all around and open up from the top. I’d been looking for something like that for a while, and this fit the bill, plus I got some products I liked so it was a win-win. but otherwise, what on earth do people do with all these GWP or PWP pouches and non-woven bags?!?!
Very timely article!
I can totally relate…. there’s a whole section dedicated to paper bags in my mum’s storeroom.
Sometime back, i made a conscious decision to start declinining freebies i dont want as well as saying no to the paper bags/ wrappers (no matter how lovely they look). These days, i bring my own bag whenever i go shopping, even for clothes, toiletries, etc. No more paper bag issues for me. Last weekend i did the same when i went to buy school books and uniforms for my kids. No plastic or paper bag for me and my family.
It is very important that we start this kind of culture now. The earth is suffering from our culture of overconsumption. Time to be mindful of our lifestyle practices and make a difference.
Paris B says
The paperbag problem is real! LOL! I agree with you about having to be mindful. I carry an eco bag with me now. One that folds up small is most convenient because there’s no excuse for me to forget it. I just toss one into my handbag on the way out the door. I do sometimes still accept plastic bags for groceries though – the trash has to go somewhere 😀
What an interesting article that makes you think about your family’s and your own habits, especially re: bags. I had an international lawyer friend who moved around the world and collected plastic bags during her travels. She even announced it on her blog in her bio. She dedicated one whole closet in her NY and Paris apts. to her collection of plastic bags. Who knows, one day we might see them in a museum.
As a semi-minimalist, I never understood collecting. Although several family members, and close friends, have a tendency toward hoarding, I, for some reason, don’t. I believe it’s due to aesthetics or clean, clear energy of my environment. For instance, I never take the shoe boxes or perfume samples. Me too, I have a foldable nylon Monoprix bag in my purse at all times.
The one exception is when I was a student and didn’t have furnishings in my apartment so I would use nice sturdy bags as storage units i.e. for cotton square packages, brushes, curling iron, or spices in kitchen, and even for my socks, bras and nylons. That way, I didn’t see the accumulated mess. But it was just for practical reasons and for being a cheap, readily available “cache-misère”.
Paris B says
You know, I found out there’s a market for luxury paper bags! Someone told me that it’s very easy to sell a designer paper bag, and get some good money from it. But I’m so worried that it will go to counterfeiters who will use it to fool people into thinking their goods are authentic! And you have a good policy of staying semi-minimalist. I am trying very hard to get there. I do feel better when my space is clearer, and I can see the floor properly LOL! It makes my mind feel less cluttered too!