#48 Thank Each Item, You’ll Thank Yourself Later

{This is part 2 of my de-cluttering “Konmari method” series – please see part 1 here]

Working towards a lifestyle with less things is harder than I thought, especially when I have amassed quite a little trove of things over the years. Some people manage to throw stuff when they move house or renovate their home, but since I have stayed here most of my life and no major works necessitated a big purge, I found a lot of things that I could really do without!

You might think, throwing things out would be easy, but it was a time-consuming process… if you want to do it properly, or via the Konmari method. Initially I found it utterly perplexing – to have to touch (almost) every item, analyse carefully why I want to keep it, and if I don’t need something anymore, thanking them for a job well done… Sounds a bit lunatic to me. So I started to crush papers and sweep them up rather violently into trash bags.

Then I realized this brute-force en-masse culling is a reflection of my shame, self-pity and rage that stemmed from a few things. Shame, being reminded of buying things carelessly and a cavalier attitude about money. Self-pity, that I could have invested this money on lesser but better-quality things since the beginning. Rage, for being so stupid, short-sighted and wasteful.

It was therefore, a necessary enlightening and cathartic process to do it slowly and seriously. It’s almost like a prayer. You have to be sincere for it to work its magic.

What magic, you say?

Well, the magic that is a self-reflection about my relationship with things. Questions that I asked myself include:

  • Why did I buy this item? And if I did need it, could I have chosen something different?
  • Do I still want to keep it, even if it is still in working condition yet I haven’t used it in months/years?
  • Why is this item somewhat new but I had barely used it?
  • Why do I keep this item, which does not give me joy, serve me any purpose, and only rolls around to collect dust?
  • And so on…

I realize many things about that relationship. Firstly, I did not fully understand the value of material things, especially some years ago. Like how I should not blindly buy something because I love how it looks without thinking through the usage, and how the price of something doesn’t equate to how much I will end up using an item. For example, I bought a pair of headphones that served me well over 3 years — it had cost me $5 – it deserved a Medal of Good Service in my heart. On the contrary, I have a black polka-dot long-sleeved top with puffy shoulders that fitted badly but I had bought anyway because I was infatuated with the silhouette and the fabric of this piece. I wore it at most 3 or 4 times, and everytime it fitted badly because it was on sale. The cost-per-wear was $5. As I looked back the top was without a doubt a poor choice. If I didn’t buy the top (and many other things), I could totally have invested in a better pair of headphones!

Secondly, I had a fear of letting go, especially for things that I loved, served me well, but is no longer useful. Marie Kondo’s ‘spark joy’ test only operates up to the point before I ask myself ‘is it still functional?’. Take an example, my favourite pair of jeans – a pair of Esprit edc jeans that I got for around $30 on sale when it was initially $100 – a great bargain and the start of a beautiful relationship. It fitted perfectly for a year or two, and to top that off, I love the dark wash and solid fabric. Then a growth spurt came about, and it didn’t fit anymore. I managed to give it a second lease of life by enlisting my talented seamstress/magician of my mom — she added two inches on the hips, just enough for me to squeeze back in and look good — you know with jeans if they do not fit like a glove but make your butt look like a sack of potatoes, you don’t feel like wearing them — and tada, I could wear it again. Alas, this didn’t last long and I soon outgrew them again. The seams could not take another ripping and redoing so I left it at the back of the closet, never to be worn again. After all, I loved them too much. But they were taking up space, cluttering up my pants/jeans section and stifling my new loves — nice and comfy Uniqlo jeans — that I wore almost every week now. So I knew it was time. Thank you and goodbye.

Thirdly, I am just pure lazy. There was a whole pile of cables, half-working computer mice (mouses?) and electronic gadgets’ odds and ends in a box next to the bed for the past two years. I covered the box with a bag because the sight of all the black snake-like cables in a tangle just drove me nuts. I could have spent 30 minutes sorting through it, and only kept what I needed. That, I finally did today. I managed to save some cables, getting my partner to double-check that they are still useful (it’s his area of expertise) and I threw out some perfectly-functional but crappy-quality speakers.

So, junking things is not just about spring cleaning. It is really a conversation with yourself, uncovering the way your mind works. I found out in what ways certain things appeal to my emotions in the negative way, and in turn, how to fix that by employing my rationality and balancing it all out again.

The slow and time-consuming process of sifting through everything carefully and then ‘thanking’ them for a job well done really allows for this meditation.

Plus, I find that writing these entries really helps me to let these things that I loved very much go. It was a little like writing in their honour, really!

*     *     *

Here are the three major sections I conducted a primary cleansing:

    • Clothes
    • Electronics
    • Stationery


I have stopped buying clothes for some time. By this I mean I really only do buy something for a special occasion — birthday, Christmas or New Year’s, or when the need arises. For example I need a pair of hiking trousers that is water repellent, full length and comfortable, and the only long pants I have are either jeans, dress pants or 3/4-length hiking bermudas that do not provide enough coverage.

Still, I managed to have a clogged wardrobe, so a purge was in order.

Here was my four-step closet purge process:

1. Laid everything out
2. Picked the ones to keep – those I love, plus the functional ones that I actually wear
3. Identified the ones I want to purge and said ‘thanks’ to each one
4. Folded the ones to keep in a neat and easy-to-store way

It all took me around eight to nine hours, over several days. The bulk of the time was saying thanks, refolding the clothes and rethinking how to maximize the closet space. Honestly, the closet is still quite full, so I sense Purge No.2 somewhere on the horizon. In the meantime, I shall declare a ceasefire on my poor clothes!


The 4-step closet purge – Survey, select, purge and organize!



This is one of the most used section in my arsenal of material things. USB keys, portable hard disk drives, charger cables, SD cards, earphones, mp3 players, portable chargers. Day in, day out, they come in and go out and make their rounds between my partner’s and my various devices.

Most days we could not be bothered to put them back in their exact slots, but instead chuck them into a communal basket of “GENERIC GADGET STUFF”. When we need something in this category, we would dive in and dig through. While I am proud that we have a lot of interesting cool gadgets and little connecting thingies that allow us a lot of creative freedom to hook stuff up, the pile is driving me nuts.

So I dumped everything out, threw away the junk (a lot has made its way sneakily here) and reorganized it with the yellow tray that was initially used to organize my stationery, and provided the chunky hard disks and cables their own respective boxes.



From a gargantuan mess to an accessible layout : Electronic gadgets & knick knacks


This is the easiest, and hardest, section so far.

I discovered I had 34 pens, a mountain of pencils (half of which are the tiny IKEA wooden pencils :p), 3 rulers, and 2o+ markers. The easy part – the markers and pens run out of ink, I junked them straight away.

But what do you do when you have eight perfectly functional mechanical pencils? So far I have decided to keep them… *breaking own rules…*

Finally I whittled them all down to a manageable, visibly uncluttered selection. My defense is that stationery really makes me happy, especially when I see that I have a healthy, sizeable chunk… like a flower garden in full bloom! Plus I write a lot, and I will use them. I just have to remind myself to stop buying any!

So far so good… let’s see where the next step takes me now…


Slimming down the Stationery section!


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