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Feb 10 the hungry poet from Malaysia reflects. There's also "kia see"
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Let Go of Clutter
by Harriet Schechter
Hardcover 288 pages (1 December, 2000)
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education;
ISBN: 0071351221

Bon Journal

Drowning in clutter - part 3

The book spends a lot of pages talking about how to let go and how to organise. But my problem is how to stop accumulating and how to quickly determine what to keep or throw away.

I'm the kind of deal-prone buyer who is only motivated to shop when there's a sale. Otherwise, there's no real good reason to buy anything. But just because the item is discounted doesn't mean that I want it. I didn't become conscious of this correlation until I noticed all the unworn brand new clothes and shoes in my closet. I bought them because they were on sale. But they didn't look good on me, and worse, they didn't even fit well. I just didn't feel comfortable in them, yet I kept them because they were good value for money.

Deal-prone behaviour extends easily to freebie frenzy. If it's free or if someone gives it to you, then you should keep it.

The second thing I noticed about myself, besides going for bargains - and freebies, was that I never considered throwing new, unused things away. The implicit rule for discarding things was that it had to be very worn or very torn. If it's not broken, then I can hardly throw it away.

The third thing, which I can generalise for a lot of people, was the "kia-soo" mentality. Literally translated from Hokkien, it means "afraid of losing." You collect actively and you keep everything you collect.

The fourth thing, resulting from my postgraduate days, was the rationale of "keep it in case you need it." It's a contingency measure that reflects the fear of regret. As a student, it was easier and less costly to keep something than to go out and get it when I needed it. It's also called the convenience yield. This is the reason why inventories are kept.

Fifth, as an environmentalist I dislike waste. This means I'd rather waste my space, my time, my body, and my energy than to let something rot in the environment. And once it's in my possession, I rarely throw it away. I am very good at reusing and recycling, but I've yet to learn how to reduce my acquisition. I have made cloth bags and pillow cases out of old skirts. I pay for the council to collect my green recycle box each week. But the impulsive nature of the woman I am leads me to compulsive shopping sprees or inability to say no to other people's junk.

Sixth, as a variety seeker, I love novelty and diversity. This makes it all the more burdonsome to keep track of all that I have. I collect matchboxes, piano duet sheet music, business cards, memories, photographs, chilli sauces, .... There is only so much the brain can take. There is only so much choice that I want. And it's getting close to shut-down time.

More recently, as a time-challenged traveller, I simply don't have the time or energy to go through my mail and everything I collected from my travels. There's physical clutter in my office as well as in my home. There's even clutter (spam and unanswered email) in cyberspace. The only way to run away from all this clutter is to continue travelling. For, in the clinical existence of flying and staying in hotels, there's no clutter.

11 February 2002 Monday

What leads to the clutter problem?
1. Deal-prone behaviour: not aware of what you need or want.
2. Keep new, unused things
3. Kia-soo: collect and keep.
4. Convenience yield: keep it in case you need it.
5. Waste-aversion leads to reluctance to throw things away.
6. Variety-seeking behaviour leads to collecting different types of things.
7. Time challenged individuals run away from clutter.
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