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The Clutter You Own Ends Up Owning You

My ongoing journey toward decluttering my life

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash
Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

There is this one quote from Fight Club that I can identify with “the things you own end up owning you.” I am an earth sign, a Taurus, to be specific. They say our mantra is “I own.” To tell you the truth, I don’t really disagree. I wouldn’t call myself materialistic, but I would say that I get emotionally attached to stuff – too emotionally attached that if I break my glasses, I would cry as if I broke an arm.

I was always not fond of giving away my stuff. As a kid, I remember my bursts of anger whenever my mom thought of giving away clothes that I no longer wear. It wasn’t just clothes. This is a wrapping of a gift that I am going to keep. And then there was me buying books more than I could ever read in my lifetime. I can easily call myself a clutter collector, and it wasn’t just a matter of what I had in the physical space. I had digital clutter as well: thousands of undeleted emails, random folders that I don’t know anything about just sitting there. I was capable of changing any clutter-free area into a cluttered space in no time. Yep, I got talent.

A few years ago, this tendency to worship clutter has decreased a bit. My cluttered room started to overwhelm me, and the opposite happened. I started to throw away stuff, mainly clothes that I never wear. I was in my thirties when this happened. I wasn’t happy. I was becoming more and more suffocated in my space. It took a lot of time and effort to keep my clutter clean and organized. I felt I was wasting my time and my life. I had neither the time nor the energy for this. Beside, no matter what you do, the room just doesn’t feel clean. It was around the same time I started to come across videos and articles about minimalism. I’m not saying they converted me to a minimalist. I was already there on my own. Maybe with time, you come to realize that stuff is just stuff. I don’t know.  

Now, if you sneak a peek into my room, you’ll find it an irony that I’m preaching my new approach toward clutter because my room is still cluttered – I wouldn’t say as cluttered as ever because I’ve been trying really hard to embrace a more minimalist approach.  I’m not saying I’ve completely succeeded, but I’m working on it. There are some items that are easier to throw away. I’ve been checking and giving away the clothes that I no longer wear. No more of the clutter-inducing excuses I tell myself. Maybe I will lose weight and wear it, or this item might turn out useful one day. I still have to confess it’s harder to let go of some items.

My approach to decluttering isn’t only about getting rid of what I don’t need but also about not buying what I don’t need. Now, I don’t just impulsively buy new items. I think carefully. Am I absolutely sure that I’m going to use it? Other than that, it remains on the shelf. I don’t just buy stuff because I like them. No more of it’s the last item in the shop.  I think of practicality, use, price, value, and most importantly the space it’s gonna take. Can I afford it? Not just in terms of money, but in terms of the energy it takes to maintain the item.  

Every once in a while, I panic because of the stuff that I have to go through and throw away, but I always remind myself that it’s a process. I can take my time. There is no rush. After all, it took me years to collect what I have. It’s the curse of not being able to throw away anything or delete anything. But I’ve decided to change that for good. No more clutter. Everything that stays has to be of value. I buy only what I really need. Now I don’t know what happened to me during my thirties that forced me to just decide that I want no more clutter but I like it. I still get emotionaly attached to stuff but I’m trying to cure myself of that disease because that’s really what it is. So, it’s time we control the things we have and not let them control us. After all, it’s like what they said in Fight Club “the things you own end of owning you.”

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