De-clutter your life | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

De-clutter your life

7 May, 2023

When I stepped into my friend’s home for the first time, I felt there was something wrong somewhere. His one-storey brick house was in a quiet area away from the city.

As he opened the front door and invited me in I saw that the living room was cluttered with old newspapers, a heap of foreign magazines, broken toys and an open bag of cat food. Shoes were everywhere for want of a shoe-rack. The front door had fallen off its hinges and was propped up in the door-frame. Inside the house was much worse. A narrow corridor was crammed with empty boxes, used clothes and a few broken chairs.

It was not the house I expected to see because my friend was a well-known figure in society. At once I sensed that he must be having a financial struggle to get things moving. After exchanging pleasantries, he confessed that he felt trapped by poverty. When I asked why he did not try to better his condition, he gave me a quizzical look and said, “What can I do I’m compelled to follow what my grandfather did.” When I asked him to explain, he said, “He didn’t discard anything he considered potentially useful.”

He had a point. You might need yoghurt cups or empty bottles in an emergency. Does it mean that you have to keep all the yoghurt cups and empty bottles in your house forever? He said he was a regular customer at garage sales. He used to buy secondhand furniture, books and electric items because they were cheap. As a result, his house became full of junk. He probably did not know that he was having a serious problem.

Healthy impulse

Saving certain items in moderation is considered quite normal. However, this healthy impulse can go too far and develop into a clinical obsessive compulsive disorder. In other words, compulsive hoarding can become a serious problem. Dr. Sanjaya Saxena, Director of the Obsessive-compulsive Disorders Program at the University of California said, “It is a neuropsychiatric disorder that will not get better unless the person is treated.”

Hoarding can affect anyone despite their age, employment, education or social status. There are millions of people who find it difficult to give up their desire for hoarding. The main problem is that most hoarders are not willing to accept that the clutter is a psychological problem. As a result they never seek treatment.

Hoarders may keep not only junk. They tend to keep things that are beautiful or useful or things which have some sentimental value. There are many grandmothers who keep broken toys and clothes of their children. They are not ready to part with them however much you explain its futility. They think what they are doing is meaningful.

What can you do with old newspapers? Most of us sell them as there is a demand for them. However, there a few people who collect old newspapers for their potentially life-changing information.

It is true that we should not throw away newspapers immediately after reading them. If you find something interesting, you can preserve that article or page for future reference. Most writers maintain scrapbooks to paste interesting articles published in newspapers.

Compulsive hoarders have trouble in categorising items. For instance, they may leave their clothes on a table instead of putting them in a wardrobe.

When you do not categorise clothes, newspapers or books, they will be piled up in every nook and corner. This is a dangerous practice because heaps of clothes and newspapers can gather dust and mildew.

Extreme clutter can even lead to headaches and respiratory problems. On the other hand, where there is too much clutter in the house, you will find it difficult to do any cleaning properly.

Clutter also places hoarders and their families at high risk of injuring themselves. If there is a sudden fire, hoarders will learn a bitter lesson. Even fire-fighters find it difficult to bring a fire under control when there is too much clutter in a house. In a family, there may be one or two hoarders.

Other family members will feel angry and resentful about the hoarder’s behaviour. In most houses, certain family members sort things out and secretly get rid of the clutter. However, this is said to be a bad idea as far as hoarders are concerned.

Confront hoarders

The best method is to confront hoarders and offer them help with the assistance of an experienced therapist. This is because disposing of a hoarder’s ‘treasure’ without their permission can lead to trauma. Don Aslett, author of “Clutter’s Last Stand” gives a piece of valuable advice for would-be hoarders.

“Every possession you buy requires tending. Every chair, blouse, stationary, bicycle or candlestick must be dusted, guarded, stored and repaired. Freeing yourself from unnecessary possessions frees up time.”

Hoarding is a major psychological problem. The hoarder inside you will scream “I may need this broken umbrella one day. I might need this manual typewriter when my computer breaks down. Cleaning experts have a solution: “If your umbrella is broken, fix it and use it. If you can’t do so, toss it.” Similarly, why do you want to keep a manual typewriter in your store room? If you do not wish to throw it away, give it to someone who may need it.

Apart from maintaining a clean house, you should de-clutter your mind periodically. This can be done only through mindfulness meditation. To deliver it, you no longer need a bearded guru, a psychologist can do it. Indeed the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recently recommended that mindfulness meditation may significantly reduce the recurrence of depression.

The modest aim of mindfulness meditation is to pay attention to what you do in a non-judgmental way.

When you practise it, you will know what is happening in the mind and body. Through daily practice, you can liberate yourself from old habits. Meditation will also help you to de-clutter your mind and simplify your life.

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