One of the thankless chores in house management is that of clearing the house of the daily clutter. Clothes, books, mail, shoes, toys… the list is endless. And often the unenviable task of clearing up the mess falls upon the lady of the house, which is certainly not fair. While the mess is unavoidable, what is possible is to reduce the clutter of household things in the first place.
Often we find that we collect and pile up material things that are either useless or go unused. Often we also shy from getting rid of a lot of things such as old clothes or magazines out of sheer indecision or the unreasonable idea that we may need them later. When you undertake spring-cleaning exercise, you may find that a lot of stuff had been lying around in trunks unused and forgotten. If you do not remember, recall or seek to retrieve them then you obviously don't need them and can write them off.
Sort out the paperwork before it piles up
Take a hard and long look at the house and make a list of things you really need and you'll find that there is plenty of scope for de-cluttering to make the house more livable and more manageable. Papers - in form of bills, letters, documents, newspapers - are better dealt with immediately, rather than have them pile up and then begin to sort them out. Junk mail and advertisement flyers need to be treated with a disdain that they deserve; just tear them and throw them away then and there. Give away old newspapers and magazines to the raddiwallah periodically - in fact fix a day of the month so that you always remember.
Used computer printout paper can be recycled; it can be bound to make a scribbling pad or sketch pad for the children who are always running out of paper for their drawing activities and rough work.
Donate books to circulating libraries
It is very difficult to part with books from our home library, but with new additions coming in periodically and with old ones in the danger of attracting dust mites and other bugs such as termites. Therefore, it becomes important to weed out some of them for the overall health of the library. While you can throw the tattered ones in the trash can, others in good condition can be donated to second-hand bookshops or to local circulating libraries. Especially, in the case of children's books that they outgrow, it is best to give them away to school libraries, to lessen the trauma of parting with them.
Refuse polythene bags
Polythene bags are another thing that one tends to accumulate willy-nilly. These bags are environmentally hazardous and banned in many places; therefore it is best not to bring them home at all. Learn to say no to these bags and always be armed with your own cloth bag which can be folded and put in your purse when not needed. Alternatively, you can recycle your newspapers to make disposable paper bags, which is what many up-market shopping malls are doing today.
Offer old clothes for garage sales
Clothes compete closely with books and paper for house space. Children outgrow clothes very fast yet parents love to indulge them, therefore, the wardrobes are always full. Try not to keep your infant's or toddler's dresses as keepsake for their sentimental value - all these material possessions are ephemeral and there is a limit to what you can savour. The ideal thing to do would be to offer them at garage sales or to secondhand stores. Better still, give them away to the street urchins or in orphanages that will be only too happy to take them. Use others to make patchwork quilts, bed covers or curtains for your children's room.
Junk those bottles, or recycle
Recycling is a big idea in India. Traditionally too, we are given to making repeated use of things (recycling) either at home or as a small-scale industry outside home. The ubiquitous kabadiwallah or the junk-collector takes a lot of items including bottles, electrical appliances, copper and brass vessels for this very purpose. Thus it is easy to account for those bottles that bring in aerated drinks, liquor, perfumes and medicine bottles. Some bottles are very attractive and you may not have the heart to dispose them off. You can put these to good use for putting flowers as in a vase, or as canvas for your children to do glass painting.
Some wide-mouthed jars or bottles can be used for putting plants. This can then be put in attractive planters so that these make-shift containers remain hidden while serving their purpose nevertheless.
Often medicine bottles with half-used syrups and food items lie in the refrigerator untouched for a long period. Check the expiry date of these products and discard them periodically to lighten the refrigerator. You'll find that the new spread that you bought and didn't fancy much has been sitting on the shelf for months now. Similarly, to avoid cramming the dressing table junk off left-over products such as creams and lotions. Either use it first to finish it off or palm it of to your maid to break the crowded lines of bottles and jars on the table.
Children too can take a cue from parents and discard broken toys. Many children hoard them as they do not want to part with them, but parents must insist on weeding them in order to streamline the shelves.