Why Some Asians Are Hoarders. Versus The Trend Of Minimalism

Some Asians are hoarders. That is, some of us Asians like collecting things, accumulating things over time up until we struggle to find somewhere to put away all that we have.

Most of my childhood and adolescent life, my Chinese parents were fond of bringing things home even when we didn’t need them. Our house was always rather full – every shelf was never empty. I suppose I was partially to blame as I liked collecting some things back then too. But these days, not so much.

Some of us may have a lot of something. And that makes us tick | Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine.

Some of us may have a lot of something. And that makes us tick | Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine.

Hoarding is not only about collecting things, but it’s also about putting aside these things and not touching them for who knows how long, maybe for a few weeks or never ever again. Often, hoarding is about collecting things that we don’t really need or don’t have a use for, and over time these things can become junk to us.

Walk into a typical Chinese person’s house and poke around, we may discover freebies or samples lying around. Some Asians are stereotypically stingy, big on being cheap with the ‘why pay for it when you can get it for free’ mindset – and when we can get something for free, chances are we’ll go and get more than one. It’s a practical mindset of sorts: collect what one can for next time, the future.

When I lived in Singapore many years ago as a teenager, one day my family and I went to McDonalds for lunch. At that time, McDonalds still served their tomato sauce in sachet packets (as opposed to pump dispensers today). When we got our burgers and fries, my brother made a beeline for these sachets on the table top island beside the counter – and grabbed what looked like 20 tomato sauce sachets. For the next few months, my mum brought out these sachets from the fridge to go with our fried fish dinners that she cooked at home.

Some typical Asians tend to be highly competitive, and in a way hoarding can be a competition against others around you. Hoarding equals possession and territory; one’s possessions can earn them face, giving them bragging rights. Having more of something is not an issue among Chinese people, for instance having too much food on the table to eat is perfectly acceptable. Last year, there were queues and queues at McDonalds’ in Malaysia for the limited Despicable Me minions toys. During the year 2000 in Singapore, I remember seeing people queue for Hello Kitties that McDonalds gave away – and there was shoving and pushing and broken windows.

When McDonalds in Singapore gave away the 8 Treasures monkeys in 2003, I joined the queues. I managed to collect all eight stuffed monkeys. The stuffed-monkey-lover in me had to have them because I just had to….

Quite a few older generation Asians are familiar with living a hard life, perhaps living in poverty at some point and through the world wars. Perhaps going from living in dank shop houses back in the day to living in a high rise apartments today. To some Chinese these days, what is available or what comes by in the modern world is literally treasure. For instance, Chinese shoppers in Australia are not shy about buying tins and tins and yet more tins of Australian baby formula and sending them back to China for their families.

Cleaning up and decluttering may be a long journey.

To

In Chinese culture, there is the superstitious belief that certain items brings good luck. Chinese coins, money plants, laughing Buddhas, Chinese/Japanese Maneki Neko waving cats and dragons are just some symbols that the Chinese believe are associated with good fortune – and more so if they come in the form of knick-knacks in pairs or more.

To put it simply, the more good luck knick-knacks one has, the luckier one may be to some Chinese. Each time I visit my parents’ place, most of the knick-knacks I mentioned above greet me whichever way I turn – dragon figurines on the shelves, and quite a few red and yellow Chinese knots hanging on the walls. Collecting good-luck charms always baffled me because I believe we make our own luck through what we do instead of living through our material possessions. Then again, stranger things have happened.

The notions of hygiene, cleanliness, and the issue of space goes hand-in-hand with hoarding. Naturally if we have a house crowded with quite a few things that we don’t need, over time they collect dust or attract parties of creepy-crawlies. Compared to Westerners, Chinese people in China can be dirty – the latter like to spit and let their kids pee and poop all over the place, so hoarding would naturally be something they wouldn’t really mind. On average, 40% of the world’s plastic waste is collected in the South-East Asian region. The more things we have usually means the more things we can throw away, and the more junk we might have.

When we move house or move to a new country, we often realise how much stuff we have. When we move, more often than not we have to let go of our material possessions, and so realise how much of our stuff that we have is a want, not necessarily a need. When I was packing up in Singapore getting ready to move back to Melbourne, I had to choose between taking my Sylvania Families doll houses and collectible stuffed monkeys. I chose the monkeys. Maybe they are worth a few thousand dollars today. That is one of the plus sides of hoarding – the things we hoard might be worth a bit of dollar sometime down the track.

Not all Asians are hoarders, and the art of minimalism is well and truly alive in Japan. Shinto is Japan’s native religion, with a focus on cleanliness and purity. Tidying parks is common around the country, and sliding partitions are a common feature of typical Japanese homes. In other words, for some Asians, there is a place for everything that we have. As organising consultant Marie Kondo said in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up:

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

Sometimes we don't want to part with what we have.

Sometimes we don’t want to part with what we have.

When we are selective about the things that we keep, we become more aware of what really matters to us. The less things we own, the more we focus on the right here, right now. Today the entirety of my clothes and possessions take up a wardrobe and a bookcase in my bedroom. That is all. Part of me feels that by seeing less clutter all over the place, the more I feel in control of how my room looks, and the more I feel free to live my life according to current choices as opposed to the past. Also the OCD-Asian-neat-freak side of me feels smug that home is in relative order.

Some might say the more possessions we have, the more disorganised we may be. But sometimes our lives demand we have more than a few possessions: like our photography or painting or gardening hobby that demands we have quite a few tools to bring art to life. Also, decluttering takes time, as fellow blogger Sandy over at Hoarder Comes Clean has been writing about for a while. It can be hard to let go of what we have because it haunts us, and on decluttering Marie Kondo offers:

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

What we choose to keep is often tangled with memories from a moment in time. What we have is where we’ve been, what we’ve felt, and what and who we may have loved and perhaps still love, and so the sentimental in us might be keen on hoarding – keeping something to hold on to, something to remind us that we were once there.

Sometimes the less things we have, the lighter we feel. But maybe we never forget...

Sometimes the less things we have, the lighter we feel. But maybe we never forget…

Aside from my stuffed monkeys, like many stereotypical Asians I like taking photos and find it hard to delete and get rid of any of them, even the ones that don’t turn out good. On the plus side, photos are fairly easy to keep and move around, be it in photo books or on a hard drive. On the other hand, when we look at photos that we took and really hold any object that we have kept for all these years, so often we see and feel the past firsthand once again whether we like it or not.

No matter how much we hoard or how organised we may be, we can’t control how exactly life will turn out.

No matter what we have or what we don’t have, sometimes we can’t help the way we feel.

Are you more of a hoarder or minimalist?

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281 thoughts on “Why Some Asians Are Hoarders. Versus The Trend Of Minimalism

  1. Haha definitely guilty of hoarding – but only certain things. Hotel toiletries and tea are a guilty pleasure. But when I was finishing up high school and in uni, I moved every year for 7 years, and then a few times more after that. Plenty of incentive to be minimalist.

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  2. Andy is the minimalist, I am the packrat. He’s really mad I still have a “Romantic Correspondence” box in our garage from back before we were dating.

    At least, I think I still have it. He cleaned out the garage recently.

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  3. I used to be a hoarder especially of books and paper but now I am downsizing from a house to an apartment. I have had to seriously cull the book collection and donate most it to Lifeline – the charity which runs book fairs to raise money.

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    • Books are hard to part with especially if they have stories that speak to strongly to us within pages. I hope you kept the books that you loved reading the most, the books that you could read over and over again and not be bored. Very kind of you to donate most of your collection to Lifeline.

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  4. I love this post! As you know, I am big on minimalism and appreciating what I own – I love that you quoted Marie Kondo, she’s my favourite! Hoarding has been linked to anxiety and when we own too much, we become suffocated by stuff. Living simply equates to peace and calm. I love knowing where all of my items are and valuing them ❤ can't wait to see you this weekend! xx

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    • I hope to read all of Marie Kondo’s books at some point. Interesting that you mention hoarding can be linked to anxiety, because that can be so real. “suffocated by stuff” – you said it perfectly. The more things we have, the more we may worry about losing more things we have. The less things we have, the more we can give love to them ❤

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  5. Hi Mabel,

    I have seen many such hoarders as brilliantly mentioned by you!
    I am guilty of hoarding books and cards because of their sentimental value. My girls grew out of those books and flew out to set up their own homes but I still clutched their books and the emotions attached with them…many of those were awarded to them as prizes… till I had to move out of my home, which too had emotional bindings but then I thought if I am leaving that home, I must donate the books too.

    All those cards, which had been filling the drawers of my living room for almost 20 years too had to be shredded with a heavy heart as I had decided to declutter. With each card I had to remind myself…’don’t be an emotional fool’ 🙂

    My sarees are still lying though I have donated many but they seem to grow or I had too many!!

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    • You are very right in saying that there are emotions attached to many items that we choose to keep, Balroop. And so right that we can be attached to someone else’s possesions, like our kids’ or best friends’ – what is theirs feels very much like ours too 🙂

      I am sure all those books you donated went to a good home, and those cards were recycled. You know, I have a stack of cards that is growing and growing by the year, and also a stack of concert tickets. Maybe it is time to think the other way…

      I am guessing all of those sarees still look very pretty on you after all these years 😉 ❤

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  6. My mother in-law was really sad we gave away bags of clothes my husband hadn’t worn in years. She had kept them for him all the time, but we felt they would have better use for someone who’d actually wear them. Thanks for writing up this great article, I feel like I can better understand the reasons she wanted to keep the clothes now.

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    • Perhaps your mother-in-law also bought those clothes specifically for her son, and had put a lot of thought into feeling into them. But I see your point of view. Every now and then my parents will buy my clothes too…but they are never clothes that I like. My parents don’t really say much when I point-blank say I don’t think I’d wear them. They and your mother-in-law probably bought those clothes out of a lot of love.

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  7. Ha, my family used to always save condiment packets from restaurants. I always thought it was a poor thing, or possibly a Russian immigrant thing (similar to Asians in that regard?)

    Hoarding gets a bad reputation these days, but I miss being able to collect. I used to love collecting geek stuff. But since my life has been more about backpacking I had to let go of so many toys and comics etc… Ultimately minimalism is probably the best lifestyle.

    And as for digital content, that’s not really “hoarding.” No need to delete photos

    Thanks for another great post learning about your culture!

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    • Good to know that my family is not the only one saving all those condiment packets. Some of them do pack very yummy sauces…

      Those comic books must have been hard to move, and I hope you kept some of the old ones over the years. Heh, I take so many photos that my SD cards fill up fast. At least I have a hard drive where I back them all up.

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  8. Very useful commentary, Mabel, on one of the commonplace aspects of life. There is a commonality in hoarding as a characteristic feature of societies across Asia, and dominantly so in India and China. Till the second half of last century, store rooms used to be an integral part of households into which virtually everything was dumped with the purpose of extracting things at later dates based on need. The guiding principle was not to discard anything as there would always be a future requirement for some items which could then be ferreted out of the miscellaneous pile of old furniture, assorted containers and bottles, utensils and other bric-a-brac.

    The same principle guided industrial manufacturing with their dependence on huge inventories of raw materials and other inputs. Thanks to innovative thinking of the Japanese, the misplaced value attached to hoarding things by households and huge inventories by industries underwent dramatic changes across the world. The accent on minimalism and decluttering together with its beneficial effects on lifestyles and industries gained enormous acceptance.

    The positive impact at the household level translated into more open spaces enabling free flow of energy and a general sense of well being, and on the commercial front it rendered manufacturing more efficient and cost-effective by operating on minimal inventories. The concept of minimalism is well worth expanding into all areas of our lives, as by living minimally we are ensuring optimum utilisation and conserving earth’s resources for future generations. Your post is another reminder for me to reach out to Marie Kondo’s celebrated book on the subject.

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    • That is a sharp observation how the store room is a must in many Asian households. It need not be a big one, but this kind of room has to be there. Even many apartments and flats in Asia today make room for a store room, which was always next to the laundry area in the apartments I lived in in Singapore.

      There are many sides to industrial manufacturing, and quite a bit of items these days are mass manufactured. Neverthess, a good number of items are manufactured with the notion of practicality and the consumer in mind – and at the end of the day it is up to the consumer to pick and choose what they want to buy and the services they use, and make them a part of their lives. Open spaces are certainly catching on these days, with many cities around the world advocating for more greenery and parks – less clutter, less traffic, less congestion. Minimalism is not only catching on at home, but outdoors too – and as you said, it can contribute to making this world a sustainable planet.

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  9. I have a strong hoarding tendency and it’s a struggle to keep it at bay. Living alone in a one bedroom apartment has its advantages. I just cannot hoard. It would make life impossible. But I am guilty of e-hoarding. I rarely delete anything (just in case).

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  11. I have too much shit that I never use. When my parents died, we had to clean up their house and a lot of the stuff ended up in my apartment. Try fitting the shit from a house into an apartment: it just won’t fit. Lately I’ve been thinking about getting rid of most of it.

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    • I don’t want to imagine moving a whole house of things into a small apartment. You probably have to step around things and always watch your footing. If you do go through all of it all, maybe you can sell some of it and keep the memorable ones for the kiddo to play with.

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      • We got rid of most of the stuff when we emptied the house, so it’s not like my apartment is full of crap, but some of the shit managed to sneak its way into my apartment. Stuff that I, at the point, thought would come in handy later. Now, after several years have passed, most of those things are just hidden away in drawers here and there and I’ve never used them, so I might as well get rid of them.

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  12. I doubt hoarding is limited to Asian culture – I remember some of the team helping a Caucasian gent clean his place when we were on mission in the Pilbara, he was definitely a hoarder. But I suppose the reasons for hoarding may be different – certainly for those from a poorer background, or maybe a family history of living through hard times, grabbing as many freebies as one can may seem like a sensible thing to do. Even if it’s to the point where those from a more western background may frown upon what’s perceived as an excessive exploitation of a free offering. I also notice a spirit of conservatism among those from an Asian background – I mentioned this about left-over food in a previous post of yours but it can also apply to other things like energy use, and recycling materials like paper. It pains me to see so much wastage in my office despite my best efforts to curb some of it.

    I think that there can be a difference between being stingy and being frugal, though – as with so many things it’s a matter of motives. I know some in my church who are frugal with their money and resources, but that’s only so they can be more generous towards others. Whereas being stingy seems to me to be more an unwillingness to share with others, hoarding things for oneself so that one does not have to go without. Or simply have more for themselves.

    There’s also a difference between hoarding – or being unwilling to throw away – things which are obviously broken and useless and collecting things which clearly have some value, like your stuffed monkeys. Although, when it comes to electronics I do tend to hoard even broken stuff. Sometimes I get lucky and manage to repair something that was broken, such as my first digital camera (http://wedge009.deviantart.com/journal/Repairing-a-Junker-350245534), or a couple of monitors which died (after a few years I found all they needed was maybe $10 worth of capacitors and a soldering iron to bring back to life!). The latter are still in use at my parents’ place even today, though they are so old that they’re from before widescreen monitors became commonplace. I’m also reluctant to get rid of some things for sentimental reasons.

    That said, I don’t think my place is too cluttered. Though my flat is pretty small, I don’t have issues with space and I know where things are. I like things tidy and in order, even if things could be made tidier still by getting disposing of some of it. I will delete obviously bad photos, but I will still keep the entire of the remaining collection even if I end up sharing only the best of them.

    Just a question about or possibly mistake in your last few paragraphs: not sure what you meant by ‘photos are fairly to keep’.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    • It is so true that we all hoard for different reasons. “an excessive exploitation of a free offering” Such a great way to put grabbing a lot of free samples or free giveaways in general. Sometimes we do so because it may probably be our only chance to try those products – especially for those of us who live withing certain means.

      Ahhh, hoarding food. I think you opened up a can of worms there. Food gives us life, and I think if we choose to heap a lot of food on our plate, not many will really think that is not sensible – well, unless we are of a certain size.

      I hope you haven’t injured yourself with any of the broken stuff and bits 🙂 That Kodak camera of yours really did look it had its day, It really does look irreplaceable but good on you for fixing it just like the monitors. But some say that something broken, even though when fixed is never really the same again.

      I too like to know where my things are. Knowing where my things are, I feel more prepared for different scenarios – like I like to know where I saved certain photos in my hard drive, where I put that formal jacket for a formal occasion, and so on. Saves time too.

      Ah, sharp again as usual, Simon. I mean to say ‘photos are fairly easy to keep’. Correction done. When the day comes, maybe you can be a proofreader for some of the chapters of my book 😀

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      • I might keep a lot of e-junk, but I store it away in an organised way (at least to my mind). So no, haven’t injured myself that way. (: With electronics, things can be broken without the danger of physical damage (like sharp plastic/glass edges, etc). I try to sell some components which might still have some value to others but e-stuff goes obsolete fairly quickly compared with other things.

        I will help where I can, if you like. Everyone needs a proof-reader – sometimes when I re-read old e-mails and such, I cringe at the blatantly obvious typos I made. XD

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        • At some point certain electronics won’t be manufactured, and so I do think some stuff might be of appeal. For instance, the Nintendo NES console from the 90s is something that still goes for hotcakes these days.

          With your sharp eye, you would be a proof-reader any writer would want to have. And yes, that is a compliment and you may take it 🙂

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          • Ah, that’s a bit different. I still have my old NES, though I haven’t touched it in a while. I used to play it every school holidays as I was not allowed to use it during the school term (fair enough). I think my (younger) brother and I had a nostalgia session a couple of years back. The irony with being older and having money to buy games is that we don’t have as much time to play them!

            Aww, thanks. The offer stands, let me know when you need it.

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            • Lol. You are so right in saying that these days we have the money to buy the consoles and games that we want, and potentially hoard them. And also put them on a display case at home. Gaming days as kids, those were the days.

              *handshake*

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  13. Many Westerners are also hoarders, my grandma was a big, big one, haha. I also used to be a hoarder when I was a kid, I loved for example keeping everything related to a trip, from postcards to tourist leaflets to napkins. I still have quite a lot of junk at my parents place but as long as they have space to keep it I won’t throw it away! When I have kids they will have tons of toys and games at the grandparents, and in very good condition, because I was a very careful child 😀

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    • Postcards! I like to collect those too…but sadly had a small collection back in the day. Wish I saved them. Your kids will be lucky to have so many toys to play with and will probably want to stay at their grandparents 😀

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  14. I never really thought about the connection between being Asian and being a hoarder … I guess because I know so many Caucasian hoarders! But I am not one of them! I am not really a complete minimalist, but I am a “thrower-outer” extraordinaire. I cannot tolerate stacks of papers, piles of clothing, restaurant packets and extra napkins (which my husband insists on bringing home), etc. Having just moved from a fairly large house to a very small apartment, I am now even more aggressive than before on getting rid of clutter.

    Interesting point, too, about the very different aesthetics of Japanese versus other Asian decor and home appearance. I think you’re right about the effect of Shinto religion/philosophy, but I wonder how those differences originated in the past? Thanks for a fun and interesting read today!

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    • It does sound like you are every bit the minimalist, and downsizing doesn’t sound too hard for you. Maybe it is more liberating for you though you are not a complete minimalist as you said. In a way, decluttering is a way to start a new beginning or chapter.

      Hope you are settling well in your smaller apartment, and that you have all the things that you need. But don’t we all have wants…!

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  15. I guess I see similar things happening in India too! where anything that you can grab (specially free) is good, whether it’s useful for you…. or not. Well, I’m sure there must be reasons for it. In American continent, it’s another story. If pay 15-30% more and get double the quantity people will pay & grab that opportunity whether they can actually utilize the extra quantity or not! Different country different mindset!

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  16. When I think about it, I don’t think am either. you can call me a minimalist, but is there anything below that. maybe simplest. In college I learn not to hold on to to much stuff, since I had to move at the end of the school year. I don’t collect to much stuff and the stuff I do have date back when I was 8 years like trading cards, school stuff, like year books, awards etc.

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    • Simplest. I think you are the first to come up with a level below minimalist. Simple, and living only with essentials except for a few childhood items. I hope those trading cards are still in good condition, and when you pick them up they bring back good memories.

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  17. I’m just lazy and end up by default a hoarder instead of cleaning up properly by throwing out stuff. I have moved several times in my life ..meaning several thousand km. across Canada and let go a lot of stuff. I used to hoard a lot of books, gradually letting go of that one. I hoard brand new art supplies…which will take me awhile to plough through. Yes, I hoard a lot of digital photos I’ven taken. So a blog is handy. 😀

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    • Ah, laziness. I too am lazy. I have this old shirt I’ve been meaning to throw away and I have just let it sit on my carpet of my room for a couple of weeks…

      Lots of brand new art supplies? You can always put them to good use. Unless some of them like the paints dry up before you even use them. It happened with a stick of superglue I had for a year – when I wanted to use it, I could event squeeze it. It was solid rock hard 😀

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  18. Really interesting cultural points, Mabel. Though I see this in Americans too, especially in New England where people fill barns with what many might consider useless junk! I do think the quote about past and future is valid; the fear of letting go (pasr) or the fear of not knowing (future). to some people, then, things seem to provide some sense of comfort and a hedge against these fears. I am not one of these folks, however. My mother was quite the collector, and spent much on antique thises and thats. But in the end, they weren’t really desired by any of her kids, so they went into donation bins. I found that very sad, and certainly gathered whatever I could for myself and my eldest daughter who is more settled then my youngest and appreciates things. I figure, I can’t take it with me, and the most important “things” in my life are the people. And so! 🤗😘🎛

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  19. One of my favorite things about moving abroad was throwing away all of my useless junk. Been living lean ever since and loving it. My Chinese wife is somewhere in the middle but excels at spreading her stuff everywhere. Most of spring and fall cleanings are really just putting this back where they belong. Her family, on the other hand, are a bunch of packrats.

    Thr Chinese people buying baby formula is because several years back there was a mass baby formula poisioning incident where a bunch of babies were made sick or died. They limit Chinese nationals to two tins of formula when they visit Hong Kong or they would clean out the island of baby formula! (rule still in effect I think) It’s sad.

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    • This is the third time I’ve heard the word packrat mentioned in the comments. Maybe it really is an American term… At least your wife knows where everything belongs at home. If you need something, just ask her. Voila 😀

      Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember this incident some time ago. Maybe the baby formula issue is still going on behind closed doors, who knows.

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  20. A great topic Mabel 🙂 I like minimalism but end up being a hoarder – but mostly because I am too lazy to take a decision. But when I am in one of my ‘moods’ I can throw away just about anything, much to the horror of the others in my family especially my mother 😀 I used to hoard and keep stuff thinking ‘One never knows when one might need something’ but then I realized that thing is almost never recoverable. So I try to dump stuff as soon as possible but still not as much as I would like – there’s always something or the other accumulating. That reminds me… 😉

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  21. This was surprising to me. I always thought the concept of minimalism was greatly influenced by Asian culture. Even contemporary designs have distinctly Asian touches, in my opinion. You’ve thrown me a curve ball here. I’ll never get over this haha.

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  22. I’m not a hoarder so to speak but I do have drawers and closets just jammed with stuff. Life for me has truly been fast so I have just neglected to clean out those drawers and closets. There is also a part of me that just hates to throw out with the mind set “you never know when you will need this”. I cannot tell you how many times I have cleaned out, thrown out items I haven’t used in years, and dog gone it, not a week later I wish I had the very thing I threw out because I could use it. I do not like shopping. Yes you heard me right. So if I can use what I have in my home I am happy. I do not like clutter and in fact am a clean freak. I must have a clean house. My work areas are neat and tidy. My living areas are neat and tidy with some classifying them as “bare”. My problem arises in those closets and drawers. Great post, Mabel. You got me to reveal a part of myself I normally don’t talk about. 🙂 ❤

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    • Sometimes life does get in the way and we don’t have time to go through what we have collected, or even put away properly. Hopefully you don’t throw out something again and then realise you need it…it must be annoying, lol. And then I’m guessing you go digging around your house again for something similar 😉

      I too do not like shopping. It takes time and crowds can be suffocating. Like you, I also like my work areas tidy and make sure I wipe my table each night, making sure my desk is empty of food wrappers, empty bottles and of course crumbs. Like you, I like my place bare as possible. Lots of love your way ❤

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  23. That’s cool of you to admit/share that Chinese in China are relatively dirty. Since you bring it up, yes, people are aware of that in America. At least Koreans, who can be pretty anal about cleanliness. An interesting topic, M. I know Americans who survived the Great Depression were manic hoarders (understandably). It’s a fascinating issue that reveals our relationship with boundaries and control (and fear).

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  24. “But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” Marie Kondo.

    And yes, I would like to be a minimalist – but cannot let go of things inherited from my beloved grandmother and grandfather. My husband cannot let go of things inherited from his mother and father. My grandmother did not have many things, but I have some of her old furniture. Beautiful old cupboards and a chest of drawers, and also handmade and handsewn things. I loved her hands. To know that her hands have touched these things, even made some of them. I sometimes just open a drawer to see and feel and remember. There are not many photos of my grandparents, maybe a handful. I grew up in their house – and I never get tired of remembering…the happiest days of my life.

    Of course being minimalistic is the best thing for the world, for everyone and everything. Sometimes I think about just throwing everything away and start anew, but…that always stays a thought only. If I live for some more years I will get to a point when I have to move into an apartment I guess – then there will be no choice, will there? I will have to give away many things…My guess is that I will get rid of all my newer things and keep the old ones. Nowadays they do not make things sustainable or with enough love to make them last for decades. The idea today is that we will have to replace them within 3-5 years. Kapitalism, consumerism…At least I have reached a point where I never buy anything, not even on my travels. Presents maybe I do. It is better to give things away and see the joy in the eyes of the people getting them.

    Thank you again for an interesting post, Mabel. I always read all the comments as well. It is good to get to know about other people, and over and over again realize how similar we are on this planet – no matter where we come from. You should feel good knowing you connect people. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is hard to let go of some things no matter how much or how little we touch them each day. Drawing on from what you said about your grandmother’s cupboards and chest of drawers (which I’m guessing must have been made a few generations before me, wow), there is something comforting about the past and the people who used to be in our lives. As you said, “I never get tired of remembering”. You know, I feel that a lot of time too, about the things that make me happy and those not so happy – things that made us feel love and all the contentment in the world during a better time. So it’s understandable to hear you hold on to these artefacts and works of art made by your family 🙂

      Lol. I think I am also like you in the way that I will not hesitate to get rid of my new things and keep the old. Some things I keep apart from my stuffed monkeys are my CD collection and blankets from my childhood. A lot of the newer things tend to be easily replaceable these days – we can buy them in stores once again or if not, there is always Amazon and eBay.

      Thank you so much for reading, Leya. And another insightful comment from you too. Each time you stop by, I am very touched ❤

      Like

  25. I am not officially a hoarder but I am quite reluctant to let go of things that may be useful in the future – boxes, containers, etc. Why should I buy things when I can reuse/repurpose things that serve the same purpose. But I am torn between having free space and maybe-useful-stuff on hand and I often favor free space. That did not stop me though from accumulating utterly useless things like old teapots and ceramics. How can I let go of things so pretty?

    Liked by 3 people

    • “How can I let go of things so pretty?” This is such a good question! I too find myself in this situation too. For instance, I find it hard to get rid of clothes that have a lovely pattern (at least lovely to my eye) even if they are worn out. Maybe take a photo of these things before letting them go could be a solution. Then again, seeing is not the same as touching and holding that something in our hands.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Some people are very good at preserving/recycling/repurposing such things. I wish I had the talent. I guess, learning to let go of things we like is a good exercise in detachment and simplicity.

        Like

        • I too wish I was better at repurposing things. A lot of the time I will put it straight into the recycling bin, like that empty water bottle only to find a few weeks later that I could use it to carry some water around, lol.

          Like

  26. I suspect most of us would like to be minimalists but many more are hoarders, Mabel. Hard to understand somebody else’s junk, but your own… well, that’s different, isn’t it? 🙂 I’m fairly ruthless with deleting photos that aren’t up to scratch, but you’re right- they’re memories.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Thanks for the mention in your blog! I’ve been getting more work done on my house, so out of contact again for a few days. All this work is really helping me get rid of stuff — when I have to move everything off my screened porch or out of my garage for painting, I see how much of it is not worth keeping. Now the recycle bin is full, the trash is almost full, and I have a big row of donation-stuff sitting in the middle of the garage floor. (I highly recommend remodeling as a remedy for all hoarders) Sadly though, I’m another collector of hotel amenities. On the bright side, I donate most of them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It has been great following your blog over these few years. Who knew decluttering could be a hobby and takes up so much time – especially if you do it at a non-stressful pace, in your own time with no stress, no rush.

      Sounds like it is time to move out a lot of things in your house once again. Good luck and hope they all move on to another world, another life.

      Like

  28. There is a store in the US called, “The Container Store” and I would imagine that despite race or ethnicity, we the consumers have become hoarders and buyers and excellent examples of our free market ideals. I mean, I just love it – a store of containers for all your container needs, a place to put your stuff and more stuff so that you can feel like you are organized and can buy more stuff.

    Sorry. I was being horribly sarcastic 😛

    It’s a battle though. I find myself, despite moving so often, constantly decluttering and waking up to a new found pile of stuff. I’m less attached though. I’ve given stuff away so often now that I expect to do it again when I inevitably move. Good post, Mabel!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I am most definitely a minimalist here. I loathe clutter with a vengeance. I guess renting has something to do with it, I hate the idea of having to move a lot of things every time I have to move. Also, I have a habit of discarding items that I might need some time in the future but not in the immediate present. Like a screw driver for example. I would buy the cheapest one available when I need it, then after seeing it idle for weeks I would feel pissed off and throw it away, and then 6 months down the road I might need another screw driver so I’ll go get a new cheapest one. :/

    Liked by 3 people

    • For you it sounds like being a minimalist comes back around to bite you in the bum 😀 Maybe you can keep the idle things in a box in the corner of your room, and maybe after a year or when you next move you can then throw them out. Save you a bit of heartache.

      Like

  30. Ah, the familiar topic of hoarding. I won’t say that I am a minimalist (as evident by the amount of items on my study table), but I’m definitely not a hoarder to the point where access to doors or rooms are blocked and creating a safety hazard.

    It was always a headache whenever we had to move abroad – not only because I needed to carefully choose the items to pack, but more towards the issue of transport. You wouldn’t believe the amount of romance novels and classics that I had to donate to the charity because I didn’t have the space in the luggage to carry it over. Yet, I’m still guilty of going insane whenever I’m in the bookstore, lol. With regards to memories, I’m on the same page with you on that. I’ve refused to throw certain items out of the house because of the memories associated with it, especially farewell cards and keychains.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think it is normal for students to hoard, especially at uni. For one, there are usually textbooks and a lot of notebooks filled with notes…then again, isn’t a lot of this going online these days? Maybe not, or perhaps some of us still prefer things in hardcopy.

      Picking what to keep and what to let go can be a tough decision. You never know if you need something down the track, and you don’t know when you’ll realise something will mean something to you. I too keep farewell cards and cards in general, as well as concert tickets – they keep growing and growing each year.

      Like

      • Looking at the amount of clutter on my study table, it’s the textbooks that take up a large chunk of space followed by novels and folders. =/ To be honest, I prefer to take notes by hand because it allows me to absorb and retain the information (which also explains why I have more folders than I should). I know a couple of students who take notes (from the lectures and tutorials) electronically before condensing it into the printed version for exams…

        I remember having to throw things out just because it kept reminding me of the negativity that surrounded me. These include items that I now regret for not keeping. Handwritten letters, too. *sighs*

        Like

        • I prefer taking notes by hand too. There’s a personal feel to your notes, and by writing them down you can tailor them to suit your study patterns. You sound very prepared for your studies, and all that on your study table shows that you are putting in the effort 🙂

          Those moments where someone gave us something will always be in our hearts ❤

          Like

          • Printing costs can be saved too. 😛 Nah, I wish I look as prepared as I sound, lol. I guess I’ll need a new study pattern next semester (or my brain decided to cave in at the eleventh hour from all the exhaustion).

            I know right… those moments are indescribable. I almost burst into tears when my good friend gifted a book – the same one that I looked at when browsing the stationery store. He must’ve thought I was out of my mind in that moment. XD

            Like

              • I’ve been telling myself that to boost the GPA to a higher level, I need to take better notes… yet I keep falling behind with my words.

                After the scare from Admin Law, I think it’ll serve as a good lesson to me to take notes by hand (instead via technology) and be neater with my notes. 🙂 After all, I need to be the smart student that I’ve always been in college.

                Oh, well – I guess different study plans work for different students. 😀

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  31. What a timely question, Mabel. I’m more of a minimalist now but I was quite a hoarder when I was a little younger.

    I was, by the way, in deep thinking earlier before I started typing. It was more of trying to remember how and why I became a hoarder actually. Then I went over your article again to find that part (The notions of hygiene, cleanliness, and the issue of space goes hand-in-hand with hoarding.”) that shed light on the reasons why I was once a hoarder. “

    Back then, I lived, of course, with my parent’s big house for almost 17 years. There were really plenty of spaces for storing things therein such that I became a collector of songhits magazine (songbooks). I grew up memorizing song lyrics. My elementary and high school friends had always turned to me for song lyrics.

    I also kept all of my notebooks and different kind of books from kindergarten to high school. Until I had to go to the city to pursue college education that I realized I needed to, first, let go of those things and, second, dispose―only some to be honest. I took a few with me to Manila; throw a few in the garbage bin, and kept a few in the box. It was all about the memories attached to them that made me hesitate to completely get rid of all of them. I don’t know but it was just so hard to outrightly throw or burn them.

    To cut it short it was only when I got married and started to leave in a small apartment that I was able to let go of those, I now say, clutters.

    It was there that I started becoming a minimalist. Thank God I married a woman who also loves cleaning (i.e., getting rid of things not really needed in the house). After all we are now living in a small house and we both agreed to be as minimalist as possible. But we didn’t become like that overnight. We also had our fair share of, for lack of a better word to describe it, “withdrawal symptoms”.

    There were many good things that came out of the decision. We learned to value the things that matter more. We learned to share things with our relatives and donate to charity. In my case, living abroad became easier. I have a pleasant room, if you may, compared to most people in my circle. And, I pioneered the clear desk policy in our office. The latter though is something more of a challenge at this point. My boss, who happens to be the head of the department, and I fully comply with the policy. Our workmates don’t seem to be in unison when it comes to having an organized, tidy workstation. I’m praying hard they get to digest the importance of it.

    On a lighter note, I’m happy to share with you that I also collect something (i.e., toy cars) and I would never consider the act a form of hoarding. 

    Liked by 3 people

    • I really enjoyed your spirited comment about transitioning from a hoarder to a minimalist, Sony. You touched on a very good point there in your childhood, on the point of living in a big house when we were young. I think for the average person who comes from a middle or upper class background, this is the case – we have the space and time in our younger days to collect things or maybe even collect things and turned them into other objects.

      I smiled when you said you collected songbooks and memorised lyrics in high school. You and your classmates must have been pretty good singers back then, and maybe even so now. Similarly as a kid, I used to collect entertainment magazines. I still remember that Lime magazine with Britney Spears on the cover I kept for so many years and then had to leave behind when I left Singapore. Heartache right there.

      You are very lucky to get together with Ms Wonderwall. Sounds like two work together to make a clean, minimalist home and what you can’t use, you give away in hope of someone finds meaning in them. Not greedy, but humble in character – that is you and Ms Wonderwall.

      The clear desk policy is something that we should also work to here in my workplace. For one, it is good way to ensure that we don’t leave confidential material lying aorund, and also having a clean space is all the more healthy for us, physically and mentally.

      Thank you so much for your – I’ll say it again – spirited commented, Sony. Your words always uplift me. They are always so honest, so down-to-earth with no air about them.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. This is so true and relatable. I think one way or another we are all guilty of hoarding. And more often that not it’s because of our attachments with the thing connected to a certain moment in time. We are attached to moments and we want to remember them. So we keep collecting in hopes that a piece of it will always stay with us. Collecting things is like collecting moments. And obviously one day all of it just clutters around the our living space. Hehe. I used to be a massive massive hoarder when I was younger, my room used to be a mess cuz of that cuz I always found it hard to let go of things. But now I’ve gotten a little better but still got room for improvement lol

    Liked by 3 people

    • “We are attached to moments and we want to remember them. So we keep collecting in hopes that a piece of it will always stay with us.” You said it so well again, Zee. There is something about what happened to us in the past, whether good or bad. There will always be some moments where we’ll feel really good and others that teach us lessons. Heh, I think when we are younger our parents don’t mind us hoarding, for instance don’t mind us having lots of toys. If it makes us happy, it makes the parents happy, lol.

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  33. I tend to be a minimalist and find that order and lack of clutter give me a sense of calm. My parents grew up in a time when money was scarce. Although my childhood home was immaculately clean and uncluttered, there was much stored away just in case it would ever come in handy. I think from years of having to make do with what was available, getting rid of anything was challenging for my parents.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I remember hear you say you grew up on a farm, and I would imagine livestock and vegetation were all in an orderly manner. Your parents sound resourceful. You never really know when that thing will come in handy. You just never know.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. I try to be a minimalist. That’s not to say I don’t love my material possessions though 😉 If I buy something new, I usually find something to give away. I live in an apartment with little storage so I’m forced to be more careful about bringing things in. I find as I get older, I have all that I need and am less of a collector. I tend to replace worn out or broken things rather than add new. Great post, Mabel! I had no idea that hoarding was a dignified part of Asian culture. That’s kind of funny about the McDonald’s toys, too. I think you made a good choice in keeping your stuffed monkey collection.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Of course, how can we not love our possessions 😉 It is very hands-on and resourceful of you to replace broken things. You must be a bit of a handywoman, handymaker, and you should be proud of yourself for that. ” If I buy something new, I usually find something to give away.” These days I find this is the case with my closet…bursting at the seams, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. One of the nicest things about having moved twice in the past year is that I really cut back on posessions. One feels so clean and fresh when the clutter is cleared and mementos that we thought were important are recognized as just so much more STUFF!!! Although I’m not quite a minimalist, I’m certainly headed that way!! Thoughtful post as always Mabel

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good to hear you’re cutting back on possessions, Tina. Hope you got to keep the momentos that matter to you, and that one day when you look at them again, they will take you on a lovely trip down memory lane. Thank you so much for stopping by as always. It means a lot.

      Like

  36. Same here in Ukraine) Many of people are still collecting things which they don’t need any more, just in case … may be one day they will find out how can they use this stuff. Basically this habit inherent to older people who experienced life in Soviet Union (USSR) when it was not that easy to get some stuff and now, when they can offer many of things, they try to keep them all, just in case)

    Liked by 4 people

    • You never know. Just in case. And you can never really be too careful. Hopefully what you keep you have a use of at some point. If not you can always pass it to someone who may need it. Sometimes the stuff that you hoard can be your emergency stash of things – the things that can save you time or save you in general when you need it.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Seems a lot happens in Chinese culture.

    I am averse to hoarding but my father loves it because he seems to have an affinity towards old stifg . But then one day somebody would anyway get rid of old items, so why hoard? Also, being clutter-free brings positivity around…that’s what I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. My (Chinese) husband always wanted to have more food in the fridge and on the shelves than I did. He was born during the Japanese invasion and occupation of China, so he was malnourished for the first seven years of his life. When I complained about having too much food in our house, he blamed his shopping habits on “starvation mentality.” My preference was to have fresh food. Plus I didn’t want to throw food away. He wanted to be sure that, no matter what he wanted to cook, all the ingredients would be right there at his fingertips.

    He did a lot of traveling around Asia for his work. Everywhere he went, he shopped for specialties of the country he was in, and his counterparts presented him with gifts. I enjoyed seeing the exotic items he brought home and the food we couldn’t buy in the Philippines. The items seemed so special that I too wanted to keep them, even though I had not use for so many knick-knacks.

    Gift-giving contributes a lot to unwanted items. I don’t shop very much, but it doesn’t take long to accumulate too many things. And it takes a lot of time and effort to clean out closets and shelves. I still have a lot of work to do.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hoarding food is always interesting, and your husband did have good reasons for stocking the home with food. Always something to eat on a rainy day, and you probably could whip up quite a few dishes whenever you liked – so many ingredients stocked at home. But I do agree with you on fresh food – less preservatives and chemicals all over, and you just never know what goes into tinned or packaged food.

      Ah, the things you can’t get at home. It is probably a reason why we like to splurge when we are on trips abroad. Your shopping for specialties point reminded me of the time my parents like to buy “ear biscuits” that is seldom found in Australia:

      my.openrice.com/UserPhoto/Article/0/8/0001P78E6C1D1709020557j.jpg

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  39. I think I will take the side of minimalism and every single day, I am trying to reduce the influx of stuff in to my home and we are consciously buying less items to have a stress free life. nice post Mabel.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Mabel, I couldn’t stop laughing as I started reading about the tomato sauce sachets, we used to do the same when we were in college 🙂

    I am a typical hoarder, he he 🙂 I think my whole family is …

    In a three bedroom house with additional store rooms we have stuffed so many things from past that, there is hardly any space for things useful for present 🙂

    I really don’t know whether we could generalize this as part of our culture, but I could find hardly anyone who follow the trend of minimalism here in my relatives or friends…

    I really appreciate the effort you have put in compiling this post analyzing the historical, cultural and behavioral and psychological aspects…

    One quote that did strike me most is “But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”,

    In my case, it’s the first point, attachment to the past. I am very emotional about my past and childhood days and anything associated with that is being treated as treasure.

    Also, I did develop a habit of collecting things and systematically organizing them, be it, stamps, coins, feathers, books and magazines, nuts and bolts, name slips and even lottery tickets 🙂

    Frankly, I am trying to practice minimalism now a days, as I found, it’s really pointless to store and waste space for the clothes which are not used for 2-3 years, broken electronic gadgets, utensils, and even old magazines…

    I really doubt whether I will ever be able to become a minimalist, but I just wanted to be a selective hoarder, he he 🙂

    Have a beautiful day, Mabel 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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