Posted by: angiefm | January 26, 2010


Alethea, the Little Mummy, carrying Daniel using the sarong

Yesterday, while surfing for cross-stitch patterns for the children to work on, my computer was somehow infected by Malicious Software (malware).  All attempts to remove it using various programmes failed.  😦  It did not allow me to get onto any websites and kept irritating me with periodic pop-ups and slowing down my computer.

And today, after being on the phone with a Dell technician for 47 mins, and convinced that I had everything backed up on my external hard drive I proceeded to wipe my entire hard disk and restore it to factory settings. 

Unfortunately for me, I had only thought about document and photo backups.  I did not think email or my Home Library inventory/customer/point-of-sales system.  So …

All I can say is it’s a great way to make space on one’s C drive.  And a wonderful way to declutter!  😀

Which is what I have been doing a little of every day.  Some people have asked me to write about decluttering, so I guess the day I totally lose everything on my hard disk is a great day to blog about it.

Kum Sia Zhu

We have a one liner we throw at each other when we are deciding whether or not to keep something.  It’s in Hokkien and goes, “… kam sia Zhu, ke buay sin eh liao!”  Losely translated, it means “… give thanks to God and go out and buy a new one”. 

There’s a story behind it.  My maternal grandfather stayed with us in the last 2 years of his life.  It was in my house that he sustained a fall when trying to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.  He spent 3 weeks in hospital before passing away at the ripe old age of 88.  While he was in still hospital but detriorating rapidly, my mother was moving some furniture from her home and thought it would be easier all round if the movers came by to take Ah Kong’s furniture too.  When I saw them moving his bed, I had second thoughts about whether this was the right thing to do.  After all, maybe he would get well and come home!  🙂  One of the movers who is a Christian said, “If Ah Kong comes home, kam sia Zhu, ke buay sin eh liao!”  If Ah Kong comes home, give thanks to God then go out and buy a new bed! 

So when we linger over an outgrown baby bodysuit, or Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, wondering whether to keep for the next baby (???) or for a child who might just want to read such a book, we look at each other and say, “kam sia Zhu!” and toss it out.  Goodbye hoarding!  😀

The other thing I keep in mind is that one day when I leave this earth, SOMEONE, not me, will have to clear all the stuff I leave behind.  Do I really want to burden my husband or children with the task?  Of course not!  So why am I hoarding all the stuff that has no meaning to anyone but myself? 

Okay.  Now this part gets LONG so read only if you are really curious about how we’ve tackled various areas of decluttering.


We have cleared out almost all the clothes which the children are not currently wearing.  I used to keep years worth of hand-me-downs from my niece and nephew and also from the older ones.  But now I keep only selected dresses which Alethea has outgrown for Nathalie.  Maybe 10 in all, which isn’t a lot considering one is 4 years older than the other.  I am not keeping any of Timothy’s clothes for Daniel because of the 7 year age gap.  I am not keeping shoes either.  My children only have 4 pairs of shoes each.  One pair of sports shoes, one pair of sandals, one pair of “church” shoes, and one other.  I myself have only 4 pairs also.  So no discrimination here.  Ha ha. 

So just what they can currently wear.  And even that needs to be pared down.  They keep wearing stuff at the top of the stack!  But that’s for another day.

TC and I have cleared out all the clothes which we can no longer wear or which we no longer love.  🙂  It’s a Flylady concept.  If you have stuff in your wardrobe (or any other part of the house for that matter) which make you cringe when you see it, or upset you in any other way, what in the world is it doing there?  Amazingly after we did that, we ended up with very little left in our wardrobe!  And then we realised that our fears about not having enough wardrobe space in our new apartment were totally unfounded.

Sentimental stuff … We have kept one sleepsuit per child which we remember them in as babies.  And I am keeping a few of the dresses I made the girls.  I really should be giving these away as well, and eventually I will.  But give me some time.  😛  We have also kept clothes from our wedding – TC’s pants (which *ahem* have strangely shrunk), vest and shirt, my evening gown and cheong sam (yes, don’t laugh, I did wear a bright red one which made me look like a Neptune Theatre Restaurant waitress!  :D).  All these we have put into a Space Bag (the original vacuum bag) and voila!  All done.

Speaking of vacuum bags, we also bought a large one for TC’s winter clothes (for business travel) and it has saved us so much space!


I have been very ruthless about the children’s toys.  After all, how many toys can they possibly play with at any one time, and I’m not systematic enough to remember to take things out of storage for them to play with.  I know some mothers cycle their children’s toys so they always have new stuff to play with but I have never been able to do it.  So what’s out of sight in this house really is out of mind. 

Nathalie’s wooden kitchen dresser, cooker/stove and multi-shop are going to a cousin whom we will now visit more often.  🙂  Many board games have been put aside for giving away, because as much as I enjoy board games, none of my children seem to.  I am still hoarding all my Think Fun/Binary Arts games in the hope that one of them will take after me eventually and want to play those logic/strategy games.

The girls have been into Sylvanian Families toys for a while now and those will certainly stay … mainly because we spent a lot of money on them!   Ha ha.  Also they are of wonderful quality and really are collectibles.  They are keeping very few toys over and above the Sylvanian Families ones.  Timothy has too many little robotic/remote controlled  toys.  But fortunately, like his sisters, he has no qualms about giving things away.  So give away we will. 

Stuffed toys … sigh … why DO we have so many anyway?  I keep giving them away and more keep appearing!  So this time I gave each of the children a plastic Toyogo box and told them they could only keep whatever they could fit into it.  We poured all the stuffed toys out onto the floor, and as I held each one up, they were supposed to either claim it, or say “no thanks”, in which case it would go into a box to be given away.  We ended up keeping less than half what we originally owned!  WHEW!


Interestingly enough, I haven’t found that many books to give away.  About 30 or 40 to date and I’m about halfway done sorting through our 2000+ books.  Could be because I have been more careful about the way we choose our books, and could also be because we have been going through and periodically giving away books which don’t quite meet the “keeper” standard.  TC did put aside a whole stack of Chinese books to give away though.  Didn’t make his cut.  🙂  With the children’s books … I have been very reluctant to give many away, because we still have baby Daniel to read to.  But I think even after he has outgrown these books, and if we don’t have another child, we will probably still keep the ones we currently have.  I’m a bit of a picture book junkie.  🙂  Also we want to pass these books on to our children.  Like an inheritance.  😀  For adult books we have been more ruthless.  If we have read something and will not read it again, it generally goes into the give away pile.

Other Stuff

Bedsheets – I was amazed to find that our blue stripped bedsheets which we bought while on our honeymoon were still in the cupboard!  Back then we had a yellow bedroom and it matched.  But we haven’t used them in at least 6 years!  I have kept just two sets of bedsheets for each bed, and all the rest have been given new homes.

Curtains – believe it or not, we had curtains from our previous home.  They were only about a year old when we had to move out of the place because it was sold en bloc.  We lugged the curtains here thinking we would eventually use them again.  But we are not going to.  So those have gone as well.

Kitchen stuff – How many cups, plates, saucers, sets of cutlery, barbecue tongs does one really need?  LOL!  I have given away all the excess ones, including all the disposable stuff we’ve been hoarding.  I also gave away a few excess pots and pans and various appliances (anyone wants a De Longhi cappucino and expresso maker?).  I also cleared out my plastic storage boxes, keeping only the Tupperware ones and even though not all of those.

Craft Kits – We had an amazing number of these tucked away in drawers and cupboards.  Most were gifts.  I usually only keep the stuff that I think we will some day get around to doing.  So it was a big surprise that there were so many we had never gotten around to!  And if we hadn’t gotten around to doing them in the last two years … well … those were given away also.

Furniture – we are moving into a much smaller place, and having our storage built in (bookshelves, pantry, shoe cabinet, platform bed etc), so almost all of our furniture is going to have to go.  We have more or less found homes for them all, but as I walk around the house, I still find pieces here and there that we haven’t thought through.  That mahogany bench which went next to our telephone table in our old home, my bedside table, etc.  They will all need homes.  The great thing about downsizing is that you don’t have a choice in these matters!  😀  They all just have to go!

WHERE did it all go?

You must be wondering.  🙂  I gave most of the stuff to various helpers to send home.  Mine, my mother’s, my mother-in-law’s helpers.  I helped them, and they helped me!  🙂

How do I feel about decluttering?

GREAT!  WONDERFUL!  I’m ESTATIC!  I am so looking forward to finally getting all of our stuff pared down sufficiently to be able to fit into our new home!  And it is exciting to realise that we really need so very little to be happy.  🙂  And our children need very little also!  With one exception.  Books.  😀 

And now that I think about it, losing all that data on my computer wasn’t such a terrible thing after all.  🙂  It’s time to move on.


  1. My kids are (fortunately) not picky with their clothes and just take from the top of the pile too. So, I put freshly laundered clothes at the bottom of the stack. Helps to straighten out the clothes better too…being pressed down by the clothes on top.

    We are so into Thinkfun/Binary Arts stuff. If you still have, sell to me cheap cheap k?

  2. Sigh! Angie, felt so inspired when I read your ‘Kum Siah Zhu’ declutter journal. I will and shall keep your journal, perhaps print it out BIG BIG for me to see and register in ‘me head’…alas…have been saying must throw or give away…but ‘mm kum’ (not dare). Well, hopefully in the very near future, I can dare post a journal like yours…and announce it “I HAVE DONE IT!!!!” Hallelujah…and can you hear the angels trumpets sounding? haha

  3. Angie, great blog. I love that line – “Give thanks, and go out and buy a new one”. On the other hand, the husband may not always agree plus I’ve been blessed with a large storeroom, so I’m keeping several boxes of clothes and toys for my younger son. 🙂


    Great to see you back online. I haven’t visited in a while…it’s been crazy around here.

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