It’s that time of the year again when we Chinese prepare for the Chinese New Year. If you’re not that familiar with the festival, it’s the beginning of the new year for us based on the lunar calendar, and involves a lot of eating, visiting and especially cleaning!

For days before the new year, we sweep out the house, wipe down corners that haven’t been seen for ages, throw out old stuff and buy new ones. It’s an old tradition to start off the new year with a clean house and new clothes, and there’s a Chinese saying that translates to; ‘if the old doesn’t go, the new doesn’t come‘.

If that isn’t reason enough to declutter, I don’t know what is!

Cleaning Out My Bookshelf

I started cleaning early this year, because I knew I wanted to purge and purge big, in line with one of my resolutions to streamline and simplify my life. The first place I started with was my bookshelf, which is the biggest piece of furniture in my room. I’m not someone who’ll spend a lot on clothes, or food, or drink, but I buy books easily.

These are the results (so far):

And those are just the starters!

So how did I pick which books to let go of? It’s really the same process I go through to throw out old belongings that don’t serve me.

3 Ways to Decide What to Declutter

1. If I hadn’t used it in a long time, it’s time for it to go. If I hadn’t read it in a while, it’s most probably true that I won’t be reading it again.

2. When I no longer find it useful. I’ve learned and grown through the years, but some of my old books haven’t grown with me. They were useful then, but no longer useful to me now.

3. When I bought it, didn’t use it and most probably never will. The amount of information out there that wants your attention is infinite, whereas your attention is not. While it’d be great to read all the books I want to read, that’s not a realistic goal. Is this book really something you want to spend your time and energy on, when you could be spending that time and energy on something else?

And finally, I use these quotes from Peter Walsh – author of It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff – as guiding principles.

From his book:

The key to getting — and staying — organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living. Put most simply: It’s about how you see your life before all else.

From an interview with Unclutterer:

It’s not about the stuff – it’s about the life you wish to live…It’s important to remember that what you own and where and how you live is a reflection of the person you are. A clutter-free, organized life is about living in a way that helps create your best possible life – happy, stress-free, creative, motivated and enriching. Happiness can’t be found in the quantity of stuff we own, it’s in the quality of relationships that we form. What we own should foster that life, not be a hurdle to it.

Helpful Links to Start Decluttering for the New Year
Want to start decluttering your own home for the new year, but not sure how to get started? Blog Unclutterer has a great archive of neat tips and tricks to get yourself organized and sorted out.

1. First, get inspired. Unclutterer has a Unclutterer Flickr group full of beautiful homes that sport the clean, uncluttered look. I love looking through the photos to drool over and get ideas from.

2. CNN provides some helpful tips too at Outta here! Professional purgers’ organizing tips (via Unclutterer).

3. The New York Times has a whole wealth of articles (listed at Unclutterer) about uncluttering your life.

4. In case you’re feeling overwhelmed, Unclutter gives you some words to keep yourself motivated.

Benefits of uncluttering can include being better organized, less stressed, and having fewer things to clean. When you walk into a room, you’re able to relax because there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

5. Another good idea is to write down a list of what your uncluttered dream home would look like.

6. You can also read about GTD expert Merlin Mann’s War on Clutter, his Tools to Purge Big and his War on Clutter inspirational links.