Rays of Splendour


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If you were to die today, how much belongings will you leave behind?

About two years ago, I made the resolve to declutter my life.

Over the course of these two years, I managed to progressively let go of a lot of non-material (won’t be discussing this in this entry) and material possessions – especially those of historical and sentimental value. Yet, I kept falling back to my old habits too. Each shelf or wardrobe space that becomes available will soon be occupied by new books or clothes – manifestations of the materialistic indulgence I tend to concede to without much fight.

I’m ashamed to admit this but the resolve to declutter remains an ongoing challenge even till today and it represents the ongoing tussle between success and failure in overcoming one of the vices in my life.

In recent times as I slowly made mental checklists of the items I would need to bring with me insyaAllah, I also found myself grappling with the following morbid (yet not entirely impossible) thought:

“If I were to pass away now, just how will the family clear all of my belongings in this room?”

(I’d also like to admit at this point in time that the thought of the people at work clearing my workstation if I were to die while I’m still employed in the workplace is one of the factors that drives me to keep my table clutter-free. Anything can happen in the world but I truly pray that this thing is not one of them, insyaAllah amin.)

This sparked off a series of introspection within me and one of them revolves around the fact that I’m spending on things I do not need.

Beyond the issues related to materialism and consumerism aside, I found it unsettling that I’m preoccupied with spending. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I sometimes feel unfulfilled inside – it’s because I’m feeding my nafs as opposed to my soul. Despite the gratitude I feel towards the Lord for allowing me the means to purchase the items, I do acknowledge that the joy I experienced when I received a parcel for an item I bought online or offline is fleeting at best.

It seems like decluttering might not be the solution anymore and that perhaps after I’ve cleared a portion of my material possessions back then, it had ceased to be the issue even.

Rather, it is now the battle against the nafs and the answers to the following question:

“What are the things that are essential to my life whose importance I placed on it will concurrently nourish my soul and bring me closer to Him?”


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Decluttering life part 1 – clearing the room from life’s excesses

Lately, the state of my room stifles me. This is ironic seeing that my room is pretty neat and everything’s placed in its proper compartment. However for some reason that I’ve yet to figure out, I’ve been slowly noticing the things inside my room.

10 sets of files containing readings from university (which I’d graduated from in 2006) occupying the top half of the bookshelf. Even more sets of readings bounded together in the second row of the bookshelf. More files from the teacher training days (2007).  Beside the bookshelves are two cupboards . Clothes are spilling out of one cupboard. Too many sets of tops, jeans, dresses and more to be counted. Countless bags (for formal occasions, traveling, etc) being placed in a heap inside a big box in another cupboard. When I opened the drawers located in front of the two cupboards, I found them to be filled with random items like old birthday and teachers’ day cards, unused cosmetics and stationery, membership cards, old bills and many more.

The following thoughts have been running through my mind since last week (not in order):

  1. Why do I own so many things that I don’t use/need?
  2. Why did I buy all these clothes?
  3. I need to throw away these files as I haven’t touched them since the last time I filed things inside them back in 2006.
  4. I need to throw away all these items in the drawers.
  5. If all these things are gone, this room will be less stifling
  6. If all these things are gone, this mind will be less cluttered

I realized one thing as well – I’ve been a victim of commercialization (and hoarding which explains why I still kept all the files) and the items I’ve purchased haven’t brought any benefit to my life. The purchase of countless of clothes is one glaring instance of how I’ve blown off thousands of dollars into an unbeneficial pursuit. Even though the cupboard where I placed all my clothes is practically bursting at its seams, the reality is that I haven’t worn half of the clothes inside it even once since I purchased it. Most of the clothes were bought on a whim – I was convinced that I needed to own it at the time of purchase.

At the end of the day, this whim simply resulted in a wastage of space in this room and played a role in the depletion of the Earth’s resources and worse, its degradation. For example, the demand for clothes here in Singapore have fueled the need for its production in the textile industry in China. Since the textile industry needs to meet the demand, they need resources in the form of workers, cloth, electricity, etc. Workers aside, ensuring the supply of resources like cloth and electricity would definitely impact the Earth. The Guardian and Greenpeace have done extensive reporting on the links between environmental degradation and the textile industry and with every word I read from these two sites (and many others as well), I started feeling bad.

The full enormity of my actions have truly caused me to be ashamed of myself. I’m an advocate when it comes to saving the environment but I’ve overlooked how my spending habits have played a role in harming it. Additionally on a personal level, the accumulation of items in this room is increasingly causing me to be stifled. I feel like I’m entrapped by life’s excesses.

Hence, I’ve set out this goal for myself for this vacation – to declutter this room. At this point in time, I’m glad the Town Council here has installed those recycling bins at the ground floor of each building. They will certainly come in handy as an outlet to dispose all those recyclable items in this room.