Project Decluttering 2021 (v1.0)

By Shyama Parui

Ever wondered what sleep, yoga, bins and the “Unfriend" button have in common? I don't know about you, but I think of all of them as essential to decluttering. While cleaning out the closets and organizing may seem like a springtime activity, any day is a good day to cleanse our minds and surroundings. If you are curious about what inspired me to get on this project, it was the simple activity of emptying a box of photographs and arranging it in an album, the old-fashioned way. The joy it gave me to look through the pictures, relive fond memories and save them for others in the family to enjoy was a satisfying way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It also provided the opportunity to discard some things that I would prefer to forget.

Stepping into 2021, my top goal is to reduce tangible and intangible clutter to tidy up my life. Consequently, my other priority will be to do it in a way that does not drive my family crazy. To that end, I tapped into lessons I learned from my observations, my experience as an immigrant, this past year, and the small nuggets of wisdom entangled in the World Wide Web.

Project Plan


Since my teen years, I've been guilty of cutting down on my sleep to make time for other things and before I realized, it became a habit. Scientific studies point out the importance of sleep in swishing and rinsing beta-amyloid out of the brain. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product that's found in the fluid between brain cells (neurons). A build-up of beta amyloid is linked to impaired brain function and Alzheimer's disease." Since youth is not on my side anymore it is imperative that I dedicate more hours to beauty sleep.


Unplugging unnecessary devices to focus on the task at hand may sound simple, but it is not easy. As a parent, I am trying to juggle things constantly and thereby not doing complete justice to what needs my attention. If my work does not need an electronic device, I am vowing to unplug it. Our hyper dependence on electronic media has also increased interaction with others via the screen. We all know that this boon can quickly turn into a bane. So, I plan to unfriend or unfollow people who weigh me down, upset me or rob me of my positive energy. It may not be their intention (unless they are hate-mongers, hurtful individuals, or bullies) and it is certainly not their responsibility to nurture my mental health, but it is very much our prerogative to choose our friends. When I first made my journey from India, it gave me an opportunity to start my “Friend List" over and while I regret losing touch with some precious individuals, I was able to keep my distance quite literally from toxic acquaintances. I am filled with gratitude for friends and relatives with whom I have a deep and genuine relationship. They will stay in the “Keep" pile unlike the superficial and destructive ones.


Letting go of physical objects that have sentimental value can be hard and if you have two family members who attach their emotions to all possessions, then you are in serious trouble. My mother seems to have an eternal connection with all her belongings and somehow after skipping a generation, the same “pack rat" gene has emerged. While attachment to certain mementos is endearing, excessive collection of outdated clothes or faded books is equally frightening. Mumbai's tight flats do not permit people to go overboard but larger homes, garage space and easy availability of storage rentals in the Charlotte area makes it tough to rein in our tendency to store. Not everything needs to be thrown out, but we can optimize our resources by rearranging our priorities. My husband and I packed only two suitcases each when we first moved to the United States and that compelled us to be very purposeful about what accompanied us in the long journey across continents. The shelf space in our closets and in our lives is limited, and the aim will be to utilize it for objects that are most relevant to the present.

Practice Yoga

Decluttering the conscious mind will perhaps be my biggest challenge this year. Anger, hurt feelings, irritation, disappointments will trickle into my mind and interfere with productive work. While that might indicate that my emotional processes are fully functioning and allowing me to experience the complete spectrum of feelings, I would prefer to increase my focus on the priority of the moment. Who needs the distraction of lingering irritation caused by a rude cashier from the previous day? Based on sporadic practice, I can attest to the benefits of yoga. Armed with determination and an effective calendar app, I plan to make yoga an essential part of my daily routine.

Will residual fears caused by the most recent pandemic clog my mind, or will I successfully reorganize my life? Only time will tell, but it will be rewarding even if I am able to partially attain my goal. As I turn the night lamp off, I am hoping to wake up with joy of getting a restful night's sleep…. “Wait, did I lock the doors? Why did she make that comment on my post? Did the kids brush their teeth?"

Help! My project will not be as easy as the New Year's Eve Balloon Drop.


Shyama Parui is a long time North Carolina resident and an ardent writer. You can reach her at: