Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spring Cleaning - A new habit in Malaysia.

The term 'Spring Cleaning' is a familiar one in Europe and the US. That's when people throw out old furniture and household items that they no longer use or want to be replaced with new ones. One might find many useful old items like broken sofa and chairs, worn out rugs, side table, and seven outdated cooking utensils, dump on the roadside. Students and people who have fallen on hard times often collect these items to be reused.

I have begun to notice some of these old items being dumped on the roadside in our residential areas. I don't know who collect them since some of them look quite good and can still be used. But I doubt very much that the less prosperous residents in the same area will take them. They're most probably taken away by the refuse trucks of the Municipal Council or of the company contracted to do the rubbish collection work.

It's really amazing how fast we all amassed some of these old stuff in our living room, kitchen and store. All of a sudden you realize that the living space in your house is shrinking because you keep on adding new furniture and household items every year without throwing some away. We tend to keep them all for sentimental reason. Dad, mother and all the children have their favorites which cannot be thrown away without causing sour faces or even the shedding of tears. The old books and magazines are some of the most difficult things to part away with although they keep overfilling the bookcases, the book racks, places under the coffee-tables and any place else where they can be lodged. The same with old toys although the kids have now become full-grown (and sometimes overgrown) adults. Houses in Malaysia do not normally have attics and storerooms are often refurbished for the use of the maid. Hence overcrowding with furniture and other odds and ends is a very common phenomenon.

My home is the same until "Abang", my grown-up kid who has married and moved to his own residence, told my wife, " You're going to be ousted out of the house by your own furniture, Ma." Only then did she start clearing away some of the old things. Even now a wardrobe and an almira bought when we moved in cannot be removed from the bedroom because of their sentimental and antique value as asserted by my wife. (Very good. I don't have to buy new ones). Only the presence of my books, clothes and musical instruments bothered her to no end. She could not throw those things out without doing the same to me. With JoeNed and Mimi as our live-in feline clowns, there is now hardly much room for moving around.

A few days ago my wife( with her brother sister-in-law and me) went to her parents' home to do some clearing-up job to improve their living space and health environment. Her youngest sister was just too happy to get the assistance. But the next younger sister blared up in anger for many of her valuable possessions were either thrown out or dislocated. She refused to greet us all, locked herself in her room, and told me, "Why don't they clean up their own houses. This is my house." I've never seen such antipathy against house cleaning. You could hardly move in the kitchen and dining room before the clean-up.

Well, now that house clearing or spring cleaning has become a necessity for Malaysians in order not to be ousted out of our homes by the furniture and "rubbish" we hoarded over the years, the question is where to dump the superfluous, outdated or broken
items. Just leave them on the roadside? The rubbish collection trucks don't seem to be too interested in taking them away nor the
lorries which come around blasting away, " Surat kabar lama (old newspaper), tilam lama, battery lama," etc. If only they can be left at specific centers where some charity organizations can collect them, I'm sure many items can be utilized by old people's home or orphanages to improve their furnishing. If repaired some of them can be as good as new. That will also encourage Malaysians to do a lot of spring cleaning when the mega sales season come around.


kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
I experienced 'drastic spring-cleaning' when we had to move house from time to time. It gets sick in the heart when you are 'forced' to jettison those things (which otherwise would stay on for decades)


norzah said...

Guess all of us feel that way about throwing away things which have meant so much to us in the past, Akhi Hank. But when you are moving to a new residence, that's inevitable. Over the years, the old house also needs clearing up because it get clogged up by too many odds and ends. Discarding away even an old pencil which you used to write sweet notes to your beloved ones can be painful.

rambomadonna said...

Chinese usually do spring cleaning every year (traditional chinese usually) before CNY.

In my very very peranakan family, aunties make sure not even a single dust everywhere. I can see the difference between my family and the neighbours.

When I left Ayer Itam home to stay in our townhouse due to so many functions and events, aunties cleaned up my room and put some of the "trash" into one basket.

I was amazed on how much trash I accumulated within a year.

norzah said...

That's exactly the point, J, you don't realize town much trash and junks you can accumulate within a year. Especially when there's a lot of sales going round that year.

Malays also do some spring cleaning come Hariraya, but they don't normally throw away what have been accumulated. Always too saying. Soon a new house will find itself full to the brim with all sort of furnishing junks. Even the house which is lays kept spic and span will often suffer from over furnishing. Every new year you add more furniture but never throw anything away.

Thank God the habit is changing. Question is where to thrown the junks and unwanted furniture which in many cases is still useable.The orphanage and old folks homes running on shoe-string budget do not come and collect them.

abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
The term Spring Cleaning is borrowed from the West, and it is more appropriate to use the term " Cuci Cuci Bulanan " for many of us. What you said is true and we should get rid of this mentality of attaching emotions to worldly things. We should practice the throw away mentality when we have no use for the things. If we have no use of the items for more than 3 months, just discard them. In that way we can clear up our house from accumulating 'rubbish'.

norzah said...

The trouble is someone will always say, " I need that thing," when we want to throw it away, Akhi. It's used again once and then left lying around until you threaten to discard it, At time Murphy's laws applies: nothing is useful until it has been thrown away or something to theta effect.

I found it that it's best best the Cucuci bulanan job is done by everyone at different times. I'll stay away when my wife does the job so that I wouldn't be there to stop her from throwing away what she felt is not needed anymore. Then I'd do the cleaning up job throwing away some of her old things. Ang that;s when the trouble begins, For weeks after that she will be complaining about things misplaced or thrown away.

Thus it;s always better if the wife does it. We don't often complain about things discarded since we can always find something new to replace it. I guess that sunggests something else for some men, hehehe.

Al-Manar said...

Do I have problems with old things? I belong to what one blogger termed as a 'keeper' as against a 'thrower'. For me it is my attire and my books/magazines/old documents/albums. I do not go for fashion and since, alhamdulillah, I have not gained weight all my old dresses fit me well. It so happens I love my old clothes, the older the better I feel them on my body. Because In do not attend offices and formal functions I have no worry. If it needs be I can still put on my old long sleeves, tie and jackets. Half a dozen Malay suits and similar number of tops are enough for Malay functions. I would only throw away a piece of my dress, including my towels when one tears. I like a new towel only when it has been used a dozen times or so when it begins to absorb better.

Every few months I may visit a departmental store for a replacement. I have about a dozen shoes from my working years. Because they are real good leather, they just seem to last. I often buy slippers for daily use. That is the beauty of a life in a kampong where the common folks appreciate common norms.

Of equipment, we throw one when it gives trouble. After all, fridges, washing machines, and cooking appliances are no longer made to be repaired or made to lasdt. It is cheaper to get a new unit and let the delivery van take away the old one.

I have a room of about 20ftX20ft for my books, my private library. It is stacked with my collectrion.

I have three laptops, two printers. I had two scanners until two months ago when I decided to send an old one to a kampong computer shop and left it there. There are three desktops and two printers at Almanars for the children. If I have problems with one I prefer to get a new one, full stop.

What I have more than my need are watches, glasses, pens and such like. But they take so very little space. One Swiss watch, my first, bought for me by my late father in the 50's is not working but kept as a souvenier.

Perhaps my life in this fishermen's village makes it simple for me and my wife.

We have not had a spring cleaning since we moved here 18n years ago.

norzah said...

I consider myself in the same category as your are, Akhi Pakcik Al-Manar, being more of a "keeper" than a "thrower" of old things. I love all the books, magazines, and wall pictures that I buy and don't really like new and so-called fashionable things. But the wife and kids love to change things as much as they love shopping to get them. So some of the old things had to give way.

Your observation about new towels ring a bell in my own mind. Yes, I've been complaining that the new towels don't absorb water too well after I take a bath. They are made of some fibers instead on plain cotton.
As for the household equipment and electronic staff, I keep them until they become really useless and outdated, like you.

There certainly is a great advantage in kampung homes over the town houses. You always have rooms for the old stuff and even the junks. Town houses nowadays are too small unless you're wealthy and can afford a sprawling bungalow. That probably is the reason why we had to do spring cleaning every now and then.