Sorry, Britney, I've got to let you go

I do not like to stockpile stuff at home and am not sentimental about most belongings

I saw Britney Spears the other day and felt a twinge of guilt - had I betrayed her?

An old man had placed her CD for sale - along with a host of others - in an untidy pile in a wet market in Marine Parade. He was asking for a grand sum of $1 for Spears' Greatest Hits, but had found no takers for months on end.

I track the sales progress of that CD every time I go to the market. I have some happy memories of listening to her songs.

Indeed, that particular Spears album on sale once belonged to me. I had left it, along with others, in a bag in a place designated for recycling and the old man must have picked it up.

I disposed of it because there is no longer much need to hold on to many physical objects now, with affordable entertainment on tap via streaming providers such as Netflix and Spotify.

It is a boon for me because I do not like to stockpile stuff at home and am not sentimental about most belongings.

Indeed, I hive off a day or two of my annual leave to do spring-cleaning, which I find therapeutic.

I am not a hoarder - the term is categorised in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders as a condition related to obsessive compulsive disorder - and I enjoy the process of deciding what to throw out or give away.

I like a house with plenty of freed-up space - even inside cupboards, drawers and cabinets.

For example, I like to read, but books and magazines can take up a lot of shelf space.

Now, I can bypass this source of irritation. Except for some expensive encyclopaedias bought for my sons 20 years ago, when they were kids, I have given away all other publications - mainly novels, health and music magazines and travel guides - as I can access e-books now.

And that trove of reading material can be enjoyed on the go too, without lugging around a heavy hardcover book.

It is not just the disruption of technology that has affected, say, how brick-and-mortar stores conduct their trade. It has also shaken up people's lifestyles and the way they manage their collections of things around the house.

Last year, I finally bagged up the last of the toys and board games for a charity. I do not foresee my grandchildren getting excited over simple Lego sets or scale-model cars, given the advent of devices that now even promise augmented reality.

I am not sure they will want my stamp albums too, filled painstakingly over the years when I was younger. But I will find a suitable person or organisation to give them to. It will not be the karung guni man, for sure, a fate that befell my CD collection and even the Panasonic home stereo system because no one in my home consumes music in the living room anymore.

The DVD player made its exit three years ago, at the same time as the Blu-ray player.

No wonder the neighbourhood junk collector is so pleased with me.

The wife mostly leaves me alone to cut ties with the past, but she has been convinced to adopt the practice too, although she puts her foot down when it comes to culling her clothes.

I understand the sentimental value of some possessions - even if they have long outlived their purpose - so the trick to unshackling such bonds, I have learnt, is to at least whittle them down to size each time - and, at some point, the weaning process can be completed.

Experts have chimed in on how to make the cord-cutting more tolerable.

Say you are a parent and cannot bear to dispose of your children's artwork? Why not ask them to choose two or three pieces of artwork? You can store them in their year book or baby book or display them on a wall.

Still cannot decide? Put the items in a box for, say, six months. If you do not open the box before then, you can let them go without regret.

This could work for people who hoard items such as magazines, travel toiletries and newspaper clippings.

But I do not think I will ever have a garage sale - I cannot bear the thought of strangers coming to scrutinise, probe and bargain.

Keeping fewer possessions also means that my children are not saddled with excess baggage when my time on earth is up.

With the advent of smaller homes, there is no space for the bigger, bulkier items - such as furniture - even if they do not mind refurbishing them.

My sons surely do not need the china collection as they are unlikely to cook much in the era of food delivery apps such as foodpanda and Deliveroo.

But they want the heavy mortar and pestle - as a conversation piece rather than for pounding spices.

With shopping so much easier and price-competitive online, no one wants the Singer sewing machine to stitch up anything.

But I will never "betray" my two guitars - they will always have a place in my home.

And I will keep the many photo albums, even if the pictures are starting to yellow with age.

I cannot just throw away the albums - what would others do with the pictures if they stumble upon them? - and find the alternative of shredding the photos (tear up the face of grandma?) unnerving.

But, in all other areas, I am making good progress. At the current attrition rate, the storeroom may soon be so emptied out that it could be redeployed as something else - and the lizards and cockroaches will have to find another safe refuge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 03, 2017, with the headline 'Sorry, Britney, I've got to let you go'. Print Edition | Subscribe