Symbiosis | Sharing | Harmony

Declutter Your Surroundings And Simplify Your Life

by Lee Sok Lian|李淑莲

Since learning about the slow movement, I have simplified my life.

Last year, I cleared out the junk in the office.

Then, I reduced the information clutter. This meant setting boundaries, like imposing a media fast.

This year, I turned my attention to the living space. My villa on the island.


Two big cardboard boxes filled with clothes, novels, toiletries and kitchenware (left by my friends) had been sitting in my living room for more than a year. I knew that I had to get rid of the unsightly boxes but kept putting it off. I had to skirt around the boxes each time I needed something from the chest of drawers just behind. In time to come, my living space would look like this:

What a mountain of clutter looks like

This week, I cut close to 70% of the clutter in my living space. The famous Pareto Principle, or “the law of the vital few”, can be applied to just about any aspect of life. In life, roughly 80% of the effects or results come from 20% of the causes. I wear just 20% of my favourite clothes 80% of the time, and use just 20% of the items around the house 80% of the time, so I donated the bulk of my stuff to a charitable organization, and tossed out the rest.

One of the things that hindered progress in my decluttering is the attachment to all kinds of stuff that had found their way into my life –-- and all the memories … The nostalgia is the hardest to deal with. Books are a big part of my life. They are the hardest for me to part with. Some 1000 fiction and non-fiction titles remain on my bookshelves. I will give them away when the time comes.

Decluttering experts recommend the one-in, one-out rule when it comes to cutting clutter. When you buy a new cup, shirt or book, the old cup, shirt or book must be discarded, recycled or donated. This simple rule keeps the level of stuff below the clutter point by limiting total numbers.

Here are ten simple rules recommended by decluttering experts:

  • Set aside just 15 minutes each day to declutter a part of the living space. Declutter in small chunks.
  • Clear off everything on the floors.
  • Clear off everything on flat surfaces like table-tops, countertops, shelves, tops of vanity tables, etc.
  • Next empty all the closets and drawers.
  • Throw out or donate all unused and expired items. Get rid of clothes that you haven’t worn for some time and have no intention of wearing again. Consider if you need everything. (You do not.)
  • Sort things in piles.
  • Toss, donate, or keep.
  • Keep only the things that you love and use frequently.
  • Put all items away in their right places, out of sight.
  • Organise everything that you plan to keep. Devise a simple system that you can follow easily, for example, labeling all the files and boxes where you keep your things.

Decluttering your work area and living space not only reduces the clutter, it also takes away some of the stress in your life. For instance, when I have just one cup to choose from, it takes away the hassle of deciding which one to use, not to mention all the extra work involved in cleaning and storing the unused items. When your wardrobe is made up of mainly black and blue items, not much thought is needed when you get dressed for work in the morning. Everything matches perfectly. I end up saving a lot of time.

I am now truly able to live in the moment and revel in the simplicity of my surroundings, and the simplicity of living. The experts are right. Clutter can distract you and weigh you down. It can invite chaos into your life. Clutter no longer steals the energy and joy in my life.

Once you reclaim your life and energy, you will find that you are much more at peace; things will start to fall into place in every area of your life. I am now able to find practically everything I need. No more racking my brain to recall where I had last seen the masking tape.

Pleasing living areas free of clutter reduce stress

There is just one more thing I need to pare down. My writing. By trimming the excess and using plain language that everyone understands, I know I can get my point across more quickly and easily. I am learning to write succinctly, paring down to the basic nouns, verbs and adjectives.

In writing especially, less is more.