How to minimize clutters and declutter without pain?

Every beginning has its end, just like our lives. After renting an unfurnished flat at a neighbourhood with a desert garden that Honey Panda loves, for almost 20 months, it’s time for us to move out.

In comparison to the frequency that I moved dwellings while a student, 20 months is considered long. Consequently, I have accumulate more clutters that I had done while being a global student in 3 continents. While a student, I only had to worry about my clothes, computer, and books. Later, with the digitizations (e-books, soft copy of notes), I said bye to heavy hard copy books. I gave away my notes to my junior, and sold my first year undergraduate text books. However, I did collect memorabilia for my mother and myself. Well, I did not bring a lot of things yearly, they were just gifts from friends, tiny key chains from destinations that Mom is proud her daughter has visited, travel mementos (tickets, museum brochures, postcards [4]), trophies, autumn leaves, photo albums, and my first Mandarin books. Unknown to me, years later, when Mom and Dad have to downsize, they had to book extra baggage allowances just to bring my memorabilia to our first non-rented home, because they were unwilling to throw away what they perceived as being precious to me.

Since then, Mom and I agreed that we would only bring memory (in the form of visual media e.g. photos, videos, audio, etc) and edible things (Yes, we love food). Yes, we love food adventure. We no longer seek decorative items. It feels lighter and this is what I have started telling my siblings not to buy souvenirs for me, and what I would tell our children so that they can travel light.

My thought also went to our Little Prince. He has started to appreciate what he has. Since there will be an upcoming bathroom renovation and his paternal grandparents are considering to live at another flat temporarily, Little Prince has requested to bring half of his toys (his precious buses, tow trucks, aeroplanes, helicopters, parking garage). He would learn and evolve, as what has continuously happened to me. From having nothing, having some, having a lot, to desiring less, but cherishing more).

The process of decluttering in May 2016 somehow forces me to prioritize what really matters. Physical decluttering also enables us to declutter our emotional states, as I first learned from Louise Hay. We need to subtract in order to add (what really meaningful to us).

Decluttering allows us to practice the art of detachment. Hopefully, we will have less emotional attachment to things. Yes, initially we may face resistance. For example, I spent some money to buy the furniture which is still in good condition, but we have to say bye to them. I need to reframe this as a liberating process.

On 20160628, while listening to #pandavoicenote [5], I spent four pomodoro tomatoes to organize our letters and documents into hard copy labelled folders of (1) investment, (2) insurance policy + insurance claim/reimbursement + medical record, (3) bills, etc. I hope that Honey Panda will be more organized, because he has wasted his time (and my time for helping him) to look for things, e.g. important ones like internet banking tokens.

On 20160810, after Little Prince was discharged from his first 5-day 4-night hospitalization that costed ~ USD 3360 (thankfully we bought insurance for hospitalization), Honey Panda took the initiative to declutter his stuff.  He donated or boxed [7] or discarded his clothes, moved his mouldy manga books out of the room where we slept in summer 2016, and discarded many items for the sake of his precious Little Prince. I was touched until I cried, because I had been gently reminding him to declutter his stuff but he ignored me. We also discarded our two Ikea mattresses bought in 2012.

Decluttering is also applicable to our digital items [2]. To deal with my almost TB-sized of items (images, videos, text files, PDF files, etc), I am grateful for the following tools available in Linux:
sudo apt-get install zip gnupg bcrypt ccrypt p7zip-full
cd /path-to-your-folder/

Method 1 (for folders of less than 4GB):
zip -P yourpassword *

Method 2 (for large folders):
tar -cvjf foldername_yyyymmdd.tar.bz2 *
gpg -c foldername_yyyymmdd.tar.bz2
Type your password twice.

To extract:
gpg foldername_yyyymmdd.tar.bz2.gpg
tar -xvf foldername_yyyymmdd.tar.bz2

Checklist questions (to happily declutter [3]):

In a nutshell:

  1. Simplify. Adopt a minimalist lifestyle. Set a limit on how many things we have. Choose a classic, timeless design for e.g. furniture, fashion. Prioritize what really matters, to be productive and creative.
  2. Box items that we rarely use but will need again in the future [5]. Be organized, box similar items together. Label (name) the box and the record the contents briefly in hard copy and soft copy. Boxes also minimize the pain of packing/unpacking for nomadic people like us when we move home.
  3. Diarize. Create our own checklist of essential stuff a spreadsheet of stored items in multiple venues across multiple countries! It’s fine if the list evolves and varies at different stages of our lives (e.g. childhood, youth, pregnancy, etc). As inspired from Marcus Aurelius, “very little (physical stuff) is needed to make a happy life.”
  4. Digitize. When we receive/buy new items and love them, create visual memoirs of them so that we will not feel painful when it is time to discard or donate or declutter or recycle them.
  5. Declutter. Donate items that are still beautiful and/or functional, but we will no longer use. Discard items that are no longer beautiful/joyful/useful, those whose result in more physical and mental burdens to keep. Recycle by considering alternative uses, recycle gifts that we do not need [6].

[1] I gave away Little Prince’s baby clothes not many years ago, but now we need baby clothes for Little Princess. Not to worry, their paternal grandmother would help to get second-hand baby clothes for Little Princess. The universe is abundant.

[2] Creating a .tar file takes hours, and creating the respective .gpg file takes similar amount of time. For example, a.gpg file of the .tar file of  a 18 GB folder needs a pomodoro (25 minutes). See also Asia2016/declutter_20160525.txt and


On 20161003, I had no access to my favorite ubuntu laptop for almost a month. Thus, I attempted to use 7-Zip to archive our files in a time-stamped folder in windows. To use 7-Zip, just add the folder, no need to select individual files so when we extract in the future, it will be extracted to the folder.

However, 7-Zip did not allow me to zip a folder of ~2.6 GB and I did not want to waste time trying smaller size folders. In the end, I created Asia2016_20161003.7z and hopefully I could extract it in ubuntu, if necessary.

To facilitate easy search of files in the future, I created the list of the archive contents in a gdrive file.

cd ..
cd ..
cd Asia2016_20161003_1
dir > ls.txt

Therefore, I still prefer ubuntu. However, if there’s no rattan, roots can be used.


[3] See also Asia2016/declutter_20160509.txt

[4] In Summer 2016, I discovered that Mom have left some Europe postcards that I bought in Summer 2004, at that time my photography skills were not as good as now and there were no many shared beautiful visuals online, I just want to remember those magical places I have seen or missed in spite of being at the vicinity. Guess what has happened to the postcards? They have become moldy! I really admire the efforts that public libraries take to preserve books and papers. A Teddy Bear photo album that I won as a result of #happyRead in my final year of high school, and has traveled to three countries, has also become moldy. #pandaLesson: don’t keep too many stuff made of papers for many years. 人生无常; change is the law of nature. Cherish people, though they and human relationships change too, hopefully from good to better, from bad to good, instead of the reverse. Cherish now and here.

[5] On 20160703, I covered our boxes in the living room (Home@S2011) with large white transparent plastic bags of at least 1m on a side (bought from Daiso, 10 pieces for $2), as there have been a lot of dust from the nearby construction. Smaller plastic bags can also be used, but need to be cut open on a side.

[6] For example, Asia2016/20160709_gift*.jpg, I enjoyed showing Little Prince how to wrap a gift on 20160703.

[7] He used to complain that I boxed his clothes. However, if one will not wear a particular cloth within a week, it will collect dusts, hence it’s better to keep them in a box to minimize accumulation of dusts.


  1. […] there are too many clutters at parents-in-law’s home, and I can only declutter for myself and our family, but not others. We have no rights to decide what to donate or discard […]


  2. […] a minimalist lifestyle, declutter regularly, set a limit on how many things we […]


  3. […] for me because my ears are itchy from my inflammation associated with my cough. Thus, I happily decluttered and organized […]


  4. […] do not have many clutters, only the essentials, no need to spend too much time and efforts to declutter and find things when we need […]


  5. […] a minimalist lifestyle. Simplify, declutter and avoid people who value things that discourage gratitude. Do media diet from advertisements and […]


  6. […] recycle gifts that we do not […]


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