Life, Decluttered

Life, Decluttered

by Toastmaster Melvin Tan


Winning speech for BVTMC Chapter Meeting on Thursday, 6 Sep 2018

Pathways Level 1 Project 2 (Second Speech): Evaluation and Feedback



Good evening Madam President, Toastmaster of the Day, and fellow Toastmasters,

First and foremost, I would like to apologize here… for not being colourful enough today – you see, that’s the best I could do. I remember having a matching T-shirt at home. It’s like a rainbow. However, I just couldn’t find it after hours of searching in my wardrobe.


This scenario may sound similar to some of you. Let’s say we need to get a scarf that we bought many years ago. Rummaging in the wardrobe for hours, we get something really irrelevant:

  • “Woo, the expensive jacket that I want to use for a grand event … but it has faded.”
  • “Whoa, the shirt that I leave till I get buff enough to fit in … but I’m still skinny like monkey.”
  • “Hey, the graduation gown that has been forgotten after that important day … but I feel embarrassed wearing it on the street.”
  • And finally, “Wow, the swimming trunk that I got on my 7th birthday as a present … “ – okay, forget it.

… wait, we searched for so many things, but where’s the scarf? Obviously, the wardrobe is so messy and cluttered.


The keyword here is ‘clutter’. Clutter can be a result of different factors. Some people may be indecisive in throwing stuffs, or just to avoid the pain to do so. Instead, they choose not to throw anything. For some other people, they try to be frugal by keeping every single thing in their inventory for future use, like the small concrete mixer at my home backyard. My dad bought it 10 years ago for a DIY home renovation project.

One day, I asked him, “Dad, why are we still keeping this at home?”

He replied, “Well, it may be still useful if we have some home reno in future. We couldn’t afford buying a new one whenever we need it. “

For your information, that conversation happened 5 years ago. Has there been any renovation since then? Absolutely no. It goes the same to many other idle tools in my backyard. It is so occupied that I just call it a mini workshop.


In daily life, a cluttered room or house always brings problem. Besides wasting time like the wardrobe issue just now, you also waste money. Remember the annual hazy seasons from forest fire few years ago? Back then, I jumped on the bandwagon to get N95 masks. One year later, haze came again. I forgot that there were N95 leftovers and proceeded with the new ones. Fast forward, I was down with cough few months ago. Without realizing the masks were being left in drawers, I bought another pack of masks.

Mask is just a mild, inexpensive example. If clutter accumulation is getting out of hand, you can’t even have enough time to cater for every possession. Recently, my hiking boots becomes the hotbed for mold, awaiting cleaning. Meanwhile, my trail running shoes gave up at the worst moment – the soles went off when I was running on muddy MacRitchie trail. The similarity? Both shoes had not been worn for quite some time. Life in chaos is way more devastating than time or money loss. Just remember this, “If you can’t control your possessions, your possessions will in turn control you.”


Eventually, all the troubles roused my frustration. I really need a change. So, I seek help from books teaching decluttering, and start picking up the arts of tidying by sticking to 3 rules. I call them The Triple-S Rules.

The first ‘S’ stands for Select: Select first, store later.

  • Pick everything from the same category across all rooms in your house, and put them on floor all at once to select – just like how people snap pictures for their shopping trips in Bangkok or Phuket. If you do not complete selection first before thinking of storage, the same unwanted item may end up rotating from living room to bedroom, from bedroom to store room, and from store room back to living room again. In the end, clutter will still rebound.

The second ‘S’ is Spark: Keep those which spark joy in you.

  • Joy is whether an item gives you happiness when you hold it in your hands. It sounds philosophical, but if you get used to that, you know how it feels. If it does, keep it; if not, discard it. We all have an ideal lifestyle in our mind. Keeping something that does not make us happy will not lead us to the life we want to live.

The third ‘S’ goes to Show: Show Gratitude to the discarded items.

  • Our lives change as time evolves, so it is inevitable for us to let go of things which do not match our current self, no matter how significant it had been in the past. Thank the items for enlightening you of what you really want right now. Appreciate the discarding process as it gives you more time and efforts to take care of what you truly cherish in your life for now.


You might wonder whether I see big changes from decluttering. Although I have not completed my entire journey of tidying, my room is slightly more organized. I can see some floor space which had never been visible previously. I can now do a quick inventory check before heading for shopping with clearer targets of what to buy and what not to buy in mind. Also, discarding gives me a better view of myself. Giving my 10-year-old semi-pro camera away reminds me that I might not be really into photography. Therefore, GoPro or drones will be unlikely in my future shopping list.

As of now, life slowly gets back on track, and I know which direction I will be moving in. As decluttering items gives me more focus on what I want, I declutter my life as well. Select things in a one-off selection, identify those that spark joy, and send the past off by showing gratitude. Trust me, life will only get better after this.


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