Simplicity in Action: Christine Li

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.


It all started with a book called Sink Reflections. I had picked up the book after watching the author on The Today Show. She seemed nice enough with her fancy feather duster. And I was in need of help. I knew at that particular time in my life, about 11 years ago, if I did not get my proverbial act together, the rest of my life would actually head downhill.

Sink Reflections offered me an option to live without the burden of disorganization, clutter, and anxiety. I had been looking for that option in my heart for a long time. By far the most important takeaway from the book was the idea, novel to me, that in order to be organized, I had to get rid of stuff. Twenty-seven items per day, to be exact. This task was pretty easy for me, as there was so much pile up from my life. I wasn’t a hoarder, a collector, or even much of a shopper, but I was disorganized. And so, out went the old receipts, mail, magazines, old clothes, and weird plastic items with no apparent function.

Right now, I can’t even remember the rest, but I do remember feeling things were going to be different because of this new-found tossing behavior.

The changes which happened were life-altering for me.

  • I was no longer submerged by my stuff.
  • I started to like being in my own home.
  • I had space to live in.
  • I began to feel calmer.
  • I stopped shopping for non-essentials.
  • I stopped shopping to fill my time.
  • I therefore had more time.
  • Having more time allowed me to feel even calmer.
  • I began to feel more energized.
  • I started to learn how to be organized (a little bit).
  • I began to procrastinate less.
  • My thinking became clearer.
  • I began to feel more confident and empowered.
  • I began taking better care of myself and others.

I began to make changes in my professional life as well. I think learning I could change something that had felt so unmoveable and massive caused a transformation in how I thought about my own potential. Wow. I guess a lot of feelings were held up and trapped in those old piles.

In all honesty, I want to share that I still have a ways to go with my clutter. I kind of stopped somewhere in the middle, rather than working my way to the end. That would be my modus operandi. Part of the reason I wanted to share these facts is to help you understand that living more simply does not mean being perfect or doing perfect things. But it can change your life for the better and help you to find more time, more clarity, less stress, and more personal growth.

You absolutely can make changes towards simplicity, and I sincerely hope you will.

Christine Li, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in New York who writes about Procrastination at You can also connect with her on Twitter.


  1. says

    Christine, don’t worry about stopping in the middle. Some people are good at decluttering all at once, but it’s okay if it’s more of a gradual process too. Every little bit helps and I’ve found at least, the more I do, the easier the next step gets. Taking breaks gives you time to bask in the joy of what you’ve done so far.

  2. says

    I had to smile at the name of this book and at home much I resonate with things like “weird plastic items with no apparent function.” I’m so happy for you and encouraged that we don’t have to be perfect to be better with our clutter and thus feel happier and more content.

  3. Martha Cole says

    My life-changing book was “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh. It really turned things around for me a few years ago. There have been set-backs: inheriting a bunch of stuff after my mom died, etc. but there have also been opportunities to purge even MORE, like moving to a smaller place. It’s an on-going process: two steps forward, one step back, but always with the Less Is More goal. Thanks for writing such an awesome blog!

  4. says

    Christy King, Sandra Pawula, Martha Cole and Courtney Carver– Thank you all for your support. Contributing this guest post and reading your feedback really makes me feel part of a supportive, forward-thinking community and that feels great. I’ll look forward to reading Peter Walsh’s book too! Best wishes to you.

  5. Michelle says

    At this point, I’m 20 years down the road in my decluttering/orgainzation journey. One thing I did when my mom moved into a small garage apartment, I told her, “Pretend you are on the Oregon Trail and if it doesn’t fit in the covered wagon, it can’t go.” That worked really well to narrow down to the basics and she hasn’t missed a thing. Also, I challenged myself to try to fit all my particular worldly goods, not counting furniture and clothing or kitchen items onto my bed. That included health and beauty and sentimental things of mine. It helped me fine tune some categories. There are still grown kid’s keepsake toys in the attic, off season heaters and air conditioners but it helped me develop an uncluttered mindset.

  6. says

    Michelle — I love your creative comments as to how to tackle clutter. May we all have an “uncluttered mindset!” I’m on the same journey with you.

  7. says

    Yes, why did we ever have drawers/boxes/shelves (take your pick) full of things that have no purpose? As for stopping in the middle, theirs no middle but pausing until it becomes clear where to start next is a good thing. One more thing, remember this is your home and your life and just because someone else gets rid of something, for me that would be books, it doesn’t mean you have too. I now have them under control but i will always live with books – possibly.

  8. says

    Sink Reflections saved the day at my house! The simplicity and do’ability of Cilley’s systems make it possible to see changes quickly. I certainly haven’t adopted all of the book’s ideas, but even baby steps make a huge difference.

  9. says

    Beverley — Thank you for your support. The great thing about living more simply is when we “pause,” we don’t turn around to buy more clutter. Kristen — I wholeheartedly agree that Sink Reflections is a jewel of a book. For the uninitiated, check out Cilley’s website Fly Lady for help with home organization. Another wonderful book is Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer. Best wishes! Christine

  10. MelD says

    Flylady and subsequently Sink Reflections were hard at work in me, too – I liked how the whole system was back then, seems – ironically! – a bit cluttered now.
    I probably wouldn’t have begun to find any of these people, sites or books without Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living Guide, many years ago… Interesting how the simplicity movement has become the minimalist movement!

  11. says

    Christine, thanks for sharing! I can totally relate to your journey. My journey towards simplicity has been a long and winding road, but I’ve definitely made progress, and my life is better for it. Over the weekend we had an unexpected snowfall, and it provided the perfect excuse to stay at home all day on Sunday, instead of going out and running errands (which, it turns out, didn’t really need to be done!). I couldn’t believe how relaxing the day was, just staying home and spending time with my hubby and pets, and doing things I really like to do (reading, writing, & playing with the pets). I even spent some time de-cluttering, and that felt good too! It always feels really great to let go of excess stuff.



  12. says

    Great post and great tips and advice. The part that I take away from your post is that I waste too much time on doing non-essential things then complain I have no time. Time to make some changes here.

    • Gail says

      Wow! That describes me to a T ! I never really thought about it, but I know that I DO waste time on non-essentials, and I often complain of not having enough time. I get hung up on details.

  13. says

    Hi Christine and thank you so much for sharing your story with us all :)

    “Part of the reason I wanted to share these facts is to help you understand that living more simply does not mean being perfect or doing perfect things.” – So very, very true! I’ve been living simply for the past twenty years or so and still learning new things on the subject!

    I also enjoyed your list and how empowered you started to feel. This should be the way we all live…to varying degrees of course depending on what works best for each of us as individuals!!

    Thanks again Christine and all the best on your continued life journey.


  14. says

    Samantha– Your comment really took me back to a time I’d already forgotten. A time when I too would only complain about having no time. Now I have to be conscious of how to fill the time I have the way that works best for me. Still hard, but much much better! Good luck, you are almost there!