No, this is not a lecture on spring cleaning your house. This is a lecture on spring cleaning your life! We may not consciously be aware of it, but we constantly interact with our surroundings. Everything around us – both seen and unseen – carries energy and affects us.
Karen Kingston defines feng shui (fung shway’) as “the art of balancing and harmonizing the flow of natural energies in our surroundings to create beneficial effects in our lives.” The Chinese characters for feng shui are the characters for “wind” and “water.” Wind and water carry chi (life energy); in ancient times, good wind and good water meant good health and fortune. Like wind and water, energy flows all around us, including throughout our homes and offices.
Feng shui is a 3500-year-old Chinese practice originally used to determine the best orientation for tombs and villages; today it is used in homes and offices. Each area in the home or office represents a particular aspect of life. Everything we place in our surroundings affects our lives. When energy flows smoothly through the home or office, life is in balance.
Clutter = stress
The first step in feng shui is clutter clearing. (The other two steps are feng shui “cures” and feng shui enhancements.) Your home environment mirrors your inner self. There are psychological and subconscious reasons why people accumulate clutter.
According to Kingston, “Clutter accumulates when energy stagnates and, likewise, energy stagnates when clutter accumulates.” Clutter hampers the free flow of energy and drains your personal energy. That’s why it’s so hard to get around to de-cluttering.
Studies at UCLA determined that women’s stress hormones were elevated just by looking at clutter (strangely, men’s cortisol levels were not affected!).
A short experiment
Feng shui divides the house into 9 areas (the bagua) and each of those areas energetically anchors an area of our lives: prosperity, fame, relationships, family, health, creativity, knowledge, career, and helpful people/travel.
As you clear an area of the home you are also clearing the energy of the corresponding part of your life. Try this experiment: take 5 or 10 minutes and clean out a drawer or a shelf. When you’re done, take note of how you feel. Most people find they feel lighter, energized, happier, and more stress-free.
What constitutes “clutter”? It is anything that is unloved or unused; anything disorganized or untidy; anything that is crowded into an area; or anything unfinished. In other words, either use it/love it/find a place for it – or lose it.
You can’t hide from feng shui. Even if everything looks fine on the surface, what about those unseen areas: your desk, closets, drawers, cupboards, the freezer, the garage? They count, too.
Where to start?
Things that are closest to us influence us most. You spend a lot of time in the bedroom – so that is the logical place to start your clutter clearing crusade. In feng shui the kitchen is associated with health (especially the liver); it deserves attention next. The third major area to address is the entry; the front door is the “mouth of chi” – where your house gets its energy. Order and beauty in this area bring high quality energy into the rest of the house.
Out with the bad energy, in with the good
If clutter represents low, stagnant energy, what does it take to remedy that? It takes light, vibrant energy. So bring that with you when you start de-cluttering. Provide as much light as you can (but avoid fluorescent lighting – it’s a bigger energy drain than the clutter). And bring a positive attitude. You can do this!
Label 3 boxes or bins:
- Don’t know
Choose an item from the clutter pile and place it in one of the boxes. Do it quickly; take no more than 30 to 60 seconds to decide which box it belongs in. Go with your first impression – that’s the right one. If you really can’t decide, it’s a “don’t know” item.
When you’re done with an area, items in the “keep” box need to go in their own proper places; remember, though, not to create over-crowding in the area. Items in the “discard” box can be donated, sold, or trashed. Set the “don’t know” box aside for 6 months; then go through it and re-evaluate those items.
Limit your first few clutter clearing sessions to 30 minutes. Then do something special to treat yourself. Go to a movie, have a long bath or a cup of tea with a friend. Do not skip this step! Clearing clutter is an emotional process and requires some stamina – some items may be entangled with confusion or guilt.
Cleaning out old, unused “stuff” in the home makes room for new things in both your home and in your life. It’s spring! It’s a good time to start!
Carter, K. R. (2000) Move your stuff, change your life. Fireside Books; New York, NY.
Kingston, K. (1998) Clear your clutter with feng shui. Broadway Books; New York, NY.
photo: via graphicstock.com