Feng shui

Clearing clutter is a primary principle of modern Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art and science that addresses the energy flow in our homes and work places.  The use of Feng Shui principles is to enhance the peace, prosperity, joy, harmony and productivity of our lives as well as to attract new experiences….clutter creates a blockage to all of these.

Defining clutter

What qualifies as physical clutter can vary according to individual levels of tolerance and aesthetic values.   Clutter can be almost anything of which there is too much – so much that it defines your life or impedes your progress.  Clutter might be dirty clothes continually heaped on exercise equipment, too much furniture, or tools and trash strewn about the yard.  It is definitely the filled to overflowing closet.  I have a cousin in Arizona with both carport and family room stacked with old sofas and chairs – beyond ugly. Her finances and marriage are dysfunctional and that is where these piles reside according to the Feng Shui Bagua.   True confession – at one time my home contained far more stuff than my family and I needed, and it was both beautiful and functional “stuff”. Collecting was the operative mode.  I furnished three kitchens when downsizing after marital separation.


Clutter can be as obvious as unsorted boxes stuffed in our garages or simply unreturned phone calls and e-mails.  It is that “to-do” list preying on our mind, or our outdated beliefs, that block new beginnings and keep us mired in old patterns.  Surrounding ourselves with reminders of unpleasant past experiences unconsciously affects our health – spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  This could include furniture chosen with a former spouse, or valuable but unwanted gifts.   Assess the impact of items associated with a relationship that you remember with bitterness and you will begin to address your emotions as well, clearing your mind and opening your heart.

Photographs of old lovers and former spouses may qualify as clutter if you desire a new relationship. I once advised a client to remove pictures of his former wife from his living room and months after the consultation, he said none of his relationships were “working out.” Upon learning he still had those pictures in a closet, I explained that such remnants inhibit attracting and sustaining new relationships. He then removed the pictures and soon entered into a new and loving marriage.

Your bed is not for storage – hiding things under here constitutes clutter and is a recipe for blocks in a marriage. An attic full of old, never-used items weighs on our shoulders, symbolically and literally. A basement full of abandoned items pulls our energy down and it can feel like walking through sludge in such a house. One client removed an old bar, and two automobile seats from her basement. She called to share her accomplishment and actually sounded lighter – as though she had achieved a long sought victory. She truly had done exactly that.

Clutter lowers our energy at a subconscious level. It may only take a moment to see the laundry that needs folding, feel a wobbly door knob, or kick the door that still sticks, but even a split second of attention to the unaddressed task or the broken object has a negative impact on our energy level. Finish it, fix it or get rid of it now!

The more pervasive messes – the incredibly cluttered desk, a room piled with boxes or numerous stacks of magazines and books or crammed with furniture – all these drag our energy down consistently, not just for a moment. Clutter affects our focus because there is nowhere for the eyes and thus the mind to rest. Clutter can affect our mental attitudes – some people are embarrassed to invite others into their home because of the pervasive mess. That is one of my childhood memories.

dining room looking from hallway
Many projects can be messy and some take up tremendous space – absolutely fine while you are actively engaged. The active project is invigorating and speaks of possibilities. The abandoned project is stagnant and may create feelings of guilt for the project originator. Put it away, finish it, or relish the freedom to discard it!

Many of us have kept things for our children while they are in college and later getting settled, but at some point you need to reclaim your space and they must take responsibility for their stuff. What about gifts? If you feel you have to keep anything solely because it was given to you or for any reason other than you love its functionality or beauty, the gift is clutter. Release any guilt you feel over re-gifting such items.
Keeping an item because you may need it someday means subconsciously you are afraid you won’t be able to buy a new “whatever” when you desire it. Keeping things for this reason alone reinforces a sense of lack. If you are truly obsessive, the clinical name is disposophobia.
Clutter includes more than physical objects. Our minds and lifestyles can be repositories for clutter. An over abundance of TV or computers or reading or exercise or working can represent withdrawal from our lives and relationships. Addictive activities become “clutter” keeping our minds occupied and thus distracting us from dealing with more challenging issues. The most recent is the phone that people cannot ignore, walking, eating and driving with focus on their phone. Mental clutter can also have a negative impact on our memory.

Excessive scheduling of social or recreational activities and community commitments can be clutter and we may benefit by examining the roles these activities play in our lives. Clutter, both visible and invisible, can prevent our dealing with a bad marriage, a difficult teenager, a miserable job or a myriad of other issues. What aspect of our life are we unable to confront. Clutter is an aid to avoidance.

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Analyzing your clutter and its impact

First, look at your home for clutter that is physical. Is your office confused and untidy? This relates to lack of a clear vision for your work life. Consider your bedroom. Clutter here may relate to blocks in your relationship with yourself, a spouse, or the inability to attract a lover. Next, look at the gua where your office or bedroom is located. If they are in your wealth gua, your financial flow is probably constricted. If they are in your family gua, those relationships may be dysfunctional. Based both on the Bagua and the actual room that contains clutter, what aspect of your life suffers from blockages? What aspect of your life do you desire to have be more functional and joyful?

bedroom 2
To expand your life, clarify your intent and clear space for that intention whether it is for a person, knowledge, new stuff or an activity. The space you make can be as literal as an empty closet for your intended spouse, a clear shelf for new books, or the time in your calendar for new classes. Whatever you desire to come into your life is more likely to appear if you invite it by first providing the space and then announcing your intention to the universe by your thoughts and words.

Important steps in clutter clearing

Feng Shui stresses keeping only those things you or someone in your household truly love. William Morris, a philosopher and designer in the early 20th century, said, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be functional or believe to be beautiful.” Anything that you choose for your home should raise your energy and bring you joy because of its beauty, wonderful memories or functionality. This means that your furniture is properly scaled to the size of your space and arranged so you, your family and your guests can circulate throughout your home with ease. With ease means without impediments such as doors that do not fully open, encountering clutter, or being reminded of unhappy experiences. Furnishings that raise your energy means that you are able to look around a room without thinking, oops, I need to repair or clean or remove……anything….you see only beauty and you feel good. Further, the colors in your home bring you joy, or peace, or focus and every room feel welcoming.

Lorentz II LR - Copy

Awareness is the key to keeping the clutter flowing out of our environments and out of our lives. We choose what to keep physically and mentally and choose whether we stagnate or progress. However, do not force yourself to rid your home, office or schedule of what is, or may be clutter, before you are ready to do so. You will know when the time is right.

If you feel overwhelmed by your clutter, dedicate just fifteen minutes a day to clearing a drawer, closet, or garage. You will become truly inspired and more happily continue the clearing task. Know that clutter clearing is a process that bears frequent repeating because nature abhors a vacuum and without awareness and intention, your space will fill right up again.

Clearing clutter can relate to taking the path of renunciation….eliminating those parts of our life, on whatever level, that no longer support us. Be without judgment about your clutter or any experience, no matter how socially unacceptable, hurtful, or negative. Thank it for the role that it played, and let it, or them, go.

May clearing your clutter be a pleasure as you transform the uncertainty or even chaos of your life into a fabulous physical and mental vision of clarity and beauty.