A client I visited recently was sighing unhappily at the cluttered state of her bookshelf when she turned to me and said, “I would love to come and see what your house looks like.” She said this after I had shared one of my favorite Feng Shui mantras: Clutter is stuck energy. She thought because I am a Feng Shui Practitioner that my house would be a perfect model of organization, elemental balance and harmony, and that I kept it clutter-free. I confessed this wasn’t exactly so.
My home has clutter. I have shelves that need to be cleaned out. I have a kitchen desk that attracts the mail and a variety of other paper. I don’t always put the toothpaste back in the drawer. I consider my home to be a work in progress, just like me, and most of the time I’m happy with how it’s running, though I’m aware there is ongoing room for improvement.
I have a certain level of tolerance for a certain amount of clutter — where the needle tends to hover on my internal “clutter meter.” I believe we all have one — and that it lets us know when too much clutter is interfering with our daily lives and keeping us stuck. Personally, I need a bit of clutter around to energize me, to remind me of the things I need to do, to stop me in my tracks and make me look around. Plus, sometimes I just don’t have time to put things away at a particular moment. So I give myself some leeway. As an example, when new magazines arrive in the mail, I put them on the coffee table for a while, then move them to my bedside table and then to the bookshelf in the bathroom. I know this violates an organizational guideline I try to follow most of the time, “touch paper one time,” but this method suits my purposes and keeps me happy. Chances are my method is different from yours, but it works for me because I love to read magazines, but not all in one sitting and not only in one place. (It is certainly different from my husband’s, who would prefer that magazines live out their lives only on the coffee table. The needle on his meter tends to stay at 0.) But I put a limit on the time I let magazines travel around my home. When they’ve been in the house for a month (and new ones have arrived), I go through them one last time to rip out the recipes or page of gardening advice that caught my eye, and I recycle the rest.
Clutter becomes an issue when it’s the only thing you see. When you walk into your home and are awash in clutter, all that stuck energy weighs you down. And things get lost in clutter — invitations, socks, an overdue library book. Consequently, opportunities also get lost: You might have met someone new and interesting at the event you missed; your feet got cold; you spent money paying library fines instead of on something more fun or useful. Clutter acts like a dam that stops the life force energy Ch’i from flowing freely through your home and through your life.
Decluttering your home is one of the easiest Feng Shui practices I know of to break the dam of stuck energy. It can be done without spending any money, unless you need to buy some storage bins. It can be done in any amount of time (5 minutes is all you need to de-clutter a coffee table!) and over time. To keep the clutter meter needle close to my tolerance level I schedule a de-cluttering date every week. I have found that things tend to slide a bit as the week progresses, so by Thursday my clutter meter registers that it’s time to clear the spaces. This schedule works well for me as it is the end of my work week and I want to free my weekend for fun. De-cluttering gives me some breathing room to then rearrange things, to look at a room with new eyes, to feel the flow of renewed energy.
So here’s another favorite mantra of mine: Feng Shui is a practice, which means it’s ongoing, and you get better at it every time you do it. So pick a space that feels dammed up and enjoy some de-cluttering time. You’re becoming a Feng Shui practitioner!