Clutter is not a term used in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui. Clutter is: junk, paperwork, insane amounts of furniture, stuffed drawers, intensely disorganized storage, broken stuff, bad-memories-attached stuff, overflowing shelves and exploding closets.
Collecting and being consumed by clutter on a grand scale is a relatively modern concept. Our ancient ancestors didn’t have a supermarket at nearly every corner, malls and online shopping at every turn. When life was less complicated, there were not nearly as many ways to accumulate excess, the unwanted stuff we call “clutter.”
In feng shui, there’s a concept of energy flow and vitality known as “chi,” or “qi”. This life-force energy needs to move freely and in abundance in a space for it to promote heath, happiness and prosperity. Clutter creates an obstruction and stops that amazing flow.
Clutter can be found in an array of places, and can be cleared on many levels. Here are a few common causes of clutter:
- Clothes that don’t fit, or that you don’t like in your closet
- A refrigerator or pantry filled with expired foods or food that affects you negatively
- Books you don’t want to read on the shelf
- Excess paper clutter in offices
- Email overwhelm and social media clutter of messages
- Purses, wallets
- Storage units, attics and garages
And the list goes on.
Clearing clutter is also an emotional process for many people, especially when the clutter is extreme. It can create chaos and frustration at the outset to clear your clutter.
Here are a handful of the benefits of clearing clutter that might just motivate you to start clearing out some of your own space.
1. You’ll feel less anxious.
Clutter is made up of stuff that is either junk, unfinished projects you’ve told yourself you’ll finish, or things that need to be handled that you haven’t wanted to confront. All of those messages looming in your environment, even stuffed in closets and drawers, are like trying to stuff a bad memory away instead of dealing with it in a conscious way.
2. Your days will be more productive.
When you don’t have physical obstructions like piles of paper staring you in the face, you can do so much more in much less time.
3. You’ll be free of emotional stagnation.
The gifts from past romances that haunt you, the things you hold onto that you know are keeping you stuck in the past… releasing them will help you to feel more free and present.
4. Your mental focus will sharpen.
Clear spaces and countertops are a feng shui way to express metal energy. Metal energy in feng shui helps you to curate, to think sharply and zero in on the tasks that you select as important.
5. Your creativity can flourish.
Creativity on a high level is the expression of that energy running through us without obstruction. We say we are “blocked” when we can’t create freely. Clutter-clearing is a tool to get unblocked.
6. You’ll get allergy relief.
Stuff collects dust, chemicals, mites, bugs… even mold and other organisms in the worst-case scenarios.
7. You’ll be open to opportunity.
One much-reported effect of clutter clearing is finding money or greater opportunity, especially when you dig deep into de-cluttering your business emails, work space, office files and even your personal contacts.
8. You’ll get a self-esteem boost.
Clutter assaults our self-esteem daily with reminders of things we don’t need or want to see: the broken, worn-out, bad-memory stuff that can drag you down in subtle but actual ways.
9. You’ll have more energy and be happier!
When there’s nothing hovering in your environment — stuffed, piled or splayed out — to impede motion, you might feel lightness, exuberance and greater energy. I always do!
If you’re overdue for a clutter clearing, give it a go. Slowly and consistently, you can create a massive change in your space and your life. If you have some stuff piling up regularly (emails, mail, receipts, etc), you may want to consider a daily or weekly practice of clutter clearing. Even a few minutes of clearing space can do wonders for your life!
Clutter is a modern condition, and it deserves its place in feng shui today because where clutter exists, energy cannot flow. Clutter is an obstacle. Cluttered rooms leave you no room to grow and no space for the new to come into your life. Clutter blocks circulation. It makes you feel like you have no options. It kills motivation.
How excited are you to tackle your junk drawers and closets today?!
Now enter tips from Marie Kondo, the Supernanny of tidying. A cleaning consultant in Tokyo, she spends her days helping clients lighten their load —literally.
- Sort by category, not location.
To truly see what you have, you must gather every single item in a particular category in one place, then consider them all side by side.
- Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” Actually hold each item in your hands and consider it anew. Then ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it gives you a thrill as you hold it, keep it. But if it doesn’t, that’s all you need to know: throw it in the donate pile. Seriously, try this—it’s eerily accurate.
- Don’t downgrade clothes to loungewear. If you have clothes you know you’ll never wear outside, don’t let them pile up as loungewear. An old sweat-stained t-shirt can become a barrier to going out, because in order to do an errand or see a friend, you would have to change into something less embarrassing. So instead you would just stay home. Sound familiar?
- Recycle those piles of papers. Kondo’s rule of thumb for papers is “discard everything.” According to her, papers will never inspire joy. Old lecture materials? Recycle them—you got what you needed from the experience of attending the talk. Credit card statements? Check them for errant charges, then into the shredder they go. Kondo reveals that her clients who had the hardest time getting rid of papers were a lawyer couple. Their refrain: “What if this document is needed in court?” They finally got rid of almost all their papers, and guess what? They’re fine.
- Don’t keep gifts out of guilt. Admit it: you’ve gotten gifts you don’t like. The point of a gift is to express someone’s feelings. After the joy of the gift-giving moment is through, you can donate the gift without guilt; it has served its purpose.
- Recycle electronics packaging. As soon as you get your new cell phone or iPod out of its packaging, recycle both the box and the manual. You can always get answers to any questions online. All of Kondo’s clients have recycled these, and according to her, not one has ever been inconvenienced.
- Rid yourself of komono. This is the Japanese word for “miscellaneous items.” Spare buttons, unidentified cords, free novelty goods . . . the list goes on and on. Clear ’em out and make space for the things you truly love.
- Declutter photos and mementos. You don’t need to keep all those old birthday cards and blurry photos of European architecture. Kondo promises that if you take out each photo from your album and ask yourself if it inspires joy, you’ll end up with only about 5 photos per day of every trip. They will be the photos that best bring back the joy of that time. Let the rest go. Ditto with old birthday cards and love letters. Their time in the sun has passed. Repeat Kondo’s mantra: “Cherish who you are now.”
- Storage experts are hoarders. Beware focusing on clever storage solutions before you’ve gone through every item in your house. Many storage experts focus on stuffing as many things as they can into your closet, without stopping to examine whether they bring joy. Don’t make that fatal mistake.
Once you’ve gone through every item in your house, Kondo says to designate a spot for every single thing that’s left. This is her key to staying clutter-free forever. The result? A house full of items that bring you joy, each in its place.
Kondo’s promise is about more than just stuff. It’s about intentionality and mindfulness, with a sprinkling of Zen philosophy.
Learn more about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up here.