By Manjul Bajaj
In feng shui terms, clutter is both a symptom and a cause of stuck energy. here are some deep-cleaning strategies from de-clutter experts that promise to brush away some cobwebs from your mind too
Strategies to de-clutter Shed the indifference: The first and foremost step in undertaking a de-cluttering project is to lose your tolerance for clutter and inspire yourself to be truly rid of it. Clutter saps your energy and erodes your spirit. Clutter makes it difficult to get things done, to enjoy peace, or spend time the way you really want to. It adds to your stress, slows you down and drains your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. Clutter is disempowering. In Feng Shui terms, clutter is both a symptom and a cause of stuck energy. The ripple effect: Don’t get bogged down by the magnitude of the task at hand or try and do everything all at once. Start by clearing out the spaces closest to you (e.g., the bedside table, the desk, one kitchen cabinet). As you begin to do that, you will notice a lightening up and a growing ability to take on other spaces gradually. The Potato Chip Principle: Just set a goal of clearing one item of clutter each day. Actually clutter follows the potato chip principle of “no one can stop at one “. Once you begin you’ll end up by clearing two, three, four or more items. The GO-GO Mantra: Once you’ve got your clutter under control, a good strategy for keeping it that way is to adopt the GO-GO mantra—Get One Give One Away. Whenever you acquire a new possession, decide to retire an old one. In this way you pre-empt stagnating energies and keep the good things flowing through your life.
Look Who’s Talking The precise places where clutter tends to accumulate in a home speaks volumes about the particular blockages of energy being experienced by its inhabitants. Here is a quick guide to the analysis of clutter by usage area: Kitchen: It represents the source of nourishment for the family. Thus a messy kitchen implies a neglect of proper nourishment at the physical and metaphysical level. Cleaning up and de-cluttering the kitchen opens up the space for receiving the support and comfort needed in life. Living and dining areas: These are the areas where interaction with the outside world takes place. If unkempt, they imply being closed to giving and receiving from friends and family. Cleaning up could clear the pathway to improving the relationship with the rest of the world. Hallways and corridors: These function as the arteries of the house, connecting the different aspects of the home together. Well-lit, unblocked corridors imply good communication between members as well as connectivity between different aspects of life. Disjointed relationships, a feeling of disconnection between work and family, etc. , might be addressed by ensuring a free flow of energy through the hallways of the house. Bathrooms: These are the spaces where time is spent alone, in tending to oneself. Cluttered bathrooms represent little time for honouring one’s own self and one’s own needs for renewal. A good cleaning up and beautifying the bathroom could give you a headstart if you’re stuck on issues of self-esteem. Bedrooms: These are for intimacy and sleeping. Clutter in the bedroom can be the cause of personal stress and tension in relationships. Closets: They represent things that are hidden or unrecognised. Stacked closets stifle intuition and insights. Cleaning them up can help solve problems (some you may not even be conscionsly aware of) that impede your progress in life, work and relationships. Lofts, attics and overhead storage: These create a sense of pressure, of things ‘looming over you’, or threatening to fall upon you. These may relate to ancestral issues or family prejudices. Basement or under the bed: Periodic cleaning of these will help you be in touch with your subconscious or issues swept under the carpet. Based on Clutter Free Forever by Stephanie Roberts, Lotus Pond Press, 2003
Diwali is a festival of new beginnings. The traditional run-up to the festival is rife with dusting, cleaning, whitewashing, sorting out and turning over of clothes and closets, and giving away of old things. It is believed that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, enters only clean and well-lit homes. An important aspect of the festival emphasises the theme of letting go of the old and ushering in the new. On Dhanteras, new kitchen utensils are bought for the home and on Bali Pratipada, tradesmen close old account books and start fresh ones. However, unfortunately, for many the ritual of Diwali cleaning has become devoid of any deeper meaning.
This Diwali as we embark upon our spring cleaning it may be worthwhile to turn our attention to the process of cleaning and re-investing the ritual with a new meaning. Help is at hand from a burgeoning tribe of clutter gurus, specialists who have zeroed in on this most basic aspect of Feng Shui, in itself a multifaceted subject.
What is clutter?
The word ‘clutter ‘ immediately conjures to mind untidiness, disorganised piles of paper or clothes and unsorted belongings. It is that, yes. But it is also much more. It refers to all those objects in our life that don’t contribute to it in any positive way. “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” advises William Morris.
Jami Lin, a renowned Feng Shui expert, gives a simple two-step procedure for identifying clutter—ask whether an object is functional and whether it is beautiful. If the answer to both is ‘no’, then it is clutter. Discard it or pass it onwards—it will help release old thought-patterns and emotions, opening the pathway for new energy to enter your life.
“Everything that surrounds you should be working for you in some way. If the things in your space are not supporting you and contributing to the positive quality of your life, it is time to do something about it!” says clutter guru Stephanie Roberts. Zen thought and art point out that emptying out our life is a prerequisite for filling it up swiftly with what we want.
Using the bagua
Hold it! Before you get that clutter out it could give you a few tips on those aspects of your life where the energies are likely to be stagnant or stuck. Feng Shui teaches us that our spaces reflect and affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. All homes and workspaces seem to have their own patterns of clutter, particularly stubborn corners or pieces of furniture— desk, sofa, or bed—which no sooner have you cleaned them up than they become the repository of a new onslaught of stuff lying upon them. Therefore it can be a fruitful exercise to examine the particular areas of clutter and untidiness within our space and to take a closer look at the corresponding aspects of our life.
This procedure will take about 20-25 minutes, but is well worth the effort spent in the rich insights it yields.
Step 1: Identify your personal space —the space where you spend the maximum time and which defines you. It could be your desk, your office, a bedroom, kitchen, sitting area or your entire home.
Step 2: Draw a rough floor map of the area, marking out spaces where clutter tends to accumulate— don’t forget the drawers, closets and lofts.
Step 3: Divide the area into nine equal squares.
Step 4: Superimpose the bagua, a basic Feng Shui tool of analysis, upon your clutter map. The nine areas in the bagua correspond to career/self, knowledge, mentors, family, health, children/ creativity, relationships/marriage, fame and wealth (see diagram on facing page). It can be used according to cardinal directions or if you are not clear about those then the centre of the side from where the entrance is, is taken as the career quadrant.
Step 5: Reflect on the results and see if the correspondences work. If they do you have an added incentive to get your cleaning going—you can expect its effects to spill over into vital aspects of your life.
Clutter also lends itself to analysis by the type of space use, such as dining room, kitchen, bathroom. “Each area of your home has a symbolic meaning with which you resonate on a subconscious level. Clutter within each of these areas causes constriction and inertia in the corresponding aspects of your life,” says Stephanie Roberts, author of Clutter Free Forever, and goes on to explain these connections (see box above).
The psychology of clutter
Author Ann Ku delves into the character traits which lead us into accumulating clutter. Indecisiveness and procrastination play a key role in the accumulation of clutter. Clutter builds up because as long as we have the space for it, we accumulate things that we have not actively decided what to do about.
“Clutter is a result of indecision about something you have acquired. When you obtain something, whether it’s free or not, you may decide to use it, keep it for later use, or get rid of it. If you don’t actively decide, chances are you will keep it, not use it, and leave it somewhere,” says Ann Ku.
People who are prone to clutter also find de-cluttering stressful because of the numerous decisions involved. Deciding what to do about clutter involves hard decisions such as to keep it or to get rid of it. If you keep it, where do you put it? If you get rid of it, how will you do it? Do you trash it, donate it, give to a friend, sell it, or dismantle it?
To get rid of something, you have to first let it go at the psychological level—saying goodbye to the memories it invokes and releasing the fear and regret that you might need it in the future. Only after this is done, will the decision of what to do with it become clear.
Clutter in another sense is also a responsibility issue—a child (or even an adult) who leaves his books or clothes lying around is simply not taking the responsibility for looking after those aspects of his life and feels that someone else should be taking care of them.
Wisdom—old and new
Once we understand that cleaning clears a pathway to personal well-being, authentic communication with others, and a connection to the natural flow of life, it becomes clear why traditional religious festivals like Diwali and Pongal lay such emphasis on it. Both the traditional and the New Age wisdom agree on the far-reaching spiritual and emotional impacts that a physical cleaning- up can have.
Among the plethora of personal growth techniques available, de-cluttering is particularly attractive in that it uses the mind-body-spirit connection in the opposite direction. While most practices focus on the cleansing of our sub-conscious minds to manifest more positive emotional and material outcomes in our lives, de-cluttering turns the connection upon its head. It offers a tangible, practical, physical cleaning out activity with the potential to cleanse out a few cobwebs in the mind and clean out a few spots on our millennia-worn, travel-soiled souls.
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