Tag Archives: clutter

Ideas of Order

Recently the title on a magazine jumped out at me: Ideas of Order. As a Feng Shui consultant, I have taught classes on addressing clutter and have assisted clients in addressing their clutter concerns; I resonated to this title as the flip side of the same coin. I can’t begin to count the number of times my clients, friends, and myself, have said, “I need to get my house (or my life) in order.” The assumption in that statement: something is getting in the way of my progress; I feel stuck! Physical disarray, unfinished projects or negative self-talk all qualify as clutter – or disorder.

42380928 - clutter word cloudI have learned a lot about clutter since I began my Feng Shui studies 20 years ago. My Karen Kingston book, “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” has become worn with repeated reading, but I am yet to be as clutter free as I envision myself being. Actually, what I have learned is that “clutter free” is not the goal. Certainly, even suggesting it as a goal has struck fear into the hearts of many good people who know themselves well enough to understand that “clutter free” will never happen for them in this lifetime! Nor do I think it is a realistic expectation in our culture. Rather, I believe the goal is first to become aware of what constitutes clutter for each of us individually and then to determine how best to manage it so that it doesn’t manage us. Or, perhaps, the flip side of the question is not what is your idea of clutter, but what is your idea of order? They’re really the same question, in a sense, but the word “order” doesn’t seem to be as laden with guilt as the word “clutter.” There are many who are ashamed of their cluttered homes or ashamed they can’t seem to get those cluttered areas under control – and that is very personal to each individual!  On the other hand, the idea of “order” in our lives can also seem like an unreachable goal!

In her book, Karen Kingston identifies 4 categories of clutter:

  1. Things you do not use or love
  1. Things that are untidy or disorganized
  1. Too many things in too small a space
  1. Anything unfinished

Clutter in a space is a big deal in Feng Shui practice because it represents stagnant and/or limiting energy. Feng Shui promotes creating spaces that allow free movement (being in the flow) and free thought process, without added stress and confusion.

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
Author Unknown

So I was drawn to the title “Ideas of Order” as a question to ask myself: what are my ideas of what constitutes order? Like the question: “What constitutes clutter?” both will get as many different responses as there are people responding.  The magazine, an issue of California Closets, a company in the business of helping people organize and decrease clutter, has an excellent article on this issue by Claudia Dowling entitled, Tidying Up.

Dowling addresses what appears to be our unstoppable quest for order in theClutter02 universe, suggesting this desire to create order, or predictability, in our lives is an attempt to combat the exhaustion that comes from the myriad of decisions we are forced to make on a daily basis! I think most of us agree our attempts to stay in control of life is exhausting! So, we can start with our homes, one area where we do have control! Claudia is speaking Feng Shui language. In fact, there are a number of excellent articles in this issue that speak Feng Shui language. They just might inspire you to clean out your closet, a cupboard or even your purse! Never underestimate the power of one tiny step forward!

“I’ve been getting rid of some clutter —
anything that doesn’t serve a positive purpose in my life —
and making room for things that feel happy to me.
Because I get to make my life whatever I want it to be.
I get to make the room feel however I want it to feel.
I get to make the closet as full or as spacious as I want it.
Jan Denise


Kitchen Clutter

Kitchen clutter can consist of an assortment of unused or underused cooking pots, cracked china or the “collection” drawer of miscellaneous items. It can also be underused recipe boxes. Does anyone use recipe boxes anymore? The internet provides an unlimited source of recipes for everything from acorn squash with raspberry stuffing to ziti baked with shrimp and feta cheese, all but eliminating the need for the once ubiquitous recipe box.

BoxI received my very first recipe box at a kitchen shower prior to my wedding, and each guest gave me a copy of their favorite recipe with an ingredient from it. It was a great beginning to my learning to cook. I added recipes from my Mom. Through the years, more recipes were exchanged among friends who wrote them out on specially decorated recipe cards. As my cooking expertise grew, so did my recipe cards and boxes. I organized the boxes in categories. My main recipe box is atypical in that it is long and rectangular in shape and can hold about three regular size boxes of recipes. I recall how thrilled I was when I found it. It was catagorized for beverages, breads, brunches, casseroles, fish and seafood, meats, salads, soups and sauces and vegetables. Another box holds my recipes for cakes, pies, cookies and desserts in general. A third is for summer beverages and desserts; another specifically for holiday dishes and one for appetizers. You get the picture. Additionally, the beginning of an extensive cookbook collection ensued.Those were the days when I prepared all of our meals; going out to dinner was a once or twice a month special occasion. We had friends to dinner; they had us to dinner; we did not meet for dinner.

My younger daughter has lived out of state for many years. Prior to each visit home, she always asked me to make certain favorite dishes from her childhood. This became a welcome ritual. I went to my recipe boxes, found the requested recipes, made my grocery list of the necessary ingredients and then began the preparation. There was a rhythm to it and a thread of connection from the past.

Times have changed, as has the way we think about and prepare food. While I use more varied and complex ingredients, my food preparation is increasingly simple and straightforward. We more frequently meet friends for dinner than we have them for dinner. I’ve gotten rid of most of my cookbooks; they became unused clutter. My recipe boxes look quaint and outdated, as do most of the recipes they contain.

54779345 - family who eats roasted meatPeriodically, I take out those recipe boxes, usually my daughter’s visit is an impetus, and debate about whether or not I should classify them as unused clutter to be discarded. The reality is, neither I nor my daughters will ever prepare 95% of the recipes they contain.They are of a different time when butter, sugar, lard, salt and canned soups were staples. But they also represent a time when families actually sat down to meals together and traditional family dishes were eagerly anticipated.

Those recipes are hand-written, many of them in the handwriting of my mother and friends of our Cardfamily who have long since passed. I love the memories their recipes and the residual energy of their handwriting immediately bring to mind. Even my own handwriting has changed over the years and looking at it also reminds me of a different time.

Each time I take those recipe boxes out, I come to the same conclusion: they don’t represent clutter to me, they are cherished memory boxes. My daughters will decide what to do with them when the time comes, but in the meantime, they remain lovingly stored in my kitchen.

Revitalizing My Garden

As my body was regenerating, I set about revitalizing my garden.

It had been neglected for a year because of my injury. Now, looking at my garden anew this spring, I felt overwhelmed and discouraged by the weeds and overgrowth that had taken advantage of my forced neglect.

14256875 - dried plantsI was staring at clutter! In Feng Shui, clutter is regarded as stuck energy. Things that aren’t removed in a timely fashion and continue to accumulate are considered clutter. Think of the kitchen junk drawer, that spare bedroom or the basement – all potential clutter magnets. And the same can happen in our outdoor spaces: uncleaned flowerpots or plants that are either over-grown or situated in the wrong place, for example! Yikes! You just want to close the door, shut it out, and make it all go away! It is energy draining! And that is exactly what I was feeling as I surveyed my garden!

I had to take a deep breath and do as I suggest to my Feng Shui clients, start small! I began with afaerie-house
small section of my garden and worked there until it was cleaned up and cleared out. I didn’t allow myself to become distracted by other areas calling my attention. Slowly but surely, week-by-week, I restored some sense of order by clearing out overgrowth and digging out weeds. Each week, after diligent and hard work in the garden, which also was physically challenging my body, I rewarded myself with day trips to favorite garden shops. I revitalized my garden with new plantings. I was healing my garden as my garden was healing me.

The following words, author unknown, were shared with me by another dear friend, who also has a passion for gardening. She knew I would resonate to these words, as had she.

flowerEndlessly surprising, forever in flux, the garden is an antidote to complacency. As if for the first time, we enter the green rooms of our own making, not knowing exactly what we’ll find each day. That little jolt of pleasure at the threshold is like the shock of falling in love over and over with the same person.

 The garden is a refuge, but not quite a safe haven. It is a breathing thing, and can change overnight. Between one visit and the next, a favorite perch might become carpeted with moss, a tree might be deflowered by a sudden storm, or a spider’s web might appear between two posts like a fairy tale gossamer gate that must not be defiled. We are only guests, after all …58603579 - spider web with colorful background, nature series


Making a Place for Creativity

I received a message from a Feng Shui colleague who was preparing a talk on “Making a Place for Creativity.” She contacted several of her Feng Shui friends for suggestions on how each of us makes a place for creativity in our lives and in our work. It is an interesting and thought-provoking question.

Creativity is regarded as our ability to view things in new ways to allow for the formation of new possibilities. And, while the responses to her question varied, several themes emerged.

MeditateMeditation was an important component to several responders, one of whom stated, “Meditation is
a way to find my place and access my creativity.” She is definitely on to something. Research suggests by engaging in a particular meditation practice we are able to cultivate new and more positive ways of thinking.

One person finds that being in large groups of like-minded people stimulates her creativity. It suggests a form of brainstorming that encourages an informal approach to thinking outside the box.

Dancing is another person’s way to make a space for creativity. Dance is a therapeutic outlet that releases endorphins in the brain, causing the dancer to experience happiness. Dancing has beenJoy found to help improve problem-solving skills and Improvisational dance can help with divergent & creative thinking. So if you want to access your creativity, dance as if no one is watching!

“Learning something new raises my vibration” was another response. It appears new learning allows for exploration of new ways of thinking.

It’s no surprise that several responses mentioned the importance of simplifying and decluttering to access a place for creativity. Addressing the presence of clutter is a critical aspect of the practice of Feng Shui. This practice evaluates and provides recommendations for arranging home and work environments to enhance the quality of life of all the inhabitants. Feng Shui is based on the understanding we are profoundly affected by our surroundings, whether we are aware of it or not. And one of the more negative affects on our overall well-being is clutter.

ClutterClutter is considered a crowded, untidy collection of things. According to Karen Kingston, those “things” generally include four main categories: things we do not use or love; things that are untidy or disorganized; too many things in too small a space and/or anything unfinished. Resonate to any of these? Yes, me too. Clutter anywhere in your home and/or work area can overwhelm, sap energy and block creativity. A cluttered horizontal surface (think desk or dresser or kitchen counter top), hampers clear vision and innovation.

The Bagua is the Feng Shui energy map that identifies our nine life areas: Career, Knowledge, Family, Wealth, Fame/Reputation, Partnership, Children/Creativity, Helpful People/Travel and, in the very center of your home or office, Health. Clutter in any of these areas can block that sector of your life, however, two sectors particularly support creativity – the Creativity and Health areas.

If the Creativity sector is cluttered, you are likely to experience blocks in your inspiration and struggle in bringing projects to fruition. Clutter in the Health or center of your space can have damaging health consequences and your life can lack a meaningful focus.

While the process of creativity often leads to messiness, it is important to try and devise a supportive balance that allows for originality but doesn’t stymie it.

Gardening was my response to making a place for creativity. For me, it is an immersion in inspiration and incorporates all the above-mentioned themes.

It is my place for meditation. When I work in the garden, my mind is free from any distraction other Patiothan the sounds of nature and the feel of the soil on my hands and beneath my feet. The creativity that comes from discussing gardening with other gardeners is unlike any other group I’ve experienced. Of course there is always something new to learn as I play with color, texture shape and scent. Keeping weeds and over-growth from cluttering the garden is an ongoing activity. And the dance is ever present, both as I physically move back and forth within the garden, and from the gentle movement of the dancing flowers and leaves in a gentle wind.

Planning my garden, working in it and just enjoying looking at it, helps me access my creativity and that inspiration spills over into all I do. It definitely makes me happy! And happy chi produces creative chi!

Sound and Noise

Sound, a form of energy like electricity and light, is relevant to our lives. Noise, defined as unwanted sound, is irrelevant. I found myself reflecting on the distinctions between sound and noise, and their effects on us, following a recent social gathering of friends.

BowlsOur hostess has a lovely room in her home dedicated to healing using singing bowls and, this particular evening, she invited us to participate in a singing bowl ceremony. We eagerly accepted this spontaneous invitation! It was powerful and bonding as, one by one, we each lay on a massage table, encouraged to relax in order to receive the pure resonating tones of the bowls and the gentle, rhythmic chanting of everyone’s voice. Those sounds permeated every cell, allowing luxurious relaxation. Each “healing” lasted for less than 10 minutes, but the effects were deep and moving.

What a gift! How often do we allow ourselves the time to totally relax our minds and bodies and grant our auditory system the opportunity to be flooded with calming and pleasing sounds? It was a rare gift of a lovely respite from the unnatural and discordant noises that constantly bombard our environment.

We’re conditioned to expect incessant music on elevators and while “on hold” for a business call.noise2 We take for granted the “music” in restaurants which, rather than providing a calming background for dining, competes with the personal connection of conversation. We have become numb to constant environmental noise: television, electronic noise, airplane noise, leaf blowers, construction sites, dogs barking, the washing machine and on and on. All the while believing we are successfully “tuning out” the din as we go about our daily lives.

“The idea that people get used to noise is a myth,” the Environmental Protection Agency has reported. “Even when we think we have become accustomed to noise, biological changes still take place inside us.”

Sadly, we’re so used to the “noises” of the world around us, we’ve forgotten how to listen to our own inner voice and the inner rhythms of our body. Noise clutter, like any other clutter, creates stress, consciously or not.

In the July–August 2002 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health, a team of government and university researchers concluded that exposure to noise “acts as a stressor—activating physiological mechanisms that over time can produce adverse health effects. Although all the effects and mechanisms are not elucidated, noise may elevate systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, thus producing both acute and chronic health effects.” 

Begin to consciously notice the “noise” in your environment. You’ll be surprised at how much is there that you are tuning out.  Clear away as much as you have control over. Stay in the quiet for as long as you can and observe your body’s response. Similar to the response to an empty space after clearing away clutter, there may be a brief period of disorientation and, perhaps, a subtle stress in response to the “emptiness.”  But that emptiness allows our bodies and minds—as well as our spaces—to readjust to a new level of calm.

“When I say I love the silence, I’m not being entirely truthful. What I actually love are the abundant, delicate sounds that amplify when I’m silent. These curious creaks, mutters, and hums compel my imagination.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

Gradually reset the sound in your immediate environment by listening to beautiful music, the sounds of nature, ringing a small bell or playing a singing bowl. The effects are calming to our mind, body and spirit. It’s a beautiful gift, like the one our friend gave us that recent evening. And it’s a gift we can give ourselves over and over. quartz

“Like color, every SOUND is composed of many different frequencies and can be used to clear, balance and refresh the field in which you found yourself, or on which you are working.”                 Elaine Seiler


The Drawer of Life

I received a call from a potential client who attended one of my classes several years prior. So as not to lose my contact information, she placed it in her “Drawer of Life.”  She had been waiting for the right time to call me and it was now. Wait, she placed my information in her what?

She went on to explain that she has a special drawer in which she keeps information about things that she wants to do, topics she wants to learn about and changes she wants to make. She is both sensitive to what or who shows up in her life and realistic about her ability to respond to them, given her busy schedule. So she places notes to herself, articles, contact information etc. in her “Drawer of Life.” She goes to this drawer when “called” to do so and pays attention to what speaks to her when the drawer is opened.  Her agreement with herself is to act on it. Feng Shui called to her on that particular day and she phoned me. Needless to say, I was quite humbled and honored to learn I was in someone’s “Drawer of Life.”

Messy02I’ve since been reflecting about that drawer. Most of us, I suspect, have a similar drawer filled with things – unidentified keys, newspaper clippings, broken jewelry, miscellaneous odds and ends, you name it – stuff we, for some reason, are unable to let go of. We refer to it as our clutter drawer. And it is, in a way, a drawer of our life. A clutter drawer, however, requires no action; it can be easily dismissed, closed with a shrug and ignored. But, what if you intentionally cleared out that drawer and designated it your “Intention Drawer,” your own personal “Drawer of Life?”

House01It’s not unlike naming your car or your plants or your home. Naming something makes it more personal and something more personal requires a different kind of attention. There is an immediate energy shift. One of my Feng Shui colleagues named her home “Joy.” She and her family are always coming home to Joy. When a family member returns home after a difficult day, Joy greets them! You can imagine the positive effect that has on the family as well as every visitor to their home!

Many of us have so many things we want to do – both big and small. Take a class, finish a project, clean out a closet, learn a new language, paint a room – pursue, complete, shift, change, clear! What if we, like my client, placed representational reminders in an Intention Drawer: a class brochure, the review of a new restaurant to try, a paint sample, a special business card, the picture of a kitchen remodel. And then created an Intention Drawer “opening ceremony” once a month, on our birthday, every Tuesday, or what ever seems realistic. The discipline is that the act of opening it would require immediate action on one of the items inside. As our life path changes, some of the contents might be up for periodic review to determine if they remain viable intentions or not. Discarding as appropriate helps to prevent a clutter risk.

I have also given thought to what my Intention Drawer, might hold. Certainly Drawerthere is my intention to resume a regular exercise routine so it would hold my Snap membership card. I would include the names of books I want to read and some favorite meditation CDs I would like to get in the habit of listening to on a regular basis. A travel brochure to Bali would surely be tucked in. The names of people I’ve lost touch with and desire to contact would be there. Opening the drawer with the specific intention of activating any one of these items would have a dramatic impact on my life.

In Feng Shui, we are accustomed to creating ceremony around selecting and infusing a physical item to hold a specific intention – a promotion, a life partner, optimal health, increased financial gain. How intriguing to consider a holding place for future intentions and ceremoniously opening that designated holding place with the purpose of activating one of the intentions tucked inside. In our busy lives, intentions can easily be forgotten along the way. The idea of creating a “Drawer of Life” was one woman’s brilliant way of making sure that didn’t happen.Wordl02