Around the House, New Year’s Resolution: Clutter Clearing with help from Feng Shui


Maybe Feng Shui is not at the top of your list for New Year’s Resolutions this year, but it can help get you motivated if one of your resolutions is to clean out your closets or streamline your kitchen….

While relatively unknown in this country fifteen years ago; Feng Shui has become so familiar that I counted no less than 37 books on the subject when I last browsed Borders’ interior design department. So, what exactly is Feng Shui and why has it so captured the popular imagination? After all, what does an ancient art, originally developed by Chinese farmers to insure a prosperous harvest, have to contribute to contemporary life?

Well, on a superficial level, Americans love a quick fix and Feng Shui promises to cure our ills by simply re-arranging our furniture and applying simple cures to get our “chi” moving in a positive way. “Chi” is best translated as “spiritual energy” or “life force.” Clutter is one of the primary culprits in compromising the free flow of chi in any space and, while I’m not promising any quick fixes for your problems, I will say that if you suffer from chronic “clutteritis,” clearing it out is a surefire way to get your energy moving!

Here is a simplified Feng Shui exercise that will help you get started:
1. Let me introduce you to the Feng Shui tool known as the Bagua. Basically, it’s an octagonal diagram: each facet of the octagon corresponds to an aspect of life. For our purposes we will refer to these aspects as Career, Helpful people, Creativity, Relationship, Reputation, Prosperity, Family, and Knowledge. The center of the octagon represents Health – when all the elements of the Bagua are in balance, health should be optimal!
2. Make a simple floor plan of your home. Don’t try for architectural drafting perfection but do your best to get the basic shape and proportions. If spatial relationships are not your strong point – ask a spouse or friend to help!
3. Superimpose the diagram of the Bagua over your floor plan – think of the Bagua as being somewhat elastic – it has to maintain the integrity of the octagon but it can stretch to fit over the shape of your plan. The career side of the Bagua is placed on the side of the home where the front door is located.
4. Okay, now you can see where the areas of your life as represented by the Bagua are located in your home. Since we are primarily addressing the issue of clutter – can you spot any areas where the clutter in your home corresponds to an aspect of your life that could use some positive energy? Start your clutter clearing here and see what happens in your life…..

Like most interior designers I tend to collect all sorts of things so I have to be very vigilant about not cluttering up my environment. Recently I reviewed my home using this exercise and I found that the house was in pretty good shape clutterwise except for one area – the “helpful people” area which happens to correspond to my husband’s office. A stagnation of chi in the helpful people area will manifest itself as a feeling of having to “go it alone” and it will also impede one’s ability to move or travel. True enough for my husband and myself – we both confessed to a sense of going it alone. We also have been looking for a new home with no success, and my husband especially has been planning a trip to Italy that never seems to get off the ground. My solution: I offered to help him clean up his office which immediately made both of us feel more connected, and, possibly as a by-product of this exercise(?) we ended up with not one but two financially subsidized trips during January: one to Mexico and one to the Caribbean! Maybe our trip to Italy and the big move are next – we haven’t yet finished cleaning up his office.

Feng Shui is a fascinating and complicated subject — this is just a brief taste of it; lots of free information is available on the internet and, specifically on the subject of clutter – two books that I like are “It’s Here Somewhere” by Alice Fulton and Pauline Hatch (this book is not about Feng Shui per se but has great ideas about how to declutter and rethink managing your household “stuff”) and “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston – well, the title says it all…
So, happy clutter clearing for 2006. After the clearing, reward yourself with the activity most dear to my heart – Decorating your home! My best wishes for a happy, healthy, clutter-free and beautiful New Year.

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About the Author: Barbara Sternau