Home is where the heart is. It’s also where our stuff is—you know, all the stuff we think we need plus some stuff we probably don’t. But our home should be more than a storage facility for our belongings—ideally, it’s our refuge, our sanctuary, our place in the world. Home is where we sleep, eat, connect with family and friends, and recharge our batteries.
Our home needs to support us so that when we walk through the door at the end of a long day, we feel our spirits lift. If we’re faced with stacks of unopened mail, piles of old magazines, and corners stuffed with unused objects, however, it’s hard for our spirits to do anything but sag.
Clutter Equals Chaos
“Every object you own or that is in your environment is having an effect on you, whether you realize it or not,” explains Katie Rogers, a feng shui consultant based in Los Angeles. “These objects can either lift your energy or bring it down.”
How we organize those objects affects how we feel and how smoothly we function. Clutter is defined as a disorderly mess—but it’s so much more than that. Professional organizers and feng shui consultants see clutter as an unnecessary emotional drain on our time and energy.
Think about it: if you arrive home from work ravenous and ready to prepare dinner only to find a kitchen full of dirty dishes and a table piled high with paperwork, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and tired because you now have several tasks you must perform before you can make dinner. The delayed dinner results in a family of hungry, tired, grumpy people. The clutter has robbed you of precious time and energy.
In other words, chaos begets chaos. That pile of stuff blocks your path forward, literally and figuratively.
Seeing the Symbolism
The chaos in your home may represent an internal sense of chaos and disharmony. “If your home is cluttered, the objects in it aren’t being honored,” Rogers explains. “That represents a part of yourself you’re not honoring; therefore, it can deplete your energy.”
Rogers recounts the story of a family who kept a huge, jumbled pile of shoes right inside the front door. “Think about how much energy it takes to dig through that pile and find two matching shoes to slip on and go out into the world,” she exclaims. “Who wants to go out into the world when it takes that much energy to do it?”
That kind of disorder consistently depletes our energy, which in turn can lead to physical, mental, and emotional health problems. In contrast, an orderly environment serves to support us and boost our energy.
Clearing the Clutter
According to Rogers, the single most important thing we can do to improve our home space is to declutter and organize. This is sometimes easier said than done. We form emotional attachments to objects, and it can be hard to let go. There is no doubt that clutter clearing can be overwhelming and emotional. But Rogers insists that you’ll see immediate results.
Clutter clearing is a two-part process. First you have to clear the clutter; then you have to impose order on what remains. But how do you know what qualifies as clutter? Rogers says clutter refers to any object that takes up space in our environment but that we are not using. “It’s distracting you and not allowing you to be in the present,” she insists.
She suggests starting small—maybe with one room or one closet—and asking yourself three questions with each object: Do I love it? Do I use it? Does it raise my energy? If you answer yes to two of these questions, keep it. If not, toss it.
“It’s about getting really honest with yourself about why you’re keeping something around,” Rogers explains.
She says getting rid of things gets the energy moving in a positive direction. You can sell things or give them away. Either way you create a flow of energy.
It’s hard to find mental clarity in an atmosphere that is in disarray. Once you’ve purged unnecessary objects from your home, you’ll still need to impose some sort of organizational system that works for you.
It’s important to create a system that is easy to follow and that supports you. Your mom was onto something when she said, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Every object needs a home. If the scissors live in the drawer next to the telephone, you’ll never waste time and energy searching for them.
Rogers favors a system that divides objects into priority 1, 2, and 3 categories (see sidebar). It is a simple, straightforward system that doesn’t allow for extra clutter. She jokes, “If you’re asking where the priority 4 area is, that object probably needs to find a new home.”
Imposing order on your environment will provide a sense of relief, Rogers says. “When your mind is not pulled in so many different directions, you will see things more clearly because you’re not muddled down.”
In other words, your orderly home will impose a sense of internal order as well. Your clean house will reflect your calm spirit.
Keep or Toss?
When you’re discerning what to keep, ask yourself:
1 Do I love it?
2 Do I use it?
3 Does it raise my energy?
If you answer yes to at least two of these questions, keep the item. If not, find it a new home—you’ll be serving yourself and someone else!
Find a system that works for you and use it. Rogers recommends a tried-and-true method that embraces one essential rule: Every object needs a home. Each object will fall into one of three categories:
Priority 1: Items you use frequently and need within arm’s reach (on the counter).
Priority 2: Items that are easy to get to but are not in plain sight (in a cabinet).
Priority 3: Items that are not easily accessible because you need them so infrequently (stored away).
Only you can decide how to categorize your stuff. If you are a committed coffee-hound and you make yourself an elaborate latte every morning, that espresso machine is a priority 1 item and needs to live on the counter; if you make lattes only during the occasional dinner party, however, the espresso machine is a priority 2 item and needs to find a home in a cabinet where you can access it when you need it.
Live in Seattle? Place that priority 1 umbrella near the front door. Live in Phoenix? Stash the priority 2 umbrella in a closet.
Boxes full of old tax returns? Priority 3—stack them neatly in a garage or storage area.
Ski equipment? Priority 2 in the winter, priority 3 in the summer.
Katie Rogers Feng Shui
Karen Kingston: The Feng Shui Art of Space Clearing