De-cluttering has become a major craze in the last few of years, with spin off businesses and experts to match. You might think that it is just a current fashion, but in fact the roots spread back for hundreds of years and run much deeper into philosophies and belief systems of ancient civilisations.
The concept of positive and negative energy was common to many early belief systems. The word chi means energy and the ancient Chinese study of Feng Shui is about optimizing the use and flow of energy within our daily lives. The Chinese believed that the Chi of the cosmos affects our feelings and moods, our fortunes and our health, whereas human chi defines our own personality. Blocked energies, internally or externally, make us unhappy, or unsuccessful. So living in place that has blocked energies around it or within it will affect our lives and our emotions.
Many ancient civilizations believed that working with nature was an essential to happiness. Native Indians were among many who studied both local landscape and astronomy to establish where they should site themselves. Feng Shui, too, strives for harmony between the earth, the universe and humanity to achieve to inner peace by optimizing energy flow. Buildings were sited and designed to work in harmony with both the earth and the universe. Astrology was extensively used originally in the initial planning stages and the first ever magnetic compass designed for these practices.
Feng Shui aims to balance the Yin and Yang (masculine and feminine energy), day and night, summer and winter. The five elements of fire, water, metal, earth and wood have to be in harmony and their juxtaposition affects how they well they work. The full, original study is a hugely complex philosophical system.
Internally, clutter has always been considered a dis-ordered state. There are sound, practical reasons: cleaning a messy house takes far more time than a tidy one. Living in chaos inevitably affects your efficiency levels as you hunt for whatever you need. But it is also generally harder to find peace, to feel relaxed in messy, chaotic spaces. This is because energy gets clogged up in clutter, even if the clutter is stored tidily, and this impacts negatively on every part of our lives.
You might think that we would all find getting rid of clutter to be a useful and maybe even appealing job therefore. Not so. While we are perfectly capable of organizing big clear outs of our possessions, when we attempt it, this simple task can feel mountainous. This is because clearing possessions is actually an emotional issue. When you hang on to a possession, you are hanging on to an emotion.
If you are wondering why you should bother, reflect that if you cling on too hard to the past you miss out on living the here and now. Check if you are making yourself a victim to this, by questioning how often you refer to the past, or go over and over things that have hurt you years ago, or if you use past experiences to justify your current state or behaviour. If the past makes you feel sad or angry, and you want a different life, you need to let go of the past and de-cluttering is a very good place to start.
De-cluttering guru and author, Marie Kondo attributes it to people being afraid that if they throw away an object, they are will lose the emotions and memories they attach to it, and that it is this that makes us feel so panicked when we attempt our own clear-outs. Kondo maintains that truly precious memories never die. Another issue is that we keep sentimental possessions because they meant so much to “Aunt Jane”. While Aunt Jane may have been important to us, the object itself means nothing to us. We may not have any use for it or even dislike it. As they spark no genuine positive emotion in us, having them drains our positive energy according to Kondo who advises passing them on to a new owner with our love.
Stephanie Bennett Vogt, of SpaceClear.com teaches a different approach, that clearing and de-cluttering is not about doing a deep, spring-clean type clear out, but an ongoing lifestyle and part of our personal development. She says that when we just throw things out we are seeking an instant reward of feeling better, and as with any instant gratification; the moment is fleeting. Any underlying issues behind our tendency to hoard remain undealt with like this.
She believes we obsess that we might need these objects one day, are frightened with the emotional overwhelm of letting go, afraid something awful will happen if we do and harbour beliefs that we will be a “bad” person if we get rid of certain things. She feels big clear outs can be too much and instead uses a mix of science and the Japanese self-improvement philosophy, Kaizen, to encourage clients to aim for a simpler way of living that gently observes and lets go of negativity.
Places, as well as possessions, retain the positive and negative energies of the people who live there. To complicate things, our modern devices, our computers, wireless, cell phones and some lighting all give out electromagnetic radiation which interferes with our energies. Energies in your living environment, both after de-cluttering and simply at regular intervals, benefit from space clearing, letting out the negative and in the positive.
These are some of my top tips for tackling the clutter in your life:
- Start with non-sentimental items. The Japanese way recommends you clear by category rather than by room and you work in the following order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff and then the sentimental items with photographs the last of all. The impetus of successfully clearing non-sentimental stuff will help inspire you to tackle the harder items. Try doing one of these groups at a time and celebrate when you have finished.
- Continually focus on what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of. It is then so much easier to see the difference in your own gut reaction.
- Take your time over your selection. Ground yourself firmly in the present and relate the items to your current life and the person you are today rather than the past
- Ask yourself if you absolutely love this thing, way up there ahead of most of the stuff you have. Touch it and ask if it really spark a huge joy and feeling of well-being in your heart. Make sure your love comes direct from your own authentic voice, not from some emotional complication from other people or occasions in your past.
- Don’t forget your computer and phone. Delete old emails, old files you no longer use, people you are no longer in contact with, shopping channels you no longer shop from. Technology is noisy enough – limit it.
- Ask if the item has a place where it lives all the time. If not, create one if you are sure you want to keep it. We all have this horrible habit of keeping sentimental items we think are awful, but “mean something”, tucked into drawers and cupboards. If it means that much, put it on show proudly and if not, say goodbye.
- Question the item’s function – does it make life easier or better for you.
- Check you are hanging on to something because it represents the true, authentic you, not someone you would like to believe you are or a person you would like to be. These types of things might be designer objects, impressive but unread books, unused exercise machines. Just be authentically you.
- Photographs are a big challenge because of the emotions. Stand back. Is there any sense in keeping blurred ones or ones that make your loved ones look particularly ugly? Keep your best memories alive and well instead.
- Make sure you give to charity as you clear out – just because these items have served their purpose with you does not mean they have no purpose for someone else now.
- Thank the items for their function before getting rid of them. By thanking the item, you acknowledge the respect and love that is associated from it to a person or memory in your life and lessens the guilt over parting.
- The more secure you are in your present, the less you will need possessions from the past. This is why de-cluttering does form part of your self-development, self-love and self-care.
- Like breaking all bad habits, it is a question of changing your ways on a daily basis in the future. Stop accumulation. When you buy something new, stop and consider getting rid of one or more of the things you have. Your possessions then keep decreasing.
- Keep daily discipline by keeping your house tidy, making your bed, washing your dishes, keeping your fridge, store cupboard and your medicine cupboard all cleaned out of items past their sell by dates. Feel the calm that radiates through you as a result.
- Most important, clear time for peace every single day, when social media (and your phone) is all switched off. Clear and quiet and natural energy.