Steps to Declutter Your Home
As the weather warms up, many of us have Spring Cleaning on the mind. Years ago, I read “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston. The book focuses not only on how to clear your home of physical excess, but also how to clear emotional and spiritual clutter. This is done through the ancient Chinese artform of feng shui, a technique which uses energy forces to create a feeling of harmony in one’s environment.
This idea completely changed the way I felt about decluttering. What was once a boring, often overwhelming chore became a spiritual journey. I found myself asking why I was getting rid of certain things. My goal shifted from how I wanted a room to look to how I wanted to feel when I came into it.
History of Feng Shui
There is evidence to support the use of feng shui principles as early as 4000 BC. Homes were constructed in certain locations thought to ensure health and increase prosperity. The earliest forms of feng shui relied on astronomy. The doors of homes in Banpo, for example, were painted with a replica of a group of stars called yingshi. This pattern signaled the home for increased solar gain after the long winter.
Ancient Chinese communities were also frequently aligned on a North-South axis, a direction believed to promote the flow of good energy. It is thought that builders originally used a tool called a gnomon, which is the part of a sundial which casts a shadow. We know that gnomon were frequently used to determine seasonal change, latitude, and orientation all over China. However, there are no firm examples to support their use specifically in feng shui.
The oldest surviving examples of instruments used especially for feng shui are the liuren astrolabes, dating back to 278 BC. Also called shi, the astrolabes consist of lacquered boards with astronomical sight lines.
In 206 BC, the magnetic compass was invented during the Han Dynasty for the purpose of refined and more accurate feng shui. It is no coincidence that the markings on the first compasses were virtually identical to those found on the shi astrolabes. The compass allowed for even more precise measurements for orientation, and it is still in use today by modern feng shui practitioners.
Feng Shui Today
Contemporary feng shui focuses on channeling positive energy, or qi, within a certain living space. The feng shui compass, or luopan, may be employed by a feng shui expert to determine the precise orientation of a room, building, or object. However, you do not need a compass to achieve good feng shui within a space.
The ultimate goal of feng shui, as it pertains to decor, is to create a sense of peace within the home. This is attained with various techniques incorporating colors, smells, and arrangement of furniture and objects to revitalize qi and balance the opposing forces of yin and yang.
How to Declutter for Spring Cleaning Using Feng Shui
Removing clutter from a home has its own benefits, but doing it in a manner that is thoughtful and spiritual can be almost meditative. Remember that in feng shui, it is not just about removing physical objects, but about removing emotional burdens as well.
To achieve good qi, you will need to declutter spaces that have the most meaning to you. You may want to focus on the following areas first.
Rooms you enter first when you come home
Returning home after a long day, you should be greeted with a room that makes you feel comforted, relaxed, and welcome. A room that is stuffy, dimly lit, or full of unnecessary clutter will have a negative impact on your emotional state.
It is very important in feng shui that your resting area be blocked from imbalance and bad qi. Sleep should be a time of peace and rejuvenation, and it will be needlessly disturbed by a room that is poorly arranged or too cluttered.
Rooms where you spend the most time
Again, you should look forward to being in your home, especially in areas where you spend much of your time. If your home office, studio, or other living area feels unwelcoming, consider the reasons why and look for solutions to repair the space.
How to Choose Objects to Throw Away
Decluttering is not always so simple as “getting rid of stuff.” Ultimately, you may have to get rid of things that have some meaning to you or that you feel strongly you might need later on. If you have difficulty in general throwing things away, use the following guidelines to help get you started.
Very simply, it is time to get rid of something if:
- You hate the way it looks
- It is broken and cannot be fixed
- It does not fit
- It exists only to remind you of something painful in your life
- It is used less than once per year
- It is a health hazard
Not everything needs to be thrown away, of course. Useful objects that are in good condition, like clothes or appliances, can be donated.
Simple Steps to Improve Feng Shui in a Room
In addition to clearing out any unnecessary clutter, you can take small but meaningful steps to channel good qi and increase harmony:
Slow Energy Flow With Area Rugs
Feng shui suggests that energy that is flowing too fast within a room should be slowed somehow. An example is when there is a direct line of sight between your front door and your back door. You want to hold on to that energy as long as possible. You can slow it down by placing a patterned area rug in between the doors or even adding a small table.
Draw Attention to Your Front Door
The front door is the main access point for all the positive energy within your home. Make sure it is well lit and accessible by all. If there is a wall visible when you open the front door, place a mirror over it with the intention of removing obstacles (like this wall) in your life.
Add Contemplative Artwork
According to feng shui, energy has a tendency to flow quickly upstairs if not slowed somehow. Encourage visitors to linger in the common area for some time by hanging thought-provoking artwork or interesting objects. Add a carpet runner to further slow the flow of energy upstairs.
Balance Your Elements
There are five elements in feng shui: earth, wood, fire, water, and metal. Ideally, these should be balanced, both physically and emotionally. If you find you have a lot of warm tones like red and orange, neutralize them with cooling metal accents. If you are craving comfort, add more wooden structures and earth tones. There is no science to it. Simply pay attention to the way you feel when you are in the room and add or subtract accordingly.
Optimize Natural Light
A dose of natural light can work wonders on the mood. Avoid heavy drapery and increase the illusion of space and light with mirrors. Mirrors are a feng shui staple for a reason: they are a simple but effective way to brighten and widen a space, while literally reflecting positive energy around the room.
The important thing to consider when hanging mirrors is choosing areas where they will reflect something pleasant. They should show a beautiful view, reflect additional light, or emphasize a particularly lovely part of a room.
Use Essential Oils
Scents are strongly related to good feng shui. Orange, for example, is a symbol of bright, energizing yang energy. Put a few drops of sweet orange essential oil into a diffuser to instantly uplift a room and attract positive qi. You can also keep a bowl of fresh oranges in the kitchen or on your coffee table (please peel and eat them!).
Other scents to try are jasmine for romance, lavender for relaxation, and eucalyptus for focus.
Feng Shui and Mid Century Modern Living
It is probably not a coincidence that I am drawn to feng shui. As a mid-century-modern aficionado, I am drawn to structures that create harmony with their natural surroundings. Natural light and access to the outdoors are central to the MLM aesthetic. Feng shui applies seamlessly to this notion of pace within one’s environment.
The beautiful thing about feng shui is that it is largely instinctive. The success of feng shui is ultimately determined by how one feels within a space. That means it is open to interpretation. Use your own intuition and perception to create a feeling of harmony and balance within your home.