Clutter & Organizing
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Mon Jan 21 2019 |
I thought I could get away with ignoring Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up
show on Netflix, but so many of you are asking my opinion, I had to post something.
Yes, I watched some of her show, and yes, I offer her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
in the mindfulness bookstore
on my website
. I believe that anyone who is helping us clean up and clear out is doing a service. And, it’s hard to find fault with Marie Kondo’s nonstop cheerfulness.
On her new show, Kondo helps people decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) and what to toss (things that don’t spark anything). I’m good with that.
But, one of the controversies surrounding the show is her idea that you should keep only 30 books.
I’ve been a Feng Shui practitioner for 20 years, and whenever I start talking about downsizing a book collection I get dirty looks and that arms-folded-across-the-chest body language that tells me to back off. I know it's hard to get rid of books. When I made a cross-country move 15 years ago, I donated an oversized shopping cart’s worth of them to the local library, and it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. Most of us have limited storage space in the best of situations and we need it for things in addition to books.
Sorry Marie, as often as I advise people to cull their book collection, I would never tell anyone to limit their books to any specific number. The books we choose to display are the ultimate reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going.
That means you have my Feng Shui permission to display books - as long as you can answer yes
to all of these questions:
1. Do the books still have meaning for you?
2. Will you read them again?
That includes that dog-eared, stained, yellowed copy of The Catcher in the Rye.
3. Will you display them artfully?
That means interspersing your books with objects that have equally-important meaning. No haphazard, tossed-in-a pile arrangements allowed.
4. Do you promise to remove one book every time you add one new book?
(Yes, sometimes the Feng Shui Maven’s advice can be tough love.)
5. Do you promise to dust them – regularly?
Hopefully, this will let you keep your special books, and at the same time keep Marie Kondo (and me) satisfied. Always remember my Feng Shui mantra: Nothing new flows into your life until you make room for it.
Need help in deciding which books get to stay, and which must go?
Here are four ideas from Unclutterer.com
1. Evacuate your home.
Pretend you’ve been ordered to evacuate. You can take only the books that fit into three small moving boxes, and you only have 30 minutes to choose. When you're done, all the books that are not in the boxes are considered negotiable.
2. Practice worst-case scenario.
What's the worst possible thing that could happen if you got rid of a specific book? Would you lose important information you couldn't find elsewhere? Would you lose a part of your family heritage? If so, the book is a keeper. Everything else that you could find in a library or on the Internet is negotiable. If the book is needed for an active project, it's a keeper for now. Once the project is complete, the book becomes eligible for elimination.
3. Play book custodian.
Are you looking after the books as if you were a librarian? Are you able to keep up with repairs any books might need? Are your books organized in a way that you can find exactly what you need when you need it?
4. Make it a game.
Have a friend pull a book off the shelf and tell you one significant detail, like the title or author. You have to tell your friend all about the book. For fiction, you have to provide a brief plot summary. For non-fiction, you must give facts from the book. If you can't provide details, it’s time to let go of the book. If you haven't read it yet, your friend puts it in a "to read" pile and comes back in a month. If you haven't read the book by then, out it goes.
Tue Sep 19 2017 |
What the feng am I going to do with all this shui?
The Big Purge
starts every September when I clear out my red client folders
. When I started practicing almost 20 years ago, I "opened" a red folder for each client. Red is the powerful Fire Element that represents wealth, passion, and power, and it felt good to wish these attributes for my clients even before I met them. I long ago began tracking client information electronically, but I continue to create folders for new clients. I do purge older folders annually, wishing each client continued happiness.
This year after clearing my files, I moved on to my two office closets, and that's where the purge became really BIG. my husband and I had been talking about downsizing, so with the cleared-out file drawer and office closets as role models, we started clearing everywhere. Even the dreaded garage. We tackled the inner recesses of the closets, we cleaned the corners of drawers, we attacked the cabinet above the fridge and below the microwave where we stashed all the "stuff" we long ago stopped using. I bought those slim line hangers and organized my closets. Yes, I actually bought hangers.
We held a yard sale, the first in 14 years (and the last if I have anything to say about it). We were in a constant state of exhaustion from all the bags we took to Goodwill and the consignment shop, and the heavy recycling cans we dragged out to the trash.
In the midst of our purge we were overwhelmed with the news reports of all the natural disasters throughout the country. It's hard to watch the upheaval of families caused by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods without thinking about what you would take if you had to evacuate.
Our Santa Fe home is surrounded by mountains, so when we first moved here I put together a Wildfire Evacuation List. I hadn't thought about it in years but found it during the big purge. Some things on it were good reminders, like safe deposit key and laptop chargers, but some were so frivolous I was embarrassed they were on the list, particularly one specific brown suede purse. Some were bigger than I would ever bother to take in an emergency, especially a blue glass vase we bought in Seattle, and some were outdated, like "files on the futon in guest room." Huh? The futon has been gone for years, and was it ever a permanent storage place for our most critical files? Then, there was the mysterious "white disk in bedroom." OK, not a clue what that ever was. I threw out the list, with a vow that the new one will be more realistic and practical.
Some members of our family did have to evacuate during the Florida hurricane. We're grateful they and their homes are all safe. Once things settle down it will be interesting to talk with them about what essentials - and what treasurers - they packed into their cars before they left home, not knowing whether they would ever see their houses again.
I always tell my clients to surround themselves with things that they love, and to get rid of things that they don't like, don't need, or don't use. For me, the timing of the monstrous hurricanes in the middle of my big purge was a wake-up call. How much stuff do we really need to achieve happiness and joy? Email
your thoughts and I'll share them in a future post.
Wed Mar 08 2017 |
I couldn’t take it any longer so I finally cleaned the garage. Like so many houses I consult in, ours has the garage in the “Helpful People” area. That means it relates to clients and mentors and people who support us. And that area of our lives needed some TLC.
The tracks of brown road sand that we dragged in the last time it snowed were driving me especially crazy (car pun intended here). We only got a dusting of snow, but a sandstorm of grit came in with the car and wasn’t going anywhere on its own.
I did the usual things first: I broke down the cardboard boxes and took them out to the recycling can; I straightened the top of the work bench; I made sure the cleaning products were separate from the canned food. I keep a few boxes of my book
in the Wealth Area
of the garage, so I replenished that supply. But mainly, I swept everything clean. And I swept the dirt out toward the door, not in toward the house, so any negative energy went out and away. I kept at it until I could actually see the floor again. The result? I hate to sound smug, but my book orders increased, my husband’s outstanding contracts were finally signed, I scheduled a bunch of clients. In general, things felt back on track.
In Feng Shui, an attached garage needs to be treated the same as any other room in the home. Often when I show up for a consultation, my client tries to change the subject when we get to the garage. More than one has tried to block my access to their “dumping ground.”
I recommend decorating a garage according to the bagua areas, because for many of us it's the first “room” we enter when we return home. We have a collection of humorous and inspirational art pieces in the Wealth Area of our garage, including some of my "shoe" posters.
Here are a few suggestions to organize your garage according to Feng Shui principles:
• Empty everything out of the garage.
• Look inside each box or storage tub and pull out the contents so you won’t be surprised later. Label the containers.
• Give the garage a good sweeping - out toward the garage door rather than in toward the house.
• Look at your empty garage and decide in which areas you will store your items according to how you use them, such as gardening items, sports equipment, tools, etc. Be sure to think vertically as well as horizontally, since the idea is to create as much floor space as possible.
• Pick up each object and decide if you are keeping it. If you are, place it in the appropriate location.
• If you decide you no longer need an item, sort it into one of three piles: donate, sell, or toss. Keep sorting until everything has found a home.
• Take the “toss” pile out to the trash, load the “donate” pile into the trunk of your car so you won’t forget to take it to your favorite donation site the next day, and go online and list the items you plan to sell on online auction sites.
• Think about whether you really need that old refrigerator in your garage since it could be running up your energy bills.
• Hang artwork in your garage, especially bright and sunny images, or a bulletin board near the door to the house displaying family photos, jokes, and inspirational quotes. This will make you feel even more "at home" as soon as you get out of your car.
Mon Feb 08 2016 |
Chinese New Year 2016
begins on February 8, and "in with the old and out with the new," is the guiding principle In Chinese households to welcome the Lunar New Year. But you don't have to be Chinese - or even celebrate Chinese New Year - to practice some of this wise advice for cleaning and clearing in anticipation of any special day.
Here are a few of my favorite Feng Shui tips for clearing out old, stale chi to make room for new, fresher energy to find you:
1. Clear the Slate.
Reconcile with friends, family, and colleagues and settle any pre-existing disagreements.
2. Clean Thoroughly.
Dirt, dust, and trash represent negative chi, so give your home and office a thorough cleaning, and remove items that you no longer need or want. Remember to sweep toward the door rather than into the room.
3. Pay Debts.
Pay off any debts before the arrival of the New Year so you can start fresh with no payments hanging over your head.
4. Buy New Clothes.
It's customary to buy new clothes and shoes, preferably something in red, the auspicious Fire Element color that attracts positive chi.
5 Decorate with Flowers.
Decorate your home and office with fresh flowers and plants, especially narcissus, azalea, orchids, or lucky bamboo. You can read about choosing specific flowers for their symbolism in my blog "Feng Shui and the Language of Flowers"
On the eve of the holiday, offer thanks to higher beings and ancestors for past good fortunes, and ask for their blessings for the coming year. Then, on the actual day of the holiday, be sure to open your front door to actively welcome in positive energy.
About the Year of the Monkey 2016...
The two prominent Feng Shui Elements for the Year of the Monkey are Fire and Metal
. Read my blog "Swing into the Year of the Monkey"
for a look at what some Asian Feng Shui masters are predicting, and my article "Predictions for the Year of the Monkey," for a peek at what your Chinese Zodiac sign can anticipate.
But, please keep in mind: These are only predictions from Chinese masters, but ultimately you have control over your actions and power over the kind of year you will experience.
Sun Jan 10 2016 |
The tip in my January Feng Shui To The Rescue newsletter
to “move 27 things”
to make room for good things to find you in 2016 hit the right note, because I’ve been receiving the most heartfelt messages from people who took this advice and achieved quick results. This is my standard New Year’s Day tip, and every year I include the reminder that you don’t have to go overboard and only need to move 27 things.
Why 27 things?
The number three is considered auspicious in Feng Shui - there are three sides to a triangle, the powerful symbol representing the Fire Element that helps activate passion, emotion, and wealth - so 27 is a powerful permutation of threes. But in truth as long as you move something, anything, you will see results.
Now here’s my confession: I moved a lot more than 27 things. In fact, my big home office purge ended up including two closets, two bookshelves, and three file cabinets.
I started on New Year’s Day with the closet in the “Helpful People” area of my office. That’s where the smaller file cabinet is located and where I keep all those paper supplies that so easily become one big mess. I worked for hours, then did a quick tidy of the bookcase in the “Relationship” area for good measure, then called it quits. At least for the day.
Saturday, I tackled closet #2 in the “Harmony” area of the room. That one has copies of my book
, materials and props for my workshops, travel paraphernalia, and crafting supplies including my collection of colored Sharpies (more about that in another blog). That one went quickly so I added a straightening job on the bigger bookshelf in the “Community” area. The trash bags were piling up.
On Sunday, I had no choice but to deal with the big deal, AKA the vertical file in the “Wealth” area where I keep all of my client folders - 18 years of them.
Ever since I launched my practice, I have “opened” a red file folder for each client. In the back of the folder I staple a sheet with contact information, advice they give about the quirks of finding their house, and similar pertinent info. Every client gets written notes during our session, and a copy goes in the file along with a floor plan.
Long ago I began recording all of this information electronically, but I still create folders because I love the tactile sense and the good luck message of the red color. Over the years I’ve purged files, especially removing files of clients who moved, since I don’t need the old floor plan and directions, but despite this the cabinet was stuffed to the point of explosion. I had current and continuing client files that simply wouldn’t fit inside.
And so began the big red purge. I pulled every file, read its contents, wished the client well on his or her journey to achieve wealth, harmony, and love. Then out went the file if it was older than two years.
To my precious clients, please understand that this was not an easy purge for me. I am not deserting you because you’re recorded electronically. Except for a catastrophic iCloud failure, I’ll always have your information - and your back. I wished each of you well with a special message for your special situation.
The result for me on Monday was the predictable increase in calls from potential clients who were rushing to fill the space I had opened up to fit their own new red folders. I don’t mean to sound smug about this, because all clients old and new are equally important to me, but when you make Feng Shui changes you create room for new things to find you – and they always do.
How about you? Did you move your 27 things yet, and if you did, what new energy did it bring to you? Email your success story so I can profile you in a future newsletter.
Thu Mar 26 2015 |
The question of whether to repair or to remove an object comes up often in my consultations: “If I break something and then fix it, is it still good Feng Shui?”
a client will ask. My answer is usually another question: “If you fix the object, will you see a treasure that’s been restored or something that’s flawed?”
If it’s the former, keep it and display it with pride, but if you only see what’s wrong with an object, it’s time to let it go.
Taking the time and money to restore a ripped vintage shawl is positive Feng Shui, but keeping those broken clay pots in the back of your house (and you thought I didn’t notice them, didn’t you?) is negative. If you an possessions that you love that have aged (shall we say “gracefully”) and you make the repairs, well that’s very good Feng Shui.
When I conduct a Feng Shui analysis of a home or office, the first thing I do is look for the three major conditions of negative chi that are especially detrimental:
1. Things You Don’t Like
2. Things That Are Broken
3. Things That Are Cluttered
Once I identify these negative conditions, I recommend ways to correct them following my Rule of 3Rs
: Replace, Repair, or Remove all items creating negative chi as soon as possible.
Here’s where the Japanese practice of wabi-sabi
works in coordination with Feng Shui rather than at cross-purposes.
Wabi-sabi is the ancient art of appreciating the simplicity and serenity in things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Wabi-sabi has incorrectly been called the new Feng Shui. Instead, while Feng Shui is a design system for helping you attract wealth, harmony, and love, and a whole lot more, wabi-sabi is primarily a design philosophy that asks you to set aside the need for perfection and instead focus on things as they truly are. It’s a meditation on the beauty and simplicity of natural objects and how they change with time. Sounds like good Feng Shui to me.
Wabi-sabi is the blending of the Japanese word wabi, which means humble, and sabi, which suggests beauty over the natural course of time. For example, you can see wabi-sabi in the weathered metal gate from an antique store you include in your garden design. In my own case, I have mixed Feng Shui design and wabi-sabi in the three wooden door surrounds that came from the front door of a 100-year-old Vermont farmhouse that I repurposed as a wall decoration.
Take a look at the pottery in the photo I chose for this article, which shows the art of kintsukori, or restoring things with gold. I think it says it all about whether a repair can be good Feng Shui.
Tue Jan 13 2015 |
Last Wednesday I woke up to a vista of freezing fog. Fog is a rarity in this arid Santa Fe climate to begin with, so freezing fog was quite a shock. As I walked from the bedroom past the living room windows something odd caught my eye – hanging from the vigas (that’s what we call rounded beams in Santa Fe) on the back portal (that’s a Santa Fe porch) was what looked like a ripped linen curtain. And the more I looked, the more of them I saw, along with frozen cobwebs of every shape. The portal looked like someone had decorated it for Halloween. And that’s when I realized the vigas must have been covered with cobwebs that had become wet with fog, then frozen into these ghostly shapes. They had been unseen in the daylight.
I went out to sweep it all away, but it was cold, the wind was howling, and my ladder didn’t reach high enough, so I decided it would have to wait till my (taller) husband came home. Later that evening, we went out with brooms in hand, but despite the bright portal lights and two iPhone flashlights we couldn’t find one cobweb. Seems that when the fog receded the webs disintegrated, leaving only my photos as proof of their existence.
But what was the reason for all of this, at the beginning of the year no less?
You’ve probably heard me say it before, in Feng Shui cobwebs represent being so stuck and caught up that you can’t move forward (you knew I was going to get to Feng Shui eventually). Plus, an accumulation of cobwebs creates obstacles in the bagua area it occupies. In my home, the portal sweeps across the bagua area that represents Future/Fame/Reputation. And it’s true that I’ve been putting off making decisions about that part of my career. I was definitely caught up on the unseen cobwebs. So, I’ve decided that the fog symbolically cleared the way for me to dream my dreams and create my future plans - and that’s definitely a great way to start off the year.
Are there actual or emotional cobwebs holding you back? Take a good look at the areas of your home that you don’t use, or use less often, in the colder weather and do a clean sweep of the walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture to clear away real cobwebs, and you’ll clear unseen obstacles holding you back.
Mon Jun 24 2013 |
Feng Shui has Chinese roots, but I love when I find Feng Shui-like advice in fables, folktales, and proverbs from other cultures. These tales always seem to have the same theme: advice from a wise man or woman and a very cluttered house.
Have you heard the fable of the Magic Red Geranium
? A woman living in a shabby, cluttered house was given an enchanted red geranium by a wise person who told her to take it home, where it would transform her life. She took the geranium home and set it on her wobbly kitchen table covered by a stained tablecloth. Immediately, she saw how the beautiful form and color of the geranium made the wobbly table seem in disrepair and the table linen look shabby. So, she fixed the table leg and washed the tablecloth.
Then she noticed how her newly washed tablecloth made her floor seem dull, so she scrubbed it. This made her kitchen walls look drab, so she repainted the room in a fresh color and replaced missing cabinets knobs.
Eventually her entire home was sparkling, and she had indeed transformed her life.
Did you ever hear the Yiddish folktale about a man with the Small and Noisy House
? Seeking a solution to his cramped living conditions, the man consults the wise woman of the village. She advises him to bring a chicken into his house. He doesn’t understand how a chicken is going to help, but he brings one home. It makes his house seem even smaller and noisier.
So the man visits the wise woman again, and she tells him to add a goat. He gets a goat and brings it into his crowded house. Not surprisingly, the goat makes the situation worse instead of better.
So the man visits the wise woman yet again to complain and she tells him to bring another animal into the house. Needless to say, his house just gets more crowded and noisy.
Finally, in total frustration, the man returns to the wise woman and tells her that he can’t stand another minute of living in his cluttered and noisy house. She smiles and tells him to go home and let all the animals out.
The man goes home and lets all of the animals out of the house. Then he looks around and can finally appreciate his calm, quiet, and spacious surroundings.
Is there a room in your home that would benefit from a symbolic “red geranium” or “chicken” clutter clearing?
Clearing out a drawer, a closet, or the garage can be like bringing a beautiful red geranium into your home to raise your awareness of other areas that need to be cleared of clutter. And like getting rid of unnecessary animals, the more clutter you clear, the more you make room for new energy and possibilities to find you and to transform your environment and your life.
Photo Credit: "The Rooster and the Pearl," print available from Morgan C. Leshinsky
Sun Mar 03 2013 |
There comes a time when you have to let your clothes go out into the world and try to make it on their own.--Bette Midler
As the weather starts to change, it's good Feng Shui
to transform your wardrobe
by giving your closet a good spring cleaning and letting go of the clothes
you no longer need. You know -- those shoes that cause blisters, the pants that ride a bit too high in the crotch, a few skirts and suits from your button-down days, or the clothes that are just a bit too small. Even though you may have paid a lot for them and loved them when you bought them, if you haven’t worn an item of clothing in a year, remove it from your closet
and donate it to charity.
When you hold on to things that don’t fit, you hold on to old energy and symbolically hold on to excess weight
. Whether you donate them, sell them, or just put them out with the trash, getting rid of unworn clothing makes room for a bounty of new clothes -- often in a smaller size -- to find you.
Unlike wine, clothes rarely improve with age. So if you haven’t worn something in a year or you don’t feel good when you wear it, it’s time to toss it or donate
it to a local charity where it can do some good. This includes the clothes you've been keeping in the hopes of losing 25 pounds you haven't been able to lose for years. If you plan to lose that much weight just to wear an item of clothing, it is highly unlikely you will want to wear your old, out-of-style stuff when you do succeed at weight loss. You will want -- and deserve -- brand new clothes
! So move out those old clothes today, and make room for new clothes to fill your closet.
You only wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time. Want to prove it? Try this: Tie a ribbon at the end of your closet rod. Every time you wear something, hang it to the right of the ribbon. At the end of a month take a look at the clothes that are beyond the ribbon.
I think you'll be surprised to see how many pieces you wore over and over, while the rest remained untouched.
Some places to donate your gently worn, but now not needed, clothing:
Shoes - souls4souls.org
Clothes - www.DressforSuccess.org
Wedding Gowns - BridesAgainstBreastCancer.org
Mon Jan 07 2013 |
On New Year’s Day, I posted on my Feng Shui For Real Life page on Facebook
that a great way to get the year off to a prosperous start was to do the “Feng Shui Fling.”
Here’s how it works –
Take a large plastic trash bag, move quickly through your home, and fling 27 things into the bag. Things you don't need, don't want, or don't know why you are keeping. Open drawers and cabinets. Dig down under the sink. Clear closets. Don't analyze, don't hesitate - just fling. Then take the bag right out to the trash before you change your mind. Three is an especially auspicious number in Feng Shui, and because the number 27 includes multiple sets of three, your Feng Shui Fling will be especially prosperous.
Do I practice what I preach? Last year, my big New Year's Day “flinging” project was my garage. As it is for many of my clients, my garage occupies the Helpful People Area of the bagua; that is, the area in the lower right hand corner of my home. You can download a bagua
to fit the shape of your home from the Basics page on my website www.FengShuiForRealLife.com.) This is the area that relates to your clients, mentors, and travel plans, and in general is important for attracting people who will support you as you move toward your life goals. So it’s an especially important place to keep clutter-free. But how many of us can say we keep our garages clutter-free on a daily basis? Mine was certainly due for a major clearing.
It took most of the day, which was OK because after the Rose Parade I’m about done with football-related events for the day, and it also took a lot of trash bags set up for recycling, donations, and just plain trash. But, by the end of the day the garage was clean and beautiful, with lots of open space for new energy to flow into the house. The added benefit was that one car didn’t have to sit outside anymore.
The Feng Shui result? In the first week of that year, my book, the Feng Shui Quick Guide For Home and Office, went international when I received an order of books from an international library service in Singapore. That same week I was contacted by two new clients. Was it cause and effect or simply coincidence? I invite you to clean out your garage next weekend -- or any other cluttered room or space in your house that you have been avoiding -- and see for yourself.
For New Year's Day 2012, my clutter-clearing project focused around the closet in my home office. What will happen as a result of my flinging this year? Stay tuned, I'll share results in a future post.
Mon Dec 10 2012 |
I received an e-mail from a long-time client that contained both good and bad news. First, the good news: she read my article about clearing office clutter and spent a whole day clearing out excess files and everything else that didn't belong in her office. A few days later, out of the blue she got a call from the Vice President of Communications for a significant trade group that works on consumer issues, who was referred to her by another client. The VP hired my client almost on the spot to write a major speech for her organization's CEO. It's a fast turn around project that will double her income this month. My client credited her success to a good Feng Shui clutter clearing, but acknowledged that it has taken her longer to "dig out" from clutter than she would like. But each time she tackles a room, something good happens to her as a result.
So what's the bad news? The reason she was so thrilled to sign this new client was because after many years of running her own successful consulting business, this was the first month she seriously wondered in she could pay her bills. Her major client lost its funding source and couldn't renew her retainer contract, and two new clients who seemed like "sure bets" ended up not having enough money to proceed. I can't stop thinking about this story because I found it to be such a startling illustration of how our difficult economic situation is having a rippling effect. And I wondered whether Feng Shui can come to the rescue when someone is facing an financial crisis.
In Feng Shui, nothing new flows into your life until you make room for it.
This weekend, I embarked on a massive office clutter-clearing project, and now the two file cabinets and two closets in my office are in amazing order. I shredded what seemed like tons of old documents, took a bunch of things to the local women’s shelter, and loaded my trashcans with the rest.
And yes, I did see an immediate result. Yesterday I received a call from a new client who wanted to set up a home consultation, and this morning there was an e-mail from another potential client.
So here’s my Feng Shui challenge to you – clear out one file cabinet, one drawer, or one closet this week and let me now if anything changes for you.