Try as we might, it’s sometimes hard to stay on top of our clutter. And sometimes the piles seem to grow by themselves – just like a sourdough bread.
Over the winter I became engaged in a few projects and neglected the organization of my office. Soon the piles were everywhere – blocking access to my studio work space and my desk. I gingerly hopped over them the way you would do hurdles in a track-and-field event – being very careful not to topple them. And then a few weeks ago I realized that if I didn’t do something the hurdles event would turn into a pole vault event. So I tackled the room as my major “project” for the week – using Feng Shui ( I have always been a big fan of this Eastern philosophy).
Coincidentally that week I was looking for a new book to read on my Kobo e-reader and discovered Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. It was a great motivator as I prepared to de-clutter and re-organize my space and my life – AGAIN. Because I am a great accumulator – over the years I have also become very experienced at de-cluttering and organizing. This time however I decided that I would try to make some breakthroughs in creating a more permanent environment that was clear of stuff that I do not need.
And, since I am good at helping others de-clutter and organize their space, I wondered: “Why is it so difficult to do it for myself?” So I set off to explore what Karen Kingston could teach me. I learned a lot. But obviously I am not the only person to find Karen’s book inspirational. On amazon.ca she received a review score of 4.5 based on 151 reviews. And Goodreads gave it a 4+ based on 350 reviews.
And inspired I was!
In Chapter 6 – “So Why Do People Keep Clutter?” she explained 10 reasons. I use all of then as excuses for my clutter:
- Keeping things just in case – This is my best excuse as an artist, teacher, writer – I might need that for something. Or maybe my children or grandchildren or one of my friends might need one/some too. But when?
- Identity – So the box of files in the closet from when I was a management consultant aren’t going to make me a better grandmother? But do I need to keep them to remind me of what a great job I did as a consultant – in the past?
- Status –I spent a whole lifetime acquiring things and now all I do is dust them. Maybe I really don’t need all the art, books, and wine glasses anymore?
- Security – Keeping stuff from our past is like a security blanket. Our acquisitions make us feel good at first, but as time goes by we learn that we can live without many of them.
- Territorialism – When something new comes into our lives, we become attached to it. It’s challenging to let go unless we realize, as Karen advises, that before the item came into our life, it meant nothing to us. Happiness does not depend on ownership of things.
- Inherited Clutteritis – This one I can definitely blame on my dad – a dedicated clutterholic.
- A Belief that More is Better – This issue kicks in every time I go to IKEA and troll the “marketplace” looking for things I don’t have. This week, I resisted and only bought what I came for – plus cinnamon buns, of course. I can always use more cinnamon buns!
- “Scroogeness” – Described as “It feels indecent to let go until every last drop of usefulness has been wrung out of it” is exactly why I had a pile of old bed-sheets sitting on the office floor wondering if I should keep them as drop-cloths for my next paint job. I still couldn’t discard but did tuck them away with painting supplies instead of the office.
- Using Clutter to Suppress Emotions – Clutter conveniently fills the empty space around us and keeps us busy – so we can avoid dealing with emotional issues in our life. I know too well that clutter builds around me when I don’t want to deal with issues. It was obvious this winter when I allowed the clutter to pile up because I was having trouble moving forward with some personal issues. Once I decided to de-clutter my space, it also seemed easier to move forward with everything else in my life too. I was able to think more clearly about the future.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) – Although I’m not a person who cannot throw anything away, I do have a strong bias for keeping and filing far more than I will ever “need” in my life. On the other hand, my OCD becomes a benefit when it comes to organizing. So while my OCD causes me to accumulate too much, this excuse works in my favour when discarding.
Wow this list was an eye-opener! It made me realize why I accumulate stuff around me and how to question the piles when I want to get rid of it.
So next I was on to the organizing stage. And I used the Bagua of Feng Shui to help me make decisions. I knew that too much of my clutter had collected in the “prosperity”, “creativity” and “health” areas. My artistic endeavours had completely stalled over winter and that was causing me emotional angst. I needed to clear the path for my creativity. I knew if I focussed on these three sections that I would get my life back in balance.
While some people are skeptical of the Feng Shui practices, I find it a logical way to organize. It allows me to ask myself “What are my priorities in my life right now? Where shall I focus my energies?” So even if I am not rigid in my application of the Bagua to my space, I am aware of channelling my energy into solving the most important elements of my life.
And thus, I attacked the floor of my office with a renewed energy and made my creativity table the centre of attention. To get there I removed a whole lot of old papers and junk that were sitting in my “health” zone and preventing me from getting to my art supplies. And lastly I threw out a pile of old tax returns and receipts to free up space in the prosperity corner. Within hours I felt the “energy” of my space change from negative to positive.
So even if you are skeptical of the wisdom of Feng Shui that has been passed down through many generations, you will find Karen’s advise on why and how to tackle the clutter in your life to be uplifting.