A recent client announced to me that she was utterly disappointed that I was not giving her professional organizing advice. She was under the impression that feng shui is synonymous with de-cluttering. It is true that organizing cabinets and closets can make a huge impact for some people and empower them with better time and space management skills. This flows over to other areas of life and often creates the confidence to succeed in past failures.
Discarding old belongings and paper clutter can be just as "mentally cathartic" as physically rewarding. But to confuse good feng shui solely with good housekeeping is to almost completely bypass what feng shui really has to offer.
Feng shui is the subtle art of interpreting your environment in ways that are mostly non-obvious to the untrained eye. Unlike a filthy house filled to the brim with garbage or a messy office with paper piles strewn about, some of the most toxic feng shui energies go completely undetected, unless one has a sophisticated background in how these ancient energy principles work. It is in fact possible (and common) for a home or office to be tidy, organized, and physically clean, but still contain energies that can be harmful to the occupant. As one example in hundreds, whether organized or not, a house built in 1970 which faces North has a potential to cause the occupants kidney or blood problems. This is a characteristic of a house that is serious, but has nothing to do clutter or tidiness.
One of the main reasons Westerners believe feng shui is all about de-cluttering is because this is the marketing package which has been promoted to them in popular feng shui books, as well as ill-equipped practitioners who pad their consultations with organizing advice and overly-symbolic positive thinking rituals.
This is not to say that serious clutter never contributes to or creates a feng shui problem. In fact, it may be useless to apply some of the more subtle feng shui remedies to a home or office if it has been completely choked off from natural sunlight and adequate ventilation because of massive clutter.
At the same time, feng shui clients should not feel compelled to apologize over a dish in the sink, school projects spread on the dining room table, or otherwise normal living conditions. Good housekeeping is quite subjective, with many old-time Chinese feng shui masters admitting to having messy homes. It is often the case that busy, artistic, and spiritual people have more pressing commitments, which take precedence over keeping their spaces immaculate all the time.
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© Melt Magazine 2002