We’ve all been in spaces that feel sacred and serene—spaces that inspire us to let down our guard and breathe easy as soon as we step foot in them. Sometimes we sense that peaceful quietude in a cathedral, a counselor’s Zen-designed office, a yoga studio, or a local coffee shop. But we’ve also experienced the opposite: the professor’s office that’s bulging with books and paperwork and the friend’s home that’s overstuffed with furniture. Or, wait. Maybe that’s our home.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a cluttered space, you feel tense, distracted, or tired? According to scholar Robert Svoboda, the author of Vastu: Breathing Life Into Space, “The force that produces these feelings of ease or dis-ease is the life force.”
According to feng shui (the Chinese system of design) and its Indian cousin, vastu (the yogic science of design), one of the most common “life energy” blockers in our home and work space is clutter. Clutter blocks the flow of the vital life energy (known in vastu as “prana” and in feng shui as “qi”) that should flow freely through our bodies and buildings. When it's not, it can hamper our health and prosperity.
“When our homes have free-flowing prana or qi,” he writes, “they nourish and support us so that we can live harmoniously with others and have more energy, happiness, and focus to do our work in the world.”
Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Here are six tips from feng shui and vastu that can help you declutter your home and let the life force in.
3 Ways to Declutter With Feng Shui
According to Feng Shui consultant Rodika Tchi, the owner of Tchi Consulting and the Feng Shui expert for About.com, clutter contains a negative, draining energy and can slow down or even block the flow of energy in your home (and in corresponding areas of your life). She says that the three most important areas to declutter are:
1. Your Main Entry
Why? Feng shui identifies your front door as the mouth of qi. It’s “the way your house gets its energy nourishment,” she explains. If the entrance is clean, organized, and visually pleasing, your energy is likely to go up. But if it’s cluttered or dirty, your energy will likely go down. Furthermore, Tchi writes, “The state of your main entry determines the quality of [qi] that later circulates throughout your house."
What To Do First make sure that nothing is blocking the door (and hence, the flow of qi). Next, remove any items that don’t have a purpose in your entryway. (That may mean moving them to a more functional place in your home or donating them via a sharing site like Trove, so someone else can enjoy them). Then ensure that every incoming and outgoing object (such as keys, coats, and shoes) has a tidy resting place, such as a drawer, closet, or cabinet.
Bonus Points Wash the windows and sweep or vacuum the floor, so that light streams in and your entrance gleams. And make sure your main entry embodies beauty, so that it feels warm and welcoming. Try decorating the space with a few lovely, meaningful objects, such as a painting, statue, lamp, or entry rug.
2. Your Bedroom
Why? Both feng shui and vastu say the focus of the bedroom should be sleep and relaxation. But if it’s cluttered with paperwork, dirty laundry, or electronic screens that beckon you to multitask instead of relax, you may feel overstimulated at bedtime, which can make it harder to go to sleep. You may also be more likely to wake up at night and notice that your mental wheels begin turning so quickly, it’s difficult to fall back to sleep.
What To Do Move televisions and other screens out of your bedroom, keep paperwork and other to-do’s elsewhere, and make sure every item you need has a resting place, suggests Tchi.
Bonus Points Organize your closet and any under bed storage.
3. Your Kitchen
Why? Feng Shui says the state of your kitchen reflects and impacts the state of your health.
What To Do Organize your fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Compost old food and donate stuff you don’t actually use. Clean off your countertops and arrange the items that belong on them in a visually pleasing and utilitarian fashion.
Bonus Points Scrub your kitchen from top to bottom (including your stove)—and try to keep it clean on a daily basis.
3 Vastu Tips for Clearing Clutter
1. Be Especially Mindful of Clutter in the Northeast
Why? According to vastu, the northeast area of your home is the best place for the pursuit of knowledge, contemplation, and spiritual practice. Having clutter here impedes your progress in this area.
What To Do First, clear any physical clutter. Then consider decluttering your space on an energetic level. In her book Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature, vastu consultant Sherri Silverman says that you can accomplish this by doing spiritual practices such as prayer, pranayama (yogic breathing practices), meditation, or yoga. (Other moving meditations, such as tai chi and qigong, and spiritual practices are appropriate as well.) After decluttering, give the northeast area of your home a good cleaning.
Bonus Points According to Silverman, “Northeast is the direction where the energy waves of the water element collect,” so she recommends putting one or more water features in the northeast area of your home, such as a small fountain, an aquarium, or a work of art that features water imagery. And if you’re in the mood for redecorating, she suggests, paint your walls blue or green-blue.
2. Encourage Your Home to “Breathe Well”
Why? So prana (“universal life force energy”) can flow freely.
What To Do Keep what vastu calls the Brahma Sthana—the center of each room, and the center of your home—open and uncluttered. Svoboda translates this term as “place of divinity” and describes it as “the central channel or light, heat, air, and prana as they move in and out of the surrounding form.” To keep the Brahma Shtana open, you may need to rearrange your furniture.
Bonus Points According to Svoboda, although the Brahma Sthana should remain open and clear, it should also make people feel “welcome and comfortable, or focused and productive.” So think creatively about how you can arrange and decorate the space to make that happen.
3. After You Declutter, Adorn Your Home With Beauty
Why? Vastu says we should “imitate nature and divine creation” by beautifying our homes in a way that “nourishes our soul,” writes Silverman in her book.
What To Do First, remove objects that you don’t like, are worn out, or have negative memories associated with them. Then bring elements of nature indoors (to increase prana or qi) and choose your furniture and decorative items with care.
Bonus Points “Only add items if you find them useful, beautiful, and comfortable,” Silverman says, because “adding ornamentation is an act of honoring.” This means that in addition to utilitarian items, your home should feature objects that celebrate who you are, what you love, and what really matters to you.
For more decluttering tips, see Free Your Clutter & the Rest Will Follow.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies