I spent many hours this past Sunday decluttering my home. It may not sound like a big deal to those of you who are meticulous housekeepers, but it was a huge project to me. After all, as an abstract person who’s much happier being immersed in the world of thoughts, ideas and deeper meanings of life, the maintenance of my physical surroundings tend to fall through the cracks. Moreover, as a sentimentalist, I’m prone to assigning emotional value to things and, in turn, hanging onto them well beyond their relevance in my life has expired. It taxes my mindfulness to keep the accumulation of piles and clutter in check.
The decluttering effort was partly prompted by having listened to a very educational interview from the Inspired Living Secrets series by Linda Joy with a Feng Shui expert, Carole Hyder. Fung Shui is the Chinese art of creating harmonious surroundings through arranging furniture in certain ways and using different elements of decor to enhance balanced energy flow. Now, I must confess that I know hardly anything about Feng Shui, nor can I see myself spending a lot of time learning about it. However, I do concur that our physical space both reflects and affects our internal energetic, mental and emotional state.
As Albert Einstein said, everything is energy. Physical clutter inhibits the free circulation of energy, and takes up space that would otherwise be available for the inflow of good, whether in relationships, career, money, health, or otherwise. For those of us who are especially sensitive to our surroundings, it seems that physical spaciousness/clutter also maps to expansiveness/blockage of our mental or artistic creativity. Throughout my professional life, despite my tolerance for piles normally, I can recall more than a few times when I needed to clear my desk, if not reorganize my office, before I could tackle a particularly challenging project. It’s as if the clutter literally blocked my mental pathways.
Back to last Sunday, I was honestly less than enthusiastic about the decluttering project. Yet, I did it because I felt an unequivocal inner nudge to do so in order to get rid of what no longer serves me and to make room for a couple of my big dreams. Once I got going with the purging and reorganizing, I was a woman possessed! As I reflect on the experience, there were quite a few lessons to be gleaned from this exercise.
Lesson 1: Try different perspectives
The first room I tackled was my living room, where I typically spend most of my time. I rearranged the furniture so that it created a more open space for energy to flow. My favorite chair is also in a new spot. Sitting in it, I now have a pleasant view that goes past the trees in my and my neighbor’s backyards to a hill far off at a distance. This simple logistical shift is literally giving me a longer and broader—not just different—perspective. This viewpoint has been there all along, but I didn’t see it, because I didn’t place myself within the line of sight long enough before to be able to appreciate it. This is rather symbolic of life overall. I can only see what’s visible within the confines of any one perspective I’m willing and able to adopt at any given moment. A simple shift in positioning easily reveals what I may be missing. It’s a good reminder that all perspectives, while valid in their own rights, have their limits in showing only parts of the big picture.
Lesson 2: Address issues as they come up
My kitchen was next. It’s attached to the garage and where I typically enter my house. One of the countertops has served as the de facto catcher of my mail, which is generally a cornucopia of bills, direct marketing mail, solicitations from charities and magazines that seem to arrive more quickly than I can read them. The more frequently I go through my mail, the less it piles up and becomes a dreaded task. It’s an important metaphoric reminder to address issues promptly as they come up while they are still relatively benign—instead of leaving them to accumulate, fester and become an emotional ordeal eventually.
Lesson 3: Purge old limiting patterns
With respect to the magazines I get, I kept deluding myself into thinking that I’ll eventually get to them, that they may contain valuable information I should have. But, in truth, if I haven’t read them by now, it’s unlikely that I will—ever. It was time to let go of the collection accumulated on my kitchen counter. They symbolize “I should” messages, as well as habitual thinking and reflexive behavioral patterns I may still be hanging onto and repeating mindlessly. Somewhere in time, they might have served to protect me, but they no longer serve the evolved me.
After my kitchen was done, I went through my office. The biggest task there was to move my academic books out of that room altogether. They used to occupy a bookcase for many years, even though they haven’t been relevant in my life since I left my Cornell faculty position 12 years ago. They represent the years of emotional and intellectual investment I made to get my doctorate and a professional chapter in my life that was a significant part of my identity. Earlier this year, I did take one step forward in moving these books out of the bookcase to make room for all the personal development and spirituality books that are more reflective of my current life. Yet, I simply left my academic books sitting on the futon in the same room, as I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t have the heart to give them away. Some cost as much as $80 per title in the mid-1990s, which amounted to a small fortune to a doctoral student. How could I possibly part with them?
Releasing attachment to remnants of an old identity was the key lesson to learn here. My recent contemplation of non-attachment helped me to be ready to let go. My academic past is an invaluable part of my journey that has made me who I am. I don’t need to hang onto books from that era to remind me of that. It’s time for my physical space to be caught up with the current me and my intention to embrace fully continued evolution.
Aligning the outer with the inner
All in all, the exercise of physical decluttering was very much about shifting energy and raising consciousness, letting go and updating my emotional awareness. When I finally sat down in my favorite chair in the living room on late Sunday night—with my back telling me that I had been hard at work—my heart was warmed by the satisfaction of knowing that the physical project has brought my surroundings up-to-date with my current life, ready to hold my hopes and dreams. I’m enjoying the clear space my labor of love has created to allow energy to flow freely in and through my sanctuary. I intend to keep up with maintenance mindfully, as I welcome the manifestation of my dreams in the spaciousness created.
What about you? Is your physical space aligned with who you are now and where you want to take your life? Would love for you to share below.
Ba Gua map: http://www.crystalsbay.net/feng-shui-at-home.html
Stack of books: http://www.flickr.com/photos/austinevan/1225274637/
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