Make Space

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.

http://www.crystalsbay.net/feng-shui-at-home.htmlThe outer reflects the inner

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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/austinevan/1225274637/Lesson 4: Release the old to fully embrace the now

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.

___________________

Photo credit:
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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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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10 comments
Linda Joy
Linda Joy

Alice, so glad that my interview with Carole Hyder gave you some inspiration to look at your surroundings as they relate to a connection of energy and our inner state. As I shared in the call I was drawn to the principles of Feng Shui about 10 years ago which as I look back is about when I began going deeper into my spiritual journey. I see now that I was clearing out the old (thoughts, beliefs, stories) to make room for the new. I can truly relate to you and Carl's book dilemma - I'm the same way. As a publisher I receive dozens of spirituality, self-help and personal empowerment books each month from authors and publisher's from around the world which for a self-professed book geek like me is like a chocoholic receiving gourmet chocolate each month. Some of these books have had a profound effect on me and the thought of parting with them is unbearable -some I've had for over 20 years. When I do release a book back to the world (as hard as it is) I do a little prayer/ritual which has made letting go soooo much easier. "May this book open its new owner(s) to the same (if not deeper) level of inner healing, increased awareness, and inspired wisdom that it blessed me with." It also helps when you find a not-for-profit organization to give it to. I just found a wonderful one in my area that will be getting my next load of books. http://mtwyouth.org/ More Than Words is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. As always Alice - keep up the inspired writing.

Barbara
Barbara

Dear Alice, hmmmmm...yes great ideas, yet at a time when waiting on our insurance adjuster to give final reimbursement approval for flood damage from a broken pipe, I find that clutter is a part of my life right now. Not one I like, but until the carpet can be replaced, our downstairs is basically in boxes! There are times when I want to cry, but then I remind myself that I'm in charge of my attitude, so I go into gratitude and it becomes a situation where I am able to relax a little about spills and dirty feet from grandchildren's frolics on the trampoline! So for now, my Feng Shui efforts are in my attitude! And thanks to your article, I'm already assessing the arrangement of the rooms once the new carpet is in! Oh, and I guess I could get rid of a "few" books from the past while I'm waiting! With love and gratitude, Barbara

Carl
Carl

Nice article, Alice. Will you come clean up my clutter now? I can relate to the "books" which represented another time in your life experience. I recently cut loose of over 800 books I had collected over the last 35 years. Many of them old classics I read many years ago. It was hard to do and I still have some more to release but just couldn't the first time around. You're an inspiration, Alice, but seriously....will you come and help clean up my "other" clutter?? Thanks for the insights. Very helpful and so "right on." Much love, Carl

Carol
Carol

HI Alice! I too so enjoy and appreciate your heartfelt blogs! I am a certified Feng Shui consultant in NY and was the former director of the NYC Chapter of the International Feng Shui Guild, so this is obviously a topic very near and dear to me. I just gave a workshop on this very topic on Friday, so I love the synchronicity. As I drew each person's floor plan on the board, it was so amazing to see the realization - the aha moments - come onto their faces. It is the best feeling to hear back from my students and my clients about how Feng Shui has helped them to receive and accept changes in their lives for a positive impact. I regularly update the Feng Shui in my personal spaces to keep things fresh and moving forward. Keep these wonderful articles coming! Thanks - Carol

Ann-Michele Timmerman
Ann-Michele Timmerman

My goodness Alice, I sure am enjoying your thoughtfully written articles. I am so glad I discovered you! First of all, I can so identify with the first paragraph in this posting! I am a kindred spirit in the sense of being immersed in the "bigger picture" of thoughts, ideas and deeper meanings of life, and am less likely to focus on keeping certain aspects of my space in consistent order... Goodness knows, I try, and I clean often enough, but my selective brain tends to focus on perfecting a project I am working on, rather than paying much mind to the scraps of paper under my computer chair that have been there for weeks... 'Twas ever thus for the INFP, I suppose! Tends to see this bigger picture and doesn't so much enjoy the finer-print, patience-requiring, precision-type detailed work. I would have made a lousy aeronautical engineer. (Or so goes the argument of rationale that I tell myself). In any case, in response to your question, whilst I can surely appreciate feng shui and do understand the concept of energy, I would say, surprisingly, my physical space actually does allow me to thrive in it! :) The "creative mess" in my office, as I call it...(whereas when my 21-year old daughter visits, she often lovingly refers to me as "domestically disabled")...seems to lend itself to, well, creativity! While no one else may know where or how to find anything in my piles of scribbled notes on every type of paper product you can imagine, I seem to be able to put my hand on whatever I'm looking for each time... The rest of my home as well as my vehicles, are, thankfully, tidy and orderly, but I do seem to enjoy that clutter in my own private office space. I think that the thought of consistently putting it back together each time I move, print or buy something, actually causes me more stress than if I don't. :) In the past, I have tried the photo-worthy, 'feng-shuied'-looking office, but it didn't seem to work out... (And the disheveled office look has taken me through many creative endeavors in my life just fine, so I guess it's the road best travelled for me...:)) Thank you for the post and encouraging us the space to share our two cents! Ann-Michele.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Linda, thank you so very much for your thoughtful comments! I LOVE the ritual you have for releasing books. It reminds me of how a friend of mine helped me to release my first interview suit many years ago. It was purchased in 1990, complete with shoulder pads and all--can you picture something like that?! :-) It was my "lucky suit" because I wore it to every single interview for a long time that got me the job, including my professorial appointment at Cornell. The sentimentalist in me couldn't part with that suit until my friend said that it could become someone else's "lucky suit." That did it, as I'd love more than anything for everyone to thrive, and that's how I've approached periodically cleaning my closet since. Anyway, thank you for your inspired wisdom and thoughts, and also for bringing the great interviews to the Inspired Living Secrets teleseminar series. I'm so much more mindful of going in and out of my house through my front door instead of my garage door because of your interview with Carole! Much gratitude to you for following your mission to inspire women around the world!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Oh, Barbara, sorry to hear about your flood damage! Best wishes for an expedient resolution. And I *love* what you said about Feng Shui efforts in your attitude and how you're moving through this time in grace, thinking about how you'll rearrange rooms as a result of this "Divine mishap" in your living space. Overall, thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughtful comments. With Love, Gratitude and Blessings, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Wow, 800 books! Carl, I don't know that I'd have the stomach to do that...other than perhaps to think that they'll serve others the way they have served me for 35 years. And, yes, isn't releasing ever like peeling the onion? It just happens in layers. Seems like a lifelong process, doesn't it. Then again, we keep evolving and expanding (what our spirit comes into this life to experience in human form), so it's not like it's ever just a static process. Good luck with your "other" clutter...that's always the bigger challenge for all of us, isn't it? :-) Much Love back always, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog and for your comments for this particular post, Carol! Synchronicity indeed that you should be a Feng Shui expert! Clearing physical clutter seems to be in the air lately, as I just read another blog post yesterday about decluttering. Again, even though I don't really know Feng Shui, I'm a believer in the alignment between the energy of our physical space and our inner state. So, I can certainly imagine how rewarding your work must be to you! When you can help someone pinpoint what they need to shift in order to bring more good into their lives, it's the most wonderful feeling in the world, isn't it? Thanks again, Carol, and see you next time! Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Ann-Michele, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to share such thoughtful comments! You made the excellent point that ultimately what matters is that we thrive in our physical space, whatever that looks like--including your "creative mess." I can most definitely relate to what you said about knowing exactly where in your piles to look for what you need. That's why I have a high tolerance for piles, until I get overloaded and stressed. :-) That's the difference between the "P" in your MBTI code and the "J" in mine. INFJ here. At the risk of being too technical, when there's a lot going on and our primary and secondary cognitive functions--which differ by type--are maxed out, our tertiary function kicks in to support. For INFJs like me, that function is Introverted Thinking, which looks like the need to sort out and organize our thoughts--and oftentimes our physical surroundings, depending on how sensitive we are to our external environment. That's why I can't think when I'm overwhelmed or stressed, and literally need to clear out what blocks me, including symbolically things around me. For INFPs, the tertiary function is Introverted Sensing, which may look something like going through your mental file cabinet to look for similar experiences in the past that worked well for you, so that you can replicate it to meet your current needs. Most definitely not a call to clean your office, unless that's what got you out of a similar jam in the past. In any event, thank you again for adding your thoughtful comments, which open up an opportunity to discuss other variations of honoring our space. And, I'd like to applaud you for honoring your "creative mess" that allows you to thrive! Last, but not least, it's *always* a tremendous pleasure to meet another introverted intuitive-feeling sister in this universe! All the Best, Alice

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  1. […] few weeks ago, I wrote about decluttering my house and how the energy flow in our outer world matches that of our inner state. Boy, did the purging in […]

  2. […] to your junk drawer, prom dress and piles of old magazines you should read this great article, Make Space, written by my dear friend, Alice Chan. It’ll help you get started. Rearranging furniture, […]

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