“Here’s a Feng Shui tip: Declutter.”
You’ve probably seen that tip more times that you can count. It is so popular that almost every other feng shui tip tells you to declutter.
This bothered me a little. If decluttering was so popular, how come I didn’t read about it when I started learning about feng shui years ago? That’s when I began to do a little research about clutter.
First, I found that clutter can profoundly impact on our mental and physical, more so than I thought.
Second, I found was that clutter is NOT related to feng shui. However, this depends on how feng shui is defined and the goals it seeks to accomplish today, which you will read more about in this blog post.
Finally, and contrastingly, I found how clutter can possibly affect the feng shui of a home.
Before we get to all of those, let me begin by sharing some scientific facts on how clutter affects us.
How Clutter Affects You – Backed by Science
Clutter is a result of consumerism and is quite common in the U.S.
We are constantly bombarded by marketing messages and promotions that makes it too hard for us to not buy. We end up buying lots of useless junk that’ll end up gathering dust somewhere in our home, and we don’t want to throw them away because we think might use it someday. Interestingly enough, that someday never comes until I throw that I throw away that object.
It’s OK to have a little mess, but you have a problem when the mess starts to affect you in the following ways:
Inability of Focus and Process Information
Ever felt that you can’t seem to get anything done because you’re jumping from one task to another?
Neuroscientists at Princeton University conducted an experiment that measured people’s task performance in an organized and a disorganized environment. They found that physical unorganized objects lying around are “visual stimuli” that competes for your attention.
The result? Because of the limited processing capacity of our visual system, those that worked in a disorganized environment had decreased performance and increased stress. The clutter was the culprit, because it competed for your attention and held you back from focusing on one task at a time.
Researchers at U.C.L.A. found that when people are dealing with their belongings, the stress hormones will spike. The research was based on observing the mothers’ stress hormones from 23-middle-classed Los Angeles families.
This means that for those who have clutter lying around all the time, you will experience more stress because you are constantly dealing with your belongings. A prolonged stress can definitely take a toll on your body as it can lead to problems in the heart and blood vessels as well as increased blood pressure.
Increased Likelihood of Depression
In most cases, depression causes clutter. However, prolonged stress and frustration caused by clutter can definitely lead to depression. In fact, Melissa Breyer saw a relationship between clutter and depression as listed in her article “Clutter and Depression”.
Other experts among the field of psychology have associated clutter with hoarding, where hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
A study conducted by psychologist David F. Tolin revealed a strong link between hoarding and depression. What’s more, he found that hoarders have higher levels of depression that other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). He pointed out that hoarding is more of a personal problem that can be fixed by changing the person’s behavior.
How Clutter Affects a Person – Based on Experiences
Science has revealed how clutter can cause detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. But there’s more to it, based on what psychologists are saying.
According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., clutter makes it difficult for us to relax, creates feelings of guilt, and constantly signals that our work is never done.
Other times, you may create social problems because you don’t invite guests over. You feel embarrassed by the mess you created, and you feel helpless to make improvements.
Clutter can also make you waste time and money. You will spend a considerable amount of time looking for your stuff. You may forget to pay bills and have to pay extra fees for late payments. You may even buy duplicates of the same item because you either can’t find the item in your home or you’ve forgotten that you had it already.
All of this translates to a lower quality of living. Over time, these problems can escalate to the point where your life seem blocked. Perhaps many people have this sort of problem, hence the popularity of decluttering.
Because clutter in the home is part of the surrounding environment we live in, many people attribute decluttering as a feng shui solution. But is it really part of feng shui?
Is Clutter Really Part of Feng Shui?
I’ve asked three Feng Shui Experts about how clutter is related to feng shui. Here’s what I got:
“Space clearing is not a Feng Shui practice, but can clear up the atmosphere. Excessive, unwanted, storage and clutter has never really been an Asian issue… Clutter can manifest in the body, therefore we try to keep clutter at bay so life can go forward and flow smoothly.” – Master Salwa Abboud
“If we replace Feng Shui in its historical context – either for a village to secure good harvest or for the emperor to gain more power – the context of clutter didn’t even exist. There are numerous rules about Chi flow but they have more to do with landforms and the openings and positions of a house. The concept of mess is more related to the psychology of a modern home than Feng Shui.” – Master Laurent Langlais, Feng Shui, Bazi, and Oracles
Lastly, I asked Howard Choy, an international Feng Shui master and lecturer. He didn’t give me a straight answer. Instead, he countered my question with a question of his own, challenging me (and you) to think critically:
“[Decluttering] is like putting on a clean set of clothes. But does it really change a person?” – Howard Choy, International Feng Shui Master and Lecturer
What do you think? Here’s my opinion.
I agree with Master Salwa and Laurent Langlais. Clutter wasn’t a problem in ancient times. In fact, only the elite could afford to purchase extra belongings, and they were usually in the form of treasures, such as jade stones and paintings. Assembly lines weren’t developed, and goods cannot be produced efficiently at a low cost. Because of that, there rarely are any marketing and advertising.
And unless the clutter is piled up as high as a wall, the Qi flow can hardly be affected. After all, as Laurent said, feng shui for the home is more about the openings and positions that directs the flow of Qi around the house.
This may be what Howard was implying. In his question to me, the “person” could be the house, whereas a “new set of clothes” is the house after it was decluttered. That analogy means that clutter can only make the house messy, but it doesn’t change the fundamental structure and position of the house, which is the very basis of what feng shui is about.
But why are people still calling “decluttering” a feng shui tip? I think there’s a reasonable explanation for this.
Why “Decluttering” is a Feng Shui Tip Today
I believe many Feng Shui Experts somewhat agree that decluttering is NOT part of Feng Shui. Still, they include this tip as part of their feng shui consultations.
I came up with three reasons that can explain this.
Clutter is Part of the Broader Feng Shui Definition
Many define feng shui as “improving life through achieving harmony with your surroundings”, with “surroundings” meaning almost everything you see or cannot see. When harmony is achieved, your mental and physical health will improve and thus, your life will improve.
Using this definition, decluttering fits perfectly into the realm of Feng Shui, because physical objects in your home are part of your surroundings and because decluttering can bring about positive improvements in life.
Clutter Affects Our Energy
Feng shui is related to Qi, or energy that can positively or negatively affect us. When Feng Shui Experts refer to clutter, they talk about how it blocks and drains you of your “positive energy”.
When a person feels distracted and stressed, they’re not happy. In other words, they’re lacking the “positive energy” that feng shui talks much about. People dealing with clutter can feel or relate to this “energy”, which may be why clutter is commonly accepted as part of feng shui.
Decluttering Positively Helped Clients
Another reason, which I think is most probable, is because the decluttering tip was met with great success when Feng Shui Consultants offered it as a solution.
When a person who feels that something in their life is not right, they may suspect the cause was their home’s feng shui. When the Feng Shui Expert comes in, he or she may have demanded that they declutter. After the customer declutters, they feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and they credit the success to Feng Shui.
The happy customer tells everyone about their positive experience, and the Feng Shui Expert continues to give the same suggestion. The cycle continues.
What do I think about this?
For me, as long as the person’s life was improving, I don’t care whether or not feng shui takes credit for the decluttering concept. If someone fails to act on scientific benefits associated with decluttering, maybe repackaging the same message as a Feng Shui Tip will make that same person to declutter.
Including “clutter” as part of feng shui has bothered a good number of experts. But Feng Shui Consultants are there to solve a problem and to improve the lives of individuals and families. If giving the “decluttering” tip really helped people take action to improve their lives, even in the slightest way, does it really matter whether it’s feng shui related or not? What do you think?
How Clutter (Possibly) Affects Your Home’s Feng Shui
Although clutter is arguably not part of feng shui, here are some possible ways that clutter can really bring negative energy to your home.
Lowers Air Quality
Fresh air is one of the treasures of feng shui, and dust greatly impacts the air quality. For those with clutter lying around, I’m sure they’re gathering dust around because they don’t do much cleaning.
Dust has much to do with sanitation and can be quite harmful for some people. Even though our lungs have built-in defense against dust, excessive inhalation of dust can result in disease and other respiratory problems. These problems include allergic reactions, injury to the lungs, and pneumoconiosis.
Presence of Sharp Corners
In the Form School of Feng Shui, corners and sharp objects bring negative Qi. That is why the front door should not have a pole or anything pointy facing it. If you have any objects with sharp corners lying around, such as textbooks, you are being exposed to this type of negative Qi.
Although the negative Qi brought by these clutter are minimal, large amounts of clutter can greatly affect a person’s metal health, especially during long periods of exposure. One day, you might even step on these objects and hurt yourself.
It is said that clutter blocks good energy in your home, but is it really true?
One possibility is that certain objects can affect the energy within its space. Below are some pictures to help you visualize this concept.
I took these pictures from a Facebook post by Victoria Hilinich when she attended the International Convention Feng Shui Masters 2015 in Shanghai.
I was not at the conference, so I reached out to Master Surendran, the speaker of for some explanation. I haven’t gotten a response thus far.
At first glance, the images looked much like heat mapping. But after observing all the pictures, I think the colors represent the aura of the space, similar to the photos taken by Japanese researchers when they were looking for human aura.
So if a few objects can impact the aura of the space, how about massive amounts of clutter? How would that aura then impact the well-being of the human?
Clutter negatively impacts our well-being. Science has linked it to stress, inability to focus, and even depression.
Although the concept of clutter is arguably not part of feng shui, it has the possibility to negatively impact the well-being of the occupant by lowering the home’s air quality and by bringing negative Qi.
With those said, decluttering is definitely a smart thing to do to improve your life, whether it is part of feng shui or not is not as important as decluttering to improve your life.
Over to you – Do you have a problem with clutter? How did it make you and your home feel? Please share your thoughts using the comment below!