Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
by Karen Kingston

Broadway Books, 1999. ISBN 0767903595.
Reviewed by Melanie Alberts
Posted on 03/04/2005

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life

To Karen Kingston's well-trained eyes, clutter in your house and garden is insidious and hoarding it may be detrimental to your health and happiness. Clutter represents stuck energy, and Kingston, a pioneer of the ritual of Space Clearing (described in the book as a "branch of Feng Shui"), writes convincingly about removing it in order to improve the flow of energy, or chi, in your life. If you need any kind of impetus to start your spring cleaning, reading this small book may be it. Highly motivational proclamations abound, such as "Every aspect of your life is anchored energetically in your living space, so clearing your clutter can transform your entire existence." The author provides testimonials from her workshop attendees. Like them, you may find it could be hard to stop once you start clearing clutter.

Cleaning is the first preparatory step for a Space Clearing ceremony, a series of energy boosting procedures which transform a home by improving the vibration levels and allows one to provide a new, more directed, consecration of the space. In fact, it was the popularity of the clutter-clearing chapter of her first book Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui that inspired Kingston to write this follow-up. She explains the basic tenets behind Feng Shui or "the art of balancing and harmonizing the flow of natural energies in our surroundings to create beneficial effects in our lives."

Her expertise is in energy. She can feel it, sense it, and taste it; she claims she can smell the clutter a person may own as it clings to one's aura. Kingston, a therapist, deftly explains the psychological reasons why people hoard clutter, from keeping things "just in case" to those with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Whatever your reasons, her advice is to let go of anything you do not use and love, anything untidy or which takes up too much space or is unfinished. After spending two-thirds of the book describing the basics of clutter, she details how to rid yourself of it and stay clutter-free.

Once you rid yourself of clutter, something new may enter your life. Two of my favorite testimonials are from people who simply cleared their attics. Considered by many an ideal place for stashing old junk, to Kingston a cluttered attic represents restrictions to one's "higher aspirations and possibilities." One woman took a week to clear hers, yet said "I felt fantastic and am buzzing with energy." She turned the once dingy space into an art studio. The other testimonial claimed that once a man with business problems cleared his attic, his business took off "in new and exciting ways, like a dream come true."

Some of the author's clearing advice may appear too stringent for most readers who, for instance, may not want to part with treasured family photographs. She suggests that people keep only recent photos in order to enjoy their fresh energy. I'm mostly for chucking out unwanted things but find myself challenged when asked to keep only the clothes in my closet that I wear on a regular basis. I'm also not too sure I want to whittle our library down to books that reflect Kingston's ideal--to "represent you as you are today and the intended 'you' of tomorrow." To her, keeping things "just in case" reflects a lack of trust in the future. If you rid yourself of things you "think" you will need, she says, "similar or better things will somehow turn up in your life at the right time."

In the final chapter, the author speaks of a Hindu ceremony done in her adopted home of Bali for those who have fractured and lost parts of themselves during life or from a traumatic event. With the help of a priest or priestess, the location where the fracture occurred is purified, and the part of the spirit left there is called back. Kingston correlates clearing clutter with this spiritual ceremony and claims releasing yourself of unnecessary objects redirects your energy, calling you to the present time, thus making you more centered. However, clearing clutter from rooms is just the beginning. She encourages her readers to clear out their bodies, minds and spirits by having regular colon cleansings and saying goodbye to such baggage as worrying, complaining and even those "flaky friends" that wear you down.

Her holistic approach to freeing energy is incredibly eye-opening and can be addictive. I've been clearing clutter these past two months as we prepare to move and may have passed on my enthusiasm to my five-year-old. One Saturday morning when I asked him to rummage through a bin of toys and pick out what he actually plays with, I was surprised to find he chose just a few things. "Don't you want these?" I asked as I made a pile of sentimental baby toys I knew in the back of my mind would just become clutter in a box in our attic. Letting go was easier for him, it struck me. Living in the present is a child's modus operandi, and we all know how much energy children have. For adults, clearing clutter becomes easier the more you do it. And the more you do it, the lighter you feel.

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