Long story short, I’ve gotten to less. Although, there’s always more to go and more to say on this topic, I’m closing out this blog and devoting my energy to growing my feng shui and color consulting practice. Visit my website Creating Joyful Spaces, or follow me at Joyful Spaces on Facebook, where I’ve got lots of new tips to share.
See you there!
Category Archives: Practical feng shui
Plenitude: abundance, copiousness; the condition of being full, complete. From Latin: plenus = full.
Whenever you’re feeling cranky, mingy and stingy, like you just don’t have ENOUGH (enough whatever – money, love, time), the pop psychology wisdom is to open your heart to the gifts you already have and to feel gratitude for the bounty in your life.
And I do that. I feel grateful for the abundance in my life most of the time.
I am satisfied and want not.
However. Plenitude is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
I’ve got TOO MUCH of a good thing. Too much of MANY good things. Too big a house. Too big a (beautiful) garden. Too many books. Too many interests. Too many commitments. My life is plenus to the max.
Though you can never have too many friends.
A feng shui colleague of mine suggests that if you want something new in your life (new career, partner, social circle, home) you have to go beyond ordinary clutter clearing. You have to create a VACUUM. Only when there’s a nice big hole will something rush in to fill it.
Here’s the experiment: after I jettison half my stuff and find a place half as big as my current home, what other opportunities will appear?
And if I’d complete my divorce and stop being friends with my ex, will a new romance appear?
While I love getting away, seeing new sights, meeting new people, I am firmly anchored at home. Home is where my heart is. Home is where I center and rejuvenate myself.
Since my ex and I separated seven years ago, my home has been a 3,000 square foot house on a one-third acre lot framed by trees and nestled into a gentle slope overlooking a lake. In feng shui, this fortuitous placement is called “the belly of the dragon.”
This is the most wonderful home I’ve ever had – and people who visit are immediately enchanted by it as well. Not because it’s grand – because it is anything but (built from a plan-book in 1972). But it’s cozy, colorful and quirky.
So why did a single woman of modest means buy a house this big? Aside from my instant heart connection to it, it was the only house I could find within my pre-recession budget that had a dining room big enough for my grandmother’s dining table, and a living room large enough for my mother’s Steinway baby grand (which I’m keeping for my still-peripatetic son, 25).
And ohmigod the yard! The previous owners were skillful gardeners who left behind shrubs, native plants, sheets of color from spring bulbs, rock walls, five prolific blueberry bushes, a grape arbor and an asparagus bed! A chestnut tree on the southwest corner to keep the house cool in the summer, and a couple of towering black walnut trees in my neighbor’s yard that frames my view to the northwest.
I plowed a lot of money into remodeling. If the economy and housing market hadn’t plunged, the investment might have been wise. But now the moths in my purse are looking hungry.
Walking around the yard this spring, I’m seeing not just beauty but bondage. The yard work is unending. And it’s more work than a single woman of my age wants to do.
My options as I see it: find a new mate (someone who loves to garden or has enough money to pay a gardener); inherit lots of money from a long-lost maiden aunt or down-size.
At the moment the first two options are in the realm of fiction . That leaves me with down-sizing.
It’s so easy to be blithe about down-sizing when it’s my feng shui clients’ stuff. But the shoe is now on MY foot and it hurts. Yesterday I sat in the yard and wept just thinking about letting go of this place.
It took me months to find my home – and now I’ll be fighting the growing horde of down-sizers who are also seeking a smaller, charming home within walking distance to shops and public transportation.
I hope I can maintain some shred of equanimity during this process. For sure I’ll be a better consultant after I’ve done it myself.
Hi, My name is Joy and I am a Paperholic.
I’m grateful to be here with you today at Paperholics Anonymous. I don’t know where else I can turn.
My addiction began innocently enough. I was in college, writing an essay on feminist thought in early Ibsen. I had notes on index cards, notes on scrap paper, notes on the backs of envelopes and in the margins of books.
It was 6 a.m. and I’d been working on this !@#$% since noon the previous day. It was due in two hours and I COULD NOT FIND the scrap on which the perfect ending quote was scrawled.
I pawed pathetically through the papers till my desk looked like the bottom of a hamster’s cage. Minutes before my deadline the note surfaced and I typed my brilliant conclusion.
But ever since that day I’ve had a Paper Problem.
I LOVE paper. Books, magazines and newspapers, of course. But even better I like articles clipped from magazines and ripped from newspapers. I read the newspaper like I’m on an easter egg hunt. I scan to rule out all the drivel I don’t want to read, but when I find an interesting article, I tear it out and set it aside to read later.
The pile on which I place it grows ever taller, because every day there’s more to read. The pile must compete with a steady influx of the New Yorker and Newsweek magazines (both relentless weeklies – I get only one monthly, National Geographic.)
The New Yorker is especially challenging because I like to rip out the good cartoons to distribute to various acquaintances. Like here’s one for my son, the industrial designer:
And here’s one for a friend considering surgery:
The only good news is that I’ve managed to cut my junk mail and catalog intake to almost zero. (This demands dogged dialing to each company’s 800 number.)
Two spots compete to attract the most paper: the end of my kitchen counter, and the top of my desk. It’s an all or nothing proposition. If the space is clear, I can stay on the wagon… for awhile.
But then I have a little slip; maybe I get too busy to put things away before I rush off to the next thing. “I’ll just put it here for now…” I tell myself, as I set a piece of paper on the counter top.
I should know by now I can’t just save one piece of paper. Before I know what hit me I’m buried again.
How buried? Imagine an exhibit at the Natural History Museum, where you’ve got a cross-section of the earth’s layers…
The top-most layer is light and fluffy – mostly current newsprint, Toyota tuneup coupons and an occasional offer for a 2-for-1 dinner. That’s about six inches deep.
The next 6” layer is more compressed – printouts of articles I read online, reports, manuals, magazines yet to be ripped into. Printer paper doesn’t fluff as nicely as ripped newsprint.
From time to time, I moisten the pile with a cup of spilled coffee or tea. Using both hands like salad tongs, I turn the pile as I seek some piece of wisdom I know is about halfway down. This serves to aerate the pile nicely. Over time, the lowest layers begin to heat up and decompose.
The bottom six inches is where my addiction begins to pay off. That’s where I’ve got dark brown crumbly compost, complete with happy earthworms. It grows great tomatoes.
You may ask, what have I tried to cure my addiction?
I had great hopes when it was rumored that the advent of computers would bring us the paperless office. This didn’t work for me: my computer just brought me in contact with MORE articles I wanted to print.
I tried taping my eyes shut so I could no longer read. I tried going cold turkey – installing a paper detection/rejection system at the door.
But then I found myself rifling through my neighbor’s recycle bins in the middle of the night seeking day-old paper.
So, now I’ve hit bottom and I’m here at Paperholics Anonymous. Can you help me?
Inspire yourself to clear clutter with a comedy act from the late great George Carlin. Watch his routine on “Stuff” and see yourself reflected.
I love this line:”A house is just a cover for your piles of stuff !”
David Allen, the productivity guru and author of the perennial best-seller, Getting Things Done, recommends that followers of his organizing principles get themselves a little device known as the P-Touch labeler. It’s a hand-held battery-operated gizmo with a miniature QWERTYUIOP keyboard that produces crisp black letters on white sticky tape and can be used for affixing labels on just about anything, but especially file folders.
I have had the PT-65 (now replaced by the PT-80 or PT-1000) for several years.
One long weekend a few years ago I holed up with my P-Touch and labeled every single file (as well as a bunch of binders and boxes). Everything was so legible that they could be read at ten feet by a blind man.
My youngest son found my P-touch passion incredibly amusing. When I wasn’t looking one night, he made labels for other things around the house “refrigerator” “toilet” “closet” and even one for the cat: “Fritz”.
I don’t mind being ridiculed – these labels keep in place the façade of order. Even if the file folders fill up with useless outmoded information over time I feel good when I open the drawer.
This week I did clutter-clearings for two separate clients, one new, and the other a return visit. When I first walked into the new client’s home I was wondering what the problem was. The entry way, living room, dining room, master bedroom and bath were spare and in perfect order.
But then we entered the family room. The big round coffee table was heaped with books, papers and exercise DVDs. The couch was similarly covered.
“I like to work here because I don’t really like my office,” she said. “I just feel less scattered here.”
So then we went into her office.
No wonder she felt scattered! Paper everywhere. Piles on the floor, piles on the table, piles nearly burying her computer. One corner was filled with boxes of photos, clippings for future collages, and magazines to be clipped for future collages. A basket held mail she hadn’t opened in a week.
I wish I could say that after two hours we made major headway. But she was so petrified by her piles that it took an hour of tea and talking for her even to touch the first pile.
Then I brought out the P-Touch. We labeled a few file folders with it and stood them upright in her file drawer. She was so happy. Suddenly she could imagine order, control.
She’s buying her own P-Touch.
Yesterday I revisited a couple I’d seen before Christmas. Both of them had major paper issues. The husband got hooked on the P-Touch and has been tossing crap and labeling the rest ever since. The wife was finally willing to move ahead herself.
We talked about how she’d like her office to be once she was done, and with that vision in mind she became a tossing fool. We filled three big boxes with paper of every sort. Then we labeled a few files with her husband’s P-Touch. Another convert. She’s buying her OWN.
Brother should give me a commission.
Why would you want to purge your excess possessions? Let me count the ways…
No, actually I’m not going to enumerate them right now; it’s too depressing. I’ll just say that we Americans have a serious Possessions Problem, and it’s choking our ch’i.
So if you’re looking around your place feeling stuck, stagnant, stale and stupefied, consider purging. Here are the four most basic steps.
- Stop clutter at the front door. Prevention is always the best strategy! Only buy what you need and have a predestined place for. Stop going to garage sales. Throw out junk mail before it settles on the kitchen table. As catalogs arrive, call their 800 number and ask to be removed from their lists. Accept other people’s stuff only if you really need it. If you acquire a new piece of furniture, let go of a piece of furniture that someone else can use. Ditto with clothing. Recycle or compost early and often.
- Tackle small chunks at a time. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead by biting off manageable chunks. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and choose one drawer, one shelf or one category of clothing. Do this for fifteen minutes every day and you’ll see remarkable progress in no time.
- As you approach each item, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I love it?
- Do I need it?
- Do I use it?
- Does it enhance my life? (or does my heart sink when I see it?)
Then sort your things into 4 piles or boxes for dealing with. Mark the boxes Yes YES!; Yes, but…; No, but…; and No NO!
- Yes yes! I love it and I need it, it works and it’s useful
- Yes, but… I love, need, use it – but it needs fixing or is in the wrong location
- No, but… Someone else should have it (Goodwill, relative, friend, Ebay)
- No no! Toss it out (or recycle)
If you get stuck, enlist a dispassionate friend to help. Trade time. Or pay if you must. Their job is to keep you focused, to cheer you on, to help you realistically assess value (or lack therof), and to ask you the hard questions: “Do you honestly think you’ll be a size 8 again?” “Do you really believe your children will want that?”
You CAN do this. And you’ll feel sooooo much better. (I just finished de-cluttering my bedroom and home office and I feel like a new woman.)
Lather, rinse, repeat. (This is an ongoing process, not a state of perfection. Sorry)
I’m scheduled to give another talk on feng shui this week.
I love these assignments because as I review my feng shui books and notebooks for fresh ideas I quickly realize that my own house has once again fallen out of order. If I’m going to pontificate about creating positive energy with feng shui, keeping the ch’I moving, getting rid of clutter, and all that, I’m going to have to do some serious purging myself.
That’s the trouble with feng shui. Once you understand the psychic costs of living in an environment with stuck ch’I, you must do something to free it up again. So you go on a feng shui rampage — purging and purifying, plumping and primping.
Then time passes. Piles accumulate. Crap attracts more crap (a law of thermodynamics I just invented). The season changes but Christmas decorations linger and a certain winter heaviness prevails in the color scheme. Symbols that you placed in your wealth corner (a pair of lovely lead crystal goblets) to usher in the big bucks are dusty and forgotten. Ditto the lovebirds in the love and marriage corner which were supposed to bring in a new romance.
Every few months I awaken, as if from a dream, to realize that the house has gone unconscious again and it’s time another round of purging, purifying, plumping and primping.
That’s what I’ve been doing the past few days. I cleared a nearly composted mound of paper off my desk and another one off the kitchen counter, moved about a dozen paintings into new locations, and reorganized the books on my bookshelves to reflect my current projects (and have a boxful ready for the library’s book sale). I bought a couple of light bright throw pillows to wake up the couch, put a summery bed ruffle, bedspread and cheery sheets on the bed. I got some paint samples to test colors for a bedroom makeover.
Altogether, I feel much lighter.
Tune in tomorrow for some purging tips.
In late May I wrote an article about feng shui for the local newspaper which they liked so much they asked if I’d write one a month for their home & garden section. This was great news because that first piece drove a really big turnout for my class at a home furnishings boutique in town. I was hoping it would generate demand for folks to come to my class at Clark College later this year, lead readers to my website, which in turn would lead to more paying clients.
Easy come, easy go.
Just after I submitted my article for July, I get an email from the section editor telling me they’ve made another round of cuts at the paper – staff and content both – and the home & garden section has been greatly reduced and absorbed as a part of the features department under a different editor in the newsroom.
I have a call into her as I write, trying to convince her that feng shui is the perfect discipline for times of economic hardship, because most fixes cost little or nothing. We’ll see.