Feng Shui

Simplifying...a little sage advice on the path to Less Stress, and More joy

There is much talk about living simple, clutter free lives.  "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," by Marie Kondo has sold more than 2 million copies and is an international best seller. This tells me that people are hungry for something different in their lives. Something simpler, less stressful, and more joyful. 

Yet, the path to simple has obstacles that we are often reluctant to face. In honor of National Simplify Your Life Week, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on moving toward a simpler life. 

Know that simplifying your life is NOT always easy. As I sit here impatiently searching for the perfect words to inspire you, I find myself falling into old patterns of self judgement and self doubt, negative  thinking (mental clutter) that I discourage in my family, friends and clients. 

Yet here I sit, berating myself  because I haven't written a new blog post for a few months.  I actually felt momentary shame about this. After all, I am an organizer by trade. Surely I can carve out time to write more often. The truth is I have chosen to postpone this task as other priorities have been the center of my focus for a few months now.  I feel content with my decision to honor what is most important to me, and understand that some things will take a back seat for my attention.

My daughter leaves for college in a few weeks and I am cherishing these last days of this chapter of my  life. For me, living a simple, authentic life means paying attention to what I bring into my home and life. It also means spending time where I feel happy, where I feel fulfilled, where I feel whole. 

Change may be good, but we all have deeply entrenched neural pathways that make shifting to something new challenging, no matter how beneficial the end result may be.  We are creatures of habit. We become set in our ways, even preferring the devil we know to the devil we don't; and, we often fear the unknown. Using these reasons to avoid change or getting started on a path to less stress  and more joy in your personal and work lives may appear as being complacent, lazy, or inept. Simply not true.  You were not ready. Forgive yourself,  take a deep breath, and consider this.

If you have a nagging sense that your personal or work life needs a shift, then maybe, you are now ready to forge a new pathway. I warn you, it is easy to fall off the shallow rails to the deeply gorged, older patterns of your life. Don't let that discourage you though. If success comes from getting back up one more time than you fall, then you already know the answer. Get back up each and every time you falter. Period.

Decide what you want, and figure out how to get there. And, if you don't know how to get there, ask. There are so many resources at your disposal. Use them!

The Kon Mari method of decluttering may not be a fit for you. But there is sage wisdom in Marie Kondo's simple approach. What I love most about her practice is asking the question "Does this spark joy?" Because honestly, if you don't use it or need it, it had better make you happy. Why spend time and energy tending mental and physical clutter that no longer serves a purpose in your life?

Writing down what you want is an important first step. You are announcing quietly to the universe what you need and want. And in that moment you are one step closer to your vision. 

Stop judging yourself. Learn from your past choices and move forward. To spend an inordinate amount of time beating yourself up mentally serves no one. Your choices, experiences, and yes, even the physical clutter have served a purpose. It is now up to you to decide what stays and what goes. People around you may say things that foster doubt in your decision making. But remember that only you know what you truly need. Monet was rejected by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and yet, went on to become one of the most renowned and beloved artists of all times. He remained authentic and true to himself. A beautiful lesson, for sure.

As you shed your homes and offices of physical clutter, let go of sabotaging language and negative thoughts that cast judgements about your stuff and, by extension, yourself. Thank yourself for what what you have learned about what you truly need. Recognize what is important where you are right here, right now. And, simply, set the rest free. 


photography by Jennifer Raphael Seines- pathway, Paris, France; and, Claude Monet's home in Giverney, France (June 2015)



Feng Shui...Applying the neuroscience of architecture

We have all heard of feng shui but as with so many influences in our daily lives, we may be unaware of the significant impact our surroundings have upon our energy levels. Despite my expertise in the organizing arena, I recently reached out to a colleague with incredible knowledge of feng shui hoping for insight into the next steps needed to improve the balance of energies in my home.  In my experience, when applying the general principles of this practice, there is always  a positive result whether you understand the why of it all or not. There are many books and many web sites with information on the practice if you are intrigued.

What I want to share now is what my colleague referred to as removing the "splinter" because this is a profound, although simple, concept and one that has already influenced a mood and energy shift for me. The "splinter" is that pattern or repeated misuse of space that influences energy.

For me, it was displaying things on high shelves throughout my home. These spaces had become heavy and stagnant. Because they are difficult to access and require a ladder and half a day to clean once I get started, I had left the displays unchanged for a long time. Even before I invited feng shui advice, I had noticed a nagging feeling when looking at these heights and had removed items from one room.

Some of the items have been donated to bless someone else, and other things are now being used for their intended function rather than decoration. Beginning this process propelled me into to considering the same steps in next room. But something was holding me back. Enter Feng Shui expert with no connection to my things or the stories attached to them. These ceiling height collections were one of the first things she noticed and urged me to remove all of them and to live in the cleared spaces. I noticed a sense of calm immediately. Since removing the splinter, I have discovered the energy to move forward in other areas of my life.

I was inspired to put this new knowledge into practice and asked my son's participation. He has challenges falling asleep at night, as do many people with ADHD, and with his permission, I made some change in his room to see if they would make a difference.

I proposed that we remove the high energy bedding and leave the gray blue in its place. The shift was noticeable immediately. Next we removed active, high energy posters from his walls. Although he is a film major and chose posters to represent his favorite film genres, how restful can it be to wake to movie posters of the New York skyline in flames and the Joker's wicked grin? I proposed that we remove them temporarily to see if he felt any different with this change. His room is definitely calmer. But it remained crammed full of his many treasures, and being the creature of habit that he is, has remained unchanged for a few years other than to add to the mix.

Did I mention that he had a dense collection of things at ceiling height in his room? A splinter, perhaps! What I know for certain, is that he has been sleeping better and waking at 9 am instead of noon since we made those changes. That was two weeks ago.

Since then he has been more receptive to clearing more clutter and going through boxes and cupboards one at a time. And, I have been doing the same throughout our home.  I call this process peeling another layer.

For many people, and especially those challenged by chronic disorganization, setting a time limit with an actual timer, or pinpointing one specific area to review makes decluttering less overwhelming. Just one  shelf or box, or just 15 minutes are finite and tangible parameters. It may take longer than some of you would prefer, but it will get done and with benefits beyond the clutter clearing.

Apply the neuroscience of architecture to your life and who knows what you may discover!