Stuff = Dead space: The Feng Shui view


As a way of getting deeper into our new thread on stuff, here is a basic way of understanding why clutter is so bad for you: it “kills” space and blocks the flow of energy around your house and in your mind.

That’s how a Feng Shui guy explained it to me when I lived in Hong Kong.

Feng Shui, if you’re new to it, means wind water (characters above), which is entirely unhelpful in understanding what it is. It’s the ancient Chinese version of geomancy–figuring out how to place buildings, furniture and other features of interior and exterior living in such a way that they make us feel healthier, more energetic and positive.

Feng Shui shares the fate of most things Eastern that are becoming fashionable in the West. That is: there are all sorts of quacks and weirdos eager to sell it to you as modern snake oil. If you know somebody who suddenly put mirrors, crystals and fish tanks all over his house, he probably became a Feng Shui victim.

800px-RepulseBay_holeOn the other hand, if you encounter buildings such as this (right behind a great beach I used to go to), you know you’re in Hong Kong. In this case, Feng Shui (ie, the hole that allows better energy flow) makes for idiosyncratic local architecture.

But if you’re lucky, you meet an expert who treats Feng Shui as the subtle application of common sense. I was lucky.

Ki-hanjaLike Chinese medicine (and indeed Indian Ayurveda), Feng Shui tries to optimize the flow of vital energy, or qi.

That qi is the ki in Aikido and the chi (different transliteration) in Tai Chi and the qi in Qigong. In Sanskrit it is called Prana. It behaves a little like electric energy, as it flows between a positive and a negative “pole”, Yang and Yin. When they stick needles into you in acupuncture, they are using the tiny conductors to amplify the flow of qi along certain conduits (called meridians in Chinese medicine, nadis in Ayurveda and Yoga).

What, you may be asking, does any of this have to do with stuff?

Stuff = dead energy

The way this Feng Shui master explained it to me, clutter in your home or office blocks the flow of qi in that space. The space becomes not just dusty but in effect dead.

Think of a corner of your house, or a drawer or a basement or a tabletop, that is hopelessly cluttered with stuff. (I’m using stuff to mean extraneous things here.) You don’t even want to look into that direction because it makes you feel bad. It reminds you that you should clean it up. Perhaps it reminds you of things on your to-do list that you never did because you didn’t want to, and now they’re piling up in that corner. Perhaps there are really important or useful or sentimental things hidden underneath that crap, but how would you ever know, without digging through it? Just thinking about all this makes you …. go somewhere else–anywhere else–and run away from the clutter once again.

And so your house becomes deader and deader with each cluttered corner. You walk through it as through a graveyard. The constricted space constricts your thoughts, perhaps your breathing (in Sanskrit, Prana means both breath and qi.)

So, to you hoarders: It’s not true that storing stuff costs nothing. It costs you more than any accountant could tally up.

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