The Anatomy of Clutter

By Erica Sofrina, Author of the book Small Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World and the Founder of West Coast Academy of Feng Shui

When I was first introduced to the subject of clutter, I thought: what’s the big deal? I like stuff, it is my stuff and why should anyone else care?

I only really got how powerful it was after I had come back from my Feng Shui Practitioner Training and decided to see if I would get the same phenomenal results my teachers attributed to clearing clutter. My garage was the best candidate for this since it was the most cluttered area of my house and held the energy for my career and helpful people, both of which I really needed to get flowing in order to bring in my new Feng Shui career.

I hired my gardeners to come and haul out everything that did not pass the clutter test. I did it all in one day. I remember how weird I felt, like I had shed a 50 pound back pack. To my shock, the phone started ringing and opportunities started coming in the very next day. At that time I felt like it was magic or ‘woo woo’ but now, ten years later, after working with many hundreds of clients, I know that it is simply energy. We are making energetic room for new things to come into our lives…. and they do.

The word clutter comes from the Middle-English word ‘clotter’ which means to coagulate -  which says it all.  Clutter accumulates when the energy or ‘chi’ is stagnant, and correspondingly, stagnant energy attracts more of the same. In other words, clutter has babies, lots and lots of them!

You know how it goes, the little pile of stuff you put on the floor within a week has become mountain. Since our lives are overwhelming already, dealing with our clutter is just one more thing to get in line if, and when, we come up for air.

You can do all of the Feng Shui in the world, but if you haven’t dealt with the clutter, I am sorry to tell you it will not make much of a difference. This is the most important ingredient for getting your life moving.

Every aspect of who you are, your conscious and unconscious belief systems, what has happened in the past and what you expect of the future is energetically anchored into your living space in the form of matter, (See my article: Your Home is Attracting Your Future) according to Feng Shui.

Doing a major clutter clearing is like throwing out all the clothes you’ve outgrown or that are out-dated, washing the rest and hanging everything up in the fresh air to dry.  You energetically feel like you have been given a fresh new start, and you have.

There are different categories of clutter; things we don’t love, things we don’t use on a regular basis, untidy or unorganized things, unfinished projects, too many things in too small  a space, things that no longer represent our current tastes or who we are now in our lives.

Next: What to Get Rid Of

Things We Don’t Love: Things  we love have vibrant energies that invoke a happy response in us. Things we don’t love and/or remind us of unpleasant or unhappy memories will bring our energy down, causing our space to feel stagnant and depressive.

Things that Don’t Reflect who we are Now: It is important to update our space to reflect our current tastes. We change completely every seven years and our space needs to reflect our new self. We might have decorated with earth tones but the new colors that feed us are blues and purples. Bring in the new more vibrant energy in pillows and accessories. It will freshen up and enliven the chi without the expense of completely redecorating.

Disorganization: When our space is disorganized our lives feel out of control. We often feel shame at having people over and tend to isolate, our self-esteem plummets and our brains feel frazzled as we try to get a handle on where everything is. My home office is the largest challenge for me. It is a huge time-suck to be disorganized and I can feel my stress level climbing every time I tear things apart to look for something.

I had a dear friend who went through a huge drama every time she left her home. Her keys were always lost, and the stress she put her three boys through as she directed them to tear up the house looking for them was like a Keystone Cops movie. I could never figure out why she didn’t just have a place that they always went the instant she came in. Taking care of this small organizational challenge would have been a gift to everyone. Feng Shui addresses the small things that add up quickly and cause our lives to feel like they are spinning out of control.

Too Small a Space: When dealing with too much stuff in too small a space, I tell my clients if they are going to live in a small space they need to be very ‘Zen’ about accumulating things. Everything must have multiple-uses and be something they absolutely love and need. See my article on Feng Shui for Small Spaces for many more ideas on this subject.

I have had numerous clients who for years lived in a cramped space that they disliked. In every instance, when they committed to clearing the clutter and then worked on enhancing the Bagua Energy Centers (see my article), they were catapulted into a much bigger living space within a short period of time.

In Feng Shui we believe our space reflects deeper issues. Often living in too small a space reflects staying too small in our lives. Other clients love small spaces and relish living a minimalist life and are committed to breaking the habit of consumerism.  If it feels too small for you, then it is. If not, enjoy your cozy space and keep it clutter free.

Unfinished Projects: Unfinished projects are called ‘naggers’ in our space because they are sending us a negative message every time we look at them. The message could be ‘you never finish anything’, ‘you are such a procrastinator’, etc. They keep our minds jumbled and we feel badly about ourselves whenever we see them.

I suggest you box them up, put a date on them six months from now or earlier and store them somewhere out of sight. If you don’t finish it by the specified date, chuck it! The same principles apply to unused exercise equipment, if you are not using it on a regular basis is is considered stuck chi in your space. So either use it or move it on to someone who will use it and remove the negative messages it may be sending every time you look at it. We want our space to affirm positive messages only.

Move Objects off the Floors: I always recommend my  clients keep everything off the floors, except, of course the furniture that belongs there. All smaller items should be given a place to be; a shelf to sit on or a closet to hang in. Move the mattresses off the floor and give yourself end tables with drawers to put the bits of things in that you need near the bed.

I am very big on baskets. All of the little things such as keys, glasses, remotes, all smaller office supplies get a basket where all ‘like-objects’ live. This organizes all of the ‘bits’ in an attractive container and the eye sees one thing instead of twenty.

Clutter clearing works on the inner and outer worlds. Freeing up the clutter in the external will make room for new things to come into our lives. In the decade I have been working with clients, those who committed to clearing out large amounts of clutter always experienced huge positive shifts in their lives. One client even found $1000 she didn’t know she had, another got an unexpected raise, another won three great prizes in a row, another a huge promotion the very next day.   The stories are numerous and you are invited to read many of them in my  book  Small Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World. The good news is that often you just need to start doing the clutter clearing to see movement begin to happen.

Creative Chaos is Encouraged: A part of the creative process is to create chaos. When we are doing a vision board, or artwork, or our children are making great Lincoln Log villages we need to lay everything out and mix and match and let our imagination create form out of the chaos. This is not clutter. It only becomes clutter when it sits around in the state of chaos too long. Then it becomes an unfinished project that nags at us. It is no longer something alive and moving if it has become a static jumble. Once we finish creating we want to pack it all up and get it organized so that we can take it out another time and create something else.

Feng Shui encourages us to be spontaneous and creative, it does not promote that we live in sterile perfect homes. This kind of rigidity is reflective of another kind of imbalance which relates to too much of the Metal Element. For more on this you are invited to read my article about Balancing the Five Elements.

I encourage you to look at clutter in this new way and enjoy the serenity, freedom and clarity of mind of having a living space that you love spending time in!

Have you had any positive experiences of clearing clutter? Please share your stories with us.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Jayasri Amma
Jayasri Amma8 months ago

Thank you!

Anne F.
Anne F.2 years ago

When I have just arrived home after vacation, the bedside table is neat and beautifully clear. I've decided to stop adding things - just a book and a magazine make more sense than a stack! After all, I am only reading to relax for a few minutes (have successfully given up fiction reading right before sleeping)

Judy B.
Judy B.2 years ago

Thanks for the article. I have way too much stuff that I "will use someday", because I got it at a bargain price. I've finally come to the conclusion that I buy "things" that I'm attracted to and can use, however, the crux of the matter, is that I like the hunt for the bargain more than the actual object. It's no wonder that my life seems at a stand still. The things are organized, but I haven't touched or used them in years. It's time to let them go so I can make space for a new life. It's also important to let others get enjoyment or use out the things that don't resonate with me anymore.

Janis King
Janis K.2 years ago

Time for a yard sale this week!

Mary T.
Mary T.2 years ago

thank you again for all the information...will do my best to de clutter my life :)

Becky H.
Becky Holland2 years ago

i had not heard the history of the word clutter. coagulate. so appropriate. that is exactly what it feels like physically and emotionally to live in clutter.

Cynthia B.
Cynthia B.2 years ago


katarzyna phillips

i liked the article, thanks! i hate 'stuff' lying around. my partner likes to chuck things on the floor or shove clothes into the wardrobe/drawers without folding/hanging properly-if at all! it drives me mad! sometimes i get so annoyed with it, i pile it up and tell him to sort it out. since we've bought our own house and now have a bigger house, there's more room for things to have a proper place. we use the smallest bedroom for all the cds/dvds and books, but the second bedroom is the dumping ground for clean laundry and the sitting room is full of his papers/letters, which i'd love to throw into the recycling bag!

it's easy enough to say about de-cluttering things, but there are people who are creatures of habit [like my ex-friend. i broke friends with her for the reason of she was a hoarder, would ask for help, then get all flustered or turn it down when i had travelled to hers to help her out]; or people like my partner who simply 'don't care' about what's on the floor, the state of things, don't pay any attention to the world around him etc. then you have the polar opposite. his parents have almost NOTHING on show; and certainly NO photographs of the family. you'd walk into their house and swear they NEVER had kids. i don't like that. it';s like a 'show home'. all fake looking

Dale Overall

My place is small not out of choice but what I can afford and my home is filled to capacity.

This doesn't bother me, clothes that don't fit become rags or donated, Spring cleaning sends some things outwards and beyond.

My tables overflow and cascade with tiny geodes, feathers, flowers, milkweed seeds on a dried pod that dance in the air, small stones, wood vases, sweet grass, stained glass, many nicknacks made of lovely woods showing warm grains.

With a 16 year old blind cat that owns me floor space must be passable and she moves along well especially at meal time!

Things are easy to find for the most part/accessible no boxes littering the floor and stuff to trip over. My balcony overflows with potted plants/flowers, herbs, veggies.

One lady saw my home and asked how I could live like this as her home is spartan, nothing but a few necessities, furniture while my energy flows with my "stuff". Others say it is cozy, nothing junky, neat but yes, overflowing. It's me and I feel no guilt.

Sylvia Wulf
Sylvia Wulf3 years ago

Valentina - if you are not looking for advice why are you even reading this article? If you are satisfied to live in clutter, pig-stye or creative, there is no call for being rude. The article is for people who do want advice, so show a little class and when you find yourself reading an article that doesn't interest you just close it and move on!