Category

Minimalism

Our Feng Shui House

Posted - 17 February, 2015
Spa Stones

Recently I had an appointment with a Feng Shui consultant. Feng Shui is the Chinese art of harmonizing yourself with your home and its surroundings. This has been an interest of mine for a long time now and I have studied it a lot, applying what I know to each place that I have lived. But this was the first time I have ever consulted with a professional. I was inspired to deepen my Feng Shui practice when we recently discovered that moving was not an option for our growing family and my daycare business. So I had to make our space work better for us. In comes Alexandra. She is like part interior decorator, part spiritual advisor. From the moment she came in the door she exuded peace and calm. Our puppy usually goes psycho when she meets new people but paid little attention to her.

Lets just say that by Friday my house is usually coming apart at the seams, literally. After five days of five small people opening every cupboard, making various art projects, mud pies, spilling food and getting sand in every nook… disaster ensues. I have actually been through four cleaning ladies before I found one that can handle us. She brings in a team of two extra people to get the job done. The day Alexandra came was not a cleaning day though. I actually planned for this so she could see the reality of our situation. She didn’t bat an eyelash. We went through each room and she simply asked what worked and what wasn’t working. I never felt judged, even in my garage where we stood talking for twenty long minutes surrounded by horror. It really was scary in there that day and yet somehow the conversation was uplifting. My garage also happens to be the prosperity corner of our house. Below is a simple diagram called a bagua which in Feng Shui is like an energy map of your home where each area represents some specific aspect of your life.

I thought the garage was a good starting place because who doesn’t want their life more prosperous. The other areas that are the focus in Feng Shui are Career, Family, Fame, Health, Children, Knowledge and Helpful People. Oh and Romance. Many houses are not perfect squares like the one to the left. Ours is a funny long rectangle with a corner missing where our patio is, which happens to be our Romance area. No wonder this is the last thing I think of.

So the goal of my Feng Shui consultation was to gain better flow and to have more peace in the house. The ironic part is that the six weeks after that initial consultation kicked off the beginning of complete and total upheaval in almost every room in the house. It started with the garage which turned into a weekend project that led into a series of events that went something like this:

1. Declutter garage. Move stuff out into storage shed that is not used regularly. Wait, never mind – get rid of old storage shed which is dilapidated and also harboring rats. Buy new storage shed, build it and set it up on the other side of the house because old storage shed is still there. Collect things from the side yards and roof that husband has been secretly hoarding like six old lobster traps and remove. Create a massive pile of crap and admire before posting on CL under free stuff. Wonder why you just had a interior design consultation and then spend 16 hours cleaning the outside perimeters of your house.

2. Declutter the kitchen. This took only a couple of hours and was the most satisfying of the projects. Alexandra explained that our kitchen was in the Children/Creativity bagua of the house. Then she gave me a brilliant distinction. I looked at my kitchen as the last place that I wanted to be after taking care of kids all day. She said that it was the easel of the house and in order to feel creative and be inspired you had to start with a blank canvas each day. Just as an artist would put away and wash their brushes and paints, I had to do my dishes. I think of this every time now and it amazingly stays clean. Or is cleaned more frequently I should say.

3. Fix the bedroom. Apparently a standard Feng Shui practice is to have matching nightstands and matching lamps in the bedroom. It creates an energy of equal partnership. You also should have a headboard to feel secure when you are sleeping. We had none of these and I swear this change has been the most amazing. We curl in bed early now at night and have time to read. It feels like we are on vacation in a hotel and it is so relaxing now in our bedroom. Also I got permission from my husband to pursue my lifelong dream of a professional closet system. Elfa from the container store changed my life. The Career/Life Path bagua was where our messy closet was. I can’t wait to see where our careers will go.

4. Create a Skills and Knowledge zone. This area was where our driveway was. Completely empty and void of anything. Not a great energy for your knowledge center so I thought of a solution. I made a new freestanding mailbox to the side of the driveway with an oak barrel full of flowers. Now we have something there that is full of possibilities and living energy.

5. Move the kids furniture around. Move the bed away from the window as it makes kids feel insecure. Have matching night stands and a headboard. Declutter and remove as much visual stimulation as possible.

It’s funny because in trying to find peace and balance in my house I created so much work for myself that it zapped my energy and made me off-balance. I think that it is a really intense experience stepping back and looking at each aspect of your life, even if it means rearranging some living room furniture. I know from experience that children are extremely sensitive to clutter and chaos. Even though it was hard I did this for my own kids and for the ones I get to spend my work day with. I am happy I know about this modality and wanted to share. I have seen a noticeable difference in the kids. Mostly they are able to engage fully in creative play and then relax completely in their room.

Feng shui is about adding elements where the energy is missing and removing clutter where energy is stagnant. For the first time I really got that clutter is just visual overstimulation. I am trying to create an environment here for the kids to be inspired yet able to remain calm as well. Or as calm as it can be with six kids under five playing in the same house at once!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like a consultation with Alexandra, here is her info:
http://www.fengshuidesignsandiego.com/

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This story begins three years ago with the birth of my second. While it is 100% easier the second time around, the addition of another child somehow creates 100% more work. Add to that the fact that my home daycare requires me to take care of four other children ages 0-4. Now I am going to give you a picture of the state of our house at this time. On any given day when a parent would drop off their kid in the morning there would be a pile of dishes in the sink from the day(s) before, toys scattered EVERYWHERE, laundry strewn about, more toys, and a boat load of other crap that us Californians simply have no where to put in our small bungalows we pay a fortune for.

Looking back I can see that having a new baby gave me the ultimate excuse to surrender to the chaos. Which I did. There were plenty of days where I never got a chance to get out of my pajamas or even brush my teeth – and I was running a business out of my house, working 45 hours a week. Every time I would start doing the dishes the(a) baby would want to be fed or changed. I would tell myself that as long as I was keeping the laundry basket level and not overflowing I was at least doing something.

At this time it was amazing to see how many toys had accumulated during the first two years of my firstborns life. After all she was the first grandchild of four grandparents, one step-grandparent, two uncles, one aunt and one great-grandma. Times these 9 people plus two Christmases and two birthdays and you have 36 gifts on average at each event. Then there is the weekly inflow of toys brought in by everyone every time they took my daughter somewhere or did anything with her. Think the zoo and Disneyland gift shops, toys at checkout counters and really any store you go into. On top of that we had a new baby who somehow needed a whole new set of EVERYTHING because he happened to be the opposite gender of our first born.

I found all sorts of excuses for our mess. Even in some parenting books I read theories that it is much more important to spend time with your children playing rather than running around bleaching everything. Finally we hired a cleaning lady. Actually she brought her own crew of people. Apparently having a home daycare requires extensive time-consuming detailed tasks like picking play dough out of the rug and scraping 100 stickers off of the dining room table and cleaning food out of places you can’t even imagine food getting into. And sand from the sandbox. Everywhere. The funny thing was that the hiring of the cleaning crew made me clean even more than ever – to clear a path for them to clean!

Over the last year things have shifted. When my baby was two and his sibling four it got a lot easier. We got into a groove. My son had weaned himself overnight and it was amazing to feel not tired for once. He was literally sucking the life out of me and when he quit the boob it was like someone was slipping uppers into my tea. I could complete tasks like dishes and laundry. But it still took at least 2-3 hours a day to have my house “clean”. I read more parenting articles that this busy work will never end. Dishes need to be washed and lunches made. So just suck it up. I tried to change my attitude. And my house was still a cluttered mess all the time. It seemed nothing would change. I was a prisoner in my own four walls of messiness.

Recently I discovered another way. As a writer of a blog it must come to no surprise that I love following great blogs. I hope someday to inspire others the way I am inspired when I come across a great new post. On Facebook I saw a blog about becoming a minimalist. Like most who discover this philosophy – I was instantly sold. Living life minimally means different things to different minimalists. So here is the deal. On the extreme end of the spectrum there are people who pare down all of their possessions to just 100 things. Not kidding. Since my son has at least 100 Legos in one tiny box this type of extremism would obviously not work for us. That is why I like Joshua Becker’s style he calls rational minimalism.

For Joshua being a minimalist means getting rid of at least 60% of your stuff. By creating space to breathe you are able to do more of what you love and what inspires you. Reading. Writing. Exercising. Playing with your kids. When you are surrounded by piles and piles of stuff – that stuff calls out to you. It needs to be cleaned, put away, cleaned again, sorted, folded, cleaned, organized and saved. For me it was 2-3 hours every night of my life. Americans are culturally indoctrinated to consume. The extent of our consumption is our greatest demise, both individually and culturally. One day I had this realization that if we bought our daughter one more toy it would make me sick. What are we really teaching our children?

So we are close to getting rid of 60% of our shit. I must have taken ten loads of stuff to the thrift store, we had a huge garage sale and Craigslist posts are still rolling in the $$. Now when I go shopping at Target I carry a small basket instead of loading up a cart-full, which I used to do every time. Over the past five years since having kids, stuff was constantly coming in and rarely going out. I attribute my lack of purges over the years to two things. One, I literally have many hoarders in my family. Some are sneaky organized hoarders who possess unbelievable organizational skills to be able to house the massive amount of stuff they posses, neatly. Some walk through their homes using little paths in between the piles of stuff they collect.  Two, I never thought I could get rid of my stuff.

I personally think that about 25% of people have no problem giving something away they no longer use, and their houses reflect this healthy attitude. They are neat and they function. For the rest of us there is this thing called hoarding. For me it was second-hand hoarding. I was absolutely shocked when going through the purging process that MOST of it was given to me by one of my relatives I described above. I wish I could give specific examples but I would like these people to like me still. Lets just say most of it was something that either was expensive (or so they thought) or possessed some sentimental reason for being a gift to me. All of it sat on shelves or in cupboards for years without being used. Ever.

This process was very time consuming but in the end I am down to 45 minutes of cleaning at night. If my husband is not working a night shift it’s 20 min each. I have 1-2 more hours of my life back per day. Another thing I didn’t expect was that going through my cupboards and pulling everything out required an extensive amount of mental processing. So much that it kept me up a night a few times. Now when I open a cabinet it is only half full and organized. It gives me a calm state of mind. It reminded me of something I learned once at a relationship course I took several years ago. Women have an amazing ability to remember where a vast amount of things are located within their house. This goes back to hunter gatherer days when it was critical for survival to remember which bush had the poisonous berries and which ones were safe to eat. I would wake up, and first thing in the morning one more thing would pop into my head that I could get rid of. In this way I deleted one less item to file away in my mama brain.

A list of things I sold that I hadn’t used in 1-10 years:
15 crystal champagne flutes
a crock pot
a Kitchen-aid mixer
a rice cooker
an electric coffee maker
wine glasses with stems
piles of dishes
five flower vases
chipped coffee mugs
the list actually goes on… and this is just the kitchen.

Here are the blog posts that inspired me and helped me in this process:
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dont-just-declutter-de-own/
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/minimalism-benefits/
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/breaking-the-sentimental-attachment-to-books/
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/simpler-kitchen/

Good luck!

The mess makers.

 

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