Tag Archives: clutter

Parigraha: holding on to stuff

Parigraha: n. ancient Sanskrit word meaning grasping, hoarding, holding onto one’s stuff.

Sooner or later – and the way the economy and my savings are going right now it’s looking like a lot sooner – I’m going to have to sell my house and move into much smaller quarters.

I am therefore faced with two inarguable reasons to let go of a lot of my stuff:

1) A home that is sparsely furnished shows better when it goes on the market because prospective buyers have enough open space that they can imagine themselves and their stuff in it.

2) My future home, which will be about half the size of this one, can comfortably fit only half as much stuff – if that much, maybe less.

In yoga, we study the yamas and niyamas, which are about how we want to be in the world as compassionate enlightened yogis. Patanjali wrote them down about 150 BCE (!) as part of the Yoga Sutras.  They’re kind of like rules of conduct – not rigid or dogmatic – but more like ideal states of being to continuously work towards.

The fifth yama is aparigraha (the opposite of parigraha) or non-grasping, non-hoarding.  Ideally we yogis are not attached to our stuff. It flows in and out of our lives – we use it and let it go, use it and let it go. Ideally.

But our stuff means so much to us! It is SPECIAL stuff. Even if it stands in the way of emotional and physical freedom, we clutch it close.

My current spiritual practice involves gathering the equivalent of a box of stuff every day – either for disposal (recycling LOTS of paper right now), re-use (Goodwill, here I come), or sale. I’m starting with easy stuff – a couple of days ago it was ancient computer manuals, old tax papers and receipts. I’ve got boxes and boxes and file drawers and file drawers more paper to go.

Not wanting to overwhelm my recycle pickup service I switched yesterday to culling socks, stockings and tights.

Today is table linens. I have an amazing number of napkins that I never use because they clash with my dinner dishes, or are stained, or are insufficient (why is it I buy a set of SIX napkins, when I rarely feed less than EIGHT for a company dinner??).

I know I’ll have to make much deeper cuts in every department, but I’ll use the easy stuff like mental weight-lifting, to strengthen my resolve.

The hardest will be stuff that I equate with memories – of a special person, place or time. Down the road.

Piles of possessions: George Carlin on “Stuff”

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 !”

Packrat predilections

Packrat: a small rodent (genus Neotoma) that collects in its nest a great variety of small objects. An eccentric collector of miscellaneous objects.

Predilection: a preference, often formed as the result of personal disposition rather than from objective knowledge.

I’m working on an article for the local paper on clearing clutter, and as always when I have to gather my thoughts on some self-improvement topic I come face to face with my own short-comings.

Compared to many folks I’ve worked with my house is in order. But order is one thing; conscious is another. Much of what I have has accumulated willy-nilly over the years. Yes, I brought it into the house, but if I actually use 20% of it – or am even AWARE of it – I’d be impressed.

Take books, for example.

I buy a book. I read it (or not!) and put it on the shelf. Will I ever finish reading it or refer to it again?? Probably not. But it’s tidy and lines up nicely with all the other books on the shelf, so why move it? Occasionally I get a warm fuzzy feeling looking up at an old favorite, but that’s about the extent of my interaction with it for YEARS.

We all have our predilections for certain kinds of stuff. But one man’s collection is another man’s clutter. To someone who hates tschotchkes, a collection of ceramic roosters or angels is not just clutter, it’s a visual assault.

The tschtochke collector, however, might have been appalled by my former kitchen. Because I love to cook, my crammed cupboards and drawers weren’t clutter to me; they were my “working materials. ” When I moved a few years ago I was embarrassed to discover canned goods, spices, tools, and tableware that hadn’t been touched in a decade (or longer).

Clutter. I admit it now.

This morning I filled two boxes to the brim with books I will never read again. I’ll take them to Powell’s next week and what they can’t use I’ll give to the library.

What I want to end up with is a collection of books, each one of which I’ve consciously chosen to keep because I love it, need it and/or use it.

My clothes closet is next. ACK! Help me Jesus. (Just kidding)

Priorities – if you’re into feng shui

Earlier today I read a post from a well-respected feng shui consultant in LA who gave her top ten feng shui tips. I can’t believe these are truly her top ten tips if by “top feng shui tips” she means “best suggestions for improving the ch’i in your environment.” They included keeping your windows and mirrors clean, your toilet lids down, your dead lightbulbs and dried flowers replaced in a timely fashion.

These are all good tips – but top ten????

When I go on a feng shui consultation dirty windows are usually far down on my list of where I believe the client’s priorities should be. Based on the issues I see in people’s homes, these are far and away the top problems:

1. Clutter, clutter clutter. This should hold the top five spots on my list. We have too much stuff.

2. Stuckness in the past (too many objects that no longer represent the person’s present or future life – and a staleness in the energy around them)

3. Lack of personal expression in the home. Furnishings, art and other decorative objects were either chosen by a decorator or are the kind of stuff you get at the mall. Either way, it’s not representative of the unique people who live there. Who are you? Figure that out then let it show in your surroundings.

4. Dull dead dreary color choices. Beige walls. Brown sofas. Color is transformative people! and paint is cheap.

5. The expectation that putting a symbol in a particular gua will magically bring their desire to fruition. Put a statue of two love-birds in your Love & Marriage corner and bingo! your prince arrives. No. He won’t unless you get out into circulation. Or lose a few pounds. God helps those who help themselves, isn’t that the line?

Pontificating for a projector

I bought myself a projector last week in order to more effectively give talks that benefit from illustration – most specifically, about feng shui.

My family gave me a hard time about this expenditure but I told them (not sure if I was just blowing smoke out my butt) that it would pay for itself in new business in no time!

Tonight I earned half the cost by giving a feng shui talk at a local home furnishings shop. 34 folks showed up at $10 each (twice what I expected). That’s $340! and at least two of them want home consultations which should pretty much cover the rest of the cost of the projector.

I didn’t USE the projector because I don’t yet have my pictures assembled for an illustrated feng shui talk. Instead I blathered on for an hour, which most folks seem to enjoy. They especially like stories of people whose homes are in worse shape than theirs. Especially homes with a clutter problem.

Like my client who complained of being stressed. When I came to her house, she could not sit down to talk to me because she was so busy watering her potted plants – of which she had HUNDREDS – dozens in every room. And she wasn’t even a collector. Whenever a plant got too crowded in its pot she divided it – but couldn’t bear to throw away the subdivisions. She was like a cat-lady who never learned about spaying.

Or the guy who worked on the kitchen table because he didn’t like going into his office. When you looked in the office door the first thing you saw was a floor-to-ceiling bookcase crammed higgledy piggledy with books and boxes – if there had been a magnitude 1.5 earthquake he’d have been buried alive. His desk was overflowing with papers and fixit projects. No wonder he didn’t want to go in there!

All the ch’i ruffling I’ve done around my own home this past week has really paid off! Three writing assignments, 2 unsolicited job offers, and all those folks tonight. Wow.