Every Chinese New Year my teacher assigns Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston, to bring our attention to those parts of our lives that may be disorganized, stagnant or neglected. Even though the book is feng shui-themed, one does not need to follow feng shui in order to reap the benefits of the underlying philosophy. In my house, we use the book as a guide to acknowledge areas of physical and/or emotional clutter accumulated throughout the year (or many years) and come up with a plan to respectfully decide what to let go of, what to replace, and maybe what to put more energy towards. For some individuals it may mean clearing the clutter internally – changing your diet, participating in a juice cleanse, or another type of detoxification. Or it could be something in the living environment such as decluttering a closet packed with items that are old and never used.

One year I decided to go through a chest filled with various memorabilia from different stages and events of my life. I had letters from friends and past boyfriends, tickets stubs, cards, playbills, and many other items – some of which I couldn’t remember why I saved. I carefully evaluated each piece and noticed my emotional reactions and the sensations that paired along with them. Some elicited joy, others nostalgia or sadness, and to some I was indifferent. I allowed myself to keep those pieces I thought I would want to share in the future, either for my own enjoyment or for the meaning it would give to my family. While some of the purging was difficult to go through I also found it liberating – I could let go of the past and make more room for the adventures of the future.

In the book, Karen Kingston also mentions the importance of clearing out old books, which is probably my most difficult area of clutter clearing. And so, I had to ask myself, “what do books mean to me?” They symbolize the ways I can escape and be relaxed as both an introvert and a highly sensitive person. Books are also about the expansion of imagination, wisdom and knowledge, which is invaluable to the seeker in me. Once I identified these meanings, I was able let go. I passed many of my books on to others to share the gifts I had received and create the physical space for new stories and ideas to come my way.