Tag Archives: declutter

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui – Karen Kingston

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The nice thing about reading whatever I like every day is – reading whatever I like. The tough thing is finding time in a crazy-crowded schedule to read for hours and then blog about it. So, occasionally, I read what I am living and use the overlap to facilitate some pressing activity.

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston is the perfect book to read when you are in the middle of a massive clear-out of an apartment you have lived in for more than 17 years. This space, with its seasonal mice, #$%^&* noisy neighbors, backyard barbecue smoke—eeuw, smells like we live over a cheap restaurant—has a fabulous Central Park West location, alas. Plus, it’s rent stabilized, a bonus that effectively traps you with the neighbors, the vermin, etc. etc. due to below-market rent. Salvation Army is getting a lot of pristine homeschooling materials and quality toddler toys as I dig into closets and empty boxes.

I am reading a John Pawson book (a cook book, actually) for inspiration in streamlining our culinary collection. Dumping a ton of old writing and marketing papers, music CDs, DVDs, various handmade souvenir baskets, pottery, folk paintings and furniture. It is a painful and horrible exercise but we are rediscovering square footage and closet space we had forgotten we had. Kingston’s prescriptions promise room for all kinds of good things to happen so I’m buying into it. Clear your clutter; change your life.

Clutter, or just seldom-used stuff, causes energy to stagnate, according to Kingston. This is a classic Feng Shui concept and the remedy is to make space to get the energy moving again. In the past, when I did a modest clear-out, I immediately got a lot of new business. So, a major release should effectively upend the economic mudslide that has buried our small enterprise and restore some fiscal sunshine. One hopes. In any case, the Karen Kingston advice is coupled with her original version of space clearing—a process and ritual that cleans the energy in a structure and banishes negative influences and the remnants of old events. Books get a special mention in Clearing Sacred Space—pretty helpful when you are staring in dismay at 14-foot-high walls of books that need dusting, sorting and selling to the used bookstore. We will always have books but we will also have eBooks and this place doesn’t need to be a set piece from Fahrenheit 451 to honor our love of the printed volume.

If you have a recurring problem in any area of your life, Kingston suggests you lay the Feng Shui bagua map over your space and find the area that relates to the problem: career, family, romance, health, wealth, etc. Check the area for clutter, items that are no longer used or were always unloved, furniture with sharp edges, even spider plants. Too many downward-hanging items encourage low energy and depression. Spiders droop attractively and produce lots of baby plants which increase the downward energy. So the recommendation is to use uplighting, ferns or other greenery that grows up, pots and cups on shelves rather than suspended from hooks. Peace lilies and dwarf bananas are good for cleaning the air and grow nicely upward.

Not every idea will work in a space-challenged apartment but the more you are aware of the message of your surroundings, the faster you can change the vibe. And, if you have a missing area, there are Feng Shui “cures” listed for tackling the imbalance. The wealth area is missing from our apartment—aaaargh. Remedies might be to hang a rainbow crystal in the window overlooking the missing area or position a mirror to reflect light there. I’ve already strung two rows of Tibetan prayer flags along the railing inscribing the phantom wealth area and we have a wind chime there but it clearly needs a bigger boost of positive. A severe paper edit—business and marketing papers, drafts of documents, bills and banking paperwork in a cabinet–and maybe a crystal might help. But the space clearing when this huge project is finished could be just the auspicious touch we need.

Space clearing is a ritual that unsticks the energy, releases old, negative vibrations and purifies the surroundings. Kingston pioneered the practice using her own talent for sensing energy and years of study with Feng Shui, meditation and indigenous shamanic practitioners. She recommends using a trained professional for the work but tells you how to do it yourself if there is no one else available. Whether you believe in the ability to affect energy fields or not, using fresh flowers, clapping, bell ringing, candles, smudging and intention to clear the space is a pleasant completion of the weeding out. There are many books about Feng Shui and a fair few about space clearing. But Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui merges both methods in a simple set of directions and explanations that make sense and could motivate you to push through the messy clean-up part to the celebration of better energy flow when you are through.   

Creating Sacred Space With Feng Shui: Learn the Art of Space Clearing and Bring New Energy into Your Life    Karen Kingston | Broadway Books  1997

Minimum – John Pawson

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Minimum is a picture book for grown-ups. My version is the minimalist one, a small, square, grey linen-covered hardback with glossy pages. Nearly every page has a single black and white or color image. Some of the photographs are double spreads. Some pages are blank. The idea of the book is ‘just enough but no more.’ That is John Pawson’s philosophy as well.

Pawson is an architect famous for minimalist interiors like the Calvin Klein store on Madison Avenue and for buildings like the Novy Dvur contemplative monastery in the Czech Republic. His aesthetic is rich and extremely spare—a Pawson home has no clutter, no stuff, no tiny detail unattended to, from faucet shapes in the kitchen to custom sofas with shelves in the salon. The look is very appealing—and there are ceiling-to-floor, nearly invisible cabinets to hide what you can’t part with so my library will be safe when I win the lottery and hire him to design my NYC penthouse.

Minimum has minimal text so I didn’t read it as much as absorb it—visually. Pawson opens the book with an extended essay that defines “minimum” as “the perfection that an artifact achieves when it is no longer possible to improve it by subtraction.” He didn’t invent this concept but he works it in all his designs and the results are arresting and oddly peaceful. Pawson admires Zen, Thoreau, Mies van der Rohe, early Tadao Ando, design by Shiro Kuramata, Shaker furniture and Stonehenge. He plays with texture and light. Much of his design empties color but his whites and naturals are infinitely nuanced and never flat.

The photographs in the book range from a solitary standing stone against a storm-blackened sky in Orkney to a 1984 black and white image of a black and a white shaved head in profile by Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m guessing it is simpler to reflect on the images in the full size book—they are very small in this version and some of the black and white shots seem dark and muddy. But the point is made.

Reduce a thing to its essence and it invites imagination. Space is conducive to creativity. Focus is sharper when the fuzz of clutter is removed. Pawson doesn’t believe in austerity; he pares things down to reach illumination. “The excitement of empty space” trumps the “paraphernalia of everyday life” for him every time.

I want to believe that kind of simplicity is an achievable goal and that the elegance and power of stripped-down surroundings can emerge from the messy quotidian. Probably a life’s work. Minimum gives you good examples. Extraordinary discipline might just clear out your tchotchkes and allow your innate, unfettered genius to shine through.

Minimum  John Pawson | Phaedon Press Limited  2000