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Sept. 16, 2021, 5:01 a.m. EDT

Another way to ‘declutter’—use a little artistry in the process

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Susan Schaefer

This article is reprinted by permission from  .

The COVID-19 quarantines have brought a new perspective about how we inhabit our spaces. Even as we venture forth into the “new normal,” many of us will continue to spend more personal and work time at home.

Not surprisingly, during those long lockdown hours within our own four walls, many of us discovered that we were drowning in belongings — drawers, closets, rooms and garages — our homes filled to the brim.

Pre-pandemic, we may have delayed dealing with our abundant possessions until we retired and/or became empty-nesters. This is when the urge to downsize naturally becomes a priority.

For many, however, the ramifications of the pandemic have shifted from downsizing — maybe moving to a smaller place — to “rightsizing” in place.

Of course, the decluttering craze began a few years back when litter liberator, Marie Kondo, a gracious guru of good taste, popped on the scene . It seemed everyone was in a frenzy to conquer their clutter, bingeing on her series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” spurred on by her bestselling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

Though Kondo’s approach seems to have sprung  sui generis  from this fresh-faced, soft-spoken naif, the truth is that both accumulating and easing excess dates to the dawn of civilization.

Also see: Watch this TV show if you’re thinking of downsizing or decluttering

The Western history of word clutter traces back to the 1400s and is related to the word,  clot —loosely meaning “collected in heaps, crowded together in disorder, to litter or to crowd a place by a disorderly mass of things.” Yuk.

Improbably, the word signifying correcting this condition, the verb  decluttering  (which spell check doesn’t even acknowledge as a word) didn’t exist until 1950 according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Yet, in the half-century since decluttering’s appearance, experts on the how, why and when to clear our untidiness abound. There are even articles in juried scientific publications proving that if we live in a mess, we may need a shrink to unshackle ourselves from the despondency it creates.

Predating medieval cluttered hovels or even 1950s Modern Architecture streamlined homes was the Chinese practice of  feng shui , an ancient art that is possibly the first system developed to create joy and promote well-being by tending to our surroundings.

Read : ‘The house is filthy and odorous’: My mom, 89, is a hoarder. My brother, 60, siphons money from her. How do I protect my inheritance?

Dating back approximately 3,500 years, feng shui developed alongside early societies moving from hunter-gathering to farming and domesticating animals. In other words, no longer nomads, these folks settled down, built permanent homes, cities and societies, and began accumulating stuff.

The concept of feng shui

The term feng shui itself translates as “wind-water,” signifying its earliest practice to site a safe place for dwellings with a main purpose to create abodes where families could flourish.

As time progressed, the movement morphed into a tradition to help locate important buildings, palaces and monuments, focusing on elements in both natural and human-made environments.

Feng shui consists of three Asian concepts: Qi (pronounced  Chee ), Yin and Yang and the Five Elements.

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