Physical and mental clutter can negatively affect your mood, productivity, and overall health. Think about how you feel when looking for a misplaced report on a disorderly desk covered with papers stacked atop magazines next to a conglomerate of used cups and scattered pens. Or observe your thoughts as they randomly shift from subject to object and back again. Being in a state of perceived chaos can stimulate feelings of anxiety and biologically increase cortisol levels. 

What the Research Tells Us 

In a study looking at how couples perceived their home environment, researchers found that female participants identified clutter more frequently than their male partners and were more likely to demonstrate increased cortisol levels and dissatisfaction when they saw their environment as disorganized and cluttered

Researchers conducting another study examining how disorganized work environments affect productivity reported that participants wasted an average of 4.3 hours per week searching for paper documents. Even digital files on your computer desktop can muddle mindfulness and hinder productivity. 

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese discipline focused on arranging your environment according to natural energy flows. It has nine areas of energy, each associated with a specific color and element (see sidebar). Feng shui can lend inspiration and creativity to the tedious task of organizing your home and workspace and help clear the way for a productive and meaningful environment. 

How to Practice 

Feng shui experts advise clients to clear clutter and use colors and art to inspire creativity. For example, one feng shui expert advises clients to set aside 30 minutes a day to sort clutter into one of three containers:  

  • In: things to keep 
  • Out: things to get rid of 
  • I don’t know

Organize items in the in container, dispose of items in the out container, and put aside the I-don’t-know container for six months. If you haven’t used an I-don’t-know item after six months, discard it.