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Declutter with the Metal Element

Declutter with the Metal Element
Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

As the weather cools down and the daylight hours become shorter, you’re probably starting to feel an energetic shift. Maybe you feel a desire to go inward, get cozy, and even get organized. In feng shui, we connect this shift to the metal element, which is heightened at this time of year. Each of the five elements that we work with in feng shui is connected to a specific season, as well as a specific kind of energy. The metal element is connected to contraction and drawing inward. Think about cozying up with a sweater or blanket: what do you do with your arms? You hold in the warmth and contract. This is also the time of year when nature starts to turn inwards: trees start to drop their leaves, things begin to die away, and there’s a poignant sense of completion and endings.

You may also feel a need to prepare for the winter. Autumn is the perfect time to take stock of what we have, gather what we need for the colder months, and refresh our homes before we start spending more time indoors. One way to do this is by decluttering, or letting go of what we no longer need.

Feng Shui vs. Decluttering

While a lot of people associate feng shui with decluttering, these are two very different concepts. There is much more to feng shui than simply removing items from your home. However, the idea of letting things go and stripping away what’s no longer needed is very connected to the metal element, which is why autumn is a great time to talk about letting go of clutter.

Decluttering has become so prevalent in our culture that people often feel like they should declutter, or they feel guilty if they’re not decluttering. If this resonates with you, we would encourage you to be gentle with yourself! You don’t need to be a minimalist, and there’s no need to feel ashamed or stressed about the things you’ve accumulated.

At the same time, we recognize that a lot of people do have a desire to unload some of the “stuff” in their home — and it can be liberating to let go of what you no longer need and free up some space! Nature is a good example of how this can be a healthy process: in autumn, leaves are falling to the ground where they can decompose, and trees and plants start to focus their energy inwards. Just like the trees, we can benefit from lightening up every so often and looking inside ourselves to heal.

How to Declutter with Feng Shui

Two of our favorite ways to put a feng shui spin on your decluttering process are to let go of nine things each day or set a timer for nine minutes while you clean, organize, and find items to let go of. Nine is a very auspicious number in feng shui. It’s also the number of completion, which is related to the metal element. Even if you’re just cleaning and organizing, you’re still letting go of dust and dirt that has accumulated. This process isn’t about being perfect, but rather shifting and moving the qi in your home.

We also want to acknowledge that letting go of things is not always easy! Different people have different ways of relating to their possessions, and these distinct approaches are also reflected in the five elements. We all have aspects of all five elements within us, but often one type of qi may be more dominant than another.

Below we’ve shared how each of the five elements might approach decluttering, as well as some tips for working with these energies. No one is 100% one element, but you may recognize one as more prominent for you. It’s also possible you’ll connect with each of these styles on different days and in different parts of your home! For example, you might have a more fiery decluttering style when it comes to photos and artwork, but feel more connected to the wood element when you’re working on your pantry.

Wood Decluttering Style

If you have a wood decluttering style, you’re the kind of person who gets started on a decluttering project with a lot of energy. Maybe you even woke up early one day with a ton of enthusiasm and ideas for how to tackle a certain area of your home. However, you might find over time that you tend to lose interest and leave things unfinished; wood energy tends to be great at starting, but have a harder time completing projects.

Our tip: Be realistic about how much you can accomplish. It might be helpful to stick to a time frame, like nine minutes a day, rather than committing to a whole weekend of decluttering. Wood people also like to move their bodies, so you might enjoy focusing on the physicality of moving things around in your home.

Fire Decluttering Style

The fire element is connected to the feelings of warmth and happiness, so this can be a more emotional decluttering style. When you’re embodying the fire element and going through your things, you may find that you move from pile to pile revisiting and enjoying the memories connected to each object. A lot of people tend to connect with the fire element when they’re letting go of sentimental items, like wedding photos or kids’ artwork — and some people approach all their belongings like this!

Our tip: Give yourself permission to feel your feelings as they arise, and enjoy the process! Feeling these connections is part of being a human and being alive.

Earth Decluttering Style

People with a lot of earth qi tend to like having things around them. They often have collections, and they enjoy feeling like their home is well-stocked. They may also have a harder time letting go of possessions. With an earth decluttering style, you may see a lot of value in your collection of special mugs, for example, even when others don’t. Since you enjoy having more things around you, don’t feel like you have to do a huge purge — it’s okay to have a home full of items that you love. However, if you’re reading this, it’s likely you have a desire to let go of some of your belongings and make space for new things.

Our tip: Organize your collections and display them in a way that makes you happy. Honor your belongings by taking care of them. This could also mean boxing up some things and storing them mindfully, and then bringing them out at another point in the future.

Metal Decluttering Style

Metal is often represented by an image of a sword or scissors, two items that are very good at cutting away! When you trim something mindfully, you actually encourage it to grow more — think of a tree or shrub being pruned. When you let go of something in your life, you make space for something new to grow. If you’re embodying the metal element when you’re decluttering, this process probably feels fairly easy to you since letting go is part of the nature of metal. You also might be really good at keeping things organized and only holding onto what’s required.

Our tip: You may have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to letting go of things, so be mindful of this. Consider bringing in some fire qi to create balance and get more in touch with your feelings.

Water Decluttering Style

Water is about depth, wisdom, and resourcefulness. If you have a watery personality, you may find that you are surrounded by a lot of art and books, especially books that encourage deep thinking. Maybe you became interested in a particular topic at one point and bought several books about it, and maybe you even read all of them! People with a lot of water qi tend to feel connected to things that are filled with knowledge and creative ideas, and it can feel hard to let go of these objects.

Our tip: Books and creative items are meant to be used and enjoyed, so if there’s something you’re no longer using, try finding a new home for it. There’s beauty in passing these things on so that someone else can enjoy them, and there’s a lot of wisdom in doing this as well.

Remember: you don’t have to fit neatly into one of these styles — we all embody each element at some point and in some area of our life. This also isn’t about judging your patterns; rather, it’s about examining and being curious about how you approach the things in your home and in your life.