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I recently learned about a Feng Shui ritual for bringing fresh energy into your life. The new year seemed like a perfect time to give it a try.

The basics of the ritual: each day for nine days in a row; you get rid of (throw away, recycle, or give away) 27 things.

The idea is that the things you discard are old, worn, or are remnants of the past that no longer represent you or align with your future goals. The magic of this 27 things project is that it creates space for things you want by eliminating those you don’t. Think of the adage about how you can’t pour tea into a vessel that’s already full and apply it. If your life is full of clutter that’s utterly unrelated to your desired growth-path, you’re not leaving energetic space for the people, objects, or opportunities that are right for you and want to come into your life. They say nature hates a vacuum, and by that logic, getting rid of things you don’t need or love, makes space for those better-suited to you and your desired lifestyle.

*One note about this ritual: My understanding is that the energy is cumulative, so choose a time when you can keep it up for nine straight days. That said, I roped a couple of girlfriends in when I began, and they did not complete the full nine-day cycle yet experienced similarly heightened energy, though not for a sustained period.

What’s this energy we’re talking about?

Often defined as life energy, vital force, or lifeforce, qi, chi, or ki is the energy that flows through everything. When this energy is stagnant or built up, it leads to various ailments, emotional, psychological, and physical. Eastern systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and Reiki help keep the energy flowing properly. It’s this principle that influences the ritual. Moving 27 things within (and out of) your space very literally gets stagnant energy unstuck and moving, by removing unused, broken, and ill-suited items, you enable the natural flow of qi/chi/ki.

Be Intentional

I chose to be very clear about why I was doing the ritual and what I hoped the results would be. While you should do this in whatever way is most comfortable to you (speaking, writing, thinking, singing), I chose to say the following out loud each day.

“I am moving these old objects that have served me well, out of my life. In doing so, I am making energetic space for better and more beautiful objects, opportunities, and experiences to come into my life.”

Practical matters

Clothes are the easiest. To start with, go through your closet, discard the things that don’t fit, are stained, or worn out. Throw away the socks without pairs, with holes, and the stockings with runs. Things you just don’t wear, go next. That sexy green bra with the cherries on it that you only wore once ten years ago–get rid of it! After that, the task gets trickier. Consider the pieces that are beautiful or were expensive, but that you NEVER wear. I have carried the same gorgeous deep rose-colored silk blouse with me for over a decade; in that time, I’ve perhaps worn it five times. I held onto it because was lovely and represented the kind of woman I thought I wanted to be at one point in my life, but it never suited me or felt right. This ritual finally empowered me to let it go to someone who will look and feel great in it. As you assess your clothing, notice at the things you don’t feel right in or don’t enjoy. Touch everything and consider how it makes you feel. I pay attention to expansion/contraction feelings, as well as whether things make me feel heavy or light. Acknowledge attachments to the past or to ideas you had about your life when you acquired each item. Release all the clothes you don’t wear, or that feels stiff and uncomfortable. Donate the items with the knowledge that you are opening the door to things that are perfect for you by sending these to other people who will love them.

Let go of the books you’ve already read and probably won’t read again. Also, consider donating the ones you know you should read but don’t want to. Send your old records and CDs off. I had a handful of really special CDs left (think Jeff Buckley’s Grace & Zbigniew Preisner’s soundtrack for The Double Life of Veronique). I unceremoniously digitized them and let them go. In the kitchen, get rid of food that has expired and dry bean soup mixes from 2012. Everyone seems to have a box of wires and cables for old electronics and a drawer full of old toiletries, but why? Don’t forget to consider the digital clutter. We hold onto so much clutter.

A photo of the list of things I threw away

As you work through various areas of your space, it can be helpful to explore the origins of your attachments.

  • Do you want to keep things because they remind you of a better time? An important person? A place you loved? A time in your life that was important to your growth/development?
  • How can you meaningfully embody the feelings attached to those items in your life now? How can you bring the energy you’re nostalgic for back into your days in a way that fits with who you are now?
  • If you are struggling with a particular item, ask yourself if you want to carry the object into the future. Remember this rule of thumb; it’s true for almost anything–if it is not a HELL YES! It’s no.
  • Are you afraid that if you give it up, you’ll need it later? This is a practical consideration, and you shouldn’t get rid of anything you need. However, if you have been saving something for several years and haven’t used it, feel free to release it. You can always replace anything you need. Chances are if you haven’t used it, you won’t.
  • Consider whether your fear of letting go is irrational or comes from a lack or poverty mindset. Remember that energy is always moving. We have limited time and space and want to be available for things that match our native vibration and aspirations. That means knowing what we are not available for and don’t want or need. (The things we say no to are as important as the ones we say yes to!)
  • Is it worn/torn? Is it broken? Is it chipped? Has it been unopened for 3+ years? Did you buy it for a project you never started/completed? Why are you holding onto it?
  • Does it represent who you believe you are? Does it vibe with who you want to be going forward?

To make sure I hit all the spaces in my house where I thought there was stagnant energy, I scheduled a target area for each of the nine days, and to be honest; it was difficult to get rid of only 27 items each day. I decided to amend the rule to at least 27 items. Here is how I strategically tackled different areas of clutter.

  1. Bathrooms
  2. Clothes
  3. Socks/underwear
  4. Kitchen
  5. Art supplies
  6. Digital clutter (unsubscribe from emails that you ALWAYS delete)
  7. Office papers
  8. Records/books
  9. Misc. items (old electronics, cables, & cords)

How I felt during and after the ritual

Every time I selected items to move/remove, I felt amazing. Almost caffeinated. Light. Energetic. Inspired. A hummingbird buzzing around. As a direct result of clearing the physical space, I worked on several stuck writing projects and sorted through all kinds of old ideas and mental clutter. It felt like I was on inspirational speed. By day 5, it was getting more difficult to find things to get rid of, but I was feeling so energized by the whole process of getting energy flowing, so I kept going! I’d say the words flow and energized characterized this process. Unsubscribing from all those emails was SO empowering. The inbox is a surprisingly intimate space, and protecting it felt great. Letting go of things I had been carrying was like letting go of dreams I once had that no longer rang true.

I dropped all of the items I was donating at Goodwill (three bags!) two days after I’d completed the ritual and whispered my well-wishes to all the things I had once loved (thanks to Marie Kondo for making that a common practice). I released things that have been with me since college. I have moved so much in my life that I tend to travel light. Still, there were things that I’d never been able to release. This ritual helped me say goodbye. The key takeaway is that I am going to be much more careful about what I bring into my life going forward. I don’t want to have enough junk to do this ritual again. I don’t want to buy things that will end up in a land-fill. I want to live light and energized, with the qi/chi/ki flowing continuously.