The problem with integral garages

Integral garage

Integral garages are a challenging feng shui issue in many modern homes today, especially in the United States, where so many houses are designed that way for convenience, with no thought for the energetic effects.

There are a number of problems this can cause.

Your front door is no longer your front door

An integral garage usually has a door that connects it to the house for ease of carrying shopping from the car. But doors are portals for energies as well as people, so what this means is that your garage entrance energetically becomes the main door of the home, and your real front door is hardly ever used.

Since many garages open into utility rooms rather than the more tastefully designed entrance foyers that front doors do, entering this way makes you feel like a second-class citizen. Your foyer may be a delightfully welcoming space for visitors, but you rarely experience this effect yourself. This can lead to issues such as low self-esteem, always putting other people’s needs before your own, or feeling that you don’t control your own life.

Your feng shui bagua orientation may change

The feng shui bagua is a grid that can be laid over the plans of your home to reveal where each aspect of your life is located in the property.

The most effective way to to do this is to orient the bagua to the front door of the home. However, if you have an integral garage, this can mean that you regularly enter through the door that connects the garage to your home instead of through the front door, and this may change the orientation of the feng shui bagua of your home in a way that can have undesirable consequences. For example, it could cause a bathroom or toilet to be located in the Wealth area of the bagua, with all the financially draining effects that can have.

There may be toxic seepage into your home

Another issue caused by having an integral garage is that any room located above one is not the best place for human habitation. If used as a bedroom, ungroundedness can result, and also health problems due to toxic seepage of fumes from the cars or chemicals that are stored in the garage.

A feng shui cure that sometimes remedies lack of grounding is to place a large rock or stone ornament in the room above the garage, and it may be possible to install ventilation ducts to channel toxic fumes safely away. But it’s still far from ideal to use such a room as a bedroom. It would be better to use it as a storage area, taking care, of course, that it doesn’t become a junk room.

The energetic side-effects

One of the least understood problems caused by having an integral garage is that each time you enter the home after parking your car, you will not only swamp your home with toxic chemicals from car fumes but will also unwittingly carry with you a whole mish-mash of energies that the vehicle has collected on its travels, which can cause very chaotic effects.

Most eastern cultures understand very well that there needs to be a clear separation between outdoor and indoor energies, which is why they observe the strict practice of removing their shoes before entering a building. They know how disruptive it can be to trample outdoor energies through a home, and this is not even taking into account the chemical cocktail of pesticides that we pick up on the soles of our shoes, even in urban areas. But most westerners have very little awareness of this, and modern garage designs now take this one step further by mingling the energies of cars as well.

The ideal location for a garage

In places like Singapore, where feng shui principles are well integrated into everyday life, cars are always located far away from living spaces, usually in designated car parks. Even the super-rich park their Ferraris at a suitable distance from the house, usually in open car ports rather than enclosed in garages (a car port facilitates cleansing circulations of wind). I have never seen a single instance of a Singaporean home that has a garage attached to any kind of living space.

According to feng shui, the ideal location for a garage is some distance away from the house and behind the line of the front door, not in front of it, like the garage pictured here. Positioned right at the front of the home, this garage resembles a gaping mouth waiting to be fed. The occupants of a house such as this are likely to find that their time and resources are relentlessly gobbled up by one thing after another.

So what can you do if your home has an integral garage?

One client I worked with in the US devised a simple solution to the utility entrance issue at least. She would park her car in the garage, walk to her front door closing the garage door behind her with a remote control, and enter her home through the front door. If there was shopping to be brought in from the car, she would then re-enter the garage through her utility room to retrieve it. This simple change of behaviour resulted in beneficial changes in her life on many different levels.

Too much trouble, do I hear you say? I admit it depends a lot on the design of your house, the weather on any particular day, and how much you care about the quality of energy in your home. But if I had to live in a house like this, I would certainly do it. I suggest you at least give it a try for a while and see how it feels. Even if you cheat occasionally and enter through the utility room when it’s pouring with rain, you’ll still probably notice a marked improvement.

And if you want to take it one step further, try taking off your shoes upon entering too. In most western homes it’s not practical or desirable to leave them outside the front door, but keeping them in a cupboard just inside the front entrance works almost as well. When outside energies are kept outside, you can build a much more nurturing space inside.

Other articles about garages
Why most garages aren’t what they seem
Is your clutter worth more than your car?

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2012, updated 2017

Posted in Feng Shui | Read 11 comments...»

Why life over 60 works better without clutter

Man with hulahoop

How would you feel if a relative or friend died, leaving a house full of clutter behind them, and it fell to you to sort it all out?

Unfortunately, this situation is very common, and I often meet people who have toiled for months, or even years, disposing of someone else’s stuff.

I was, therefore, very cheered to hear recently that this is much less likely to happen in Sweden, where sorting out your stuff before you die is something that over 65s are expected to take responsibility for and do themselves.

They even have a name for it. It’s called dostadning, which literally means “death cleaning”. It’s about letting go of anything you no longer need and putting your affairs in order so you are ready to make a clean, guilt-free exit, without leaving a burden to anyone else.

When to begin

Personally, I think leaving it until you’re 65 to take control of your home and your life is way too late. None of us know when we’re going to die, or how, and if you happen to become terminally ill, sorting through your possessions will probably be the last thing you feel like doing.

So I say, do it whatever age you are, and enjoy the benefits of living clutter-free for your entire life, not just the end stage.

It’s never too late to begin, and I’m happy to report that if you’ve reached the age where there is more of your life behind you than there is before you, the process can be easier. This is because you are clutter clearing with a definite purpose in mind.

Clutter clearing can give you a completely new lease of life

A woman I once worked with, who was in her eighties and in good health, had resolved to put her 3-storey house in order because she couldn’t bear the thought of her children walking into it after her death and seeing all her mess.

Every room was overflowing with clutter, and she had felt paralyzed for years to deal with any of it. However, she was determined to do it for them, and that kept her going, week after week, until the job was done.

The lovely thing was that she lived another ten years, and regaining control of her home gave her a completely new lease of life. After clearing all her clutter, she felt free to do many things she’d always wanted to do.

Far from being over, she told me that she felt her life had just begun. She painted, she travelled, and best of all, she often had her adult children come to stay because now she had guest rooms that were clear of clutter and available for them to use.

Clutter clearing is the natural thing to do as you get older

We come into this world with nothing and we can’t take anything with us when we die. At the beginning of life, there is no attachment to physical items at all. Psychologists have discovered this doesn’t start until a baby is 8-12 months old and it gradually gathers momentum from then on.

The reverse process is supposed to happen in the decades before death, as our engagement with the physical world recedes. Putting our affairs in order brings peace of mind and goes hand in hand with disposing of things we no longer need.

Throughout life, everything works better if you only keep around you the things you love and use. This is because the stagnant energies that accumulate around clutter always cause stuckness of some kind. When you clear out the old, it makes room for the new.

Living clutter-free is especially important in our senior years. It’s a complete myth that people feel comforted by having all their things around them. A few treasured items are good, but most people feel stifled by having so many things they no longer use, and frustrated by their reduced ability to clutter clear because they are no longer as fit as they once were. It is much, much easier to sort through your things and let them go while you’re still fit and well.

Don’t delay – start today

Here are four ways you can begin…

  • Give away, donate or sell anything you haven’t used in ages and are pretty sure you will never use again. Surround yourself with the things that represent who you are and what you want to do at this time of your life.
  • Make a will. Or if you already have one, make sure it’s up-to-date.
  • If you have any special items you wish give to others, list them in your will or, if you no longer use them yourself, gift them to the person right now.
  • State clearly in your will what you want to have happen with all your digital assets. Appoint a digital executor and set up access to your online accounts and passwords through a secure route such as LastPass Emergency Access.

Lighten your load. Death is as natural as birth, and the more prepared for it you are, the more you can enjoy life to the full now.

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017
First published at on November 3, 2017

Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 1 comment

Here’s an experiment you can try

Clear Your Clutter book on table

If you live with someone who has a lot of clutter, here’s an experiment you can try that thousands of people have told me has worked for them.

Just leave your Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui book some place in your home where the person will be sure to notice it.

One woman wrote to tell me she tried this with her housemate: “I simply left the book out on the kitchen table for about 24 hours.The next morning he announced his intention to give away one of the three sofas and one of the four chairs which crowd the living room and by the afternoon there was a box of stuff outside the back door cued up for the trash.”

Many other people have told me this has worked like magic with their partner or spouse.

The reason it is so effective is because you don’t have to nag the person or try to persuade them. They read about how clutter can hold them back and make their own decision to do something about it.

And if there’s a specific chapter you want them to read, it works really well to slip in a bookmark at that point.

Related articles
How other people’s clutter can affect you
How to help your partner let go of their clutter
The Clutter Clearing Ripple Effect

Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2011, updated 2017

Posted in Books & ebooks, Clutter clearing | Read 4 comments...»

The deeper implications of putting your stuff in storage

Self storage

Self storage facilities are eerie places. Some owners try to make them more cheerful by painting the doors bright colours or playing piped music through the corridors, but there’s no getting away from the lifeless energy of tons of stagnant stuff.

Mostly what’s stored is innocuous, but sometimes it’s not. The manager of a storage unit in the US told me about a man who kept his wife’s dead body in a barrel in a storage locker until the smell gave him away.There was another story I read about in Australia of a dead body discovered in a self-storage unit, hidden there by a woman who’d topped her husband. They found out because she forgot to pay the rent, so they broke open the door to repossess.

Thankfully these instances are rare, but if you google “dead body found in storage unit”, you’ll find quite a few more cases.

So apart from occasionally storing dark secrets, what else are these places good for?

I’ve used a storage unit three times in my life.

The first time was when I was living six months a year in the UK and six months in Bali. I had a locker in the UK and what can best be described as a fairly secure cupboard in Bali. Because my life in each culture was so different, I really didn’t miss anything I had in one country when I was in the other. But I must say everything got a lot easier when I moved permanently to Bali and let go of my things in the UK. This was in 1995. I wrote my first bestselling book that year, and another the year after. A whole new era of my life began.

The next time wasn’t so clear-cut. After 20 years in Bali, I sold up everything I owned and moved back to the West. First stop was California, where my husband and I thought we wanted to live. So we left our suitcases in a storage unit there while we flew to Europe for a couple of weeks to sort some things out. Not the best decision, as it turned out, because we soon realized that we really wanted to live in the UK. So there we were, living on one continent with our most useful stuff stranded on another, and no need to visit the US for any other reason for six months. Hmmm…

The problem with being in one place while your stuff is in another

The problem with being in one place while your stuff is in another is that you’re neither here nor there. You’re energetically stretched between the two locations. You can’t fully land or get on with your life where you are because part of your consciousness is resting somewhere else. It can be very destabilizing.

Many times we wanted to just get on a plane and bring our bags over to the UK. But we were moving from one short-term holiday home to another so didn’t have any permanent place to put it. In the end it was several months before we found a home to rent long-term and were reunited with our stuff. If you’re ever in this situation, resolve it as quickly as you can. Your life will be on hold until you do.

The next time we rented a storage unit was when we moved to a rented house in the UK for a year until we found a place to buy. The house was too small for all our furniture so we put half of it in storage. We could have saved ourselves some money and put it in our attic or garage, but I’ve written blogs about why that’s never a good idea so we didn’t want to do it ourselves.

So do I recommend using storage units?

Well, yes, but only as a temporary solution. If you know exactly what you’re storing and use the stuff sometimes, or will have a use for it in the not-too-distant future, it’s fine for a while. The problems start when you leave things in storage for too long a period, or worse still, indefinitely. You’re connected energetically to everything you own, so this is like leaving part of yourself in limbo. If a whole year goes by, alarm bells should ring. Quite apart from the financial cost, there’s the toll it takes on your well-being.

The bottom line is, can you truly get on with life when you have stuff in storage? And the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no. Some part of you will be disconnected, neglected, unconscious or just plain waiting until you and your stuff are united in one place. This puts an interesting new slant on that well known phrase “getting yourself together”.

Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2011, updated 2017

Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 12 comments...»

The truth about smartphone addiction

Human evolution - not

There are now ankle-level signs on moving walkways in some Asian airports to warn people to sometimes look up. Lampposts in London’s famous Brick Lane have been padded to reduce injuries to people walking into them. Pavement lights have been installed in some cities in Australia, Germany and The Netherlands to sync with red, amber and green changes of traffic lights. Special walking lanes have been introduced in places such as Antwerp, Belgium, Washington DC, and Chongqing, China. Reduced speed limits have been introduced in New York City to minimize pedestrian accidents.

Why? Because millions of people are so distracted by their smartphones that they have become a danger to themselves and others.

Distracted walking collisions

I came across one such example yesterday, while driving in an urban area with my husband. As we turned right, a well-dressed businessman started to cross the road in front of us, so absorbed in his phone that he didn’t see us. In fact, when he eventually looked up, we could see in his eyes that he had no idea where on earth he was, and it took a few seconds for him to realize the danger he was in.

This is not an isolated incident. It happens all the time, which is why some authorities are now taking action to bring people to their senses.

In South Australia, the fine for walking while looking at a screen is $105. In Rexburg, Idaho, it will cost you $50. In Honolulu, fines are between $15 for a first offence rising to $99 for repeat offenders. Mumbai does not ban texting while walking but, because India has the highest selfie death rate of any country in the world, it has created over fifteen no selfie zones around the city. Many other cities are currently discussing what to do about the problem and are expected to introduce preventative methods or legislation.

An epidemic of smombies

Smartphone zombies (smombies) are everywhere, and increasing year by year. It’s a global epidemic.

According to Michelle Klein, Head of Marketing for North America at Facebook, the average adult checks their phone 30 times a day and the average millennial checks over 150 times a day. Other studies have shown that one in 3 people check their phone before even getting out of bed in the morning, and many teenagers interrupt their sleep to check for messages, leading to sleep deprivation and a reduced ability to pay attention at school. On average, a western smartphone user now spends over four hours a day using their device, tapping, swiping or clicking 2,617 times.

While governments try in vain to curb the use of smartphones by pedestrians and drivers, most  people simply carry on because they are too addicted to their phones to stop. They can’t help themselves. They are slaves to the feel-good dopamine hits delivered minute by minute, that keep them coming back for more.

How to wise up

Some Silicon Valley insiders are now starting to speak about how we are being manipulated to become addicted.

Most notable of these is Tristan Harris, a former Google designer turned whistleblower, who has been called “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”.

‘Never before in history have the decisions of a handful of designers (mostly men, white, living in San Francisco, aged 25–35) working at 3 companies [Facebook, Apple & Google], had so much impact on how millions of people around the world spend their attention,’ he says. ‘We should feel an enormous responsibility to get this right.’

He is urging product designers to adopt a “Hippocratic oath” to create software that is not based on cultivating addiction, but instead enables people to use technology to create positive contributions to humanity. His advocacy group, Time Well Spent, is dedicated to that purpose, and he gives some excellent examples of how it could work in his Ted Talk: How better tech could protect us from distraction.

I don’t usually include videos in my blog because they gobble up so much of people’s time, but I do recommend you watch this one. It contains information that could radically change how we all engage with technology in the future…

Equally concerned about internet addiction is Justin Rosenstein, a former Google and Facebook engineer, who helped build the Facebook “like” button and now sees the effect it has had on billions of people. ‘It is very common,’ he says, by way of apology, ‘for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.’

An article in the The Guardian reports that he now limits his Facebook time and has banned himself from  Snapchat, which he feels is as addictive as heroin.

It’s very telling, of course, that Steve Jobs never let his own children use iPads or iPhones. He protected his own family, and many Silicon Valley CEOs are now following suit by weaning themselves off tech devices and sending their children to elite schools where smartphones, tablets and laptops are banned.

The title of an article published in Wired says it all: ‘Tech bigwigs know how addictive their products are. Why don’t the rest of us?’

So what can you do?

The first thing to understand is that if you use social media of any kind, you are subject to a whole range of persuasive techniques that have been deliberately engineered by very clever people to get and hold your attention in order to generate more revenue from advertising. You think you are making your own choices, but you are not, as Tristan Harris explains in another Ted Talk: How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day.

The first step to conquering addiction is to admit you are addicted and become aware of your compulsions. So next time you feel the urge to check your phone while you’re walking or driving, realize it’s not worth the risk to yourself or others and desist. Or if you cannot immediately summon the willpower to overcome your craving for a dopamine hit, then at least move to one side, out of the flow of pedestrian or road traffic, and come to a complete stop before you succumb.

Another step you can take is to actively seek out ways that will help you to take control of your device, such as How to kill Facebook’s newsfeed or Rescue Time. You can find more suggestions here: Take control of your phone

Technology itself is not inherently bad. It could be designed to help us develop enhanced levels of focus and insight for the betterment of the human race instead of the addictive distractions that it fosters today. But until enough of us say “enough” and changes are made top down, the best we can do is to use it more consciously and wisely rather than letting it use us.

Related article
Are you a single, double, or triple screener?

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

Are you addicted to your smartphone? Has this article helped you to see it from a different standpoint? Feel free to add your comments here.

Posted in Lifestyle & awareness | Read 10 comments...»


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