The karmic implications of clutter

What are the karmic implications of a parent dying and leaving a very cluttered home for their children to deal with? This is a very interesting and rather complex question.

Clutter karma

What is karma?

Karma is a concept that can be found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It’s the notion that what we do in this life and in previous lives influences what happens to us in this and future lives. Based on their actions, a person can be said to have “good karma” or “bad karma”.

An important aspect of karma is that we can’t change the past but good actions in the present can help to assuage the karmic repercussions of actions in the past. And we can’t determine the future but doing our best to act with integrity in the present helps to smooth our path forward into the future. How this differs from the Christian belief that good deeds will be rewarded in heaven and bad deeds will send a person to hell is that it relates to incarnations on earth as well as the destiny of a person’s afterlife. But the “as you sow, so shall you reap” concept is common to both.

Living in a culture where everyone believes in karma is an insightful experience. Ninety-five percent of Balinese people are Hindu and during the twenty years I lived in Bali from 1990 until 2010, just about everyone I ever talked to about this told me that before they do anything, they always check within themselves to discern as best they can what the karmic repercussions of their action might be. It’s ingrained in them from an early age and applies to the smallest of deeds as well as to major decisions in life. It’s a guiding principle that runs through everything they do.

The karma of clutter

Not everything that happens to us in life is due to personal karma. Some events are purely random and many are the result of triggered samkaras (emotional scars that influence how we react). Other events are the result of being enmeshed in someone else’s karma, and this leads us nicely to the question of parents and their clutter.

If a parent deliberately leaves their home in an extremely cluttered condition, knowing that it will create a tiresome task for their offspring after their death, there are likely to be karmic repercussions for them arising from this and even more so if this was done with malice. But if the home deteriorated into this condition as a result of sickness, a mental health breakdown, an inability to cope, or other factors beyond the parent’s control, that’s a very different story.

Similarly, where the child or children who inherit this problem are concerned, there are a number of possibilities. Not everything that happens to us in life is related to karma, but where it is involved, sometimes it’s because of our own personal karma and sometimes it’s because we are caught in the karma of another person or other people. The two feel very different but both types of karma have a sense of inevitability about them. So if you inherit clutter from your parent or parents, it may reflect your own personal karma, it may be that you are tangled up in theirs, or may have no karmic implications at all.

It’s not what happens to us but how we handle it

Learning to consciously navigate through karma is possible but the level of commitment to one’s spiritual path and the length of time it takes to develop the subtle body structures to be able to do so means that most people never come close. While we are incarnated here on earth, there is also no way of knowing for sure the true causal factors of karmic events because we are subject to the limited vision of the human standpoint.

So a better approach to take to situations like this is to remember that it’s not what happens to us in life that shapes our destiny but how we handle it. Having to clear out the cluttered home of deceased parents may be a chore, but it can also be a rich learning experience if approached constructively instead of with a victim mentality.

I’ve met people who have inherited situations like this and have spent years sorting through their parents’ belongings. They weigh themselves down with mountains of things that they bring home to store and lose themselves in the process. Others deal with the clear-up in a matter of weeks. They extract any important documents and perhaps one or two things they wish to keep, arrange for any valuable items to be sold by an auctioneer, and then hire a house clearance company to haul everything else away.

The difference between these two approaches does not seem to be the depth of grieving the person is going through but the way they handle being left such a mess to sort out. Some are overwhelmed. Others roll up their sleeves and deal with it. Above all, those who have an organized clutter-free home find it much easier to take it in their stride because they are able to see the problem clearly as their parent’s mess rather than an addition to their own.

Take karma by the horns

If you have a parent with serious clutter issues they are not able or willing to deal with themselves, take heart from the fact that clearing your own clutter first will equip you to sail through sorting theirs out more easily after they die. And in the meantime, you’ll get to experience all the lovely benefits of living clutter-free yourself.

And if you have children who could inherit a mess from you, improve your own karma by sorting through it now instead of leaving it for them. Whether you believe in karma or not, they’ll thank you for this, and you’ll be able to leave this world when the time comes with no concerns about leaving a burden for others behind.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2018, updated 2022

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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