Are you racked with “messy home” remorse? Try letting go of all the small stuff first, and the energy and motivation to de-clutter will follow

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I feel guilty for not keeping my house in better shape. I know that having good feng shui means having a neat home, but I’ve never been able to maintain my home as such. As a result, “messy home guilt” is my constant companion, making relaxing at home difficult. Yet, interestingly, the guilt is not enough to get me to clean my home. Can I ever get over “messy home guilt”?

The bigger issue here is not your messy home, but the guilt that it engenders. In feng shui, much emphasis is placed on the home being in perfect order, but sometimes aligning our inner feng shui can make a difference in reducing the guilt that prevents us from de-cluttering.

The paralyzing emotion of guilt

Guilt is like an inner watchdog that makes us feel bad if we don’t do what we think we should do. Most people I see make it excessively difficult for themselves by holding onto a stubborn perspective that creates unnecessary guilt and stress.

What is guilt?


Guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse when you believe — accurately or not — that you have compromised personal or moral standards of conduct. In your case, you have guilt because you believe your home should look a certain way and you have not lived up to that standard. That sense of “should” is oppressive and engenders guilt.

Remember, we are not focused on the clutter, but on your guilt about the clutter. To let go of guilt you have to change your belief about what you should and should not do. To change your perception, or belief, acknowledge all the things you accomplished when you weren’t cleaning, and don’t judge them as good, bad or frivolous.

Let’s say that it would take you two hours a week to keep your home the way you would like to maintain it, but you spend no more than an hour a week tidying up. That means for 50 hours a year you were doing something else. If you’ve spent 20 years feeling guilty for not maintaining your home the way you think you should have, take a moment to reflect on all you gained and did in those extra 1,000 hours. Having a well-maintained home is important, but sometimes the reality of the time required to keep it that way is out of reach.

Every event or action has a positive and a “negative” side to maintain balance. If you don’t make the effort to uncover the positive, you will continue to suffer and feel guilty for not doing what you think you should do.


Letting go of guilt

Many people have difficulty letting go of their day-to-day guilt about things such as a messy home, but if you learn not to sweat the small stuff, you will find that your guilt diminishes, freeing up your energy to do other things. Ironically, letting go of guilt can actually motivate you to tidy up your home.


The following are some common types of guilt and suggestions to manage it.

Financial guilt

Do you feel guilty if you: • Buy something frivolous for yourself? • Get an unnecessary beauty treatment, such as a pedicure or facial? • Pay more for something for convenience’s sake? • “Waste money” by eating out all the time?

Remind yourself that money is a form of energy. Sometimes we think of spending money as a “loss,” failing to remember that the energy of the money is merely changing form. Assuming you are no gambling addict or spendthrift, when you feel financial guilt coming on, ask yourself how the energy has changed form and in what way you have benefited. Do you feel better? If so, how did spending the money improve your mood, boost your spirit or save you energy?

Friend and family guilt

Do you feel guilty if you: • See someone you know but purposely avoid him or her? • Receive a birthday present from someone whom you didn’t give one to? • Secretly dislike certain family members?

Remind yourself that whatever you want, feel or do is okay. You experience guilt only when you judge what you are feeling as bad. Doing what works better for you or valuing your time and energy enough to avoid a potentially difficult situation is not wrong. Always ask yourself what you want to do instead of what you should do; and know that whatever your answer is, it’s okay.

Move on from guilt


With a little time, effort and awareness, you can make a difference in the quality of your life by choosing not to judge yourself. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others in the same situation, a side effect of the oppressive “should.” Imagine that your friend feels guilty about the exact same thing that you feel guilty about. You would likely talk him or her out of feeling guilty, yet you would not afford yourself the same freedom. Free yourself from letting guilt get in the way of your ability to relax and enjoy your life, and you may find that you feel motivated to de-clutter.

Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, an educational establishment at the Gentry Pacific Center on Nimitz Highway. Learn things about life that were never taught in school about how to be happy. Happiness U offers classes such as Feng Shui 101, Clutter Clearing Plan 101, Positive Mindset 101, Happiness 101 and more. Visit for more information.