As a feng shui consultant, I generally categorized myself as a clutter minimalist. That was, of course until recently.

I just returned from one of my favorite places on earth, Southern California. The visit was magical and nourishing and taught me a lot about myself - including the fact that I have no idea how to pack a suitcase. This knowledge, of course, would ultimately lend itself to a more interesting realization.

While living overseas many years ago, I had the luxury of routinely traveling to many different countries. I am not really a novice traveler, but for the life of me I couldn't narrow down what to bring on this particular trip. Will I be warm or cold? There was stuff for yoga, stuff for hiking, sunning, lounging, eating, thinking - you name it.

By the time I was done packing and repacking, my travel bag was comparable to a chosen victim of the show What Not To Wear. I guess I should have known I was in trouble when the limo driver called my bag the beast from the east.

I somehow managed to get the beast on the airport scale only to be told that six extra pounds of luggage fat would cost me $50. Thinking on my feet, I coyly asked the rep if I could please remove some shoes. My inane request was declined and I was stuck with the fee.

On the plane I pondered and plotted ways to avoid getting charged when I returned. It was on the very next morning as I was walking to my first yoga class when I found my answer. Directly across the street was a UPS store. The powers were with me.

The proprietor politely nodded and smiled as I explained my dilemma. He then proceeded to explain how I could ship my stuff back for half the cost. In fact, he was even cheaper than the Post Office! Such a deal. As I was leaving he teasingly told me that I could now shop for even more stuff.

Shortly thereafter, I was loving life and taking an invigorating beach walk when the sheer ridiculousness of the situation hit me. Just how attached am I to articles of clothing, shoes and more shoes that I would pay (twice, no less) to have them carted back and forth across country? Have I gone mad?

Talk about excess baggage! That light bulb moment clearly taught me metaphorically that I seriously needed to lighten my load. Instinctively, I knew that I would soon be donating items to the hotel housekeeping staff. The interesting thing is that I wasn't doing it to avoid paying extra, but rather as an expression of behavior modification while merely letting go. It was such a small, yet liberating action. Some people leave their hearts in San Francisco, but I left my travel clutter in San Diego.

Feng shui teaches us that everything is comprised of energy. By tuning into our environments we can create harmonious spaces where positive energy flows to support our lifestyles. In direct opposition, clutter causes a stagnation of energy. It drags us down and makes us sluggish and demotivated.

I classify my overpacked suitcase as clutter because it really was an example of cramming too much stuff in a space. Not only did it slow me down literally and figuratively, it kept me in a state of lack. What if I needed that jacket or those extra pair of shoes?

There are several pitfalls of clutter. For one thing, it keeps you in the past. When your space is filled with too much stuff, there isn't room for anything new to come to you. Releasing the past creates a better future. Also, clutter causes disorganization. Folks spend a great deal of time searching for things (as I did right within my jammed suitcase), which undoubtedly causes undue stress.

Coming from a person who practices feng shui, this clutter-filled experience is a slightly embarrassing confession. I can't help but think of the old saying: the shoemaker's kids have no shoes (although, now I can at least say that I have a few less pairs of them) but it actually was a beneficial eye-opening reminder worth every penny of that $50.

So my advice to you is to not get caught/stuck in the clutter trap. Ask yourself: do I really need this; do I really love it? If the answer is a firm yes to either or both, enjoy. If the answer is no, then it is time to part ways.

Since I returned, I continue to find areas where I can de-clutter. In fact, I just mailed in my application to participate in my town's annual garage sale. I’m thinking an over-sized suitcase just might bring in some decent money.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Tartaglino is a certified practitioner who trained with feng shui master Nancilee Wydra, founder of the Pyramid School of Feng Shui. Susan received her certification through the Feng Shui Institute of America, an international organization founded under the Pyramid School philosophy.

It was during her residency in Hong Kong from 1984 to 1986 that Susan was first introduced to the concepts of feng shui. Susan has combined her years of feng shui study with her passion for interior and exterior design to help others achieve balance, comfort and inspiration in their environment and in their life. Susan is a member of the International Feng Shui Guild. Other interests include a dedicated yoga practice and spending healing time with nature in her garden.