The stress of living through a pandemic hunkered down at home working—or worse, not working at all—has sped up interest in a niche home service: space clearing, a practice that straddles the line of spirituality and interior design.
Space-clearing services have become widely available through holistic interior design firms, can even be performed remotely and range in price from $100 to several-hundred dollars per hour depending on the complexity involved. Of course, space clearing can also be a DIY project requiring little more than reading about the ritual to prepare.
“The reason I started on this journey and studying all of this,” said Gala Magriñá, who runs her eponymous interior design company in in Queens, New York, “comes from a quote from the Global Wellness Institute: ‘Our homes, communities and surrounding environment directly affect our daily behaviors and lifestyles, and together these determine up to 80% to 90% of our health outcomes.’ Our spaces matter. They have a huge impact on our health and mental well-being.”
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Defining Space Clearing
Space clearing, often associated with yoga and meditation, feng shui and New Age practitioners, is a ritual to begin anew in a space. It can involve smudging (burning sage or palo santo), ringing a bell or other actions.
“The essence of energy is intention,” said Matthew Tenzin, of Joe McGuire Design, a holistic interior design firm in Boulder and Aspen, Colorado. “It’s about conscious or unconscious intention. Smudging is an act of conscious intention. It’s an opportunity to honor the history of the space, not to reject, cast out and banish all negativity.”
Mr. Tenzin, who also runs True Home Design, an energy-centric design consultancy, said stuck energy, what someone doesn’t want in their house, is most easily cleared when it is “honored, acknowledged, felt and released.”
“That applies to our internal stuck emotions and healing as well as to spaces,” he added.
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The idea behind the smoke from burning sage or palo santo is that it helps to clear out what the practitioners called “old, stagnant energy.”
“When you create a ritual around that, it becomes powerful,” Ms. Magriñá said. She doesn’t perform energy work on her own, and instead calls in experts on space clearing. She’s even worked with experts who can do remote energy clearing using a pendulum, an address and a home’s floor plan. “It’s been fascinating,” she said.Mr. Tenzin cautioned that when dealing with a building with a complicated history and energetic imbalances, it’s best to call a professional. For instance, trying to space clear a hotel is probably outside the ability of most DIYers.
“We worked on an old hotel with a lot of rooms, with a lot of history and a lot of complexity. It took a lot of work to clear. In the end, they said it was the best money they ever spent in terms of customer satisfaction,” Mr. Tenzin said. The hotel client told Mr. Tenzin that they had fewer customer complaints and a happier staff following the clearing.
Drawing on the Elements of Holistic Design
After space clearing, designers often lean on the holistic design school of thought to reimagine a space. Holistic design touches on nature and biophilic design, colors, shapes, natural light, proper artificial lighting, air quality, ventilation, sustainability, wellness and energetics. “So much [of holistic interior design] has to do with our ancient brain connection with nature, patterns of nature, sounds of nature, the feelings that nature emits and recreating those inside,” Ms. Magriñá said.
The Joe McGuire team takes the same considerations, along with the social, spiritual and sustainable aspects of interior design. Their clients in Boulder and the Denver metro area and in the surrounding mountains often have acreage. He encourages a walk around the perimeter of the property to get to know its natural elements better.
“By working from the outside in, with a clear intention, it’s quite profound what can arise in terms of the inspiration and vision,” Mr. Tenzin said. “We offer a guided visioning process, then our clients may have a different understanding of how the floor plan should be, or what the color palette could be. When people connect with the land and the history of the place, there’s an opening of the heart and a wish to take care of it.”
He said he sees humankind entering a phase when people are “reclaiming our sacred role as stewards and co-creators on this planet, not just consumers.”
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How to Tell if a Space Clearing Could Help
Moving into a new space, remodeling an old space, going through a period of transition or wanting to refresh a space are all good times to take on space clearing. “When you do a clearing, you’re clearing all of the old stagnant energy from the space so you can start fresh,” Ms. Magriñá said.
Further, if the home had previous occupants, it may benefit current occupants to do a space clearing.
Mr. Tenzin said he believes “the users of the space can impact that space even when they’re no longer there.”
He referred to that process, of a past resident’s emotional energy stagnating in a space, as “energetic imprinting.” “We’re not taught to notice that and be able to distinguish what’s ours and what’s not ours. People may move into a new home and wonder, “Why am I in such a funk? I don’t feel like myself. I feel so sad, and I don’t know what’s going on.’”
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Do-It-Yourself Space Clearing
When clients are averse to hiring professionals to aid in space clearing, holistic interior designers won’t force the issue. It’s still possible to create a space to support wellness without hiring an energy-centric designer.
“I’ll ask them if they want to do a space clearing by themselves. They love that. I give them a tutorial on how to take sage or palo santo and do it themselves, so they become part of the process,” Ms. Magriñá said. “They infuse their own home with the energy and the blessings they want.”
Energetic work within the context of interior design is an opportunity to set intentions for the future and surround oneself with imagery, colors and textures practitioners believe will help encourage those intentions.
“It’s a point of power to slow down and ask: What is our intention for this space? How do we want to feel? How do we see this next chapter of our lives? What is the ideal, highest expression of our life together in this space?” Mr. Tenzin said. “It’s surprising how many people don’t do this, and it can prevent a lot of conflict and open up a lot of new possibilities in the design process.”