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The Beauty of Caring For Our ‘Stuff’

The Beauty of Caring For Our ‘Stuff’

by alumna Ainslie Kincross

I’ve been pondering the value of caring for things (yes, for people too, but here, it’s about the things we live with).

When we abide by the “First Rule” of Essential Feng Shui – to live only with what we love – the quality of our connections with the things in our homes invokes caring for them: dusting them off, polishing them up, giving them just the right place, letting our gaze rest in appreciation on one here, another there…, fixing them when they’re broken, or perhaps lovingly gifting them to a new owner.

I believe these acts of ‘caring for’, or ‘tending to’, add beauty to the world. The Latin tendere means to direct attention toward. That core meaning forms a part of a family of words: extend, attend, intend…think even of a vine’s tendril growing toward the light. Attention is our creating energy. When the movement of attention is directed by love and appreciation, there is Beauty.

WSFS teacher Karen Abler Carrasco noted how the flow of caring attention moves through the Five Elements: “… cherishing something involves taking its entire essence into oneself through all 5 senses, which are the 5 Elements. When you love something, you look at it intensely (Wood), caress it (Fire), taste it or give it a home or container (Earth), smell it and let it evoke memories (Metal), and listen to it, letting it take you to the deeper parts of you inner self (Water). It inspires you to refill your life again with new projects and pursuits (Wood again) and around we go in the nurturing cycles of life.”

As she notes, the cherishing can be an inward flow (yin), while the outward act of caring for placing, cleaning, etc., is more yang in quality. It’s a complete and continuing circle.

Consider, alternatively, people who have no home environment to care for: refugees for example, or the homeless….or a person living in an institutional setting filled with things they have little or no relationship to. Caring for a cherished object is not an option. And then there are the many whose lives are so busy that, like a wild river at flood stage, they rush by the things in their homes on a daily basis with no time to care for, or tend to, these things.

vineCare-less living results when attention is continually commandeered by outside objects, events or circumstances instead of being consciously generated and directed from within, following the tendril of love outward. Probably the most evident example currently is the ever-demanding smart phone that interrupts our face-to-face conversations, and with its incessant “notifications” wears down the use of deliberate will to direct attention toward beautiful caring.

But we now know what happens when prisoners have even a single plant, or a food garden, or a service dog in training – to care for! It teaches them about the goodness in themselves, and introduces some Beauty in a difficult environment. And now that most elder housing allows residents to have their pets to care for: people connect more, their eyes light up… they live longer!

As feng shui practitioners, we know what’s possible when we create our homes as a sanctuary and introduce stillness, and time contemplation. There is beauty. WSFS graduate Sharyn Jordan describes this beautifully: “I am spending my cozy evening in a comfy chair with a great book by one of my many favorite authors and a cuppa hot tea. Panning my lovely room, I feel incredibly blessed; all 5 elements are in and at play. The celebration of caring for one’s items creates a beautiful calm. In turn, it allows us to connect with both its inner and universal peace.” And she notes that this experience allows us to return more peace –and I would add Beauty– to the world.

I think most of us who’ve opened the gate and started down the richly-laid path of feng shui have done so because we love beauty and want to surround ourselves and those we love with it. Caring for our things is the way we shape our homes and the world beyond them into Beauty, like loving gardeners. That’s the world we all innately move toward like tendrils on a vine…..


Ainslie B Kincross PhD is a 2001 graduate of the WSFS Practitioner Training, a licensed architect (Colorado), and a lifelong student of Beauty in all its forms. She can be contacted by email through her website:


  1. This is beautiful, thank you.

  2. “Tendere”, to tend or care for, and the “tendrils of love”…Thank you for these tender images, Ainslie! I will be cherishing my things even more as I savour your thoughts on the differences between the care-full and care-less tending of them.

  3. I just found this article today and it is my birthday too today. What a wonderful gift for me to read this….thank you Ainslie for writing this article and of course thanks to Karen for your beautiful insight to the 5 elements.