20 Things Superstitious Folks Refuse to Keep in the House
These ordinary items could be bringing bad luck to your home. Why take the risk?
Could something you’ve introduced into your home bring bad luck, relationship problems, or even death? Superstitions from around the world, some with roots trailing back thousands of years, warn us to keep various unlucky items, from bugs to birds to inauspicious colors, out of our homes. Many of these seemingly capricious prohibitions may have their origins in practical concerns, so even if you’re not especially superstitious, it probably still pays to steer clear of these unlucky things not to keep at home.
1. A Broken Clock
Because clocks mark the passage of time, they have long been associated with human mortality. In the Victorian era, clocks were stopped when a person in the household died, so it’s not surprising that a clock that has abruptly stopped working bodes bad luck. Even spookier, if that broken clock suddenly chimes, it’s a sign that death is near!
You may think it’s cute when your kids bring home a jar of fireflies, but beware! According to Victorian superstitions, when a firefly or lightning bug gets into your home, it means that someone in the household will die soon.
3. Lifeless Decor
Whether it’s a vase of shriveled cut flowers, a taxidermied moose head, or even a seashell, dead things in the home can bring bad luck. This connection between decaying objects and human mortality is celebrated in the rich history of vanitas artwork, in which skulls, rotting fruit, and extinguished candles symbolize the transience of human life. The issue isn’t that cut-and-dried, though: Feng shui holds that certain seashells, when properly placed, can attract good fortune.
4. Green Paint
In the 19th century, certain green paints could literally kill you: Paris green, a pigment that was widely used in textiles, children’s toys, paint, and wallpaper, contained arsenic and could produce poisonous arsine gas. Eventually, doctors and paint manufacturers caught on and put a stop to the toxic practice, but some still consider green walls in a home unlucky.
RELATED: 12 Calming Colors for a Serene Home
5. An Ax
It’s to be expected that superstition would swirl around an ancient and practical tool like the ax. Some sources state that it’s bad luck to carry an ax over the shoulder through the house, while others say that simply bringing one into the house is bad luck and a portent of death. At the very least, we can all agree that axes isn’t the safest thing to have lying around the house!
6. An Old Broom
If you move into a new home, don’t bring along the broom you used in your old digs! It’s a common superstition worldwide that an old broom may sweep away good luck. This caution may have its roots in common sense, since using old cleaning tools in your new digs could introduce pests and grime from your previous residence. So, superstitious or not, you may want to spring for a new broom when you move.
7. A Garden Hoe
Carrying a hoe into the house can bring death, or at least bad luck, with it. If you do accidentally bring one indoors after finishing your gardening duties, it’s best to walk backwards out the same door you entered to try and reverse the bad fortune.
8. Red and White Flowers in a Vase
Be sure to make your bouquets with lots of different blooms or go monochromatic, because Victorian superstition holds that displaying just red and white flowers together in a vase foretells death. This combination of colors is considered particularly bad luck in hospitals.
9. Bird in the House
In many cultures, a bird flying in through an open window is considered to be bad luck, often signaling a death in the family. To be extra careful, don’t even introduce them as pets or display in decorative form as ornaments or finials.
10. An Open Umbrella
One of the bad luck superstitions we all know involves opening an umbrella indoors. This familiar superstition may have roots in both Egyptian and Norse traditions, which hold that bringing an umbrella indoors insults the protective powers of the home’s guardian spirits. Whether it’s bad luck or not is up for debate, but it’s still worth being careful with an umbrella in the house—you could poke an eye out with that thing!
11. Scenes of Destruction
Some feng shui consultants advise against displaying a painting or photograph of a barren landscape or the aftermath of a natural disaster, shipwreck, or battle. Such images bring negative energy into the home and could bring distress to your household.
12. Rocking Chairs
If you’re using your rocking chair, no problem—but Irish legends say that an empty rocking chair invites evil spirits into your home. And if the chair’s rocking on its own, look out! The evil spirits are already there, and death could be lying in wait.
They may be cute, trendy, and great for brown thumbs, but according to the principles of feng shui, spiky plants like cactus and thorny acacia are among the many things that cause bad luck and can lead to discord in your home. To bring in positive energy and enhance your family’s wealth and health, opt instead for jade plants, pothos, or lucky bamboo.
While you may like to do a lipstick check on your way out the door, some traditions believe that mirrors can steal your soul. Even those who are certain their souls are safe may want to choose locations for their mirrors carefully. For instance, according to feng shui, a mirror facing the bed can lead to relationship problems, and a mirror facing the front door will prevent vital energy from flowing into the house.
15. An Unmade Bed
To foster good habits, many parents encourage their children to make their beds each morning. But making the bed properly is good for more than just character building. Some superstitions hold that getting distracted while making the bed will get in the way of a good night’s sleep, and the British warn that if you leave an indentation in the bed, the devil will climb in to wait for you.
16. A Leaning Ladder
While the age-old superstition about walking under a ladder is common to many countries, its origin is disputed. It may have its roots in Christian tradition, where walking into a triangle formed by a leaning ladder could be seen as breaking the Holy Trinity. Another possibility is that the shape resembles a medieval gallows. Or it could just be that it simply isn’t safe to walk under an unattended ladder. The takeaway? Put that ladder away when you’re done with it!
RELATED: 9 Things to Do With Old Ladders
17. An Old Calendar (or Next Year’s Calendar)
To keep luck on your side, live in the moment—at least as far as your calendar is concerned. Because calendars, like clocks, help keep track of time, they’re closely tied to growth and death. Southerners consider it bad luck to keep old calendars around the house, and on both sides of the pond, it’s bad luck to hang next year’s calendar before January 1. (Some superstitious sorts don’t even flip to the next month until the morning of the first day.)
18. Peacock Feathers
Beautiful though they may be, peacock feathers are symbols of bad luck in many Western countries. It’s unclear why. Perhaps the “eyes” on their feathers conjure up fears of the evil eye, or maybe their glamorous plumage and taste for insects and reptiles makes them seem like they’re in league with the devil. If, however, you’re determined to hold on to those jewel-toned feathers, take heart: In Eastern cultures, peacocks are symbols of good fortune.
19. Cracked or Chipped Dishes
In feng shui, dishes are symbols of wealth and home, and a chipped plate or cracked bowl brings negative energy into the home. To keep the good luck flowing, toss broken dishes. While you’re at it, get rid of broken furniture and other damaged household items that can be signs that your home (and soul) has clutter that should be cleared.
RELATED: 5 Things to Do With…Old Dishes
20. Underbed Storage
Items stowed under the bed disrupt the flow of energy, which is a big feng shui no-no. To maximize positive energy and improve rest, keep the area under the bed clear. Stashing your closet overflow under the bed is a form of clutter, and clutter can lead to misfortunes and loss of wealth. If you absolutely must use this space for storage, keep items neatly organized in closed containers.