Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate found that feng shui is the second-most important consideration, behind neighborhood safety, for Chinese-American and international Chinese home buyers in the U.S.
But what is feng shui?
Feng shui (pronounced fong schway) can be defined as a Chinese system of thought governing spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (qi, pronounced chee), and whose favorable or unfavorable effects are taken into account when siting and designing buildings. It’s the philosophy that where you place things affects how energy moves, which in turn affects balance and harmony.
This idea of flowing energy is why feng shui is so closely tied to decluttering. If your house is clogged up with stuff, your energy will get tripped up. (And if your house is clogged with Legos like mine, your actual self will get tripped up. Many times. Painfully.)
Eight starting points (because 8 is lucky in Chinese culture):
- Bring outside elements inside, like plants, which absorb bad energy and emit good energy.
- Try to soften any hard edges. If you have the choice, buy furniture that is rounded instead of sharp and square. Look for broken pieces that are sticking out, as these threaten your qi.
- Sit at your desk so that your back is to a wall for a sense of strength; it’s the ninja way—no surprise attacks.
- Use mirrors mindfully. Make sure to examine what is being reflected. Angling a mirror to reflect flowers is lovely, but be sure you’re not reflecting bad energy, like a trash can.
- Avoid mirrors with segments because these break up your sense of self.
- Place medium-size rocks in your bathroom sink to remind you to be mindful of your time and money and to not wash them down the drain.
- If you share a bedroom, place matching lamps on either side of the bed to symbolize partnership.
- Clear clutter so energy can flow.
I once treated myself to an in-home feng shui consultation. I say treated because it was like a therapy session. Although I have a basic understanding, I wanted a second—and professional—opinion about what I could do to make my house more pleasant.
The process was intense. First, I had to create a layout of my home. I used the magicplan app. It’s genius. You snap pictures of each corner of a room then assemble them into a replica of your home’s layout.
Then the consultant applied the feng shui bagua to my layout.
The bagua is a map. It shows which elements and colors belong in which parts of your home (guas). It’s laid over the outline of your house, lined up with the front door.
There are many different kinds of baguas.
Eventually, we went through every room. She asked me what I like most and least. It took hours, and I was exhausted from all the self-reflection. But she helped me focus on those things I love while downplaying things I don’t.
I found that I was living among things I did not like because of obligation—meaning my grandmother had given them to me. (See my post on Pee’s Big Midwestern Adventure for more on my maximalist grandmother.) So I put them away. And it freed me.
She also had some interesting recommendations about color:
- No blue for my son’s room because it’s too emotional of a color and also his room is in a gua that should have lighter/different colors.
- She said that my living room was too masculine (feng shui incorporates yin & yang/masculine & feminine energy), and that it was in an area that needed red anyway.
- If anyone has ever wondered why I have purple napkins, this is the reason.
Overall, she helped drive some decorating choices. She changed the way I relate to my stuff. And she helped me focus on things I wanted to cultivate. I still refer to her materials when thinking about home projects.
My feng shui consultant gave me Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As obsessed with organizing as Kondo is, I do appreciate some of her theories, like treating your things with respect. She suggests thanking your handbag at the end of the day for carrying your belongings all day. I’d suggest doing this mentally instead of verbally unless you live alone, in which case go nuts.
I also like her much-disputed theory on sparking joy. (She since has publishing a follow-up book called Spark Joy.) The thought is to live among things you love. Sure, some things are practical and you need them regardless of your feelings about them, like a laundry basket. But for other things, choosing to fill your home with items that bring you happiness is not something I would have realized without my feng shui consultant bringing it up and Marie Kondo really bringing it home. Although, I actually do have warm feelings about my laundry basket.
If her books are not enough, Marie Kondo now has consultants for hire as well as a certification program. She may be a little extra for most people, but, like anything, it’s about finding the level that brings you the warm fuzzies.