Feng shui used to be just for vegans who refused to wear shoes, but veganism is an increasingly mainstream diet choice and likewise, feng shui isn’t just a bunch of hippie crap anymore. In point of fact, feng shui is pretty cool and useful when you stop to consider how many people could do with a little more harmony in their living and working environments. Plus you get to have water features, which no one is ever really against unless they have a suggestible bladder.
In an overly generalized nutshell, feng shui is the art of arranging your home or office according to principles that provide the best energy. It actually goes very in depth – there are whole career fields devoted to feng shui consulting – but in general, it’s a way of creating the most productive and harmonious living environment possible.
Step 1. Declutter.
According to feng shui principles, clutter is a big no-no. It’s like the Asian version of the old saying “messy bed, messy head.” Harmony does not usually result from having piles of junk, dirty clothes, and the crusts from that sandwich you ate 3 weeks ago laying around collecting dust. Clean up! Feng shui also encourages a certain degree of minimalism, so concentrate on putting your piles of stuff completely away and out of sight, as opposed to tidied up but still sitting on the table. Shoving everything in the closet does not count, cheater.
Step 2. Breathe good in.
Feng shui principles also dictate that the quality of air we breathe, as well as light quality, greatly influence good energy or “chi.” Air-purifying houseplants are good (maybe a chi-a pet?), but opening the windows is better. Your mom was right: fresh air and natural light isn’t just for vegetables. You need it, too, so get to work cracking that 30 year old paint seal around the window frame and breathe in the sweet, sweet smell of real air. Unless you live in L.A.
Step 3: Make a bagua.
Now that you’ve got a clean space with clean air and light, you need a bagua, which is basically a map of your space. In feng shui terms, bagua means the 8 areas of a space, based on ordinal directions (North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, Northwest). Each area has an element (earth, metal, fire, water, wood) associated with it, along with a life area like Career, Money and Abundance, or Love and Marriage. On top of all THAT, each area also has a color.
Step 4: Color coordinate.
Basically every culture makes its own specific associations with colors (Billy Idol’s white wedding, anyone?) Feng shui takes this to a whole new level, though. Every area of your bagua has a “best” color to use, personal preference be damned. Areas for community and family, i.e. the family room or den, should have green elements in them. This doesn’t mean you need to paint the entire thing like a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day, but adding green elements and decorations will increase the positive chi. Blues and blacks go in the office area, bedrooms get red and pink (haha!) etc.
Step 5: Add the 5 Elements.
As mentioned, the 5 elements are a big part of feng shui. According to our chart, areas for Career and Work should contain water elements and spaces for Love and Relationships should have fire elements. What does this translate to? A water feature in the office to soothe work stress and candles in the bedroom to light baby’s fire.
In addition to candles and water features, you can use things like aquariums, wind chimes, plants, music and artwork (with positive themes, nothing scary) to add good energy to your environment. Use the handy dandy chart to determine placement. Overall, this concept is about incorporating aspects of nature into what is essentially an unnatural environment – an apartment. Don’t forget basic tips like keeping work and sleep spaces separate, keeping furniture in entertaining areas arranged for conversation rather than TV watching, and, of course, the kitchen full of beer and chips for when you get sick of moving the beautiful furniture that you once loved but now hate because it’s so damn heavy.
The illustrious author of this article, Stephanie Huey, is an itinerant writer, sub-letter of apartments and lover of craft beers. Her favorite sentences are those containing syllepsis or ones that mention Vietnamese food, of which is she is inordinately fond.