I never really sought out to learn about feng shui -- I kind of stumbled upon it in while living in eight different apartments and houses in three different cities (Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York) over the last nine years. But moving to Manhattan five years ago really got me thinking in line with the ancient Chinese science, as every space I’ve moved into has had very little square footage and oddly shaped floor plans. With each new home I’ve purged a lot, both to get rid of clothes and knickknacks that just take up precious storage and bought new furniture that works with the measurements of different-size rooms. (I’ve had at least six different dressers, couches, kitchen tables, desks, and spent thousands at places like Ikea, Container Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond at every turn.)
It was always about practicality and proportion for me (I hate waste), until I realized I’m built to have almost an allergic reaction to non-feng shui setups when I started this job at xoJane.com and saw our private edit room. For me, poorly arranged spaces filled with things that have no purpose really bother me. They make me feel unsettled and unable to focus. So while I moved around the furniture in the meeting room to resolve the issue quickly, I knew I’d have to go back and get rid of junk and organize things neatly.
But before diving into that, I decided to get some insight from expert Tisha Morris, who has written the book Mind Body Home about feng shui and how spaces affect your overall wellbeing. “Our home is a mirror for ourselves,” she said. “So whatever is going with you mentally, emotionally, physically, will show up somewhere in your house.” In retrospect, that totally makes sense. I once lived with two roommates for a few months who had two enormous, three-seater couches taking up most of the living room. It felt like a storage unit to hold their stuff and not a home. My roommates never spoke to each other (not even a hello in passing by on the way out the door) and had an extremely passive aggressive relationship. When my sister visited, she felt like you could cut the tension with a knife. Basically, the couches that blocked most of the area symbolized the barrier in communication. I hated that apartment, more than any I’ve ever lived in, and moved out as soon as I could.
Morris says the textbook definition of feng shui is: “Aligning our spaces with the flow of Mother Earth.” This is similar to what I always thought it was, which is arranging a room according to cardinal directions and the sun and the moon. Because that never really sounded practical, I never really thought it was for me. Morris, however, changed my mind about this as she explained a more Western, modern version of the practice. “Feng shui is seen as this legalistic set of rules and that to me is a misnomer or a misunderstanding. It’s more of an intuitive approach,” she says. “It’s about arranging furniture in a way that promotes positive energy flow.” And that is exactly what I am setting out to do with xoJane.com’s edit room. I’ve done it before at home, without actually knowing I was doing it, and I’m onto it again. Except this time Morris’ three-step plan will guide me.
1. Toss out the things you no longer want or use. If you start with small projects, like cleaning out a desk drawer, this won’t seem so overwhelming.
2. Rearrange the items and furniture you have left in the room. Take measurements of pieces and the area, and keep proportion in mind as you move things around.
3. Add things that energize. Rocks, plants, crystals, wind chimes, and candles bring energy (thus life) into a space. Bringing in pictures and decorative pieces that have a positive meaning to you are also good for the room. You should love everything in your home.
While I won’t be lighting a candle or hanging a wind chime in a meeting room in an office building anytime soon, I’m definitely going to go beyond just moving around existing furniture to make the space feel like a supportive environment and not a challenging one. Morris, who has worked with businesses too, emphasizes that a space has to be current to promote success. “You can’t see energy, so it’s very esoteric and conceptual,” she says, adding that feng shui is really about creating a sanctuary.