Improving Your Life With Feng Shui (Or: Why I Bought Goldfish Today)

Go fish

Feng shui is pronounced “fung schway” & is a Chinese discipline practiced within the home. Used properly, it is said to increase happiness, romance & prosperity. It works on the concept of manipulating qi, which can be translated as “life force” or “energy flow”. Qi follows the wind (feng) & is halted by water (shui), so feng shui is the art of harnessing that qi in your home. Does that make sense?

The first time I tried applying the concepts of feng shui, I had read about it in a teen magazine. I drew up my room according to a bagua grid & stayed awake until the early morning re-arranging my furniture. I think my parents probably thought I was nutty, but my mother had introduced me to the joys of shuffling furniture years previously. (I would often collapse on my bed in the middle of the room, & awaken completely disoriented.)

I don’t know whether feng shui works, or whether it’s a placebo effect that makes me feel like it has value, but I’m pretty happy either way. This probably sounds mad kooky, but whenever my domicile is organised according to feng shui, I feel really good.

Here’s a brief overview of feng shui concepts, & some easy ways to implement them. Another few articles profiling various rooms in your house will surely make an appearance in the near future!

Things to remember:
Cacti plants are a bad thing to have inside! The spikes & sharp edges catch the qi & turn it bad. Get rid of them.
Try to minimise electronics in the bedroom. If you have a television near your bed, cover it (ideally with plastic) when it’s not in use. It apparently creates too much yang energy & will prevent you from sleeping.
For couples, a mirror directly opposite the bed can cause problems by encouraging a third party to join in.
Another reason for men to put the seat down after using the bathroom — if the lid is up, all the good qi will be flushed away!
Keep your desk as free of clutter as is humanly possible.
Fish & aquariums should not be kept in the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom — it is believed that if they live there, will attract material loss.
Don’t store things under your bed! When I was a kid I used to “clean up” by just sweeping everything underneath it. Following my example is a bad idea — the space beneath your bed needs to be clear to allow energy to flow freely.
If your bookcases don’t have doors, push the books forward so that the edges are in line with the front of the shelf.
Rubbish bins etc. — keep them clean & empty them when they get full. It seems like there is “no good place” to put some things. Always use common sense! Feng shui may not say where you should put your bin, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. Your workspace still needs to be functional.

Okay, keeping those in mind, step one is to draw up a bagua grid. You should do one for each room in your house. When I lived with my parents, I would only apply it to my bedroom but that was enough to make a difference. Another thing: if your parents are weird control freaks, best not tell them what you’re doing. Just let them think you’re re-arranging your furniture. Wink wink.

Bagua grid

That’s how a bagua grid looks. The basic idea is that it denotes the room you’re working on. To work out which way is ‘up’, the bottom of the image (where it says “self-awareness & knowledge / career / helpful people & travel”) should be on the same wall as the entrance to the room (typically a door). My living room is a weird shape, so when I do a diagram, it looks kinda like this:

Bagua grid & my living room

Do this for your own bedroom (or wherever is easiest to start). Write the names of the areas on top, then think about what you have in each of these areas & how it reflects on it. Some of it is obvious. Do you have a rubbish bin in your prosperity area? (I did! A sure-fire way to make sure you don’t make a lot of cash, or if you do, to waste it on crap!) Is there a huge pile of unwashed clothing in your health area, a dying plant in your relationships sector? Get rid of it!

Bagua grid & my living room

My prosperity area is where my desk is, so that’s pretty good placement. I did have a rubbish bin here (argh!) but I’ve just moved it. I have cleared my desk of as much clutter as I could. I’ve also looked at my desk as if it has its own separate bagua grid: in my top left corner, I’ve placed a big cookie jar with gravel, water & three goldfish. I hear they’re good for attracting prosperity, & as they are now in the prosperity sector OF the prosperity sector, I hope they do the trick!

Things which are good in this area are:
Money (like a change jar maybe)
Anything purple, red or gold
A hanging mobile of some description will help “set things in motion”
This is also a good place to put pictures of things you intend to buy or a photo of anything that symbolises wealth to you, like an overpriced handbag, a photo of St Tropez or a close-up of Paris Hilton’s nosejob.
& of course, goldfish! Goldfish are descendents of koi which can live for 100 years! There is a lot of differing information about how many fish to have, but I like an arrangement of three.

Fame & Reputation:
I had some candles in red holders on the windowsill a little to the left of this area, but as I’ve been researching & writing this I’ve moved them so they’re in the fame/reputation section! It’s interesting the way sometimes these things are almost perfectly aligned unwittingly. Serendipity for life! This is kind of an open space for me, but I am thinking about buying a little plant to go next to the candles. It’ll have to be a resilient little thing, since there is almost constant sunlight there.

Things which are good in this area are:
Anything red, orange or purple
Candles (if you can get them in the above colours, even better! Coloured holders will do, too)
Awards, photographs, trinkets or anything that reminds you of positive events in your past

The relationships area in my living room is a day-bed. This sounds good, but it’s covered in books on fashion, style, beauty & design. I think this pretty much just proves that I am in a relationship with my work. The books should be moved to the knowledge area. Behind the bed is a big bag of clothing I have to give away to a charity (or something)! There’s stuff under the bed too, which isn’t a good thing typically. This apartment is very low on storage space so having the bed there has been a blessing (there’s an ironing board & a blackboard under there). I’m telling myself it’s okay because they’re flat items, so the qi can move across the top. Yup. That’s my story & I’m sticking to it.

Things which are good in this area are:
Round or oval mirrors
Anything pink
Pictures of loved ones
Anything in a pair (especially Mandarin ducks or cranes, as they mate for life)
Two fresh flowers in a vase (apparently this is good if you want a date!)

Not much in my family area. There is a tree, though, which is sprouting like mad. My relationship with my parents also happens to be getting pretty good recently. Hmm! Curiouser & curiouser! Guess I just need to take good care of it… This area can also signify “new beginnings”, so plants are definitely a good choice.

Things which are good in this area are:
Plants (I don’t think the size matters, ahem, but anything here should definitely be looked after really well)
Family heirlooms

Like the fame/reputation area, this is pretty much a pathway. There’s nothing here. I also couldn’t find much information on what is good in the health area, so I’m not sure how to improve it. I did read that yellow is a good colour for stimulating health, so a yellow rug could be useful.

Things which are good in this area are:
Exercise machines
Anything yellow!

Children & Creativity:
I have a bookcase here which houses my magazines (each title in its own box!), some of my typewriters, camera stuff (Lomo, lenses, polaroid), old journals, bags full of clippings, etc. So I am pretty happy with this area. I have a string of fairy lights going across my living room which starts in this area — I’ve pegged pictures along it of people I admire, things I’ve created & other things I find inspiring.

Things which are good in this area are:
Art supplies
Art in general
Anything that inspires you or reminds you how creative you can be should go here if possible.

Self-Awareness & Knowledge:
More bookcases! Organised alphabetically, too. Is that lame? (When I say “alphabetical”, I mean by author name. People seem to be confused by this as a concept. Why? Anyway this is slightly off-topic, but one day I hope to organise my books by colour.) I have a globe lamp (like the one in Witch Baby!) on top of my bookcase which was placed there on a whim — a bit of research tells me that having a globe in this area will increase worldly knowledge! Right on. There’s also two comfortable chairs (often used for thinking) & a big couch, & it’s a great place for them to be. Clutter in this area is a bad thing, so if yours is messy, clear it out!

Things which are good in this area are:
Books or a bookcase
Charts of anything you might be studying
Crystals (if you believe in that sort of thing!)

In my living room, like the health & fame sectors before it, again, this is a pathway. Not much I can do here except for hang wind-chimes… & I’m not sure I want to.

Things which are good in this area are:
Water-related items (a fountain, a jar of flowers, fish-tank)
Images which relate to your career goals

Helpful People & Travel:
This area of my living room is actually the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work with it. The fridge is a good place to stick pictures of places you want to go — I have a postcard of the Guggenheim museum (this one actually) which would be great there, since New York is definitely somewhere I want to visit in the next year! I’m also going to make more of an effort to keep the bench free from clutter, since that won’t help!

Things which are good in this area are:
A mirror
Photos or postcards of places you want to go
A world map
A globe

Here endeth the feng shui introduction. This is all very basic information & is about as specific as I can get online, talking to an audience whose houses I have never seen! Professional feng shui practitioners have a lot of knowledge — if you ever hire a feng shui consultant they will come to your house with a tape measure & do a really rigorous job.

The best thing about feng shui (in my experience) is that a little tends to go a long way. Even if you don’t believe in it as a concept, surely having pictures which remind you of your goals is a good thing?! A lot of it is common sense really!

If you embark on a re-organisation of your home, let me know how much of your house was already pretty close to what I’ve written about here. I think the whole thing is pretty interesting. Also let me know if it increases your health/prosperity/love life!

Extra For Experts:
Some things that will increase your prosperity
Applying feng shui to your desk (divide your desk up according to the bagua grid, a very simple concept, but quite a good article)