Judging from the stacks of books on the topic, apparently a lot of people turn to feng shui to tame their clutter. A few years ago, my sister, a TV writer, told me that everyone in L.A. was reading the feng shui book, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life.
She read it too, and called me in a dark mood.
“The book depressed me,” she said. “I found out that my toilet is in my prosperity corner, which means I’m flushing money away.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Nothing. The book says to put mirrors all around the room—but I thought, do I believe any of this? No. So who wants to deal with it?”
But even though she dismissed it, I could tell it had bothered her to read that she was creating bad luck for herself.
That’s the problem with feng shui. I doubt that the casual, read-one-book Western layman follower of feng shui really believes in it (that putting a bell in the “Helpful People” area of your house will get your request heard, for example). But why undertake major changes to meet feng shui’s mystical requirements for the flow of ch’i if you don’t really believe in it?
It’s true that the mindfulness of applying feng shui principles can have a good effect. Whenever people pay attention and act, they usually bring about a positive change, plus the mere fact they’ve taken any action will make them feel better. Also, feng shui encompasses some good common-sense principles: identify areas of your life you want to improve, get rid of photos that remind you of hard times, remove withering plants.
And, in full disclosure, my sister’s writing partner also had a toilet in her prosperity corner, and she did take action. She tied a red ribbon around the pipes to stop the prosperity from draining away and introduced prosperity colors (purple, gold, red) by replacing a shower curtain—changes made not so much because she believed in the theory of feng shui, but because they helped her focus her mind on her goals. After she made these changes, she maintains, she started making enough money to buy a house where the toilet wasn’t in the prosperity corner.
Maybe it works. But to me, dabbling in feng shui seems like just another source of anxiety, and putting a fishbowl opposite your bed seems like a busywork distraction from the work of taking real steps that could bring fortunate change.