Feng Shui is the Japanese art of placement. It is about moving things around to maximize and balance the flow of energy in an area, whether it be a plot of land, a building, or a desk drawer. Some of the practices seem flaky; others are such clear crisp guides that you can’t imagine going back and seeing without them.

I had the good fortune in July 2000 to attend a workshop by Pamela Laurence, one of the people who brought the practice to this country. She spent all of ten minutes looking over a diagram of my floorplan, listened to my issues, and made some immediate and direct suggestions that sent me for a spin. Quite the spin actually; several months of remodelling and reconfiguring later, my new stripped-down apartment and life got its legs.

Basically, every item in sight either contributes to your energy, or is somewhat neutral and non-contributive, or it’s just downright stale. You determine for yourself, item by item; if it’s dragging on you, either stash it or, better yet, get rid of it altogether. So many things get snagged and left where they dropped, and they easily clump up until most of the visible environment consists of things you’re trying to ignore. Look for stale, stuck energy (including overlooked negative emotional baggage associated with objects: is it a fine and functional item, but was given to you by someone you don't like to think about? if yes, then lose it), and take the necessary steps to sort it out, whatever that turns out to be. Application of this rule can lead to a maybe clean counter, or an entire remodelled kitchen, depending on how bad it bites you. But after the dust settles, you’ll have a killer new kitchen. Deal with it.

Things all need an address, a place where they go when they aren’t in use. So easy for the least important things to become permanent clutter. If it’s not currently in use to you in some way (again, it’s always your call), then get it out of sight. A nice adage: when you clear a space, it makes room for something else to happen.

One of my guides: I think, if I didn’t own this, and found it on the street, would I bring it home? If not, toss the sucker. Similarly, if I do in fact want it, and it were stashed where it belongs, would I get it out and leave it here? If not, put it away. Imagine the room was empty, and one by one add things to it. Anything that doesn’t improve it, don’t add it.

All this is intuitively obvious, but there are other levels of the practice that are fairly esoteric, involving the floor plan of the site in question and how it relates to a diagram of clockwise-flowing energy called a bagua. Eight quadrants conform to various aspects of living, and various responses apply, depending. There are all kinds of concepts of materials and compatibilities; we’re in way over my head at this point. The best book I found so far (until Pamela writes one or several) is Creating Sacred Spaces with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston (Broadway, ISBN 0-553-06916-0). There's also an Indian art of placement called Vastu that has a lot to offer.

Mainly, like any creative problem: treat it like it was somebody else’s apartment that you just walked into, look with new eyes, be honest. You’ll be amazed at how much you can just toss, and how lean and mean you can get the rest. It’s a racing yacht, a sexy outfit. Work it.

Now, how to Feng Shui my mind, underneath the clutter there's, oh yeah, a racing yacht, I am like soooo sure.

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