Far from being a Feng Shui expert, I recognize that much of what this eastern philosophy of home placement says is valid or at least plain useful.
Essentially, Feng Shui states that every choice we make in our homes, be it wall color, room decor, where we put our furniture, what type of furniture we have, and how much furniture we cram into our homes, has a direct effect on the quality of our lives. Without going into esoteric details, it has to do with our Qi (or chi), our energy flow, being dissipated or reinforced according to circumstances. To me, it’s just a matter of common sense. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that I happen to agree with.
No TVs or Computers.
Even though it seems almost unAmerican not to have a TV in every single room in the house (my mother-in-law has five, and it’s a three-bedroom house), Feng Shui and I share the same tenet, basically that a bedroom should be devoted to two things only: rest and sex – anything else is a distraction. With only one television set and four very opinionated people living in our home, some very serious negotiating skills had to be developed in order to strike a balance between watching SpongeBob SquarePants for the umpteenth time or view a very gruesome non-kid friendly episode of CSI.
Also, many of us use our bedroom to catch up on some work on our laptop or we may have a PC sitting on a desk in a corner as our mini home office. Bad idea. We will start associating the bedroom with work, stress and performance anxiety and I think that only men should be left with this mental connection.
No exercise equipment either. Straining and sweating do not exactly support the idea of rest and relaxation in a bedroom. Besides, isn’t our stationary bike used as a $350.00 clothes hanger, anyway?
No Strong Colors.
Oh, come on, even I knew this one. We should not have bright and vivid colors on our bedroom walls, so no firefighter reds, no canary yellows, no emerald greens. Gentle pastels, ivory and beige hues are soothing and peaceful shades that will make us drowsy and welcome much needed slumber. During one of his many attempts to single-handedly redecorate my house, my seventy-year old father tried to hang a beautiful flaming red oil painting in my bedroom. I recoiled in horror and told him the color would keep me up all night. “I’d reckon your husband’s snoring would do it more,” he replied. He just doesn’t understand.
We should be careful of the subject matter we hang in our boudoirs. Bloody hunting parties or military warfare scenes are not conducive to bucolic visions of sheep populated pastures. Ya think? While landscapes and flowers are fine, portraits are not because they could remind us of people whose memory might haunt us and keep us awake. For the same reason we should not hang photographs of family members either. While I would never have a copy of Edward Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” in my bedroom (or in my house, for that matter—it’s way too angst-ridden), I have about a million pictures of my children staring right back at me from every shelf and dresser top. I sleep just fine except for when they waddle drowsily into the room in the middle of the night purporting they had a bad dream, so I guess Feng Shui is right again.
We should beware of mirror hanging as well. It is best to hang no mirrors at all in our bedrooms, but especially no mirrors should be facing our beds. According to Feng Shui traditional beliefs if our spirit starts wandering at night, it might be frightened at its own reflection staring back at him from the mirror. I quite agree with this precaution, mostly because during my occasional groggy nocturnal wanderings, I might be the one who gets startled by my own image. I do have a run-of-the-mill mirror over the dresser, but it’s on the left side and so far it has never scared me.
Objects under the Bed.
We should keep our bed’s underbelly nice and neat. No, that’s not our mother talking, it’s Feng Shui: no boxes, storage units, shoes, papers etc. Anything under the bed blocks the free flow of chi, energy that should revitalize and rejuvenate us when we rest. Here again, our mother and Feng Shui may be right one more time: a clear area under the bed allows for fewer dust bunnies to collect and for greater air flow to circulate, thereby inhibiting any possible mold and mildew growth formation and allowing for easier breathing.
Bed and Headboard.
Feng Shui recommends having a solid wood headboard for solidity and stability in your life. Butting our beds against the naked wall does not provide enough protection but neither does choosing the wrong kind of header for our backs. As a child I remember the discomfort and pain of sitting up reading at night against the exquisitely hand hammered pointed rosettes and razor-sharp leaf edges of a magnificent wrought iron Sicilian headboard probably worth thousands of dollars. I hated the thing. As soon as I became an adult smooth or padded headboards became the norm.
Placement of the bed is also important. We should not place the bed floating in the middle of the room or facing the door because in China when you die you are carried out of the room feet first. We should also not back our beds against the wall where the entrance door is because of some energy misalignment – but then, how many walls does that leave us with? I must confess that my bed is placed against the same wall where the door is because my windows are vis-á-vis and I can wake up in the morning looking at my beautiful backyard bushes and plants.
Curves not Corners.
In an effort to create a soft, mellow environment where our chi energy can gently flow, we should try to avoid having sharp edges and corners, which is really hard to do if you have any type of old-fashioned wooden dressers, bookshelves and night-tables like I do. An oval-shaped headboard, a circular mirror and a couple of round tables are probably compensating for all of the sharp corners and wrong turns my chi is forced into.
Clear the Clutter.
This one should just be a universal law. A clean environment promotes a healthy state of mind. It’s a bit of an extension of what the Ancient Romans said when they coined the adage Mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind dwells in a healthy body. Well, a balanced, receptive mind dwells in neat tidy surroundings as well. We should not, however, go overboard and take the old proverb Cleanliness is next to Godliness to the letter.
It’s not the spotless spic-and-span aspect that is essential for our chi to prosper as much as clearing enough room for our vitality to grow. I know for a fact that when I have scattered toys on the floor, unfolded bundles of laundry and clothes, dusty piles of magazines and books dangerously teetering over like a miniature Tower of Pisa, my brain shuts down and goes into a muddled panic mode.
Clean and open spaces allow our thoughts and feelings to walk hand in hand creating wondrous possibilities for the future. If I am stumbling at every footstep over rocks and roots and clutter like an inexperienced hiker out on his first climb, I will be forced to keep my eyes on the ground instead of looking up and enjoying the spectacular scenery and landscapes that only nature and imagination can paint for us.