By Stephanie Roberts
When you begin to study feng shui, you quickly realize the importance of the qualities and characteristics of the five feng shui elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. This knowledge is essential to selecting appropriate colors, furnishings, and accessories for your home. You can also use your understanding of the five elements to develop a personalized feng shui strategy, based on the element that is reflected most strongly in your own style of living.
Metal energy is clean, simple, and detail-oriented. Earth is lush, nurturing and comfortable. Water is free-flowing, expressive, and intuitive. Wood is ambitious, forward-thinking, and practical. Fire is passionate, excitable, and changeable. Each of us has a unique combination of these five energies in our own personality, usually with one element dominating. This is reflected in how we decorate and use our homes. Some of us developed a strong style preference at a very early age, which continues to serve and suit us well. Others go through different phases as they progress through life. You may once have covered anything that didn't move in chintz and ruffles, but now find yourself appreciating the clarity of a more sparsely decorated space - or vice versa. During an earlier phase you may have been happy with few possessions and a minimalist lifestyle, only to find greater comfort now in the abundant colors and textures of a more lavishly decorated home.
The element that is strongest in your personality right now will influence your current decorating style, housekeeping habits, and your approach to feng shui. Your experience will be more fun and more comfortable when you tailor your feng shui strategies to your element style. Let's begin by seeing which of the five descriptions below most closely describes you:
Neat Freak (METAL): I hate clutter! My home is always immaculate, with everything tidy and well-maintained, and I am very thoughtful about what I bring into my space.
Pack Rat (EARTH): I love my stuff, and can't get rid of anything. My house is so full of clutter that when something is broken I can't even get to it to fix it.
Free Spirit (WATER): I'm too busy being me to clean up! If something's a mess, I just toss a shawl over it. People say my home has lots of personality, and I am constantly redecorating and moving things around.
Go-Getter (WOOD): Housekeeping? Home décor? Don't ask me; that's what the maid and decorator are for. I just want things functional and practical, and I need a quiet place to come home to at the end of a busy day.
Whirlwind (FIRE): Enough of the quiz already! I have a million things to do and a short attention span-just tell me how to feng shui my house!
Many people are a combination of styles, so it may be hard to choose just one answer. If you're not sure, ask a few relatives or close friends for feedback; if you're a true Neat Freak, you may think your house is a mess even when it's immaculate by other people's standards! You may also find that you live one style, but secretly crave another. As a dyed-in-the-wool Free Spirit, for example, I regularly break the feng shui rules of good housekeeping because I'm just too busy creating, writing, and living to keep things as clean and organized as I would like them to be. But whenever I visit a Neat Freak's home, my soul goes "ahhhhhh." The trick is to be aware of what type of space you are really, truly most comfortable in. As much as I like visiting pristine, zen-like spaces, I know that I don't really want to live in one -- that if I did it would soon look just as lived-in as my current home.
Here are some guidelines, based on the element-affinities described above, to help you develop a personalized feng shui strategy:
Your home is so neat and tidy that it may be a little rigid, sterile, or monochromatic. You tend to like the minimalist look, and are the most likely type to have all-white decor. If your furniture has been in the same position for years, look for ways to get chi moving without making more change than you'll feel comfortable with. Live plants and flowers will bring natural energy and color to your space. You may also need to add more personal touches here and there. Find a place to display a few favorite photographs of friends and family members, so there are some human images around you. Your love for clean, simple spaces and attention to detail mean you are probably on top of any maintenance or clutter issues, so focus on creating a good flow of chi through your home, counteracting any negative influences, and activating your power spots. Your clean and tranquil home is a wonderful environment for self-nurturing methods such as meditation and qigong.
Your biggest problem is clutter! Closets are overflowing, you have three sets of everything, books are stacked two deep on every shelf, you've saved every greeting card you ever got, and all the flat surfaces in your home are piled with stuff. You might still be able to breathe, but your space isn't getting any chi at all! Create some breathing room in your home before you do anything else, or you'll just activate all your clutter into even greater chaos. Chances are you've been feeling a little stuck lately, so focus on getting rid of the old to make room for the new before you do anything else. Once you've cleared out enough stuff to get a good look at your house, make sure you've got a good flow of chi through the space and address any maintenance issues before making other feng shui changes. Your own chi will shift a lot as you clean out your home, so be sure to practice some grounding and balancing techniques as you go along.
You've been feng shui-ing your space since the day you first got your own bedroom, even if you didn't know to call it that. You are the type most likely to want to work on everything at once, so be sure to define some priorities before jumping into making changes. Your enthusiasm for creative décor may lead you to overlook basic maintenance issues and allow clutter to pile up. Take care of those first, then make sure that you are applying your individuality to your power spots rather than scattering it randomly about the place. Of all the types, you are boldest in your use of color, so get out the brush and roller and have some fun with feng shui color-theory. Make sure that you haven't overlooked any negative influences that should be corrected, and use your creativity to develop your own unique feng shui enhancements. You've probably tried a lot of different personal renewal methods over the years, but may not have kept up a consistent practice. Make a commitment to pay as much attention to the inner you as you do to your surroundings.
Your house is probably beautifully furnished and well maintained, but you may have delegated so many of your home-maintenance chores that you no longer have a strong energetic attachment to your space. Make sure you don't delegate all your feng shui tasks, too, or they won't have much power behind them. Find small, simple things you can do yourself and be sure to put some of your own energy into enhancing your key power spots. If you arrange for someone else to take care of other feng shui chores, it will be especially important to perform the body-speech-mind empowerments on each one when the work is done. Throw practicality out the window for a moment and choose one unique and unexpected item for your home that expresses the inner you others so rarely see. Chances are good you've been pushing yourself pretty hard for a long time, so be sure to make time for balance and renewal. A candle-lit aromatherapy bath will help you relax so you can enjoy your beautiful home.
You're usually moving too fast to pay much attention to your house, but once you get into feng shui you'll want to get it all done in one afternoon. Do some planning before you begin, or you'll jump from one unnecessary embellishment to another without getting to the important stuff before you're distracted by the next exciting idea. You want to start with the wind chimes and water fountains because they look like the most fun, but if you skip over locating your personal power spots you won't know where to place them. And leaving the household maintenance tasks for later could sabotage your other efforts. You'll benefit from the discipline of empowering your changes with a daily ritual-it's an essential part of the process, and the thing you're most likely to skip! Promise yourself a massage when you're done, and splurge on a big bouquet of flowers as a centerpiece for your home, so you remember to stop and smell the roses from time to time.
Copyright © 2002 by Stephanie Roberts
Adapted from Fast Feng Shui: 9 Simple Principles for Transforming Your Life by Energizing Your Home by Stephanie Roberts (Lotus Pond Press, Kahului, HI, ISBN 1-931383-03-0)
Stephanie Roberts is a feng shui consultant and writer based in Maui, HI. She is the author of "Fast Feng Shui," a #1 "Most Popular" title in its category at