Over the last two years of extra indoor time, I have found myself ready to try anything that might give me a new perspective on my living space. Unfortunately, that often meant spending my money on a new object, followed by little return on my happiness. Funny, how that is.

bamboo in a pot isolated on white background

Plants add air-purifying, healthy “wood” energy to your home. According to principles of feng shui, their presence promotes growth and abundance. Shutterstock

So, I had the idea to investigate feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”), a spiritual practice directly connected to how our physical surroundings affect how energy flows. It originated in China thousands of years ago, and has grown more popular in the U.S. in recent decades. Feng means “wind” and shui means “water,” two powerful yet calming forces of nature that can guide your sensibilities.

“When you live with intention, you create balance and joy in your life,” said Sara Bird Nelson, a certified BTB feng shui consultant and teacher based in Gorham. “Feng shui gives people more power in their lives.”

While there are deep, complex feng shui theories around the materials you use in your home or the placement of objects based on cardinal directions, there are also simple, cost-free practices that can refresh your home’s spirit and your own every day.


Sara Bird Nelson always starts her consultations with cleaning and reorganizing. Physical clutter becomes visual clutter, which can have a significant impact on our ability to think or feel clearly. “Cleaning your home is a way of honoring your home and therefore, yourself,” said Nelson. She noted that fans of Marie Kondo may find some feng shui practices familiar, like “everything should have a place and when it is not being used, it should be there.”


Like cobwebs and dust bunnies, feng shui holds that dead energy also collects in the corners of our homes. The traditional method of cleaning corner energies is to clap a few times in the area, but you can also use sage, a hand fan, or whatever works for you.

Practices like clapping in corners or burning sage around your home’s perimeter are meant to move stagnant energy.

“When you’re feeling blah, this will move energy through your home, which will help your creativity thrive,” said Nelson, who also does it after recovering from an illness.

Another time to clear out corners is when you’ve just had guests over, perhaps an unfamiliarly overwhelming experience after a second COVID winter.  “When you clear out dead energy, you re-establish the boundaries of your home and re-center yourself,” said Nelson.

If doors represent opportunities, we want to make sure they open for us. “In New England, we often have two or three doors to our home, but we just use one,” Nelson said, observing how people, including her family, usually go in and out of the door closest to where we park our cars.

Now that spring is here, Nelson suggests leaving your less-used entrances open for a bit while you are home, longer if you have a screen or storm door. Take a moment to sit on the front steps you never take. You can also put bells on or near entryways so they can ring in prosperity like the bells in a shopkeeper’s doorway.

Water is a powerful element that is always moving. To optimize your whole house flow, start at a freshly opened door and walk through your home like you have never been there before, following paths of least resistance. Nelson says you want a “meandering energy,” like a river. You don’t want a major blockage, but if you hit a long hallway, you’ll want to punctuate the space with a small table or piece of artwork, like a boulder that slows the speed of the water.

Punctuate long, straight lines with artwork or side tables to break up a hallway like a stone in a river. Shutterstock

Speaking of blockages, the best advice I can give anyone, including myself, is that when you are limited by space and budget, focus on what is possible in your home, not the shortcomings. And while it’s not as fun as decorating, cleaning and getting rid of belongings gives you space to stretch and evaluate what is really needed. Nelson has been wanting to toss an inconveniently placed ottoman in her home that the family dog loves to sit on. Therefore, her human family will not let her get rid of it.

“So, I walk around it!” she said, laughing. “Reality is not perfect. We have to live in the homes that we have, and we can find ways to honor our space while living our daily lives.”


Nelson says the following are her clients’ top three issues they are concerned about and the feng shui practices she suggests to nurture them. Refer to an easily Google-able, nine-square grid bagua map to get started.

Love and relationships

No matter where it is in the house, the bedroom sets the energy for your romantic relationships. If you are in a partnership or looking for one, keep even numbers in your bedroom-even pillows, nightstands and lamps. As a couple, you do not want room for anyone extra, while someone single is making space for that future partner.

Career or life purpose

This area of your life is influenced by the space in the front, center of your home. To help your ability to grow by learning and teaching, you will want to highlight this area, which could be a front hall or kitchen, with blue colors and glass materials like mirrors to help you think clearly. Avoid grounding materials like ceramics, the Earth element, that may muddy the waters of flow.

Wealth and abundance

From your home’s main entrance, what would be the room in the furthest left corner? Here is where your potential for financial and spiritual abundance lies. Feng shui principles suggest decorating with elements of growth to cultivate these riches. Use wood grain furniture, artwork with forests or florals, or if there’s western light, pick out and care for houseplants. Avoid metals, which “cut” wood.

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