One of those mystical terms that everyone seems to know, but not to know much about, is feng shui. Like other new age trends that have been gaining popularity in recent years, feng shui has acquired a great number of followers who swear by its effectiveness.

1. What is feng shui?

Though this practice is commonly associated with new age practices and concepts, it has very old roots. It was initially developed in China, more than three thousand years ago, and has been developed and refined constantly since then. It’s a difficult thing to articulate concisely because of the sheer breadth and depth of information associated with feng shui, but the basic idea is to keep the energies of a given area in balance. The energies of a room are believed to affect those within it; for example, the energy of a bedroom may result in good or bad luck for those who sleep in it.

Although feng shui has roots in Chinese Taoist beliefs, it is not religious on its own, so adherents of many religions today enjoy using feng shui principles to benefit themselves and their loved ones.

2. Is feng shui a religion or something I need training in?

Feng shui certainly doesn’t require training to practice, although training is available if you are keenly interested in the topic. The practice originated in religious beliefs, but it doesn’t require you to believe in any particular religion, nor does it violate most major religions’ requirements to believe in only their concepts.

Many people believe that the earth and everything on it is filled with energy, also known as chi or ki in Chinese and Japanese respectively. The concept is not new, nor is it restricted to one country’s beliefs, as evidenced by the Japanese concept for a similar thing.

Yin and yang, the equal and opposite forces that compose our lives, are also involved in feng shui, as are the five basic elements.

3. How does clutter affect feng shui?

Feng shui specifically addresses clutter, because it can affect your life in so many ways. Have you ever noticed that when you work at a messy desk, it’s hard to focus and you just feel more drained? On the other hand, working from a perfectly clean desk helps keep you on track and energized.

The same analogy applies to the rest of your life: if you have clutter in your bedroom, your love life will be filled with similar barriers and garbage that doesn’t really need to exist, for instance. Clutter in your kitchen is often linked with unhealthy eating habits and other negative eating behaviors, and clutter in your living spaces stops you from properly relaxing.

There may be satisfaction in owning things, but the satisfaction is diminished or forgotten when you own too many things. When you move or go through a very stressful time of life, often you find yourself cleaning or taking inventory of what you have. These times are the ones we realize just how much stuff we really have, and how little of it we need.

The energy of a room may naturally be great, but if there’s clutter everywhere, it will simply add a note of confusion and negativity that saps your own personal energy. Of course, this isn’t permanent. It may take effort, but when you start clearing clutter, you almost automatically notice that your energy becomes less distracted, more focused, and overall happier.

4. Can I use feng shui in my office?

You can use the principles of feng shui to clear your environment and ensure the energy is positive wherever you are. It may be more of a challenge to do so if you don’t work from home, as most employers are strict about the placement of desks, etc.

It may be possible to control at least some of what’s around you by not letting your desk get messy, surrounding yourself with positive and balanced energies, and so on, though the chaos of the office energy often doesn’t help.

There are books and instructions specifically about feng shui for the office, so if you would like to give it a try, you can start using a few basic principles at a time. If you have a very open-minded office environment, your managers might even want to try it for a whole section of the office.

5. How can I start using feng shui at home?

To start at home, the best thing to do is make sure your house doesn’t have any excess clutter. This is one of the fastest routes to keep up your motivation, because you can see so clearly the difference and feel the positive effects that the uncluttered energy has on you.

Take it slowly and do one room at a time if that’s all you can handle, as you don’t want to exhaust and depress yourself by not being able to “feng shui” your whole house at once. Pick a room you spend a lot of time in, like your bedroom, and start there.

Grab three boxes – one for stuff to keep, one for things to donate, and one for garbage. If you would like and you can find a big one, get a fourth huge box to put everything you can find into at first, as containing the mess this way makes it easier to deal with.

Clean the room in sections: under your bed, in the closet, any dressers, surfaces, etc. One at a time, get rid of as much stuff as you can, only keeping what you can really justify.

After you have decluttered, it will be much easier to rearrange furniture and set up decorations again so they enhance the atmosphere, rather than dragging down the room’s energy again.

The basics of feng shui aren’t hard to pick up, and if it works for you, it can enhance your quality of life immensely. You will be more focused and clear-minded and happier in general without negative energy ruining your rooms and days.