Home Decor Interview:
Stephanie Roberts from "Fast Feng Shui"
Today is a real treat for our readers, because we know how so many of you are fans of feng shui.
If it's feng shui you crave, then you must get to know Stephanie Roberts. That is, of course, unless you haven't heard of her already. Stephanie runs the wildly popular FastFengShui.com and has published numerous articles and books that make her THE authority on the subject. Odds are that if you've searched for feng shui online, you've come across Stephanie's work before.
Stephanie is highly sought after, and we've been hounding her for a long time because of the valuable information we know she will bring you. It's a real pleasure to present Ms. Roberts all the way from the islands of Hawaii.
Please enjoy this very special interview with one of the world's foremost feng shui experts!
and thanks for inviting me to participate on your site. I’m a writer and feng
shuista, and the author of the
Fast Feng Shui book series and
Clearing from the Inside Out. I began my feng shui career when I
2. You specialize in Contemporary Western feng shui as opposed to traditional feng shui. Readers can check out your blog and books for the specific differences between the two, but what is it in particular about the modern style of feng shui that appeals to you most?
Traditional Chinese feng shui and Contemporary Western feng shui both provide a framework for evaluating and making adjustments to the layout and furnishings of a space, but the specific methods and recommendations can be very different and sometimes contradictory. Traditional “old school” Chinese feng shui is a more left-brain (logical, formulaic, numbers-based) approach. Western feng shui is more humanistic and intuitive, and embraces the individual’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings as key factors in the success of the practice. Diehard traditionalists call the modern methods "faux" feng shui, but I think it's a mistake to write off the newer methods, because they offer significant value even though they don't cover all of the same ground. And they are in some ways much better suited to a contemporary audience. I think most people will naturally gravitate toward one practice or the other.
One key issue is that in our contemporary western culture most people want to apply feng shui retroactively to a space they are already living or working in. A lot of traditional feng shui advice is most helpful at the house-hunting stage. It includes a lot of “don’ts” -- don’t do this; avoid that, never ever whatever. Which is helpful for evaluating whether a home or apartment will be a good place to live, but not so helpful if you find out, as you begin to study feng shui, that the home you’ve lived in for years has one or more features you were supposed to avoid. I find that the traditional methods, because they assume you will avoid the “don’ts” list, are weak on what to do to remedy a less-than ideal situation. The modern methods are often more adaptable in terms of suggesting ways to minimize or remedy an iffy layout or design issue. I discuss these and other issues in more depth in my article, “Why I Practice Contemporary Western Feng Shui.”
3. You spend a lot of your free time answering readers’ questions. For the most part, what would you say is the most often asked question and concern you hear? And do you have an opinion on why you think that is?
Well, it’s really not “a lot” of my time. My free time is spent reading or cooking or sewing (or napping!). Answering reader feng shui questions is one way that I give back, but I consider it professional time: I try to devote an hour or two a week to Q+A, but sometimes it goes on hold for a week or more as I attend to other priorities. I do advise anyone who emails a question to me to be very patient as they await my reply.
As for the “most
asked” question, there are two. The first includes a thousand and one variations
on “How do I place the ba gua?” The “ba gua” is the feng shui energy map that
shows you where different areas of influence are in your space. People get
confused because the style of western feng shui that I practice places the ba
gua according to the entry, and ignores the compass directions. There are other
feng shui methods that ignore the doorway and only use the compass. I prefer the
doorway methods for interior spaces, for reasons detailed in my article,
Compass or the Doorway?”
The other very common question I get goes something like this: “My front door faces east, and my kua number is six and my husband is a three. Please help us, as we are having serious money problems and don’t know what to do.” These are the emails that make me moan and bang my head on the desk, because I do want to be of service, but: 1) Kua numbers and facing directions are traditional, compass-based feng shui, and that’s not what I practice or write about; 2) contemporary feng shui is a multi-step process that involves analyzing the layout and furnishings of your specific space, identifying existing/potential problems or difficult influences, and then choosing and placing appropriate remedies and “enhancements” -- so a quick tip via email isn’t going to fix money problems; and 3) they clearly haven’t read the Q+A Guidelines on my blog page, which are there for a reason. Generally I respond to these emails by recommending that they spend some time on the articles and archives pages on my site to find out what contemporary western feng shui is all about.
The bottom line is that the purpose of my Q+A blog is to address questions from my readers, who should at the very least have explored my website and, I hope, have read at least one of my books. I expect people to have done their homework and to write to me if they are confused about something in one of my books, or if they can’t figure out how to apply a basic principle to a specific situation – not to ask basic questions that they can find the answer to in any halfway competent book or elsewhere on the web.
I’ve written an
entire book on the topic:
Fast Feng Shui for Your Home Office.
In terms of a mobile/wireless worker, the main issue (as I see it) is not how to cultivate the “positive, creative energy of feng shui” but what can that person do to protect him/herself from the damaging “sha chi” of the wireless/EMF fields they’re exposed to for so much of the day. Feng shui is as much about removing – or, in the case of wireless technology, avoiding or protecting yourself from – negative influences. Personally, I use my cell phone as little as possible (and only with an air-tube headset), and avoid wireless anything as much as I can. Anyone who’s interested in more on that topic can visit our EMF protection site.
The bottom line is that you can’t “feng shui” your office if you don’t have an office. Feng shui is specifically about the physical features of the personal space you live in and/or work from. That means spaces that you control and can change. So, feng shui for your home office, yes; for your local Starbuck’s, no (it’s not your private, personal space and you’re not in control of the layout or decor), even if you spend eight hours a day there. If you’re going to work wirelessly outside the home, I certainly recommend trying to spend as much of that time as possible in places that have good feng shui. But if the space is not yours to control, you can’t “tweak” the feng shui of it to improve your circumstances.
If mobile workers wish to benefit from feng shui they need to designate some kind of “office” within a physical location – such as an alcove in the home – and apply feng shui to that space for the purpose of supporting successful business activities. If there’s a physical address other than a Post Office box on your business card or your business license, that’s where your office is, and that’s the space that you “feng shui.” Even if you work outside that office most of the time, the feng shui of that space will impact your business life.
Since one aspect of clutter is having too much stuff in too small a space, what can happen when downsizing is that things that weren’t clutter in a larger home become clutter because of space limitations.
When downsizing, I think a lot of people try to bring as much as possible with them and cram it into the new space. Psychologically, it’s easy to see why that happens: in times of upheaval and uncertainty, having familiar stuff around helps us feel safe and secure. So anyone who’s going through the trauma of losing a home or having to downsize or move in with relatives is likely to feel the impulse to hold on to as much as possible, because letting go of even nonessential stuff under those conditions can make the change in circumstances feel more stressful.
The key to living comfortably in a small space is to weed out all non-essential items and to organize what’s left really, really well. Every item in your home should have a purpose and a place. That may be easier said than done, but in principle it really is that simple.
Getting rid of clutter usually happens in stages. So there’s a wave of de-cluttering that happens at the time of the move, but in an ideal world that would just be the first round. After someone who’s downsizing has settled in at the new place – let’s say after six months or a year have passed – I’d recommend looking around with a fresh eye and seeing if maybe some of what you first thought was essential can maybe now be passed on to someone else whose need is greater than yours.
I don’t think feng
shui has dwindled in popularity, although perhaps it’s not as trendy as it was a
few years ago. I have seen a shift in that more of the “newbie” questions I get
through email, and a large portion of new signups for my email list, are from
readers outside the
I’m more convinced than ever that feng shui and “deliberate creation” / “the law of attraction” go hand-in-hand, and I would like to see that partnership more fully embraced. Too often feng shui is seen as a quick fix that works miracles regardless of other influences, and that's really a misperception. Feng shui is only one of the many factors that affect us. It shouldn’t be applied in isolation, which is what a lot of people try to do, either out of ignorance or because it's easier and more appealing to stick a lucky money frog by the front door than to confront, for example, habitual overspending. I’d like to see more attention given to the importance of working on both inner and outer spaces and issues, and to using feng shui as one piece of a holistic approach to improved health, wealth, and happiness.
We hope the information Stephanie
provided was useful to the feng shui enthusiasts reading this. For those
who aren't enthusiasts, we hope this interview opened your eyes a bit and made
you a little curious!
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