The feng shui way to having less stress

A harmonious environment leads to healing

Overstuffed closets, stacks of paper on desks, and clutter in general can be hazardous to your health, Katherine MacKinnon, tells her students in the workshop she teaches at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, titled "Feng Shui Your Way to Better Health."

Feng shui, or the Chinese art of placement, is all about creating a harmonious environment. Such an environment reduces stress, says MacKinnon who owns a consulting business called Creative Feng Shui. In her workshop, she teaches students how to reduce stress in their environment through feng shui, because stress is a cause of many health problems.

The biggest problem in most homes is clutter, she says. "Clutter is very stressful. On a subliminal level, clutter creates blockages and it also takes energy trying to find things and being able to move in a cluttered environment," says MacKinnon.

One of MacKinnon’s students kept all her financial papers under her bed; but during the three-week class, she organized them, moved them and then cleared the rest of the clutter from her apartment. The student felt like a different person and was energized to start working on other projects.

MacKinnon says that the environment is often a reflection of what is going on within a person internally. If there is a lot of clutter in a person’s home, there is a lot of internal clutter as well, she says.

Color is another element of feng shui that can either reduce stress or increase it. Rich colors are good but they should not be vibrant, especially in the bedroom where the room should be restful.

Feng shui means "wind/water" and refers to balancing earthly and heavenly energies in inner and outer environments. MacKinnon teaches basic feng shui in her community outreach classes.

In addition to clutter and color, she covers lighting; teaching that homes should be well lit and all light fixtures should be in working order. "Lighting really makes a difference in terms of how someone feels," says MacKinnon. Dark homes can reflect depression.

Cleaning is another important element of a harmonious environment. Clean windows are especially important because they help people see out into the world, like their eyes. "People who have dirty windows usually don’t want to look at things in their life," says MacKinnon.

Air quality is improved by a clean environment and by bringing in sunlight and fresh air. It is good to have live plants in the home because they are a natural air purifier, says MacKinnon. Also plants bring life into the home. With feng shui, dried flowers are not allowed.

Other factors that contribute to a harmonious environment are music and scented candles. "Feng shui is about creating the best environment so that you can come home and relax. In class, I talk about the home being a haven so you can then go out into the world. It is where you come to get restored, and the bedroom is the most important piece of that," says MacKinnon.

Three important rooms

The bedroom is all about rest, says MacKinnon. Yet, in modern society, people often have lots of electronic equipment in this room, such as a TV and telephone. Electromagnetic energy affects people whether they realize it or not, she says. Colors in bedrooms should be soothing as well.

People should have a real bed in their bedroom with a sturdy mattress, and there should not be clutter under the bed. Often people have their home office in the bedroom, which is not conducive to rest, says MacKinnon.

The entryway is another important area of the house. The main doorway is how energy enters a home, so it should be free from clutter and well lit. That is good feng shui, says MacKinnon. Often trees and bushes block the doorway, yet it is important to be able to see it and have a clear path.

A third room in the house that plays into feng shui is the kitchen. The Chinese equate food with health, wealth, and prosperity, says MacKinnon. "The more you cook, the more food you have and the more prosperous a person you are," she says. Everything in the kitchen should be in working order, including the burners on the stove. With good feng shui, mirrors are often placed behind the stove so that they reflect eight burners instead of four. This is a reflection of wealth.

While the classes MacKinnon teaches offer basic lessons in feng shui, she often is called in as a consultant. In this capacity, she analyzes a person’s home or workspace and makes adjustments accordingly in adherence with good feng shui. People often don’t know what she has done but they just know that their environment feels better. Feng shui is not redecorating, she says. It is more about color, clutter, and air quality.

Getting rid of clutter is the cheapest and most productive thing that people can do to create a more harmonious environment and color is second. A can of paint can really change the environment, says MacKinnon.

Part of reducing stress is to realize that there are things that can be changed and there are things that can’t be changed. "People can control what happens in their workplace and in their homes, and that all contributes to reducing their stress. It creates a place where they can go to be restored," says MacKinnon.


For more information about feng shui, or including a class in your community outreach efforts, contact:

Katherine MacKinnon, President, Creative Feng Shui, 45 Main St., Brooklyn, NY 11201. Telephone: (718) 222-9295. E-mail:

Looking for more info on feng shui?

Below is a list of a few books from the bookshelf of Katherine MacKinnon, president of Creative Feng Shui a consulting firm in New York City:

Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. New York City: Broadway Books; 1998.

Feng Shui and Health: The Anatomy of a Home by Nancy Santo Pietro. New York City: Three River Press; 2002.

Feng Shui Design: The Art of Creating Harmony for Interiors, Landscape, and Architecture by Sarah Rossbach and Lin Yun. New York City: Penguin Group; 1998.

Feng Shui for Dummies, by David Daniel Kennedy. New York City: Hungry Minds Inc.; 2001.

Feng Shui Revealed: An Aesthetic, Practical Approach to the Ancient Art of Space Alignment by R.D. Chin. New York City: Clarkson Potters/ Publishers; 1998.

House as a Mirror of Self by Clare Cooper Marcus. Berkeley, California: Conari Press; 1995.

Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home by Denise Linn. New York City: Ballantine Wellspring; 1995.

The Healing Home: Using Feng Shui to Organize your Home and Transform Your Life by Gina Lazenby. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press; 2000.