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Feng Shui: An Ancient Art Comes to NIEHS

May 2005

Annie Payne, author, presenter and feng shui consultant
Annie Payne, of Woodbridge, Va., came to NIEHS April 15 for a presentation on Feng Shui.

Feng Shui, which literally translated means wind and water, is an external catalyst that brings internal change, according to Annie Payne, author, presenter and feng shui consultant. Payne came to NIEHS April 15 for a seminar sponsored by the NIH Work/Life Center. The presentation, "Feng Shui and You: A new Mix at Home & Work," focused on achieving balance in home and work space.

According to feng shui principles, your surroundings determine you quality of life, therefore, creating an environment that is conducive to your goals is vital for success, Payne said.

"You become your surroundings, because you become what you think about," she said. Deliberately changing your surroundings will automatically change your thoughts, she said.

Payne described feng shui as Montessori for adults. Reflecting Montessori principles, feng shui, too, is based on the philosophy that everything has its place based on how it is used. Clutter is the equivalent of stuck energy, and eliminating it is one of the first objectives of feng shui. Payne outlined nine steps to do it:

  1. Start in a small contained space such as a medicine cabinet or two kitchen cabinets at a time, a top nightstand drawer or fireplace hearth and mantle.
  2. Only address areas you can see such as an open shelf, the top of a counter, a desk top, bathroom vanity top, inside tub or shower, hallway and stairs or foyer, focusing on the easiest and quickest spaces first.
  3. Touch everything and skip nothing. Decide where every item belongs.
  4. Use three boxes for sorting: One box for those things that you love but do not belong there; another box for things that you will get rid of; and a third box for those things you are not sure about. You can go back to that box in a few days to decide.
  5. Categorize every item and place in the appropriate box: If it makes you feel good - it stays; if it makes you feel bad or sad - it goes; and if it makes you feel nothing or guilty - wait three days, then decide.
  6. Realize time and opinions change. What stays this month might need to go next month. Address toys and papers first.
  7. Clear the floor first, and then move to horizontal surfaces, and then walls, including shelving and glass cabinets.
  8. Do closets individually and in this order: linen closets, bath towel closets, foyer or hall closets; and finally, clothes closets, which will need to be done as separate projects.
  9. Create a staging area for entering and leaving your home or office. This includes creating a place for mail to be sorted, a place for coats, briefcases, pocketbooks, etc.

10) Make task-specific areas. For example, your home should have a place for paying bills, another place for work tools, another place for sports equipment.

For more information, or to order Payne's new book that will be released this month, "The Dance of Balance - Feng Shui for Body, Mind & Spirit," visit her website at or contact her by e-mail at:

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