An Expert Feng Shui'd My Desk & My Productivity Is Thanking Me For It
"Well, I don't actually need that box of emergency snacks. Let's just get rid of that—"
I was 30 minutes into my feng shui consultation when I started seeing my desk as more than just an area to stockpile books, papers, and random food I had never and would never eat. It's a place where I spent 40 hours a week connecting with co-workers, ideas, and inspiration—so why didn't I value its design half as much as I did my home's?
"This is a miniature version of your life," Patricia Lohan, a feng shui practitioner and author of The Happy Home: A Guide to Creating a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy Life, reassured me. "What are you trying to create?"
The desktop dilemma.
Before Lohan landed on the scene, my desk was a place to drop my stuff in the morning before settling down in other nooks and crannies of the office. I didn't spend all that much time sitting there, partially because it's in the middle of an open office that can get noisy and partially because it didn't feel all that welcoming or conducive to work. It wasn't too cluttered, but it wasn't a minimalist dream either. It was pretty clean, but papers and books tended to stack up quickly. It was your typical desk! It was fine.
But Lohan's visit pushed me to think more critically about what the space was actually telling me. I revisited it armed with feng shui fixes thought to welcome prosperity, expansive creativity, and harmony. In case you're inspired to do a similar exercise in your workplace, here are a few of the tweaks I found beneficial:
7 feng-shui-approved ways to make your desk more conducive to work:
1. Add tall plants to shield yourself from the rest of your office.
The first thing Lohan asked me was how I felt when I sat at my desk. I told her that I was content for the most part but sometimes felt overwhelmed and distracted. Looking around the office space, she picked up on the fact that my desk was right near the front door, so I might be picking up on the energy of the people entering and leaving the space.
"That can make your desk feel a bit hectic," she told me, adding that putting some larger plants between me and the door would help diffuse some of the energy and commotion. "That will change the way the energy moves throughout the whole office," she said, recommending using plants to form a riverbed of sorts—a path that helps guide visitors as they instinctively flow through the space.
She added that I should be careful not to completely block the front door from my line of sight, though, since sitting so you face entryways is preferable in feng shui. When you're in the "command position" and can see who is entering and leaving your space, it's thought to put you at ease. (For all my co-workers who sat with backs facing the door, she prescribed a small mirror that would reflect it.)
2. Ditch dried, dead, or fake plants, and go with succulents instead.
When sussing out my desk, Lohan's eyes immediately landed on my bowl of dried petals and lavender and my struggling (OK, dead) houseplant. In feng shui, dead, dried, and fake plants represent stagnancy. They block ideas from flowing freely. Lohan prompted me to replace mine with a thriving succulent. "We love succulents in feng shui," she said. "They really absorb liquid, so they're great representations of holding energy in. Plus they're easy to take care of."
3. Arrange your crystals in a grid.
While Lohan did approve of my crystal collection, she thought it could be arranged in a more artful and intentional way. I took my pile and organized it into a six-point grid, which in sacred geometry is supposed to represent a fan of sorts—one that keeps everything spinning and whirring along harmoniously. She told me to spritz it with rose water, which I already had on my desk and had been using as a face mist, every so often to clear and cleanse and welcome in a bit of sweetness.
4. Make sure all elements are represented.
I already had a lot of the five feng shui elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) present on my desk in some form, with the exception of water, which represents peace, tranquillity, and free-flowing emotion. Feng shui is all about balancing these five energies from nature, so Lohan recommended bringing at least a touch of water to the table—even if it was just a photo of the ocean.
5. Be intentional with your stack of books.
I'm an editor, and editors eternally have more books than we know what to do with. At the time of Lohan's visit, I had a stack of 10 or so that inspired me, which she suggested whittling down to only the cream of the literary crop. "They should speak to what you want to create and what your goals are for the coming year, in and out of the office," she said.
6. Treat your desk like a vision board.
It pays off to take a future-thinking approach to your whole desk, she added. Really assess what each item is telling you, and question whether it's moving you toward where you want to go. Lohan told me that she's worked with many clients who were able to forge new paths simply reassessing the art they surround themselves with. For example, I had an art print of a mountain facing me when I sat at my computer, which might be sending the message that there's a mountain to climb at work every day. I swapped it out for the aforementioned ocean picture and cleared some space (by removing the desktop I never use anyway) for a more complete desk-friendly vision board I can add to over time.
7. Clear the area underneath your workspace.
Finally, we tackled the floor under my desk, where I stored a treasure-box-esque assortment of snacks. By that point in the process, I already knew that hoarding untouched ramen noodles wasn't really serving my highest purpose, so it was an easy thing to part with. "You don't want to have something stuck there for ages and ages. It's going to reflect in your work," she said, equating keeping things under your desk to keeping them under your bed, which is thought to mess with the energy of the bedroom and block quality sleep.
It's been a few days since my desk revamp, and according to my not-at-all scientific analysis, it's working! I feel like the new touches have kept me a little more inspired and optimistic throughout the day—and somehow, maybe, helped words come to mind a little easier? I mean hey, this article was pretty good, right?
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.