By Nona Tepper
About six years ago, Susane Molina was working as an attorney in a window-less office in Brazil. Her desk faced a wall. She shared the same room with several other lawyers. When a visitor walked in and commented on the depressing work environment — calling it "bad feng shui" — Molina agreed with the sentiment but had no idea what feng shui (pronounced fung shway) was. She decided to research the ancient Chinese art.
Now she credits the practice with changing her life.
"I can testify to you that it makes my life easier because I have control over my space, I find everything right away when I need it, and my space has harmonized."
After moving to the U.S. to be with her American husband three years ago — she lived initially in Oak Park, now in Forest Park — Molina decided that, rather than try to be re-licensed as an attorney, she would start a new business involving something she is passionate about. And that something was feng shui — a Chinese practice developed more than 3,000 years ago that aims to optimize the energy flow of a space by balancing the five elements — water, fire, wood, metal and earth — with directional sense, orientation to the stars and more.
"Some people still believe that feng shui is related to religion and it's not about that," she said. "It's about energy, and the vital energy that every individual has, independent of whether they are Christian or Muslim. It's all about people putting the best of ourselves in that space."
She started My Life, My Space, an online and in-person organization and feng shui consultancy. Because she never studied business, she spent the first few years acclimating to U.S. culture and learning how to be an entrepreneur. But then organizational evangelist Marie Kondo — author and TV personality best known for her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — hit the scene, and suddenly everyone was interested in, at least, organization.
Molina has since feng shui'd and organized the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce, a school in Brazil, an organic produce store, several area homes and more. She believes it is most important for clients' homes to adhere to the principles of feng shui, since the home's form is essential for achieving clients' intention. As an example, she named a single person who wants a partner but "this person doesn't have space to have a partner."
"This person doesn't have a couch to sit on or dining table to bring a partner to his or her home," Molina said. "So that's when we would feng shui and say, 'OK, let's make room for what you want in your life and work on that."
She starts by visiting clients' homes and helping them organize their space, since if an area is too cluttered there is no room for energy flow. Molina said she goes through drawers, asks them about their routine, talks to them about what might be bothering them about a space, asks what their needs are for the room, etc. She then helps customers "detach" from their possessions, evaluating items they need and want, and helping them sort those others that might belong better in another home.
"I've had clients who lost people and have this grief moment. For some people, it takes three to six months. For others it takes one year," Molina said. "So it's a challenge at this point and I think the most important thing is, they need to know that things happen at their own time.
"I don't judge my clients," she noted, "and I try to show them all the time, it doesn't matter why or how much they own. I'm not going to judge and nobody should."
After clients have chosen which items to keep and which to toss, Molina organizes their space, a process she said takes at least four hours per room. For clients interested in feng shui, she then requires at least one additional appointment.
Molina measures the direction of the room with her compass, looks for ways to balance the five elements, reflects on how the client wants to use the space, and also thinks of the surrounding environment, including outside power lines, sounds, and air. She then consults clients on how to rearrange furniture, incorporate colors and symbols to represent the elements and much more.
At the end of the second session, Molina presents clients with a personalized feng shui report. She sits down with the client and explains the thought process behind every move or suggestion, so they understand each area of their space.
"It doesn't need to be harmonizing with Asian decorations," she said. "We can do everything according to the clients' taste, just following some rules of colors and where to place each thing. But it's completely individual and personalized and that's what makes it amazing."