I remember when I was 18 my mother told me about a workshop she’d attended on “consciousness raising.” She explained the exercises they went through and one that was particularly illuminating for her. She said the group leader asked them all a question she was going to ask me. I had been half listening (I know, I know, that was rude, but in my defense, I was 18 and probably thinking about graduation or my boyfriend or what I was going to wear to Saturday’s cookout). In short, I didn’t know how serious this conversation was going to become. So I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure.” She sat up in her chair and leaned in toward me and asked, “Who are you?”

I swallowed. She had my full attention now. This was a question I had been dancing around because I was at a jumping-off point in my life. Finishing high school, on my way to college, deciding if I was going to break up or do the long-distance thing with my then boyfriend, generally feeling petrified and thrilled and anxious about everything. I couldn’t speak. Instead, I burst into tears. I had no idea how to answer her question.

Today — if I could be the wise age I am now but in the body of my 18-year-old self — I would have said to my mother, “Let’s head to my bedroom and take a look at my stuff to find out who I am.” What would we have seen? A madras bedspread. Posters of Paris and Cary Grant. Books on Calculus and Marcus Aurelius. A Joni Mitchell album. Embroidered jeans. A bulletin board covered with photos of my friends. My stuff knew exactly who I was: a romantic bohemian and wannabe Francophile who loved math, folk music, philosophy, and her friends. That pretty much nails it.

My 18-year-old wanna-be Francophile self.
My 18-year-old wanna-be Francophile self.

We surround ourselves with what is important to us, and we do it instinctually. One of the tenets of feng shui is that our environment mirrors our consciousness. In other words, if we want to know who we are, all we have to do is look around and see what we’ve surrounded ourselves with. Our things reflect “who we are” at this moment in time. Stop for a minute to look at your space and everything in it. Is your stuff telling your story? Is it a story you’re happy with? If you want to change who you are, start by changing your environment.

I practice and study and share feng shui to help my clients understand the power of their stuff — and the power of changing and moving their stuff to create a new story for themselves, if a new story is the goal. Changing and moving your stuff with intention is a powerful way to begin changing your life.

My poor mother was astonished that she’d made me cry. She leapt from her chair to hug me and apologize. We clung to each other for a sweet moment. Life was changing, as it does and is supposed to. My bedroom changed, too. My parents first turned it into a guest room, then an office, and then an art studio. Each transformation expressed the new life they were living in their house without me.

Who are you and who do you want to become? Your house, your office, your bedroom — your space — is expressing the answer now, and it can help you create a new future.

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