Has your household faced the infamous bathroom debate of which way to hang the toilet paper roll? If so, these tips will keep you rolling in the right direction

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: You may find this question strange, but what can I say? I’m a strange guy. I have been following your column for quite a while, and I have never seen you address this highly debatable topic (or if you did, I missed it): What does feng shui (or you) have to say about the toilet paper roll — should it be hung over or under? I understand that this is not a usual question, but then again, I’m not your usual guy. I have my opinion, and my wife has hers, and we are looking forward to what you have to say.

I love your “unusual” question! In fact, people often ask me this in private, so your inquiry gives me the opportunity to answer what others are curious about as well. I will preface this by saying that there is really no “feng shui correct” answer, because it’s not something officially covered in the ancient discipline. However, I will be happy to offer my personal feng shui perspective.

Toilet paper roll orientation

This topic is not covered in feng shui school. I figure it is because the history of feng shui dates back at least 3,500 years to Neolithic China, and toilet paper rolls were only invented and introduced in America in 1880 — 134 years ago.


I wondered what people used before rolled toilet paper was invented, and I found answers that included grass, leaves, fur, mussel shells and even corncobs. The ancient Greeks used pieces of clay and stones, whereas the ancient Romans used sponges wrapped around the ends of sticks that were kept in jugs of salty water.

Think “waterfall” for flow

If there were a feng shui correct answer, I would lean toward the paper hanging over the top. Why? Think of a waterfall. Water in feng shui represents wealth, abundance and flow. Feng shui advises people to put water fountains in the home to symbolize and affirm greater flow in getting what they want, with fewer obstacles and greater ease. Toilet paper that hangs off the top of the roll seems (to me) to be a more feng shui positive orientation. We always can use more flow in our lives, especially in the bathroom.


Many people think this topic is no big deal, but for those who care, the choice of which way to hang the roll is a matter of personal preference, usually determined by how it was when you were growing up. In surveys of American consumers, an average of 65 percent of the people preferred the “over” position, but in the end (no pun intended), whatever makes you happy is best.


What happens when two people disagree

Prior to opening my school, Happiness U, I was a wedding officiant for 12 years. During that time, I had the honor of marrying close to 900 couples. Some of those couples hired me to feng shui their homes. When it came to the bathroom, if the couple disagreed on the orientation of the roll, guess whom they asked? Yes, me. Now, if the “waterfall” explanation didn’t sit well with one of them (of course, it was always the one who had the “under” preference), I felt responsible to offer an honest opinion, usually the over position.

Creative solutions

In giving advice, I have had to be creative over the years, and instead of saying one way is “right” and the other way is “wrong,” I suggested ways to compromise and make it work. Over the years, I have given the following suggestions:


• Whoever changes the roll of paper gets to decide the orientation. One couple I consulted with agreed to this solution. I ran into the wife years later at a store, and she told me that when they moved, she found a closet with tons of toilet paper rolls that were 70-90 percent used. (True story.) Apparently her husband was not only competitive, but also frugal and couldn’t bear throwing them away.

• Alternate the decision monthly. When you are at loggerheads, take turns. In feng shui, odd months are yang for the male energy and even months are yin for the female energy, but that needn’t dictate how you work this out. Male energy is not confined to men, and female energy is not confined to women.

• Install another dispenser so you have two side by side. Yes, this may seem strange, but it works very well. Many homes have enough room to install two dispensers side by side. It works well in a shared bathroom, and in guest bathrooms it becomes a conversation piece.

• Update the dispenser. Two types of new dispensers are available that can solve this problem. One is a dispenser that allows the user to swivel and tear off from the orientation that is most habitual for that person. The other is a stand-alone type where you turn the stand around to the side you want to tear from.

No matter what anyone says the “right” way to hang the toilet paper is, it will likely always be a personal choice. Hopefully, these tips have given you and those in your household a possible solution to live with and roll forward with ease.


Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, a friendly educational establishment at Na Lama Kukui (formerly known as Gentry Pacific Design Center) on Nimitz Highway. At Happiness U you’ll find dozens of inspiring classes all geared toward personal growth, helping you live a more purposeful and ease-filled life. Visit www.YourHappinessU.com.