Skip to Content

Home > Feng Shui Blog

Feng Shui Blog

Tips to help you rearrange spaces, shift energy, and transform your life.

Welcome to Carol Olmstead's Feng Shui For Real Life Blog. Read her musings about Feng Shui, design, and clutter clearing, and how Feng Shui can come to your rescue. You'll also find success stories from her clients, guest posts, and some fun posts that go "beyond Feng Shui."
Follow Carol's Blog

To receive new blog posts in your inbox, enter your email address here:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Real Life, Real Feng Shui

Thu Dec 22 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
These days, it seems like there are as many approaches to Feng Shui as there are to interior design or architecture. And that makes me think about why I call my Feng Shui approach Feng Shui For Real Life. The “real life” part is the most important, because when I started practicing almost 19 years ago it was clear I wanted to help clients work Feng Shui into their real lives, rather than the other way around.

Bathrooms are one good example. Feng Shui-wise, there’s no ideal place in a house for a bathroom because this room is associated with waste. Indoor plumbing hadn’t been invented when Feng Shui was developed, so the ancients didn’t have any problem figuring out where to locate their bathrooms - outside. I’m not about to give up my indoor bathrooms, and I haven’t yet worked with a client who is ready to part with theirs, so the contemporary Feng Shui approach is to decorate the bathroom in a way that balances any negative aspects related its location in the home. That’s real life.

When I started to study Feng Shui and learned that you divide a house into nine areas of the bagua that relate to critical aspects of life like wealth, love, health, for some reason I became fixated on trash cans. Where in the world are you supposed to put the trash? You wouldn’t want to keep trash in the Wealth Area or the Love Area, and the Health Area was definitely out. When I finally got around to asking my teacher this burning question, his answer was simple: “Choose a trash can that is as small as you can live with, and empty it frequently.” Simple, rational, real life.

My client Katie had a Feng Shui challenge that is a good example of how important “for real life” can be. When I arrived at her house, the first thing she told me was that her husband wanted to eat all their meals in front of the TV, and she was tired of that. She took me into the family room where their mega-size TV was located, and the first thing I noticed was the coffee table. I had never seen anything like it before. It was cantilevered so it could be pulled up from its coffee table position into eating table height. Yikes, talk about enabling! Her husband never had to leave the sofa.

Katie wasn’t opposed to eating some meals in the family room. As far as she was concerned, beer, munchies, and football belonged in the family room, but there were some meals, on some nights, that she wanted to eat at a table with her husband. The real life Feng Shui solution was to replace that coffee table. Are they still eating some meals in the family room? Yes, and that’s OK with Katie, because they are also having most meals around the kitchen table - and she’s working on getting her husband into the dining room on a non-holiday night.

Real life, real Feng Shui means finding a solution to a problem that fits with the way you want to live in your home or work in your office. It’s making Feng Shui work for you.

How are you working Feng Shui into your real life? Email me with your thoughts.

Posted in: Basics | Tags: feng shui, real life, family room, dining room, TV

Feng Shui For the Garden

Wed May 11 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Jumpstart the geraniums and dial up the dahlias: it's time to start growing something in your garden with a Feng Shui plan in mind. Whether the garden view you see is a lush paradise or a simple hanging plant, you can choose plants and decorations in colors and shapes that represent the Feng Shui Five Elements.

The Five Elements is the Feng Shui term to describe the colors, shapes, and textures around you and the attributes they bring into your life. The Elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and each has a characteristic shape and colors, and represents specific aspects of life. What do the names of the Five Elements conjure up in your mind? Most likely it is the same thing as their attributes: passion, grounding, clarity, movement, and growth, respectively.

Check out these simple ways to activate the Elements while adding a bit of pizzazz to your garden:

Fire Element: Plant red, orange, or purple flowers, then add an outdoor fire pit and lanterns or torches.

Earth Element: Plant yellow flowers, and arrange rocks and clay pots around them.

Metal Element: Plant white flowers and decorate your garden with metal sculptures and wind chimes.

Water Element: Plant blue and purple flowers, and create a water element like a pond, fountain, or birdbath.

Wood Element: Plant green shrubs and trees, then place wooden benches, chairs, or a trellis in your backyard.

To place these Element shapes and colors in the most appropriate bagua area of your garden, first download a Feng Shui bagua that matches the shape of your garden from the "Basics" section at Next, hold the bagua in front of you when you look into your garden from its main entrance. Plant and decorate your garden to match the colors and shapes recommend for each area.

For example, in the Wealth area (upper left hand corner of your garden), grow red roses, purple salvia, or other plants with hot colors or triangular shapes to increase your abundance and prosperity. Plant fruit trees in this area and your wealth will be "fruitful."

If you live in an apartment or condo, you can still have a garden on your balcony or patio. Even though the space is small, use the bagua to map out your outdoor space, then decorate with flowers, small potted plants, or garden ornaments.

Posted in: Gardens, Plants, Landscaping | Tags: feng shui, flowers, garden, colors, elements, feng shui colors, plants, roses


Sat Apr 16 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I experienced two deaths within days of each other this month, first my beloved Aunt Lily and then my dear friend's mom, Sylvia. Both women were family matriarchs, and despite being in their 90s, their deaths are difficult for family and friends. As I sat in the house my aunt had lived in for more than 60 years, I realized that I would never return, never see her unique wallpaper, or sit on the carefully-selected furniture, or admire the art objects she had collected on exciting trips around the world - several of which I shared with her.

A house is more than the sum total of the objects we put in it, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I would miss these familiar objects and how complicated it would be for the family to deal with them.

Years ago I had to close up my father's apartment and deal with my parents' furniture and the objects they had collected for almost 75 years together. I donated as much as I could and had the rest shipped to a storage unit near my home in another state. Every few days I would go to the unit and bring home a box or two to unpack. I had expected that I would be adding to my collection with my mom's porcelain, silver, and art, because these were all a vivid part of my childhood. But, I found little in each box that I wanted to keep - each item had my mother's touch and related to my parent's life but didn't fit with my own decor or style. Things that seemed perfect to me as a child in reality had chips and cracks. I decided to keep a few representative items, like my mom's needlepoint piano bench, the few cups and saucers from her large collection that I had given to her as birthday gifts, two 1950s silk scarves from my parents' trip to Paris, the demitasse spoons engraved with the name of a famous hotel (your secret is safe with me, Mom). I selected a few of the doilies she had crocheted commuting on the train to see my father when he was in Army basic training during World War II. I cut the fabric flower off the dress she wore to my wedding. I donated the rest. In less than three months I could give up the storage unit because it was empty.

Feng Shui was developed in China to help locate family graves in the most auspicious location. The basic rule was "water in front of the grave, mountain behind, and luxuriant plants around," which was supposed to protect the offspring and bring them peace, health, fortune, good luck, and other positive qualities. My aunt joins my parents, uncle, and grandparents in the family plot in a location that comes pretty close to this Feng Shui rule. I'm honored that this location conveys protection and good fortune to the living members of our family.

Posted in: General | Tags: Feng Shui, cemetery, funeral, memories, chi, graves

Elemental Spring Clothes

Thu Mar 03 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Spring might not be here officially, but when it comes to clothes shopping, you couldn't find a “puffer” coat if your life depended on it. Everywhere I look, the stores are showing colorful spring clothes. From a Feng Shui perspective, the colors you wear affect your emotions and influence how others judge and respond to you. Each of the Five Elements has specific characteristics, and when you wear the colors and shapes that represent that Element, you project these attributes. Elementally speaking, “you are what you wear.”

I wear the Fire Element when I’m involved in communications. The colors are red, orange, and purple, the patterns are pointed designs and animal prints, the fabrics are satin and shiny textures, and the shapes are angular and form fitting. Red is the ideal color when you want to draw attention to yourself, so I wear it when I give a workshop.

I wear the Earth Element to board meetings to feel stable and grounded. The colors are brown and yellow, the patterns are checks and plaids, the fabrics are tweed, flannel, textured, and the shapes are boxy. Yellow conveys stability so some people wear it when they have to make an important decision. I avoid yellow because it’s simply not my color. And that’s Feng Shui OK. No one should wear a color they don’t like.

I wear the Metal Element to feel elegant. The colors are white, pastel, metallic, the patterns are round, dots, and scrolls, the fabrics are polished, glittery, and shiny, and the shapes are round. I love black polka dots on white fabric because that’s the perfect yin-yang balance. White can be a low-energy color, so I save it for more casual activities.

Full disclosure for the next Element: I’d be happy to wear only black, the color of the Water Element. Think black and you get authority and strength. The other Water colors are navy and deep blue, the patterns are wavy, paisley, and abstract, the fabrics are sheer, and the shapes are flowing. Water Element clothes are great for artistic activities.

I wear the Wood Element for fitness activities and when I want to feel active. The colors are green and blue, the patterns are vertical and stripes, the fabrics are cotton, linen, and ribbed fabrics, and the shapes are rectangular. Green represents growth so it's a great color to wear when I’m trying to learn a new skill or need a pop of energy. Green is a stimulating color so I don’t wear it when I need to feel grounded.

Check out some of my other blogs about Feng Shui colors.

Posted in: Colors | Tags: feng shui, color, spring clothes, five elements, fashion

Cleaning and Clearing for Chinese New Year

Mon Feb 08 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Chinese New Year 2016 begins on February 8, and "in with the old and out with the new," is the guiding principle In Chinese households to welcome the Lunar New Year. But you don't have to be Chinese - or even celebrate Chinese New Year - to practice some of this wise advice for cleaning and clearing in anticipation of any special day.

Here are a few of my favorite Feng Shui tips for clearing out old, stale chi to make room for new, fresher energy to find you:

1. Clear the Slate. Reconcile with friends, family, and colleagues and settle any pre-existing disagreements.

2. Clean Thoroughly. Dirt, dust, and trash represent negative chi, so give your home and office a thorough cleaning, and remove items that you no longer need or want. Remember to sweep toward the door rather than into the room.

3. Pay Debts. Pay off any debts before the arrival of the New Year so you can start fresh with no payments hanging over your head.

4. Buy New Clothes. It's customary to buy new clothes and shoes, preferably something in red, the auspicious Fire Element color that attracts positive chi.

5 Decorate with Flowers. Decorate your home and office with fresh flowers and plants, especially narcissus, azalea, orchids, or lucky bamboo. You can read about choosing specific flowers for their symbolism in my blog "Feng Shui and the Language of Flowers".

On the eve of the holiday, offer thanks to higher beings and ancestors for past good fortunes, and ask for their blessings for the coming year. Then, on the actual day of the holiday, be sure to open your front door to actively welcome in positive energy.

About the Year of the Monkey 2016...

The two prominent Feng Shui Elements for the Year of the Monkey are Fire and Metal. Read my blog "Swing into the Year of the Monkey" for a look at what some Asian Feng Shui masters are predicting, and my article "Predictions for the Year of the Monkey," for a peek at what your Chinese Zodiac sign can anticipate.

But, please keep in mind: These are only predictions from Chinese masters, but ultimately you have control over your actions and power over the kind of year you will experience.

Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: feng shui, year of the monkey, Chinese New Year, clutter clearing

Swinging into the Year of the Monkey

Sun Jan 17 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
My annual blog about Chinese New Year always starts with the same disclaimer, that these predictions come from Asian Feng Shui masters, not from me. The Year of the Monkey 2016 arrives on February 8, and the two prominent Elements are Fire and Metal. At the risk of planting self-fulfilling ideas in your head, here’s what my research shows some prognosticators are telling us the new lunar year will bring.

First, there’s a high probability of a war of words between people, politicians running for office, and internationally between countries. OK, all you need to do is read a newspaper or turn on the TV or go online to confirm that one. Because the Fire Element is connected to words, much political infighting is expected. Some world leaders will act even more provocatively than usual, but this will be “…more amusing than dangerous.” International conflicts are likely, but the good news is that “…disputes will be settled rather easily and most conflicts will be short-lived.” We can only hope.

This is likely to be an expensive year, because money is Metal, but Fire melts it. People will spend much more than usual, especially for travel, trendy items, and clothes. Stock markets are likely to fluctuate, but overall global economic growth is expected by the end of the year. The industries that will perform best are those related to Fire and Water Elements, like energy, finance, entertainment, transportation, and communication.

People will have more fun, and humor will be more appreciated. The monkey is considered the “trickster” among the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, so this let’s us let loose and enjoy more than we have in previous years. Let’s hear it for the return of humor, something we’ve all needed and missed.

The monkey loves change, which means weather will change rapidly, and usually dry places will be wet and vice versa. We’ve already seen this as the wet El Nino weather is replacing the dry La Nina of the past few years. Natural disasters will happen very suddenly and without much warning (don’t they always?), with “…dramatic storms, lightning sparked fires, and volcanoes erupting, but not be as many earthquakes.”

Since monkeys learn by imitation, this is considered a good year for education, arts, and culture. People will watch more movies and television and will want to travel more, especially to fun destinations.

Many people will have a stronger spirit and more energy due to the increase in the Fire Energy. People will want to talk more, laugh more, and feel more playful. But, the Fire energy will also make people "…feel more scattered and disorganized,” which will lead to more anxiety and frustration.

It’s going to be a good year for love and romance. That one can stand on it’s own without need for explanation.

Spirituality and religious fervor will increase and people will feel more open-minded and more tolerant of differences. This means there will be an increase in friendliness and getting together. Who can complain about that?

What does the Year of the Monkey hold for your Chinese animal sign? Click here to read the summary of predictions in the articles on my website.

Posted in: Seasonal, Holidays, Travel | Tags: feng shui, year of the monkey, Chinese New Year, Chinese New Year predictions

The Big Red Purge

Sun Jan 10 2016 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The tip in my January Feng Shui To The Rescue newsletter to “move 27 things” to make room for good things to find you in 2016 hit the right note, because I’ve been receiving the most heartfelt messages from people who took this advice and achieved quick results. This is my standard New Year’s Day tip, and every year I include the reminder that you don’t have to go overboard and only need to move 27 things.

File Clearout275
Why 27 things? The number three is considered auspicious in Feng Shui - there are three sides to a triangle, the powerful symbol representing the Fire Element that helps activate passion, emotion, and wealth - so 27 is a powerful permutation of threes. But in truth as long as you move something, anything, you will see results.

Now here’s my confession: I moved a lot more than 27 things. In fact, my big home office purge ended up including two closets, two bookshelves, and three file cabinets.

I started on New Year’s Day with the closet in the “Helpful People” area of my office. That’s where the smaller file cabinet is located and where I keep all those paper supplies that so easily become one big mess. I worked for hours, then did a quick tidy of the bookcase in the “Relationship” area for good measure, then called it quits. At least for the day.

Saturday, I tackled closet #2 in the “Harmony” area of the room. That one has copies of my book, materials and props for my workshops, travel paraphernalia, and crafting supplies including my collection of colored Sharpies (more about that in another blog). That one went quickly so I added a straightening job on the bigger bookshelf in the “Community” area. The trash bags were piling up.

On Sunday, I had no choice but to deal with the big deal, AKA the vertical file in the “Wealth” area where I keep all of my client folders - 18 years of them.

Ever since I launched my practice, I have “opened” a red file folder for each client. In the back of the folder I staple a sheet with contact information, advice they give about the quirks of finding their house, and similar pertinent info. Every client gets written notes during our session, and a copy goes in the file along with a floor plan.

Long ago I began recording all of this information electronically, but I still create folders because I love the tactile sense and the good luck message of the red color. Over the years I’ve purged files, especially removing files of clients who moved, since I don’t need the old floor plan and directions, but despite this the cabinet was stuffed to the point of explosion. I had current and continuing client files that simply wouldn’t fit inside.

And so began the big red purge. I pulled every file, read its contents, wished the client well on his or her journey to achieve wealth, harmony, and love. Then out went the file if it was older than two years.

To my precious clients, please understand that this was not an easy purge for me. I am not deserting you because you’re recorded electronically. Except for a catastrophic iCloud failure, I’ll always have your information - and your back. I wished each of you well with a special message for your special situation.

The result for me on Monday was the predictable increase in calls from potential clients who were rushing to fill the space I had opened up to fit their own new red folders. I don’t mean to sound smug about this, because all clients old and new are equally important to me, but when you make Feng Shui changes you create room for new things to find you – and they always do.

How about you? Did you move your 27 things yet, and if you did, what new energy did it bring to you? Email your success story so I can profile you in a future newsletter.

Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: feng shui, clutter, clutter clearing, file cabinet, file folder, color red, New Year's

© Copyright 2017, Carol Olmstead