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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."
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Cemeteries and Other Kinds of Predecessor Chi

Mon Jan 26 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The vicious fire that destroyed a New Jersey apartment complex caused quite a lot of comment among my colleagues in the International Feng Shui Guild. Of course we're all relieved there were no injuries, but it was the location of the fire and the fact that this was the second fire on the same location that had everyone buzzing. Seems there used to be a cemetery on the site, which means constructing a building there was a Feng Shui no-no.

One colleague who lived down the street from the site in the 90's remembers an open courtyard with a cemetery, and to make matters worse, an industrial plant that produced toxic chemicals.

In Feng Shui as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. And the location of this particular complex resonated with me because there are several current cemeteries nearby, plus unidentified ancient Native American burial sites. I find cemeteries to be peaceful locations, and my husband and I have had fun "family-history" trips traipsing through rural cemeteries to find his ancestors' graves. But would I recommend building on top of one? No Feng Shui way!

In Chinese Feng Shui, a cemetery is thought to have the strong yin chi of death that draws positive chi away from the surrounding homes. That means living near a cemetery could deplete your personal energy over time. Plus, ancestors play an important role in Feng Shui so you want to honor the predecessor chi of their gravesites, not build on top of them.

Predecessor chi is the term for the residual energy in land, structures, and objects. You know how sometimes you go into a building or house and you just can't wait until you can get out of there because something doesn't feel right? Or, you're attracted to one antique but repelled by another? That's all predecessor chi. Predecessor chi isn't always negative. I have clients in different parts of the country who say they have ghosts in their houses and like this predecessor chi just fine. But, I'm working with more clients lately who need the energy of the former occupants honored and cleared out before they bring their own positive energy into a space.

A chemical plant creates toxic predecessor chi, and no matter how skillfully the site is environmentally remediated, sometimes it also needs Feng Shui. I'm working with a commercial client who's building on the remediated site of a former chemical plant. The project is experiencing unexpected snafus and delays, and I can't help but think that the site's predecessor chi is still too strong.

The official cause of the New Jersey fire was a blowtorch used in a plumbing repair, and of course there's no way to ever prove whether the fire had anything to do with a burial site below or the predecessor chi above. But it sure makes me think that some open space needs to be left as that - open space.

Posted in: real estate | Tags: Feng Shui, cemeteries, predecessor chi, fire, New Jersey

Packing and Detaching to Sell Your Home

Wed Jan 21 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I received an upbeat email from Adele, a client in the UK, who wrote that she had a full price offer to sell her house. That was a quick change, because just six days earlier she had written that although she had a steady flow of viewers there hadn't been any offers. "People seem really tempted," said Adele, "but no one has committed."

I'm hearing the same story from many clients who ask me for Feng Shui tips to help sell their homes. Yes, I do know why their homes are getting "lookers" instead of buyers: They haven't detached from their current home.

"I transformed my house using your book," said Adele, "and things went from good, to better, to brilliant! I enjoy a lovely, peaceful, happy life that's full of love and happiness," she added. Adele's passion for life was so reignited by her Feng Shui makeover that she decided to "take the plunge" to move to Australia!

My question to Adele and to all my home sellers is this: "You've just closed on the sale of your house and you have the check in hand, where are you going to spend the night?" Adele's answer, like others who are having trouble selling a home, is some variation of "I'll figure that out after I sell the house." There's your trouble! When you don't know where you're moving, you never really "pack up" and detach, and your house reflects that indecision. Buyers sense this and are in no hurry to make an offer. They move on to look at other properties because they think your house will still be there, and they often don't come back.

"Have I missed anything?" Adele asked. "Your book says to pack five valuable items in anticipation of a sale, but I haven't done that yet."

My book recommends getting a moving box and packing up five of your most valued treasures, then sealing it up as a sign that you're ready, willing, and able to move. "I'm not sure the number of items will make the difference," I told Adele, "but the packing up part is critical."

Adele had used Feng Shui to create such a comfortable home that although she was excited about her Australian adventure, it was hard to leave. Once she detached and depersonalize her home by packing up the things that made her so connected to it, like magic the perfect buyer appeared.

"I'm convinced my packing up and detaching is the reason," she told me.

Bon voyage, Adele!

Posted in: real estate | Tags: No Tags

Caught Up in Cobwebs

Tue Jan 13 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Last Wednesday I woke up to a vista of freezing fog. Fog is a rarity in this arid Santa Fe climate to begin with, so freezing fog was quite a shock. As I walked from the bedroom past the living room windows something odd caught my eye - hanging from the vigas (that's what we call rounded beams in Santa Fe) on the back portal (that's a Santa Fe porch) was what looked like a ripped linen curtain. And the more I looked, the more of them I saw, along with frozen cobwebs of every shape. The portal looked like someone had decorated it for Halloween. And that's when I realized the vigas must have been covered with cobwebs that had become wet with fog, then frozen into these ghostly shapes. They had been unseen in the daylight.

I went out to sweep it all away, but it was cold, the wind was howling, and my ladder didn't reach high enough, so I decided it would have to wait till my (taller) husband came home. Later that evening, we went out with brooms in hand, but despite the bright portal lights and two iPhone flashlights we couldn't find one cobweb. Seems that when the fog receded the webs disintegrated, leaving only my photos as proof of their existence.

But what was the reason for all of this, at the beginning of the year no less?

You've probably heard me say it before, in Feng Shui cobwebs represent being so stuck and caught up that you can't move forward (you knew I was going to get to Feng Shui eventually). Plus, an accumulation of cobwebs creates obstacles in the bagua area it occupies. In my home, the portal sweeps across the bagua area that represents Future/Fame/Reputation. And it's true that I've been putting off making decisions about that part of my career. I was definitely caught up on the unseen cobwebs. So, I've decided that the fog symbolically cleared the way for me to dream my dreams and create my future plans - and that's definitely a great way to start off the year.

Are there actual or emotional cobwebs holding you back? Take a good look at the areas of your home that you don't use, or use less often, in the colder weather and do a clean sweep of the walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture to clear away real cobwebs, and you'll clear unseen obstacles holding you back.

Posted in: clutter & organizing | Tags: feng shui, cobwebs, clearing, future

Marsala Wine with Everything

Thu Jan 08 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I've put off writing about "Marsala," Pantone's Color of the Year 2015, because I couldn't decide whether to consider it an Earth Element for its brown tones or a Fire Element for its red wine hues. Pantone's glowing descriptions of Marsala weren't much help because they ranged from "rich reddish brown" and "nurturing and fulfilling," to "hearty yet stylish" and "stirring and flavorful." Pantone also called Marsala "hinting at the dregs of a bottle of wine." Wait, really? Is 2015 going to be characterized by what's left at the bottom of a wine bottle? I do like this color, but that analogy doesn't work for me from a Feng Shui perspective.

Each year Pantone forecasts the most popular colors that we'll see in décor, fashion, and graphic design. The announcement has a cult-like following among designers and retailers looking to improve sales, and among Feng Shui practitioners like me who want to use the color to enhance clients' homes and offices.

I must admit I'm not usually a fan of orange, but I was smitten with the Fire Element Tangerine Tango in 2012. Maybe it was just that great name. Emerald in 2013 was a terrific choice because it's the Wood Element that represents growth, and we needed more of that while our economy was still recovering. Last year's Radiant Orchid was a miss for me because we were already overwhelmed with too much Fire Element energy.

Other companies choose colors of the year but don't necessarily agree, although earthy colors seem to dominate in 2015 choices. Sherwin-Williams picked Coral Reef, and AkzoNobel chose Copper Orange, both colors are Fire/Earth Element blends, while Benjamin Moore selected Guilford Green, a Wood Element.

But, let's get back to my dilemma of how to classify Marsala in terms of the Five Elements. "Marsala enriches our mind, body, and soul, exuding confidence and stability," says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute. Now there's a Feng Shui description for a color of the year that I can live with.

Marsala is a hybrid because it has Earth Element brown at its root to keep you grounded, combine with a dab of Fire Element red to help you power up. My suggestion is to use Marsala as the Earth Element where you need more stability, but use it as the Fire Element where you want a bit more pizzazz.

Posted in: colors | Tags: Feng Shui, colors, marsala, pantone, color of the year

Welcoming the Year of the Sheep

Fri Jan 02 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The Feng Shui For Real Life Blog is back, and what better way to start than to examine what's in store for 2015, the Chinese Year of the Sheep. Will it be a good or bad time to start a new relationship? Will your career or business thrive? Will conflicting countries reach their boiling point? The lunar year doesn't start until February 19 (great omen, that's my birthday!), but I like to take an early look at the predictions so we can prepare with some Feng Shui adjustments.

The Sheep is the eighth sign in Chinese astrology and number "8" is considered to be a lucky number because it symbolizes wisdom, fortune, and prosperity. Some call this year Goat or Ram, but the predictions are the same whichever animal you use.

According to Asian Feng Shui masters who follow these things, 2015 is going to be better than 2014 because we'll experience the unusual phenomenon where all Five Elements are present - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood - instead of one predominating. That means the year will bring more balance. Last year was an aggressive one because of the extreme Fire Element, but the balance of Elements in 2015 will help everyone move forward.

Here are some of the general Feng Shui recommendations for this Wood Sheep year:
  • Wear the color green to attract wealth luck. Some masters are suggesting that you need to wear green underwear. I'm not sure where that comes from but I guess it can't hurt.
  • Add green accents to your office to boost your career or business. (What a perfect opportunity to plug my new online class, "Grow Your Business with Feng Shui.")
  • Other lucky colors are pink, red, orange, and yellow to enhance influence and power.
  • Businesses that are expected to boom are real estate, fashion, food and restaurants, and electronics and technology, but not industries that involve water like shipping.

Since this is a year of balance, my main Feng Shui suggestion is to conduct a home and office audit to assure you have a combination of the Five Elements in each room. You can use the color or shape of each Element, or an object that represents the Element's characteristics. Click here to read about the Five Elements.

Which Chinese Zodiac signs will be lucky this year? People born under the Horse and Monkey signs are predicted to get the blessing of the "prosperity star" that is associated with good fortune. Other animal signs that are predicted to be fortunate are the Rat, which will have the "wealth star," and the Tiger and the Ox, which will receive "unexpected gifts" in 2015. That works fine for me because I'm an Ox and my husband is a Rat! The Rabbit is also expected to have a great year ahead. But Roosters might be more likely to experience misfortune in the coming year, and Dragon and Snake signs might be more vulnerable to illness. But hang in there - these are just predictions, and instead of focusing on the negative of what might happen, my Feng Shui recommendation is to move forward by making adjustment to balance your surroundings.

In a future post I'll look at what each animal of the Chinese Zodiac can expect in 2015.

Special thanks to my colleague, watercolor artist Lori Blevins, for her Year of the Sheep painting.

Posted in: seasonal, holidays, travel | Tags: Feng Shui, Year of the Sheep, Chinese New Year, Sheep, lunar new year

Make Room For a Relationship

Fri Feb 07 2014 | Author: Carol Olmstead
In this month of Valentine's Day, I want to share one of my favorite Feng Shui success stories, plus some tips for attracting the perfect partner or revving up the romance you already have.

First, the success story...

My client Lisa wanted to attract a new love, but her small apartment was stuffed with too many things and there was no room for anyone to join her. I recommended she clear out her closet to make room for a lover's clothes, then add some masculine hangers for him to hang them on. Soon after Lisa made these changes she found love in an unexpected place.

Here's what Lisa wrote:

Shortly after I cleared my closet and put in those "man" hangers you recommended, I met someone in the oddest of places - my nail salon. I went to get a pedicure at the salon near my home and started talking to this handsome man sitting in the chair next to me. I couldn't stop thinking about him so the next day I left my business card at the salon in case he came in again. Turns out, he came into the salon the day after I left the card. He called to say he'd been thinking about me but didn't know how to reach me. We started dating then and now we're engaged. It's another great example of Feng Shui working.

Next, the tips...

Want to make Feng Shui work for you this Valentine's Day? Start by removing clutter and all that "stuff" from your house to open up space for the perfect partner to come into your life. Even if you are already in a loving relationship, clearing clutter will strengthen it. Your goal is to free up 25% of the space in your home, especially your bedroom, for someone else's things.

Start with these critical places:
  • Clear out your bedroom closet, so there will be room for your lover's clothes, and add some extra hangers.
  • Throw away old food like leftovers from the refrigerator and packages of stale crackers and broken chips from the pantry to leave space for another person's favorite foods.
  • Toss expired prescriptions and used-up toothpaste tubes to make an opening in the medicine cabinet or bathroom vanity for a lover's toiletries.
  • Clear off one of the night tables in the bedroom and empty at least one drawer so there will be an open space for a new partner's items.
  • Clear your bed of extra decorative pillows, throws, and stuffed animals so there will be room for a lover to join you in bed.
  • Get rid of the art with single or solitary images in your bedroom and replace it with images that are romantic, paired, and coupled.

Posted in: love & romance | Tags: feng shui, love, romance, relationship, Valentine's Day

Galloping in on the Wood Horse

Wed Jan 29 2014 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The Chinese Year of the Wood Horse comes galloping in on January 31, so buckle up, because it's going to be another bumpy ride. I've been reading lots of predictions about what's supposed to happen this year, and it looks like there are good things in store. So here goes.

People born in the Year of the Ox (that's me!), Goat, and Dog will do the best in the Year of the Wood Horse, while those born in the Year of the Rat, Tiger, and Monkey might not do as well. Powerful women will get even more powerful this year.

There will be an imbalance of the Feng Shui Elements this year, with too much Fire energy and not enough Water and Earth energy. So it's important to surround yourself with the Water Element (black and dark blue) and Earth Element (brown and yellow). Click here to read more about the colors that represent each Element.

Some Feng Shui masters see the Year of the Wood Horse as bringing more romance, marriage, and babies since the starting date corresponds to the arrival of the "double spring." It's a good year to get married for couples who have been dating for a long time, but not the case for couples in new relationships.

Business luck is predicted to be good for the first two quarters of the year, but some warn that things could start to slow down after the summer. Others predict a volatile year for the stock market with extreme ups and downs, and some recommend you get out after July.

In this yang Wood Horse year, the Feng Shui Elements of Wood and Fire are compatible, but because Wood fuels Fire, that combination could lead to some wild energy. Industries related to both of these Elements, like the rubber and petroleum industries, could prosper, as well as Earth Element industries like agriculture, food and beverage, and construction. Real estate agents will be encouraged to know that some Feng Shui predictions advise home buyers to buy a home now instead of waiting until prices fall.

There is concern about more bad weather this year, especially heavy rains contributing to floods and landslides in the East and Northwest. But, despite concerns about weather it's considered a good year to travel.

Unfortunately, because Wood is highly combustible, the fierce energy conflict of the past few years will continue, resulting in violence and even rioting. We might see a lot more scandals, conflicts, explosions, and arguments.

The colors to wear in the Year of the Wood Horse are green to harmonize with the Wood Element, black or deep blue to activate the Water Element, and brown or yellow to represent the Earth Element. Choose jewelry with natural crystals and stones that contain the presence of Wood energy, such as jade, agate, malachite, and tourmaline. Precious stones that enhance the energy of the Wood Horse are turquoise, aquamarine, pearls, lapis, obsidian, and onyx.

A lot of us are happy to see the snake-in-the-grass year 2013 come to an end, especially because the prior fierce dragon year was equally intense. Here's hoping that with the start of the Lunar New Year 2014, the energy of the Wood Horse will help us all gallop forward.

Thanks to my Feng Shui colleague and artist Susan Miller for allowing me to use her painting "War Pony" to illustrate my articles and workshops about the Year of the Horse. Posters are available from her website,

Posted in: seasonal, holidays, travel | Tags: feng shui, year of the horse, lunar new year, feng shui elements

© Copyright 2015, Carol Olmstead