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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Sun Jun 02 2013 |
Well, there really isn't a carp in my tub, it's the smaller variety - goldfish - and there are nine of them to be exact. And they aren't actually in the tub, they're in the new painting I just hung over the tub in my master bathroom. But every time I look at it I can't help singing the cute song
of the same name that my grand kids love to hear.
I usually recommend against hanging images that show water in a bathroom, but this was a special circumstance. Bathrooms came be a complicated issue in modern Feng Shui because they are full of water, an Element that's associated with the flow of wealth. But in a bathroom, that water is "contaminated" because it goes down the toilet as waste and down the drains combine with dirt. So the challenge is to symbolically dry up the some of the water. This wasn't an issue in ancient China where Feng Shui was first developed, because bathrooms weren't inside the house. Well, I'm not about to give up my indoor bathrooms, and I've yet to meet clients who are volunteering to give up theirs, so bathrooms take some Feng Shui "curing" no matter where they're located in a home.
The easy way to balance bathroom chi is to add either the Fire, Earth, or Wood Element. Fire will dry up the water, Earth will sop it up, and Wood will absorb it. My bathroom has a healthy amount of tile in shades of brown, so I've got the Earth Element covered, I've added candlesticks and some towels in a color called "salsa" to handle the Fire Element, and I have teal towels near the tub to represent the Wood Element. But the complication is that my master bathroom is located in the Wealth Area, and that's a place where too much Water can drown Wealth.
If I were designing a home I would never locate a bathroom in a Wealth Area, but like so many of my clients, what you see is what you get when it comes to buying a home. So my bathroom needed a bit more "curing."
I decided to display the traditional Feng Shui wealth enhancement, which is an image of nine goldfish, eight gold and one black, that helps attract wealth by activating growth and movement. The single black fish represents protection for your health and career, as well as increased earnings.
I searched online, but all of the paintings I found were just too Asian looking for the décor in my home (sort of Santa Fe meets Tuscany) and since I wanted something a bit playful, I commissioned my own painting from artist Morgan Leshinsky, who has a certain way with animal images. I hung "Nine Goldfish"
this weekend, and the next time I checked my e-mail I saw that a new client had registered for a Room Rescue Consultation
. So the magic of the nine goldfish has begun. I'll have more success stories to share about in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, every time I walk into the bathroom and see my "Nine Goldfish" hanging over the tub, I can't help but smile at the lyrics that play in my head:
There's a carp in the tub,
There's a carp in the tub...
So nobody's taking a bath.
Tue May 28 2013 |
Feng Shui practitioners love using the color blue because it represents the Water Element that brings the attributes of relaxation and calmness. Blue lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and helps overcome anxiety and lack of self-confidence. But in nature, beyond water and sky, it seems that the appearance of blue is actually quite rare and prized. My colleague Dana Claudat, who writes the great blog The Tao of Dana
, turned me on to a New York Times article
about the compelling appearance of blue in nature and all its implications. According to the Times
article, the color blue in its natural and artificial forms has shaped our notions of mood, social class, truth and divinity. From blueberries to blue cheese, from blue butterflies to peacocks, and including blue jeans and blue popsicles, the color blue seems to fascinate us.
In Feng Shui, we recommend you surround yourself with blue if you are stressed and need to chill out. It's the paint color choice to help an author who is struggling with writer's block, or for anyone aspiring to an IT career, but it's the color to avoid if you suffer from SAD or the winter blues.
Scientists, too, have lately been bullish on blue as they explore the physics and chemistry of blueness in nature. Some researchers are tracing the history of blue pigments in human culture, and the role those pigments played in shaping our notions of virtue, authority, divinity and social class. "Blue pigments played an outstanding role in human development," said Heinz Berke, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Zurich. For some cultures, he said, blue pigments were as valuable as gold.
The love of blue is global:
• Ask people their favorite color, and in most parts of the world roughly half will say blue, a figure three to four times the support accorded common second-place finishers like purple or green.
• One in six Americans is blue-eyed, but nearly one in two people consider blue the prettiest eye color, which may be why 50 percent of tinted contact lenses are those that make your brown eyes blue.
• Sick children like their caretakers in blue: A recent study at the Cleveland Clinic found that young patients preferred nurses wearing blue uniforms to those in white or yellow.
• In a study that appeared in the journal Perceptual & Motor Skills
, researchers at Aichi University in Japan found that subjects who performed a lengthy video game exercise while sitting next to a blue partition reported feeling less fatigued and claustrophobic, and displayed a more regular heart beat pattern, than did people who sat by red or yellow partitions.
• Field studies of color-coded insect traps have shown that mosquitoes are particularly attracted to blue.
According to the Times
article, blue light is on the high-energy end of the visible spectrum, and the comparative shortness of its wavelengths explains why the blue portion of the white light from the sun is easily scattered by the nitrogen and oxygen molecules in our atmosphere. And that's why, when we look up and see a Feng Shui blue sky, it makes us smile.
Wed May 08 2013 |
I just got off the phone with a real estate broker who invited me to give a workshop to agents and sales consultants about using Feng Shui staging to sell a house. This is the time of year when I get a lot of similar calls, especially from listing agents who want help selling a property that's been on the market for a while. Feng Shui staging is different from your typical real estate staging because it takes into consideration the Five Power Principles
of Feng Shui, and especially looks at what's going on in each bagua area in terms of color.
The irony is that when I stage a home for quick sale I have to set it up in a way that's directly opposite of how I would arrange it to help clients settle into their home. Mainly, I help people de-personalize and neutralize the décor so that potential buyers can visualize their own things and their own family fitting right into the space. This is especially important right now, when the real estate market is still stalled in many places. That makes it even more important to make changes that send the message that the buyer can move in tomorrow, no costly renovations required.
I know that many factors affect the sale of a home, many of which are unique to specific region, but there are certain Feng Shui changes that never fail to shift the energy and entice the buyer to make an offer, no matter where the house is located. These are the ones I most often recommend to help "sell it fast" with Feng Shui:
Mark the Spot.
Have your real estate agent place the "For Sale" sign to the right of the house, because people naturally look to that side when they approach a home.
Clear the Way.
Clear away any dead plants, vines, shrubs, and branches that block the main pathway so buyers have a clear route to the front door.
Place two healthy plants in attractive pots or planters on both sides of the front door to act as a threshold to "greet" buyers and welcome them to the home.
Clean and Refresh the Door.
Clean the front door, repaint if the finish is cracked, old, or faded, and add a fresh new doormat. Be sure the doorbell works and the house number can be seen.
Clear the Energy.
Open the windows and air out the house before any showings. Display a bowl of nine oranges in the kitchen because they bring fresh, brightening energy to a space.
Go Clutter Free.
De-clutter the entire house, paying special attention to the kitchen cabinets, pantry, closets, and garage to show buyers there is room for all of their possessions.
De-personalize. "Neutralize" the home by removing family photographs and personalized items so buyers can visualize their own family items in the space.
Deck the Walls.
Make sure the artwork throughout the house has colorful, friendly, and positive images. Remove any art that is dark, sad, or lonely, no matter how valuable.
Light the Way.
Replace all burned out light bulbs, especially those at your front door. You can also bring light into your home by cleaning all windows until they sparkle.
Get Ready to Go.
Pack up five treasured possessions and seal them in a moving box as a symbol you are ready, willing, and able to move!
The last one is often the most important. And, no cheating here -- you can't pack up the skis you haven't used since college and think that will make the magic happen. Choose things that you really care about and seal them up as a sign that you are ready to follow them out the door.
Sun May 05 2013 |
Spring is the start of wedding season, and as a result it's also the time when I start to get the questions about combining bedroom furniture and household possessions. My client Lena wrote with the good news that she was engaged to Daniel, the man of her dreams, but that moving in with him has raised lots of questions about the Feng Shui of combining their bedroom furniture. Should she keep her dresser, or use Daniel's furniture? How many of his "knick-knacks" did she want to keep in the bedroom and how many of hers? What about keeping family pictures in the bedroom?
I'll analyze Lena's situation question by question as an example of how to decide what to keep.
First, Lena wanted to know if she should move her dresser into Daniel's bedroom or use his furniture. While both of their dressers were dark wood, they were different styles. Plus, adding her dresser would make a total of six pieces of furniture in the room. I advised Lena that the first Feng Shui decision was to make sure both she and Daniel liked all of the furniture. If any piece didn't seem to fit in with the others, or if one of them truly disliked it, it was a better Feng Shui choice to replace it. I reminded her that sometimes when blending households you have to live with the pieces from both people for a while until it becomes obvious which pieces work and which don't fit together.
Second, Lena asked about the photo of Daniel's grandfather that he kept on his dresser, since she was concerned it wasn't good Feng Shui to have photos of a decreased relative in their bedroom. I explained that the only photos in a master bedroom should be of the couple -- no children, parents, grandparents, friends, or pets, especially if they are deceased. And I also recommended that she use this as an opportunity to take an engagement photo that they could instead display in their bedroom. I also reminded Lena that in Feng Shui, pictures of relatives should be displayed in the Family Area or Helpful People Area of their home, and that by moving the grandfather's picture to a more public area of their home they were actually honoring his memory.
Next, Lena told me that Daniel kept a light blue teddy bear on his bed, which he long ago received as a birthday present from his now-grown daughter. I recommended that it was time for the teddy bear to go, especially since Daniel's relationship with his daughter was now strained. Instead, I suggested finding a current photo of the daughter and hanging it in the family room near a picture of Lena and Daniel to symbolize a healthier relationship among the three of them.
Finally, Lena told me about the two black ceramic cats that Daniel displayed in the bedroom. He bought them on a business trip to China before he met Lena, but wanted her to keep them on her dresser. However, Lena doesn't like them. I explained to Lena that while Feng Shui principles do suggest keeping things in pairs in the bedroom, if she doesn't like the ceramic cats, they shouldn't be kept anywhere in the bedroom. Instead, I recommended that the next time she took a trip with Daniel they should pick out a pair of objects they both like to display on her dresser. Daniel can relocate the ceramic cats to his home office as a reminder of his business travels.
When a couple moves in together and combines their bedroom furniture, art, and decorations, they often end up with more than they need -- and some things they don't like. But as always, it's Feng Shui to the rescue.
Sat Apr 06 2013 |
You already know that a few Feng Shui
changes in the right places can make you feel more comfortable in your home, well now a survey commissioned by Lowe's
home improvement stores and Money Magazine
is telling us that changes in certain
rooms can also make you the happiest. According to the survey, almost 75% of people who had made home improvements within the past two years were happier, compared with 66% of people who hadn't made any changes. The study also showed what we Feng Shui practitioners have been telling you all along -- that the four rooms which affect happiness the most are the living room
, family rooms
, master bedroom
, and kitchen
. Feng Shui changes in your bedroom can help lowering anxiety and encourage sleep, adjustments in your home office can help you work more efficiently, and rearranging your family room can increase family togetherness.
Turns out the areas that affect happiness the least are the garage
, and deck
, but of course that does mean you can neglect those either.
These are some of my favorite Feng Shui changes to promote happiness, especially if they are made in the four critical rooms:
Put your sofa in the right spot.
The sofa or chair that you most often sit in should be positioned so you can see the door to the room. That's because when you face away from activity, your brain is more likely to produce cortisol and adrenaline, the stress and anxiety hormones.
Messy rooms can cause anxiety, but a minimalist setting isn't ideal either. Add shelves to display your favorite things, but make sure you keep them neat.
Hide the TV.
Researchers have found that the more TV you watch, the more you overestimate the affluence of other people, with the result that you become less happy. To help control how much you watch, conceal the screen in any way that makes you less likely to turn it on.
Let the sun in.
Sunlight boosts mood, so hang draperies far enough outside the window opening so that during the day the view is unobstructed.
Vary the light sources.
When a room has uniform lighting, it's harder to connect with other people. Instead, choose a mix of task lighting, diffuse ceiling lighting, and hanging fixtures with dimmers. Replace fluorescent lights with warmer bulbs to reduce fatigue.
Install double-pane windows in your master bedroom to muffle sound, hang light blocking shades, and keep lavender plant or a lavender diffuser in room to help you fall asleep easily and sleep better.
Sit in the power position.
In your home office, locate your desk chair in the power position, which is diagonally across from the door with your back to a wall. Try to position your desk so you can see both out the door and out a window. If your office doesn't have a view, hang artwork that shows natural scenes and landscapes.
Sun Mar 03 2013 |
There comes a time when you have to let your clothes go out into the world and try to make it on their own.
As the weather starts to change, it's good Feng Shui
to transform your wardrobe
by giving your closet a good spring cleaning and letting go of the clothes
you no longer need. You know -- those shoes that cause blisters, the pants that ride a bit too high in the crotch, a few skirts and suits from your button-down days, or the clothes that are just a bit too small. Even though you may have paid a lot for them and loved them when you bought them, if you haven't worn an item of clothing in a year, remove it from your closet
and donate it to charity.
When you hold on to things that don't fit, you hold on to old energy and symbolically hold on to excess weight
. Whether you donate them, sell them, or just put them out with the trash, getting rid of unworn clothing makes room for a bounty of new clothes -- often in a smaller size -- to find you.
Unlike wine, clothes rarely improve with age. So if you haven't worn something in a year or you don't feel good when you wear it, it's time to toss it or donate
it to a local charity where it can do some good. This includes the clothes you've been keeping in the hopes of losing 25 pounds you haven't been able to lose for years. If you plan to lose that much weight just to wear an item of clothing, it is highly unlikely you will want to wear your old, out-of-style stuff when you do succeed at weight loss. You will want -- and deserve -- brand new clothes
! So move out those old clothes today, and make room for new clothes to fill your closet.
You only wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time. Want to prove it? Try this: Tie a ribbon at the end of your closet rod. Every time you wear something, hang it to the right of the ribbon. At the end of a month take a look at the clothes that are beyond the ribbon.
I think you'll be surprised to see how many pieces you wore over and over, while the rest remained untouched.
Some places to donate your gently worn, but now not needed, clothing:
Shoes - souls4souls.org
Clothes - www.DressforSuccess.org
Wedding Gowns - BridesAgainstBreastCancer.org
Sat Feb 16 2013 |
It doesn't need to be Valentine's day or your anniversary to plan a romantic dinner for two, just be sure to include some Feng Shui
to help set the mood and create the perfect romantic setting. Feng Shui principles teach that by making a person feel good about his or her surroundings, we also make that person feel good about being with us.
The ideal table for two
is square or round, with no more than two extra chairs. Too many chairs can make you feel like you're having a party and the guests didn't show, instead of making you feel romantic. If your table is a long rectangle, remove some of the chairs and set two places at one end of the table. Place a flower arrangement or other decorative object at the other end of the table to fill up the space. A long table feels empty and can put a strain on intimacy and conversation.
in a cozy arrangement to boost love and romance. Place chairs at right angles, and avoid sitting across from your dining partner because this is considered a "confrontational" position. And be sure to seat your guest facing away from the kitchen rather than into it, so any clutter and dirty dishes won't break the romantic mood. If you have a dimmer switch, lower the lighting to soften the mood.
your table with the color red, the traditional color of love and romance. Red also represents the Fire Element in Feng Shui, and using it to decorate your table brings passion to the occasion. Choose pairs of red objects rather than single items to symbolize a coupled relationship, such as a pair of red placements, two red crystal hearts, or a red ceramic vase with two flowers. Place all of your pairs side-by-side rather then spacing them far apart on the dining table or anywhere else in the room. Don't forget to light a pair of candles, since we all look and feel better in candle light. And make sure you wear something red
to activate your own personal Fire Element energy.
If your Feng Shui table flowers
, be sure to remove the thorns. Thorns represent hardship, so removing them represents a smooth relationship. Another flower option is a pair of peonies
because these are called the "flowers of love" in Chinese Feng Shui. Tulips
are another romantic flower choice. Choose the color of your flowers based on what you are seeking in your relationship: red represents marriage, pink and peach symbolize young love, yellow represents deep friendship, white symbolizes purity in your relationship.
Feng Shui philosophy believes that "you are what you see."
That means you can make your dinner companion feel welcome by removing any artwork that shows only a single person or images reflecting loneliness. Instead, display art that shows happy, loving couples. And of course remove any objects you received from a past love.
Don't forget to "ignite" the Love Area
of the room where you are dining. This is the upper right hand corner as you are looking into the room from its main entrance. Make this area as romantic as possible by adding things like artwork showing a couple kissing, a bouquet of fragrant flowers, or a beautiful lamp to represent a glowing relationship. Move unromantic objects out of this area, especially the trashcan, desk, children's schoolwork, or the cat's litter box. Be sure to remove all clutter from the room. Clutter symbolizes "postponed decisions" and "the inability to move forward," which is something you certainly don't want to encourage.
Open your windows before your dinner to let out the old, stale air and bring in the new fresh chi
. Even if it's too cold and you can only keep them open for a few minutes, you will symbolically make room for a fresh romance to enter your life.
I originally posted this article in the International Feng Shui Guild Blog.