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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."
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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

Two Colors Too Many

Thu Dec 31 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I like to start off each year by writing about my reaction to the Pantone's Color of the Year forecast. Last year I was wild about Marsala, and a few years before I was uncharacteristically charmed by Tangerine Tango, even though I'm not usually a fan of the color orange. I think it was that name.

Each year Pantone, the self-described color authority, forecasts the most popular colors that we'll see in decor, 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 know if they can use the color to enhance clients' homes and offices.

I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when Pantone decided to break ranks this year and pick not one but two colors on which to bestow their annual honor - Rose Quartz #13-1520 and Serenity #15-3919. After all, wasn't this the year when the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year wasn't even a word, but an emoji? Seems everyone is going out on a limb this year.

So what do I think of the Rose Quartz/Serenity duo? Frankly, from a Feng Shui perspective, not much. These colors are much too pale, cool, translucent, wishy-washy - how should I say it - well, wimpy, for how we need to balance ourselves considering the world we're facing these days. Both pastel colors represent the Metal Element that's associated with hardness. Personally and professionally, I'm recommending we go with a Water Element color that has more to do with flow and forward movement.

In all fairness to Pantone, blue is considered to be one of the lucky colors for the upcoming Year of the Monkey (white and gold are the other two), but we're talking about real blues here, with names like cobalt and indigo and lapis. One look at azure and denim and you know the world is going to be all right. Is there anything that says "don't mess with me" more than denim?

Now, my less-than-favorable reaction to the color-of-the-year combo may have a little something to do with the fact that light pink and light blue was the color scheme for my wedding - my first wedding, that is. But clearly that's a topic for another blog post.

So, I'm planning to sit back and watch to see if this "gender blurring" duo (Pantone's words, not mine) does take over the fashion and interior design world by storm (hah, as if either one could). In the meantime I'm surrounding my self and my clients with true Water Element blues in 2016. After all, you can never go wrong with basic navy.

Posted in: colors | Tags: feng shui, color, Pantone, color of the year, rose quartz, serenity, blue

The Challenge of Combining Households

Tue May 19 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
It’s spring wedding season, and that means clients start contacting me to help with the challenge of combining households and dealing with all that extra stuff. When a couple moves in together and combines furniture, art, and decoration, they often end up with more than they need, and it gets really complicated when one partner doesn’t even like the other partner’s tchotchkes.

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 was a challenge. Fortunately, Feng Shui principles can help the couple decide what to keep and what to toss.

First, we started with the master bedroom, which is the most challenging, and also the most important, room for any couple. Lena didn’t know if she should move her furniture or use Daniel’s. I told Lena that the first decision was to make sure both she and Daniel liked all of the bedroom furniture. If any piece didn’t fit in with the others, or if one of them truly disliked it, it was a better Feng Shui choice to replace it all.

Lena thought the photo of Daniel’s deceased grandfather that he kept on his dresser was “creepy” (her words), but didn’t know how to ask Daniel to move it. I explained that the only photos in a master bedroom should be of the couple - no children, parents, grandparents. Photos of deceased relatives could be displayed in the Family Area or Helpful People Area, and moving the grandfather’s picture to a more public area would better honoring his memory. I recommended she use this as an opportunity to take an engagement photo for their bedroom.

Daniel kept a teddy bear on his bed that he long ago received as a birthday present from his now-grown daughter. Lena already knew that the bear had to go, especially since Daniel’s relationship with his daughter was currently strained. I suggested packing away the bear and instead displaying a current photo of the daughter in their family room near a picture of Lena and Daniel to symbolize a healthy relationship among the three of them.

Lena didn’t like the two black ceramic cats that Daniel bought on a business trip to China before he met Lena. While Feng Shui principles do suggest keeping things in pairs in the bedroom, if Lena doesn’t like the cats they shouldn’t be in the bedroom. We decided that Daniel could relocate the statues to his home office as a reminder of his profitable business travels. Lena and Daniel are planning to look for a pair of objects to display in their bedroom when they go on vacation next month.

If you’re getting married this spring, or like Lena and Daniel you’re moving in together, have you thought about the things you’re willing to give up? And if you’ve been together for a while, do you secretly despise some of your partner’s “stuff?” The new energy of spring might be the perfect time for a Feng Shui face-off.

Posted in: love & romance | Tags: feng shui, wedding, love, marriage, bedroom

Odd Jobs

Thu Apr 09 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I was pleased when a Feng Shui colleague in Vermont got TV airtime on her local station because that’s good for our profession, but I winced at the title of the feature: “Odd Jobs.” Really? I’m entering my 18th year of Feng Shui and working with a Fortune 100 company on the interior design of 23 floors in their new headquarters, and the media is still calling Feng Shui an odd job?

The great timing is that right after I read that my profession was an odd job I was approached by a college placement professional to contribute a story for his book about how choices in college affect future careers. How could my journalism degree possibly relate to my current Feng Shui career, you ask?

In the summer of my junior year I won a coveted spot in the Magazine Publishers Association college intern program. There were 30 of us from across the country, each assigned to magazines in New York City. The participating pubs included Newsweek, Time, and the prize assignment The New Yorker - oh, how I wanted that one. What did I get? Woman’s Day Magazine. It was 1970 and I couldn’t believe I had to work for a “housewives” magazine that featured articles like making your child’s Halloween mask from a plastic bleach container.
Yes, that was not only an actual article, but I wrote it that summer.

The first day I walked into their editorial offices I was surprised to find I’d entered a hotbed of feminism and I ended up loving every minute I worked there, especially a phone conversation with Grace Kelly (yes, that’s how she introduced her royal self in her beautiful voice.)

Toward the end of my internship, Editor Geraldine Rhoads took me to a publisher's luncheon in a private club on Madison Avenue. When we checked in the receptionist said we had to enter through the kitchen because this was an all-male club.

I will not go through the kitchen, Geraldine replied.

She grabbed my hand and with head held high she marched us through the reading room into the dining room. A few men looked up and scowled, most didn’t even notice. We sat down at our table and my heart was pounding. Did we just do that? my old naïve self asked. We just DID that! my new self replied. And my world was forever changed as I realized I didn’t have to follow what was expected of me, and that I could make decisions that were outside the box, no matter how odd.

Fast-forward many years, past the expected writing and public affairs jobs to my current “odd job” as a Feng Shui practitioner. I was always happier editing than writing so it all makes perfect sense that I’m now “editing” people’s surroundings to help them live better lives. While it may be an unusual career choice, it’s surely one that Geraldine influenced, and I’m happy being the “odd” woman out in a cutting edge field. Maybe I’ll start wearing a hat like the original Oddjob.

Posted in: career & office | Tags: feng shui, career, odd jobs, college, magazine, journalism

The Feng Shui of Fixing Broken Things

Thu Mar 26 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The question of whether to repair or to remove an object comes up often in my consultations: “If I break something and then fix it, is it still good Feng Shui?” a client will ask. My answer is usually another question: “If you fix the object, will you see a treasure that’s been restored or something that’s flawed?” If it’s the former, keep it and display it with pride, but if you only see what’s wrong with an object, it’s time to let it go.

Taking the time and money to restore a ripped vintage shawl is positive Feng Shui, but keeping those broken clay pots in the back of your house (and you thought I didn’t notice them, didn’t you?) is negative. If you an possessions that you love that have aged (shall we say “gracefully”) and you make the repairs, well that’s very good Feng Shui.

When I conduct a Feng Shui analysis of a home or office, the first thing I do is look for the three major conditions of negative chi that are especially detrimental:
1. Things You Don’t Like
2. Things That Are Broken
3. Things That Are Cluttered

Once I identify these negative conditions, I recommend ways to correct them following my Rule of 3Rs: Replace, Repair, or Remove all items creating negative chi as soon as possible.

Here’s where the Japanese practice of wabi-sabi works in coordination with Feng Shui rather than at cross-purposes.

Wabi-sabi is the ancient art of appreciating the simplicity and serenity in things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Wabi-sabi has incorrectly been called the new Feng Shui. Instead, while Feng Shui is a design system for helping you attract wealth, harmony, and love, and a whole lot more, wabi-sabi is primarily a design philosophy that asks you to set aside the need for perfection and instead focus on things as they truly are. It’s a meditation on the beauty and simplicity of natural objects and how they change with time. Sounds like good Feng Shui to me.

Wabi-sabi is the blending of the Japanese word wabi, which means humble, and sabi, which suggests beauty over the natural course of time. For example, you can see wabi-sabi in the weathered metal gate from an antique store you include in your garden design. In my own case, I have mixed Feng Shui design and wabi-sabi in the three wooden door surrounds that came from the front door of a 100-year-old Vermont farmhouse that I repurposed as a wall decoration.

Take a look at the pottery in the photo I chose for this article, which shows the art of kintsukori, or restoring things with gold. I think it says it all about whether a repair can be good Feng Shui.

Posted in: clutter & organizing | Tags: feng shui, clutter, repair, wabi-sab, vintage, kintsukori

© Copyright 2016, Carol Olmstead