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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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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

Thinking About "Drunk Tank" Pink

Fri Nov 01 2013 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Baker Miller Pink250
What is it about the color pink that makes you either love it or hate it? Mention pink Cadillac, pink flamingos, Pink Floyd, the Pink Panther, or a 1960s bathroom in Pepto Bismol pink, and everyone has a different reaction. One of the questions on my Feng Shui certification exam was, "Which color is the most calming?" Answer: Bubble Gum Pink. And then there's the color of everything in my granddaughter's closet - PINK. Pink has been used in some college locker rooms to lessen the power of opposing football teams. And, I couldn't resist writing about Drunk Tank Pink, a color thought to help calm even the most violent of offenders in prison.

In Feng Shui, pink is a Fire Element color, especially the deeper shades. A combination of the color red and white, it's thought to make a person concentrate more on the feminine aspect of life.

But, does the color pink really make strong men weak, violent prisoners calm, and football players too "chilled out" to beat their opponent?

The answer is "yes" and "no," based on whether you believe opinion or fact.

Drunk Tank Pink is officially a color called Baker-Miller Pink, a tone that was originally created by mixing one gallon of pure white indoor latex paint with one pint of red trim semi-gloss outdoor paint. It's named for the two Navy officers who first experimented with its use in the Naval Correctional Facility in Seattle at the request of researcher Alexander Schauss.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Schauss, Director of Life Sciences at the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, studied the psychological and physiological responses to the color pink, especially one particular shade of pink. He found that merely looking at a card printed with this color resulted in "a marked effect on lowering the heart rate, pulse and respiration as compared to other colors," especially after exercise.

In 1979, he convinced the correctional facility to paint some prison cells pink to determine the effects on the prison population. He found that this special shade of pink suppressed anger and anxious behavior among prisoners. "Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink he can't," said Dr. Schauss. "The heart muscles can't race fast enough. It's a tranquilizing color that saps your energy. Even the color-blind are tranquilized by pink rooms."

Unfortunately, there were some issues beyond the early findings. First, there was no proof that these reactions to the color pink last longer than 15-30 minutes. And more important, although prisoners did respond and calm down, if they stayed "in the pink" too long they became even more violent.

But the legend of Drunk Tank Pink still lives on.

Perhaps that's what led to the strategy of painting the locker room for visiting football teams in a shade of pink. The University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium has been home to a unique visitor's locker room painted almost entirely in pink - walls, floors, showers, and even the toilets are pink. The legendary locker room is believed to be a key to the school's home field success record. Of course, it has come under criticism for being sexist, but that's the subject of another post.

So what does this mean in Feng Shui terms? Well, it certainly doesn't mean that you need to replace your white toilets with the Drunk Tank Pink version. And, it doesn't mean you have to surround yourself with the color if you find it too "girly." But, a little accent of pink in your home and office can have a temporary soothing effect and lower your blood pressure.

Your don't need splash pink on your bedroom and office walls, but you could think about adding a pair of pink pillow to your bed, drape a pink throw over your sofa, use pink Post-It notes in your office, or display pink flowers on your desk. Or, simply try to "think pink" as an accent when you pick out your clothes in the morning, especially if you will be working with a group that day, since the color pink can bring energies together. A little pink can go a long way.

Posted in: colors | Tags: feng shui, color, pink, drunk tank pink, fire, element, Baker-Miller pink

This is Your Brain on Curves

Thu Oct 31 2013 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I got a new watch last Mother's Day, a Raymond Weil with a beautiful mother of pearl dial, which I picked out myself. I started out look for my standard round dial but when the salesman suggested I try something new I decided on the rectangular face. So why, I've been asking myself for the past six months later, can't I warm up to my new rectangular watch? Well, it looks like I finally found the answer in an article shared by one of my colleagues at the International Feng Shui Guild. According to the article "Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture" on, people are far more likely to call something beautiful when its design is round instead of linear. It seems our brains may just be hard-wired to love the curve.

Time and again when people are asked to choose between an object that's linear and one that's curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for everything from architecture, to curly fonts (is that why I love Comic Sans?), to curvy cushions on couches, to dental floss with round packaging, and you guessed it, round watch faces.

As a Feng Shui practitioner I'm always recommending that my clients replace their hard angled furniture with curved pieces. And, I recently started consulting on a landscape plan for a campus that was a World War II airfield, where you can bet I'm recommending nothing but curves to combat the long runway-like walkways. But, it never occurred to me that my abrupt change from a round to a square watch face would make such a difference.

And here's another example of how the Feng Shui requirement for curves has some science behind it - neuroscientists have shown that this love of the curve isn't just a matter of personal taste, it's part of our basic brain chemistry. A research team led by psychologist Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto at Scarborough compiled 200 images of interior architecture. Some of the rooms had a round style, while others had a rectangular shape. The researchers put their subjects in a brain imaging machine, showed them the pictures, and then asked them to label each room as "beautiful" or "not beautiful." They reported that participants were far more likely to consider a room beautiful when it was filled with curves rather than straight lines. Twice as many women as men took part in the study, but the preference for roundness seemed to be universal.

The researchers also found that people looking at a curved design had significantly more activity in a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex, compared to people who were looking at linear decorations. This brain area has many cognitive functions, including its involvement in emotion, causing the researchers to suggest that curved designs use our brains to "tug at our hearts."

"Our preference for curves can not be explained entirely in terms of a 'cold' cognitive assessment of the qualities of curved objects," says Vartanian. "Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference."

Another brain imaging study, conducted several years ago by Moshe Bar and colleagues of Harvard Medical School, found that viewing objects with sharp aspects - like couches with pointed edges and watches like mine with a rectangular face - activated the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes fear. These researchers suggest that the reason human brains associate sharp lines with threats is that pointed objects have long signaled physical danger. Curves, by comparison, are seen as the absence of threat, and therefore harmless and safe.

Who knew that my brain would feel this way about a watch face?

Looks like it's time to Feng Shui my watch face (pun intended). Guess it's a good thing that Chanukah and Christmas are right around the corner.

Posted in: general | Tags: feng shui, shapes, curve, curvy rectangle, science, research

In Celebration of the Color Orange

Tue Oct 01 2013 | Author: Carol Olmstead
People either love or hate the color orange. It's the color we associate with Halloween because it can get you in the mood for fun. Surrounding yourself with the color orange can make you feel energized, creative, and motivated, even if you don't really like the color.

But on the serious side, in both Feng Shui and in color therapy, the uplifting color orange is used to overcome abuse, shock, depression, and codependency. Some color therapists believe that If you don't like orange, it's an indication that you need it for healing.

One vibrant example of the boldness of orange was the project call "The Gates," where artists Cristo and Jeanne-Claude weaved miles of orange fabric gates throughout New York's Central Park. The gates were an especially expressive demonstration of how powerful the color orange can be. You may not need to produce such drama with your use of the color orange, but you can add the color to your home and workplace in both dramatic and modest ways. Here are just a few Feng Shui ways to use orange:

Orange represents the Feng Shui Fire Element, so use it to power up a space located in the Fame, Reputation, or Love area of your home. Click here to download a bagua from the Basics section of my website to find these areas in your home.

Choose orange, terracotta, or peach paint for a room where you need to bring people together, like your family room.

Orange in combination with other warm desert colors can stimulate collaboration in small offices.

Add some orange to your studio space when your creativity feels blocked.

Wear orange when you are meeting people for the first time and it will make you seem more approachable, especially if you're in a communications profession.

Surround yourself with the color orange if you are recovering from an accident, surgery, or a dental procedure.

If you are a family therapist or work with family groups, add orange accents to your office to symbolize joy in relationships.

Display orange flowers like gladiolus or begonias when you need to boost the energy in any commercial space.

Orange stimulates hunger, so use accordingly in your kitchen.

Throw orange pillows on the sofa or armchair, or hang artwork with orange accents to bring energy into a windowless office or dark room.

Avoid orange in a bedroom or any room where you want to avoid need intense focus and concentration.

What about you? Do you love or hate the color orange?

Posted in: colors | Tags: feng shui, orange, colors, Halloween, pumpkin

Is Your Home Making You Fat?

Sun Aug 25 2013 | Author: Carol Olmstead
It seems that "obesogenic" is a real word meaning "causing obesity," and it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary last year. And you can imagine that as a Feng Shui practitioner I was pretty intrigued by the article "Is Your Home Obesogenic" in Real Simple magazine. I had no doubt that a house could affect your weight, especially since I've written articles about how to rearrange a house to encourage weight loss. But I wanted to see how the science matched the Feng Shui. Here are their suggestions that pass my Feng Shui checklist:

Dine Off Salad Plates. The average size of a dinner plate has ballooned by 23 percent since 1900, and therefore the amount we put on it has ballooned, too. Cornell researchers suggest that switching from 12-inch to 10-inch plates could help you consume up to 22 percent fewer calories. And I add my Feng Shui suggestion to dine on blue plates, since they make you eat slower.

Rearrange Your Food. "We find that people are three times as likely to take the first thing they see when they open the cupboard than the fifth thing they see," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. "Hide and eat less" even works with candy, because Wansink's team observed that people dip into candy bowls 71 percent more frequently when the bowls are transparent than when they are white.

Stock Smarter. The Cornell researchers found that when people put four boxes of crackers on their shelves instead of their usual two, they ate the extra boxes faster than normal, until they were left with the amount they usually have on hand. The simple solution - keep everything you wouldn't typically go through in a week on a high shelf or in the garage.

Make Your Food Look Dramatic. Serve light foods on dark tableware and dark foods on light. This is basic Feng Shui yin-yang theory. In a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, people served themselves more when their dishes matched the foods they were eating than when they were given contrasting plates. That means since your mashed potatoes are less noticeable on a white plate, you'll pay less attention to how much you're dishing out and eating.

Stop Eating in Front of the TV. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate in front of the TV consumed more and were more likely to describe their meals as unsatisfying. And a study in Appetite showed that women who had lunch while watching television ate more cookies than did those who ate at a table.

Declutter. If you want your table to be a place where the family gathers for healthy meals, then it needs to be neat and inviting, not buried in homework and bills. Feng Shui practitioners can't stop saying enough about this one.

Keep the Setting Mellow. Studies have found that fast, loud music makes people eat more. A review in Physiology & Behavior explains that noise makes it difficult to focus on the sensory experience of eating, which is essential to feeling satiated. Wansink has also found that brightly lit places inspire faster eating. Yup, Feng Shui says the same thing.

Clear Off Your Workout Equipment. Don't use your treadmill as an extra closet, because it you have to spend even a few seconds removing a pile of clothes, you're less likely to work out. If you exercise at the gym, create storage in your entry for your gym bag so you have a visual cue that your stuff is ready when you are.

Donate Your "Fat" Clothes. Bigger clothes send signals that you don't expect to keep off any weight that you've lost. And if you're wearing bigger clothes, you can't keep tabs on your weight by keeping tabs on your waistband. My additional Feng Shui advice - you want to make room in your closet for new clothes, in smaller sizes, to find you.

Posted in: general | Tags: feng shui, weight loss, obesogenic, clutter, rearrange, fat

Barbara's Trifecta

Wed Jun 26 2013 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The best part of being a Feng Shui consultant over the past 15 years has been the Feng Shui success stories that I get to share with my clients, students, and readers. This has been an especially good week because I received three success stories, and I'd like to share this one. Barbara is a longtime friend and colleague who has put a lot of Feng Shui advice into action, including arranging her hospital room and home environment to help healing after surgery. (You can read these Feng Shui tips for healing in the September 2011 Feng Shui For Real Life E-zine.) I was delighted to get her recent email with some especially good news related to wealth and abundance.

Here's what Barbara wrote:
After reading your last wonderful newsletter, I was motivated to "step up" my cleaning up and rearranging my office. It's a small space, but workable. I noticed by looking at the bagua that my Wealth area was obstructed by a pile of tote bags, recyclable grocery bags, computer bags, etc. I removed the pile from the upper left part of my office by dispersing and putting the various bags in true storage locations like the coat closet, on a high bookcase shelf, and such. Within the week, I had a trifecta of wealth related wonders:
1. A contract that had been put on hold for lack of funding got almost fully restored
2. I was accepted to a prestigious leadership program, a top goal of mine for the year.
3. I won First Place in the local Sister Cities International Poetry Competition for Disabled Writers

Lots of hard work went into these three things, but opening up my wealth area definitely allowed them to flow into my life. Thanks for your ongoing excellent, practical, and educational advice.

And here's her beautiful poem:

My Difference
Barbara Chatzkel

I am here, it whispered.

I know, I murmured in reply.
You weren't always here.
I was happy. Life is different now.

At first I was scared because I wasn't the same and people thought I was.
They said, "you look great, you're fine, nothing is wrong."
So, I decided to believe them and act like nothing was different.

I am here, it whispered.

And I know you were.
You were invisible, but you changed me profoundly.
I was different and couldn't always know how.

Yet, I still fought you because I couldn't see the invisible.
And those around me didn't want to see the invisible.
So, who was the joke on?

I am here, it whispered.

I became hopeful. I'm different now, I said.
Different means different -- not better, not worse, but different.
My hope asked me to become friends with my difference.

I am here, it whispered.

So, we got to know each other -- my difference and me.
Hope sat with us and listened.
With each new understanding, hope grew.

I am here, it whispered.

Yes, I know, and you are a special part of me now.
With my difference and hope and me all as one,
I am amazing.

I am here, it whispered.

Yes, I know. You and I are one.
When I cannot do as I did before,
You challenge me to embrace my difference and be me.

I am here, it whispered.
Yes, and together we can achieve the impossible.

Posted in: success stories | Tags: feng shui, success story, clutter, clutter clearing, disability, poem

© Copyright 2014, Carol Olmstead