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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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Birds Bouncing Badly

Tue Feb 24 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Two birds have already bounced off my office windows this morning - one hit the window across from my desk and the other dive-bombed into the window on my left - and it's not even 9am. Yesterday, a bird bounced off the other window across from my desk. Fortunately, they all seemed to have survived. But it seems to be the season for bombardier birds, because last weekend I got a frantic email from a friend who lives about 5 miles from me saying that 14 robins had bounced off the glassed-in room at the front of her house. Sadly, these fellows were not so fortunate as mine.

In Feng Shui, birds are considered powerful symbols of new opportunities that are there for you, even in times of adversity. So, I figured it was time to consult my colleagues at the International Feng Shui Guild (IFSG) about this one.

"Any Feng Shui significance with birds flying into windows?" I posted on the Guild's special private Facebook page.

"Sadly, this is likely a very mundane problem," wrote Mia Staysko, Chair of the IFSG Board. "Usually, at two times of the year windows in buildings reflect in such a way as to make it appear that they are not there. The poor birds simply cannot see them."

I appreciated Mia's explanation, and in fact the lighting was strange the morning my friend had her bird bombardment - the sun was gleaming off the mountains that were covered with new snow. Within seconds the sun got brighter and fog rolled in and created this eerie light so we couldn't see anything, and that could have easily spooked the birds.

But of course, since the IFSG welcomes all approaches to Feng Shui I wasn't surprised to read a different take on the issue. "The robin is the symbol of spring and of new growth," wrote another colleague, and whenever birds hit windows like that it's the universe trying to get the attention of the people in the home." Another colleague suggested that the message from the birds was to ask where you're resisting growth in your life or in the affected bagua area. And another added that death of a bird or any animal is about transformation for the observer. "It seems like the people in the bird-bombed house are resisting moving forward in some area of their life."

OK, now I'm listening.

And leave it to the always-grounded Mia to come back with another take on my bouncing birds. "I don't mean to rain on the metaphysical parade with this explanation," she added, "but sometimes there is meaning in things and sometimes birds just hit windows. And if it was a big flock who tend to stick together, if one goes down, they all follow."

Hummingbird in garage280
Last summer a hummingbird flew into our garage. It perched on the bright red and blue cross-country skis hanging on the wall (I never knew hummingbirds could stop flapping their wings long enough to perch but it did), and then after a minute it flew up into the skylight. When it couldn't get outside that way it flew back to the skis. The poor little thing did this four times as we gently tried to use a broom to aim it toward the open door. Finally, it got the message, flew out the door, and then went straight up like a rocket until it disappeared into the stratosphere.

So, okay, maybe I'm the one with the bird issue after all. My Feng Shui colleagues advise putting decals on the windows. My granddaughter Izzy says I should put out a warning sign for the birds. Maybe it's time for my friend and I to sit down with a bottle of Grey Goose to toast our bouncing birds and try to figure out just what transformation we're resisting.

Posted in: general | Tags: feng shui, birds, symbols, windows, bagua

A Different Kind of Valentine's Day Tip

Sun Feb 08 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
Tell me they didn't really do this: Australia-based Jetstar Airways teamed with a Feng Shui Master to launch a Valentine's campaign called "Love is in the Zodiac Pair" that supposedly uses Feng Shui to match compatible single flyers, then chooses the best seats, destinations, and activities to make them fall in love. For example, single flyers born in the Year of Horse are matched with flyers born in the Year of the Goat, and these couples should sit in row nine, 19 or 29 and travel to Jakarta.

Wait, it gets worse.

In the first seven hours after the campaign's launch, the site had already received more than 5,000 applications.

OK, shoot me now.

It ticks me off when anyone trivializes Feng Shui because I've seen it work for so many people, and it's an especially cheap shot for Jetstar to invoke love and Valentine's Day. This holiday already makes a whole lot of people feel insecure with its focus on idolized versions of love and the perfect way to spend the day.

Yes, I've been as guilty as every other Feng Shui practitioner who writes about Valentine's Day. Right now the Articles Section of my web site includes 27 Feng Shui Tips to Rev Up Your Romance, Feng Shui Tips to Attract Love, and Romantic Dining Ideas. That last one even got me a mention in the Washington Post a few years ago. Mea culpa!

Does there really need to be so much pressure on one day of the year? My husband and I stopped going out on Valentine's Day years ago because we got tired of the "assembly line" way restaurants handled the crush of diners. We discovered that if we go out the very next evening or a few nights later, the prices are back to normal and we don't have to settle for their prix fixe menus. Lovely.

So, this year I'm offering some different tips for Valentine's Day instead of my usual "rev up your love life" post.

First, let's talk about how to be alone on V-day. In her great newsletter, Relationship Specialist Kelly Chisholm shares sage advice for spending Valentine's Day alone in the article "How to Cope With Being Alone on Valentine's Day." The tips range from getting together with single friends or special relatives and expanding your notion of what type of love this day is meant to celebrate. The message is that a Valentine can be anyone who's special to you, including you - and that's where the Feng Shui comes in.

The upper right area of your home is usually referred to as the Love/Relationship Area of the Feng Shui bagua, but it's also related to self-esteem and self-love. So here's my different kind of Feng Shui love tip: Plan to do some clearing and rearranging in that area on Valentine's Day and you just might reap rewards beyond a box of chocolates and a red rose.

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

What's Behind Door #1?

Thu Feb 05 2015 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I get a lot of questions after my monthly ezine goes out, and this month I answered one about which door to use when orienting the Feng Shui bagua, the front door or the door from the garage to the house. The simple answer is the "front door," because it's the way your home was designed to be entered, but deciding which is Door #1 for you is far more complex.

"Thank you so much for your book and informative newsletter, I'm a fan," Sheryl wrote. "My question is, which door is the primary, the front door we never use, or the garage/laundry door we use all the time?"

Ah, there's the phrase that got me thinking: we never use the front door. Many of us hardly ever open our front door because we pull right into the garage. In Feng Shui, the front door is called the "mouth of chi" because that's where all the positive energy and wealth enters your home. So if you don't open the front door, symbolically you don't open yourself up to the possibilities to attract wealth. So I suggested to Sheryl that she try using the front door more often, even if she only opens the door each morning to greet the day.

That still doesn't solve the problem of entering your house through the laundry room, mudroom, or cluttered hallway each and every time you come home. Not the most relaxing site to come home to, is it?

Some of the decorations near my garage door.
"If you come in through the garage like I do," I advised Sheryl, "make sure that entrance is as pleasing as your front entrance. Paint the door between the garage and house the same as your front door, use the same door mat, and if you decorate your front door for holidays do the same with your entry door." I reminded her that in Feng Shui thinking, an attached garage is considered one of the rooms in your house so you need to decorate it with the same care as you do with the rest of your home.

I often suggest that people decorate the area around the door from the garage to the house with bright, cheerful art that welcomes you home. Or, hang a bulletin board or white board near the door where you can post a joke of the week, family photos from the past weekend, or upbeat messages to each other. You work hard all day and coming home should make you smile.

What do you see when you pull into your garage - a can of dried up paint and an old set of tires, or something attractive? Email me and let me know.

Posted in: room by room | Tags: feng shui, doors, garage, mouth of chi, entrance

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

© Copyright 2015, Carol Olmstead