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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Fri May 19 2017 |
For almost 20 years, I've been practicing the art and science of helping people arranging their space to assure harmony. Last month, I experienced first hand how that interior space extends to air travel when I flew on four United flights within one week. Now, I'm not going to use this post to defend or defame United or any other airline, and thankfully I didn't experience any outrageous incidents of bad behavior. Let's just say that there are good and bad people working for and flying on every airline and leave it at that. But, this trip turned out to be a great illustration of how an interior environment affects behavior.
The first three flights were on 737s - the seats were close together, the aisles were narrow, the lavatory was claustrophobic, and the overhead bins were so stuffed they asked for 10 people to gate check their bags. Sound familiar? In general, people were in a bad mood. There was lots of grumbling and loud talking.
When I boarded that third flight, I was surprised to find a deadheading flight attendant sitting in my assigned exit row aisle seat. She refused to move until I showed her my boarding pass to prove it was my seat. Turned out she was assigned to the middle seat. Now, in the scheme of things, initially taking the wrong seat is not a major offense, it happens to every flyer at some point in time. But all she had to do was apologize, or make a joke out of it, or simply say "oops" instead of assuming I was at fault. No, instead she chose to continue her conversation with the other deadheading flight attendant in the window seat.
My last flight was on a 767, a huge, comfortable, spacious, wide-body plane. The seats were soft leather with adequate legroom, the beverage carts easily traveled down the aisles without taking out elbows, the overhead bins were numerous, and many middle seats were open. Everyone had free movies and TV, with programming worth watching instead of that awful stuff you have to pay for on most flights. The flight attendants did their jobs with smiles and friendly conversation. Takeoff was delayed on the tarmac for 30 minutes because of an ATC hold at the destination, and then delayed 20 minutes after we landed waiting for an open gate, but the friendly pilot kept up informed. No one was angry. No one complained. No one threw a tantrum. Everyone remained positive.
The guiding principle for my Feng Shui work is that we are profoundly affected by our interior environment, so the moral of my story is simple: if you crowd people into ugly, uncomfortable space, they react negatively and sometimes act out. But, if you seat people in pleasant, comfortable space, they will do the right thing every time. To protect airline passenger rights, Congress recently called the airline heads to testify. Now, it's time to ask a Feng Shui practitioner to testify - and to listen to her advice about how to create Feng Shui friendly skies.
Wed Mar 08 2017 |
I couldn’t take it any longer so I finally cleaned the garage. Like so many houses I consult in, ours has the garage in the “Helpful People” area. That means it relates to clients and mentors and people who support us. And that area of our lives needed some TLC.
The tracks of brown road sand that we dragged in the last time it snowed were driving me especially crazy (car pun intended here). We only got a dusting of snow, but a sandstorm of grit came in with the car and wasn’t going anywhere on its own.
I did the usual things first: I broke down the cardboard boxes and took them out to the recycling can; I straightened the top of the work bench; I made sure the cleaning products were separate from the canned food. I keep a few boxes of my book
in the Wealth Area
of the garage, so I replenished that supply. But mainly, I swept everything clean. And I swept the dirt out toward the door, not in toward the house, so any negative energy went out and away. I kept at it until I could actually see the floor again. The result? I hate to sound smug, but my book orders increased, my husband’s outstanding contracts were finally signed, I scheduled a bunch of clients. In general, things felt back on track.
In Feng Shui, an attached garage needs to be treated the same as any other room in the home. Often when I show up for a consultation, my client tries to change the subject when we get to the garage. More than one has tried to block my access to their “dumping ground.”
I recommend decorating a garage according to the bagua areas, because for many of us it's the first “room” we enter when we return home. We have a collection of humorous and inspirational art pieces in the Wealth Area of our garage, including some of my "shoe" posters.
Here are a few suggestions to organize your garage according to Feng Shui principles:
• Empty everything out of the garage.
• Look inside each box or storage tub and pull out the contents so you won’t be surprised later. Label the containers.
• Give the garage a good sweeping - out toward the garage door rather than in toward the house.
• Look at your empty garage and decide in which areas you will store your items according to how you use them, such as gardening items, sports equipment, tools, etc. Be sure to think vertically as well as horizontally, since the idea is to create as much floor space as possible.
• Pick up each object and decide if you are keeping it. If you are, place it in the appropriate location.
• If you decide you no longer need an item, sort it into one of three piles: donate, sell, or toss. Keep sorting until everything has found a home.
• Take the “toss” pile out to the trash, load the “donate” pile into the trunk of your car so you won’t forget to take it to your favorite donation site the next day, and go online and list the items you plan to sell on online auction sites.
• Think about whether you really need that old refrigerator in your garage since it could be running up your energy bills.
• Hang artwork in your garage, especially bright and sunny images, or a bulletin board near the door to the house displaying family photos, jokes, and inspirational quotes. This will make you feel even more "at home" as soon as you get out of your car.
Wed Feb 01 2017 |
Every year on New Year’s Day or soon after, I take on major clutter clearing
projects around my house. This year, after I did an obligatory closet clearing, I tackled my computer, and that’s where things got interesting.
I started with my desktop, deleting and filing files so the only folders remaining were the ones I clicked on frequently. Then, I went through my email folders, deleting or archiving the emails within them, then deleting the folders. Dozens of them. Or was it hundreds of them? I emptied the trash many times as I continued to get rid of information that was no longer relevant.
That felt so good I moved on to my website
, where I was shocked to find many of the resources in my Links section were outdated or led to that dreaded 404 error code. Out they went. I updated the remaining resources with the correct link.
Next, I moved on to the Media
section where I post articles that have been written about me and my Feng Shui practice, links to my videos, press releases, and assorted other info in my digital media kit. That’s where I discovered a long-forgotten interview I had done with Where Washington
, a Washington, DC
, magazine. The article was The Chi of DC
by Corinne Whiting.
The editor had given me an aerial view of the layout of our capital city as designed by architect Pierre L'Enfant and asked me to perform a Feng Shui analysis. Among other things, she writes about how I characterized the straight line of the National Mall as a “poison arrow,” and the natural location of the city on the curve of the Potomac River as a positive feature. Despite the fact that the article was written in 2008 and many things have changed around the National Mall
, I was struck by the timelessness of my analysis of the juxtaposition of the Capitol
and the White House
There's nothing political here, only a timely Feng Shui statement about how the layout of a city can affect what goes on within its boundaries:
L'Enfant called for a grand boulevard to connect the two seats of power, a direct line now disrupted by the Treasury Building. Olmstead sees Pennsylvania Avenue as a symbol of communication flow, yet she would prefer that the White House and Capitol be sited at slight angles (directly facing would be too "confrontational"). The Capitol's elevation asserts not just its dominant position in the cityscape but the very nature of democracy: the president must listen to the people. Could it be that the founding fathers did have "a natural sense" of the capital's design after all?
What do you think? Read the article
, then email me
with your thoughts about how the layout of Washington, DC – or another capital or major city – affects what goes on in that seat of power.
Mon Jan 23 2017 |
Welcome to the Chinese Year of the Fire Rooster 2017
. This animal of the Chinese zodiac can bring good luck and new opportunities starting at the crack of dawn. The Rooster is yin
in contrast to the yang
of last year’s Monkey, and this suggests a calmer year. However, the Feng Shui Elements are still in opposition and many of the same issues are still around. We'll have to deal with the results from what has already happened. Plus, the consequences of some big decisions made in the Monkey Year will become obvious. One of the Rooster’s main jobs is to crow at the rise of the sun, waking us up to face the challenges of the day. This Fire Rooster is waking us up to the challenges of the year.
The lucky numbers
for the year are 5, 7, and 8, the lucky colors
are gold, brown, and yellow, and the lucky flowers
are gladiola and impatiens.
Each year, I like to share the predictions from Asian Feng Shui masters for each of the animal signs of the Chinese zodiac. But before I do that, here’s my annual disclaimer: The predictions included here are for fun only, no other claim is made. Personally, I believe that ultimately, you have control over your actions and power over the kind of year you will experience.
Rat: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008.
This year may be strenuous at times; however, there is a chance for big change in lifestyle, occupation, or home. There may be some financial loss, but you can gain some unexpected benefits. Long term, your results will be good.
Ox: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.
This is a great year for the Ox, who has waited a long time for this kind of luck. The Ox will emerge from a chrysalis recharged, with more energy and better health. This is an excellent year for career and self esteem.
Tiger: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010.
This is a year of moderate luck for Tigers. They have to work hard, but promotion is likely and business will improve. However, they may have to travel and friends and family could feel neglected.
Rabbit: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.
This is not any easy year for Rabbits and they will feel more irritated and frustrated than usual. There are some good times with family and this brings happiness, but Rabbits need to practice patience and focus on finding enjoyment.
Dragon: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012.
This is a year when Dragons feel powerful and are likely to have financial gains and find favor from superiors. However, they need to watch their cash flow, as there will be some unexpected expenses at home and some family tensions.
Snake: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013.
This is a good year for Snakes, and they will be happy cocooning at home and spending more time with family. Snakes will have some trouble with friends and financially feel some stress, but overall this is a happy year.
Horse: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014.
This is a year where Horses will feel some discontent and they may feel slightly out of step with what is happening around them, so travel is especially freeing and enjoyable. However, there is luck and practical accomplishments.
Sheep: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015.
Sheep have luck this year. This is a good year for making future plans. Family life is happier. Sheep will experience more fun and pursue more recreational activities, and they will feel more creative.
Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.
This is a good year for business, and finances will be stable. Monkeys will enjoy travel, particularly foreign travel, but they need to spend time recovering from last year’s stresses. Monkeys need to become more organized.
Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981,1993, 2005, 2017.
Roosters will feel strained this year and will be less organized. They need time alone, and people around them will have greater needs. They will want to play more but cannot always do this, causing some frustration. Roosters need to be practical.
Dog: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006.
This is a turbulent year for Dogs, but there is sudden good luck if opportunities can be found. Dogs will want to remodel, redecorate, or move to a new home or office. They need to hold their tongue so they don’t criticize or fight with loved ones.
Pig: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007.
Pigs have some luck coming their way, their finances will be steady and they will improve their business prospects if they are cautious. Family life is happy and previous worries fade, but romance will be tricky.
These predictions are taken from the Lotus Institute. Click here
to read the full forecast.
The illustration "The Rooster and the Pearl" by Morgan C. Leshinsky is available from the art gallery at www.FengShuiForRealLife.com.
Thu Dec 22 2016 |
These days, it seems like there are as many approaches to Feng Shui
as there are to interior design or architecture. And that makes me think about why I call my Feng Shui approach Feng Shui For Real Life.
The “real life” part is the most important, because when I started practicing almost 19 years ago it was clear I wanted to help clients work Feng Shui into their real lives, rather than the other way around.
are one good example. Feng Shui-wise, there’s no ideal place in a house for a bathroom because this room is associated with waste. Indoor plumbing hadn’t been invented when Feng Shui was developed, so the ancients didn’t have any problem figuring out where to locate their bathrooms - outside. I’m not about to give up my indoor bathrooms, and I haven’t yet worked with a client who is ready to part with theirs, so the contemporary Feng Shui approach is to decorate the bathroom in a way that balances any negative aspects related its location in the home. That’s real life.
When I started to study Feng Shui and learned that you divide a house into nine areas of the bagua
that relate to critical aspects of life like wealth, love, health, for some reason I became fixated on trash cans. Where in the world are you supposed to put the trash? You wouldn’t want to keep trash in the Wealth Area or the Love Area, and the Health Area was definitely out. When I finally got around to asking my teacher this burning question, his answer was simple: “Choose a trash can that is as small as you can live with, and empty it frequently.” Simple, rational, real life.
My client Katie had a Feng Shui challenge that is a good example of how important “for real life” can be. When I arrived at her house, the first thing she told me was that her husband wanted to eat all their meals in front of the TV, and she was tired of that. She took me into the family room
where their mega-size TV was located, and the first thing I noticed was the coffee table. I had never seen anything like it before. It was cantilevered so it could be pulled up from its coffee table position into eating table height. Yikes, talk about enabling! Her husband never had to leave the sofa.
Katie wasn’t opposed to eating some meals in the family room. As far as she was concerned, beer, munchies, and football belonged in the family room, but there were some meals, on some nights, that she wanted to eat at a table with her husband. The real life Feng Shui solution was to replace that coffee table. Are they still eating some meals in the family room? Yes, and that’s OK with Katie, because they are also having most meals around the kitchen table - and she’s working on getting her husband into the dining
room on a non-holiday night.
Real life, real Feng Shui means finding a solution to a problem that fits with the way you want to live in your home or work in your office. It’s making Feng Shui work for you.
How are you working Feng Shui into your real life? Email me
with your thoughts.
Wed May 11 2016 |
Jumpstart the geraniums and dial up the dahlias: it's time to start growing something in your garden with a Feng Shui plan in mind. Whether the garden view you see is a lush paradise or a simple hanging plant, you can choose plants and decorations in colors and shapes that represent the Feng Shui Five Elements.
The Five Elements
is the Feng Shui term to describe the colors, shapes, and textures around you and the attributes they bring into your life. The Elements are Fire
, and each has a characteristic shape and colors, and represents specific aspects of life. What do the names of the Five Elements conjure up in your mind? Most likely it is the same thing as their attributes: passion, grounding, clarity, movement, and growth, respectively.
Check out these simple ways to activate the Elements while adding a bit of pizzazz to your garden:
Plant red, orange, or purple flowers, then add an outdoor fire pit and lanterns or torches.
Plant yellow flowers, and arrange rocks and clay pots around them.
Plant white flowers and decorate your garden with metal sculptures and wind chimes.
Plant blue and purple flowers, and create a water element like a pond, fountain, or birdbath.
Plant green shrubs and trees, then place wooden benches, chairs, or a trellis in your backyard.
To place these Element shapes and colors in the most appropriate bagua area of your garden, first download a Feng Shui bagua
that matches the shape of your garden from the "Basics" section at www.FengShuiForRealLife.com.
Next, hold the bagua in front of you when you look into your garden from its main entrance. Plant and decorate your garden to match the colors and shapes recommend for each area.
For example, in the Wealth area (upper left hand corner of your garden), grow red roses, purple salvia, or other plants with hot colors or triangular shapes to increase your abundance and prosperity. Plant fruit trees in this area and your wealth will be "fruitful."
If you live in an apartment or condo, you can still have a garden on your balcony or patio. Even though the space is small, use the bagua to map out your outdoor space, then decorate with flowers, small potted plants, or garden ornaments.
Sat Apr 16 2016 |
I experienced two deaths within days of each other this month, first my beloved Aunt Lily and then my dear friend's mom, Sylvia. Both women were family matriarchs, and despite being in their 90s, their deaths are difficult for family and friends. As I sat in the house my aunt had lived in for more than 60 years, I realized that I would never return, never see her unique wallpaper, or sit on the carefully-selected furniture, or admire the art objects she had collected on exciting trips around the world - several of which I shared with her.
A house is more than the sum total of the objects we put in it, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I would miss these familiar objects and how complicated it would be for the family to deal with them.
Years ago I had to close up my father's apartment and deal with my parents' furniture and the objects they had collected for almost 75 years together. I donated as much as I could and had the rest shipped to a storage unit near my home in another state. Every few days I would go to the unit and bring home a box or two to unpack. I had expected that I would be adding to my collection with my mom's porcelain, silver, and art, because these were all a vivid part of my childhood. But, I found little in each box that I wanted to keep - each item had my mother's touch and related to my parent's life but didn't fit with my own decor or style. Things that seemed perfect to me as a child in reality had chips and cracks. I decided to keep a few representative items, like my mom's needlepoint piano bench, the few cups and saucers from her large collection that I had given to her as birthday gifts, two 1950s silk scarves from my parents' trip to Paris, the demitasse spoons engraved with the name of a famous hotel (your secret is safe with me, Mom). I selected a few of the doilies she had crocheted commuting on the train to see my father when he was in Army basic training during World War II. I cut the fabric flower off the dress she wore to my wedding. I donated the rest. In less than three months I could give up the storage unit because it was empty.
Feng Shui was developed in China to help locate family graves in the most auspicious location. The basic rule was "water in front of the grave, mountain behind, and luxuriant plants around," which was supposed to protect the offspring and bring them peace, health, fortune, good luck, and other positive qualities. My aunt joins my parents, uncle, and grandparents in the family plot in a location that comes pretty close to this Feng Shui rule. I'm honored that this location conveys protection and good fortune to the living members of our family.