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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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Paws for Thought in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

Wed Jan 10 2018 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The Year of the Earth Dog in Chinese astrology begins on February 16 with the start of Chinese New Year. I’ve been reading predictions from Asian Feng Shui practitioners, and before I summarize what I’ve seen, I’ll start with the disclaimer I use every year: The predictions included here are for fun only, no other claim is made. Personally, I believe that you have control over your actions and create the kind of year you will experience. I’m just the messenger here, so please, don’t shoot!

OK, with that in mind, here we go…

This will be a year of wait and see, says one Asian forecaster, rather than a time to be aggressive. It’s a year for more understanding, giving, and supporting. For 2018, the lucky Feng Shui Elements are Earth, Metal, and Water. In addition to the Dog, lucky animal signs are the Horse, Rabbit, and Tiger.

The Year of the Earth Dog can bring prosperity to those who are proactive, work hard, communicate well, and are generous to others. Specifically, 2018 can be full of good luck in businesses and industries that involve “earth,” such as real estate and construction, plus technology related to cars, shipping, courier services, and transportation. These Earth Element-related industries will be doing especially good in October, and real estate prices will rise higher. Water Element-related industries that involve moving around, like logistics and e-commerce, will do well in 2018, and travel and tourism will flourish. Other industries expected to do well include banking, finance, insurance, and professions dealing with public speaking, like lawyers, speakers, and trainers. Industries related to the Fire Element will be more challenged, especially oil and gas.

Below is a summary of astrologers’ predictions for each sign in the coming new year:

DOG (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006): Good luck and opportunities will come the Dog’s way, but avoid conflict because you might just find yourself in the middle of it all. Be careful who you trust, and don’t trust too easily.

PIG (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007): Expect better luck and opportunities coming your way, but don't be too happy-go-lucky. Learn more about what you’re getting into before leaping.

RAT (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008): There will be mixed luck for the Rat. Sometimes you will feel like there’s a hole in your pocket due to unexpected expenses. Be careful when traveling and guard your health.

OX (1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009): There will be mixed luck for the Ox. There will be a lot of opportunities and you will be surrounded by helpful people. Listen to them, and keep your temper in check.

TIGER (1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010): Tigers need to be careful of who you surround yourself with, since you are prone to heated arguments. Be careful of business dealings.

RABBIT (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011): Expect some good luck, and lots of new friends. But be wary of betrayals.

DRAGON (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012): The year will be more challenging for you, but if you know how to convert these challenges into positive energy, a good amount of luck will come your way. Keep your temper in check.

SNAKE (1929,1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001): You are the luckiest in terms of money, business luck, and opportunities in investments. But be careful, you don’t have to “bite” on everything that comes your way.

HORSE (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002): Horses will be lucky in terms of relationships. These will be not only romantic, but also related to networking and connections.

SHEEP (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991): Sheep can expect a lot of good luck in 2018. Believe in what you want, follow your gut, and go for it.

MONKEY (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004): It’s a good year for the Monkey. Your power will increase, and signs of promotions and benefits are in your future.

ROOSTER (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005): Be careful of your health. Your drive and motivation will weaken a little, so don’t push yourself too hard.

Posted in: Seasonal, Holidays, Travel | Tags: feng shui, year of the dog, dog, zodiac, Chinese New Year, year of the earth dog, earth element

Princely Ultra Violet

Mon Jan 01 2018 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I look forward to the announcement of the Pantone Color of the Year, and then I’m often disappointed because it doesn’t meet what I need for the coming year in Feng Shui terms.

Take Pantone’s decision in 2016 to choose not one, but two wimpy colors, Rose Quartz and Serenity. They looked like baby blanket colors to me, and not at all what we needed to guide us through that year. Last year’s “Greenery” wasn’t much better, because it was a bit “limey,” when what we needed was a growth-inducing Forest or prosperous Emerald. Instead, we got a color that resembled a fruit. Fruits do work for some years, and in fact the choice of Tangerine Tango was so on-target for 2012 that I bought the Pantone mug in that color.

For 2018, the color is Ultra Violet, which is a Feng Shui Fire Element deep purple, mixed with a Metal Element pastel. I would have preferred a deeper, bluer purple tipped toward the Water Element to represent flow, movement, and ease. In Feng Shui, shades of the color purple represent spirituality, mindfulness, things mystical, and royalty. Well, 2018 will certainly be the year of the British royals.

According to the Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, Ultra Violet is “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”

Adds Laurie Pressman, Pantone’s Vice President, “It’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” Her comments suggest that Pantone is not just observing and predicting, it’s going proactive. Integrity, originality, and visionary are words I like for 2018, but I think we’ll do better if we skip things that are “provocative” this year.

How did Pantone, the self-proclaimed “color authorities,” come up with this choice? It seems they sent 10 people around the globe doing my dream job - searching for color in food, cars, cosmetics, clothes, and housewares. They got back together, compared their findings, did an analysis, and declared the color of 2018 to be Ultra Violet.

Leatrice says purple was the favorite color of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who used to wear a purple cape when he was trying to be creative. And since she’s the official color maven, she should know. “It’s also the most complex of all colors,” she says.

Then, there’s also the associate of Ultra Violet and shades of purple with celebrities, especially Prince. And that might be an even better observation of what we need in 2018:

Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It's time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too

You say you want a leader
But you can't seem to make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Posted in: Colors | Tags: feng shui, ultra violet, Pantone, color, elements

Feng Shui For Troubled Times

Tue Oct 17 2017 | Author: Carol Olmstead
What's stressing you today? Natural disaster, terrorism, violence, cyber hacks, politics? It feels like we find something new to worry about daily, on top of our own personal struggles. People report feeling angry and powerless. I wish I could give you a Feng Shui solution to all the world's problems. What I can do instead is share these Feng Shui tips for making your home feel harmonious, so it can be your oasis of calm in a crazy world.

Create order. To keep your interior environment as stress-free as possible, start by removing clutter. A cluttered environment is a chaotic one. And that chaos keeps you from being able to renew, restore, slow down, and let go when you arrive home because you're too busy fighting with all that "stuff" around you. An uncluttered environment helps chi flow smoothly, so you'll feel less anxious, less pressured, and generally in a better mood. Here's my Feng Shui "permission slip": It's OK to get rid of everything you don't like, don't need, and don't use anymore no matter how much you paid for it. Keep and display only what you love.

Refresh the colors. When you're already full of fire from the conflict around you in a troubled world, coming home to hot, Fire Element colors like red may keep you from relaxing. Try removing some of the red and hot orange accessories and instead surround yourself with the color blue for relaxation and green for renewal. It's also helpful to have a warm, neutral color on the walls instead of cold, stark white. Check to assure your colors and patterns aren't in conflict with each other. If a pattern is jarring to your eye, it's going to make you feel stressed and cranky without realizing what's causing the problem. Try switching to solids in your accessories instead of stripes, plaids, or huge bold patterns.

Lighten up. Make sure the lighting in your home is not too harsh. Modern lighting has come a long way since those CFL corkscrews first replaced incandescent bulbs, but now you have too many choices. Look for full spectrum lighting that mimics natural daylight, and choose bulbs with warmer tones. Light is considered to be upbeat yang energy, so in troubled times you want to bring in all the light you can to balance dark yin energy from the violence and chaos. Also bring in all the natural sunlight you can by cleaning your windows and opening the window treatments.

Connect to nature. Treat yourself to fresh flowers and healthy living plants with rounded, bushy leaves. Avoid plants with thorns or spikes, since they will add to the sharpness you already feel outside of your home. Add the scent of lavender to your environment for its calming effect, especially in your bedroom to help you sleep. Precious stones can be used to deflect bad energy and to attract and boost good luck. Display amethyst stones to promote calmness and reduce anger and irritability and encourage tranquility.

Change the view. If there's anything in your home that "drives you nuts," it's raising your anxiety level even when you're not at home because it continues to occupy your mind. This includes projects that never get finished, wall cracks that need repairing, stained furniture that needs some TLC, and everything else you've been postponing. Here's where I suggest you follow my Rule of 3Rs: Remove, Repair, or Replace these items right now. Also, if you have an unattractive view from any one of your windows, hang window treatments to block it to help you change your point of view, literally and figuratively.

Surround yourself with people. The constant bombardment of bad news can make you feel alone in a disconnected world. Counter this feeling by displaying images of your family, friends, and pets. You can also surround yourself at home and at work with images of your favorite places, especially photos of your visits there with special people. Play soothing music or nature sounds in the background so you can actually have a conversation with your friends and family, and consider a white noise machine to block out outside distractions.

Posted in: General | Tags: feng shui, troubled, disaster, fire, harmony, relaxation, harmonious, natural disaster

The Big Purge

Tue Sep 19 2017 | Author: Carol Olmstead
What the feng am I going to do with all this shui?
The Big Purge starts every September when I clear out my red client folders. When I started practicing almost 20 years ago, I "opened" a red folder for each client. Red is the powerful Fire Element that represents wealth, passion, and power, and it felt good to wish these attributes for my clients even before I met them. I long ago began tracking client information electronically, but I continue to create folders for new clients. I do purge older folders annually, wishing each client continued happiness.

This year after clearing my files, I moved on to my two office closets, and that's where the purge became really BIG. my husband and I had been talking about downsizing, so with the cleared-out file drawer and office closets as role models, we started clearing everywhere. Even the dreaded garage. We tackled the inner recesses of the closets, we cleaned the corners of drawers, we attacked the cabinet above the fridge and below the microwave where we stashed all the "stuff" we long ago stopped using. I bought those slim line hangers and organized my closets. Yes, I actually bought hangers. 
We held a yard sale, the first in 14 years (and the last if I have anything to say about it). We were in a constant state of exhaustion from all the bags we took to Goodwill and the consignment shop, and the heavy recycling cans we dragged out to the trash. 
In the midst of our purge we were overwhelmed with the news reports of all the natural disasters throughout the country. It's hard to watch the upheaval of families caused by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods without thinking about what you would take if you had to evacuate.
Our Santa Fe home is surrounded by mountains, so when we first moved here I put together a Wildfire Evacuation List. I hadn't thought about it in years but found it during the big purge. Some things on it were good reminders, like safe deposit key and laptop chargers, but some were so frivolous I was embarrassed they were on the list, particularly one specific brown suede purse. Some were bigger than I would ever bother to take in an emergency, especially a blue glass vase we bought in Seattle, and some were outdated, like "files on the futon in guest room." Huh? The futon has been gone for years, and was it ever a permanent storage place for our most critical files? Then, there was the mysterious "white disk in bedroom." OK, not a clue what that ever was. I threw out the list, with a vow that the new one will be more realistic and practical. 
Some members of our family did have to evacuate during the Florida hurricane. We're grateful they and their homes are all safe. Once things settle down it will be interesting to talk with them about what essentials - and what treasurers - they packed into their cars before they left home, not knowing whether they would ever see their houses again.
I always tell my clients to surround themselves with things that they love, and to get rid of things that they don't like, don't need, or don't use. For me, the timing of the monstrous hurricanes in the middle of my big purge was a wake-up call. How much stuff do we really need to achieve happiness and joy? Email your thoughts and I'll share them in a future post.

Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: No Tags

Feng Shui Friendly Skies

Fri May 19 2017 | Author: Carol Olmstead
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.

Posted in: Seasonal, Holidays, Travel | Tags: feng shui, travel, airlines, United, friendly skies, harmony

Back on Track in the Garage

Wed Mar 08 2017 | Author: Carol Olmstead
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.

Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: feng shui, garage, clutter, clutter clearing, organizing

The Chi of DC

Wed Feb 01 2017 | Author: Carol Olmstead
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.

Posted in: General | Tags: feng shui, Washington, DC, DC, White House, Capitol, National Mall, chi

© Copyright 2018, Carol Olmstead