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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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7 Lucky Foods for The Year of the Ox

Tue Feb 09 2021 | Author: Carol Olmstead
You know I can relate Feng Shui to just about anything. So, you won’t be surprised that, because the Chinese Year of the Ox starts this month, I’m making a Feng Shui connection to food

But, hold the eggrolls - before I share a bit about lucky bites, I want to take some mystery out of balancing Feng Shui principles in the foods you serve everyday.

First, try to balance color. Each of the Feng Shui Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood) is represented by a color. You don't have to eat every color at every meal, but the more you vary food colors, the more you bring harmony to your table.

Next, balance aromas. Doesn’t it feel great to smell your favorite food cooking? Aromatic seasonings are part of Feng Shui because they address all senses. Plus, flavorful scents replace negative energy with positive.

Finally, balance opposites. The yin-yang principle refers to the opposites around you. That means mixing foods that are yin (cooling) and yang (warming). We already find this balance in many Chinese recipes, including sweet and sour chicken, hot and sour soup, strongly-flavored dishes served with plain rice, and dishes mixing soft foods with crunchy textures.

What Chinese foods should you eat for the new year? The good luck quotient for a food is based on its pronunciation and appearance, plus how it’s prepared and served. You probably didn’t need an excuse to order dumplings from your local Chinese carryout, but it helps to know which good fortune is associated with these lucky (and Feng Shui-fabulous) foods:

1. Dumplings represent wealth, especially the oval version that looks like Chinese silver ingots. The more dumplings you eat during the lunar celebration, the more money you make in that year – so eat up!

2. Spring rolls are another wealth symbol because their gold-bar shape and golden fried color represent “a ton of gold.”

3. Oranges and tangerines relate to fullness and wealth because of their round shape and color, plus the words sound like “success” and “luck.” Leave the stems attached if you want to encourage fertility.

4. Fish equals increased prosperity because in some Chinese dialects the word sounds like “surplus.” The tradition is to serve a whole fish. Leave some on your plate to represent “left over” spending money.

5. Longevity noodles symbolize happiness and long life because their seemingly endless length and “unsevered” preparation represent the eater's life.

6. Glutinous rice cakes symbolize a better position, because these words mean “going higher” in business, school, and career.

7. Sweet rice balls mean family togetherness because of their round shape. Their pronunciation means “reunion” and “being together.”

Keep in mind that how you serve your food – especially lucky food – can also increase abundance. The best way to serve up a meal that symbolizes prosperity is to set your table with all of that “good stuff” that’s been hiding in your cabinets. What are you saving it for?

Order up some Feng Shui-friendly foods for the lunar new year and watch your prosperity grow. I was born in the Year of the Ox, so as if I needed an excuse, I'll be piling the dumplings and spring rolls on my plate to bring all the luck the year wants to send my way.

Posted in: Seasonal, Holidays, Travel | Tags: feng shui, year of the ox, lunar new year, Chinese new year, food, Chinese food, lucky food

Go Color Bold for 2021

Fri Jan 22 2021 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I was frustrated when the Oxford English Dictionary couldn’t pick only one word of the year for 2020. Now, I’m less than pleased Pantone, the color-forecasting group, had the same problem choosing their 2021 color of the year. They chose two - a gray (Ultimate Gray, PANTONE 17-5104) and a yellow (Illuminating, PANTONE 13-0647). Pantone “…searches worldwide for trends to translate into a color that will dominate fashion and décor in the coming year.” They went with the metaphor of two colors because " one color can represent this coming year."

What a color wimp-out.

This is only the second time Pantone selected two colors. For 2016, they chose Rose Quartz and Serenity. I wasn’t a fan then, either (“Two Colors Too Many").

While I agree we need an array of colors to achieve balance, let’s be decisive in 2021 and each pick a personal color. For me, there’s no way it’s going to be gray. Not after that dismal 2020. I want to start with brightness! But, I don’t look good in yellow, so that’s a non-starter for me.

Using Feng Shui color theory, you can pick your own personal color for the year by understanding the Five Elements. Each Element is represented by a color or colors, and displaying (or wearing) these colors brings their unique attributes into your life.

You have choices:

1. The passionate colors of the Fire Element - reds and deep shades of orange, purple, and pink - ignite love and attract wealth. Buy a new red wallet to attract wealth. Wear orange to encourage conversation and avoid conflict.

2. The stable Earth Element colors - yellows from the sun and browns from the soil – will ground you. Pick yellows to lift your spirits; choose browns for stability.

3. The strong Metal Element colors - gold, silver, pastels, light colors like white and gray - represent focus. Wear white to be the center of attraction, especially if you’re feeling left out.

4. The flowing Water Element colors - deep blue and black, as if you were looking into deep water - encourage relaxation. Blue represents flow and tranquility, a good choice to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Wear black when you want others to focus on what you say (not to hard a fashion choice here in NYC).

5. The growing Wood Element colors - greens and teals like tree leaves - promote expansion. Green represents growth and health, so surrounding yourself with living plants to grow your career prospects.

Let’s go color bold into 2021, and each choose a personal color. Mine is “Radiance Raspberry” (Pantone 19-2432) for three reasons: it’s the Fire Element, but without too much heat; it makes me happy when I see it; and, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says berries prevent dementia (that one is a story for another blog). What more could you ask of a color?

Pick your own color for 2021, then write and tell me which color you chose - and why.

Posted in: Colors | Tags: feng shui, color, Pantone, color of the year, ultimate gray, illuminating, decor, five elements

Let Us Keep Our Books, Marie Kondo!

Mon Jan 21 2019 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I thought I could get away with ignoring Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up show on Netflix, but so many of you are asking my opinion, I had to post something.

Yes, I watched some of her show, and yes, I offer her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. in the mindfulness bookstore on my website. I believe that anyone who is helping us clean up and clear out is doing a service. And, it’s hard to find fault with Marie Kondo’s nonstop cheerfulness.

On her new show, Kondo helps people decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) and what to toss (things that don’t spark anything). I’m good with that.

But, one of the controversies surrounding the show is her idea that you should keep only 30 books.

I’ve been a Feng Shui practitioner for 20 years, and whenever I start talking about downsizing a book collection I get dirty looks and that arms-folded-across-the-chest body language that tells me to back off. I know it's hard to get rid of books. When I made a cross-country move 15 years ago, I donated an oversized shopping cart’s worth of them to the local library, and it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. Most of us have limited storage space in the best of situations and we need it for things in addition to books.

Sorry Marie, as often as I advise people to cull their book collection, I would never tell anyone to limit their books to any specific number. The books we choose to display are the ultimate reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going.

That means you have my Feng Shui permission to display books - as long as you can answer yes to all of these questions:
1. Do the books still have meaning for you?
2. Will you read them again? That includes that dog-eared, stained, yellowed copy of The Catcher in the Rye.
3. Will you display them artfully? That means interspersing your books with objects that have equally-important meaning. No haphazard, tossed-in-a pile arrangements allowed.
4. Do you promise to remove one book every time you add one new book? (Yes, sometimes the Feng Shui Maven’s advice can be tough love.)
5. Do you promise to dust them – regularly?

Hopefully, this will let you keep your special books, and at the same time keep Marie Kondo (and me) satisfied. Always remember my Feng Shui mantra: Nothing new flows into your life until you make room for it.

Need help in deciding which books get to stay, and which must go? Here are four ideas from

1. Evacuate your home. Pretend you’ve been ordered to evacuate. You can take only the books that fit into three small moving boxes, and you only have 30 minutes to choose. When you're done, all the books that are not in the boxes are considered negotiable.
2. Practice worst-case scenario. What's the worst possible thing that could happen if you got rid of a specific book? Would you lose important information you couldn't find elsewhere? Would you lose a part of your family heritage? If so, the book is a keeper. Everything else that you could find in a library or on the Internet is negotiable. If the book is needed for an active project, it's a keeper for now. Once the project is complete, the book becomes eligible for elimination.
3. Play book custodian. Are you looking after the books as if you were a librarian? Are you able to keep up with repairs any books might need? Are your books organized in a way that you can find exactly what you need when you need it?
4. Make it a game. Have a friend pull a book off the shelf and tell you one significant detail, like the title or author. You have to tell your friend all about the book. For fiction, you have to provide a brief plot summary. For non-fiction, you must give facts from the book. If you can't provide details, it’s time to let go of the book. If you haven't read it yet, your friend puts it in a "to read" pile and comes back in a month. If you haven't read the book by then, out it goes.

Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: feng shui, Marie Kondo, books, clutter, clutter clearing, tidy, tidying up

Prepare for the Peaceful Pig

Wed Dec 26 2018 | Author: Carol Olmstead
The Chinese Year of the Brown Earth Pig starts on February 5, 2019.

Each year, when I report on the predictions from Asian Feng Shui masters about the coming lunar year, I make the same disclaimer: I'm just the reporter here, not the predictor. 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.

That being said, it looks like this year will be good for almost every animal of the Chinese zodiac. The masters are using words like fortune and luck. It's predicted to be a great year to make money and to invest. The year will be full of joy, friendship, and love for all the zodiac signs. In China, the pig is thought to behave itself, with no plan to harm others. So 2019 will be a good year. The pig is an ethical and idealistic sign, and represents wealth and generosity. For 2019, the lucky colors are red and white.

In China, the traditional gifts to wish prosperity and luck in the New Year include red envelopes filled with money, oranges (signifying riches or wealth), tangerines (established symbols of luck), plum blossoms (symbolizing hope and courage), narcissus flowers (symbolizing the New Year), or paintings, stamps, and illustrations with these flowers.

Here is what the Asian masters are predicting for each sign of the zodiac in 2019:

Rat. 2019 will be a year of new opportunities for the rat. You might be a little slow and not hyperactive, but that’s perfectly acceptable as your mind will be pretty active. This is the year for the rat to make or break relationships. If you like someone, go tell him or her. Now is not the time to keep quiet. Birth years: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008.

Ox. The Ox will have an excellent time in 2019. It’s the year to relax and have fun. You’ll have stability in finances and career. Take good care of your food and your health in 2019. You’ll need to make an effort to strengthen your relationships. New projects at work will keep you busy, and money will pour in like never before. This is a good year to go on a vacation with your partner, or to plan a pregnancy. Birth years: Year: 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.

Tiger. You will have a wonderful time in 2019, feeling invincible and ready to conquer the world. Everything you touch will turn into gold. You just need to focus and put your mind to it. You’ll also be lucky in relationships. Career and jobs will be hectic, but manageable. Keep an eye on your purse strings and don’t overspend. Birth years: 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010.

Rabbit. This will be a year of challenges for the rabbit, but with your determination and willpower, you’ll overcome obstacles. Love and romance will be simple and down-to-earth, so good communication will be needed to take relationships to the next level. The success of your career lies in the details of the minor stuff at work. Birth years: 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.

Dragon. It will will be a peaceful year for the dragon, but full of energy and enthusiasm. Marriages will be filled with happiness, and single dragons will move forward from first dates to more stable relationships. This is a year of creative work in your job or business. Finances will improve unexpectedly, but so will expenses. Try to relax and practice meditation. Birth years: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012.

Snake. It looks like a calm and meditative year for the snake, but you could see some turmoil in your relationships. If you do end up with a broken heart, pick yourself up and forge ahead, and learn from these experiences. Exercise and try to relax. You’ll move at the pace you dictate this year. Birth Years: 1929,1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001.

Horse. Confidence is the word for the year, and you’ll try out new things. Participate in sports to help your overall health. Remember to spend time with your spouse/partner, family, and friends so your relationships can be more compatible. Teamwork and networking will play an important role in your professional life. Birth Years: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002.

Sheep/Goat. It will be an interactive and communicative year for the sheep in 2019. Improve your health by reducing your stress. You might fall in love this year, but be prepared for fast-paced dating and frequent breakups. Married couples will be more stable this year. You job will require most of your attention, but you’ll be rewarded by promotions and salary hikes. Birth Years: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991.

Monkey. This is a year of happiness for the monkey. You’ll have the freedom to do what you want without any worries or tension, but you need to push yourself to achieve your goals. There might be few conflicts and arguments in relationships, but hold on and you will survive. Showcase your abilities at work. Birth Years: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004.

Rooster. This is the year for the rooster to continue what you are already doing, rather than begin new business projects or relationships. If you do start something new, it will be short lived. Work on existing professional and personal commitments. Your spending power will be better than previous years. You need to analyze and organize your life this year. Birth Years: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005.

Dog. When it comes to love and career, it will be a dynamic year for the dog. You might even pick up a new hobby. Your instincts will help you balance all aspects of your life. Love and passion will be visible in all relationships. Flings will be a common occurrence for the single dog. Your work will be noticed by your seniors. Take better control of your finances. Birth Years: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006.

Pig. Last but not least, this will be a balancing year for the pig. This is the time when you need to correct your past mistakes and prepare for the future. Take care of your health with simple home remedies. Learn to communicate with your spouse/partner for better compatibility. When it comes to career, learning new skills will be extremely important in 2019. Birth Years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

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

It Took a Little Courage

Tue Feb 27 2018 | Author: Carol Olmstead
In his new book, College Success Stories That Inspire: Lessons from Inside and Outside the Classroom, author Steven Roy Goodman shares college-days anecdotes from many professionals - including me. My story is in the chapter called "It Took a Little Courage," and it describes an experience during my college internship taught me the value of unorthodox decisions.

In the summer of my junior year as a journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park, I won a coveted spot in the Magazine Publishers Association college intern program. There were thirty of us from across the country, each assigned to magazines in New York City. The participating publications included Newsweek, Time, and what for me would have been the prize assignment, (The New Yorker. What did I get? Woman's Day Magazine. It was 1970 and I couldn't believe I had to work for a "housewife" 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 one that I wrote that summer as well.)

The first day I walked into their editorial offices, I was surprised to find that I had entered a hotbed of feminism. The staff was young and hip, rather than the stuffy group I had expected to find. I ended up loving every minute of the five weeks I worked there.

One of the typical intern jobs I had was answering the phone for my editor. I especially remember a phone conversation with Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco to set up an interview with my editor. "Hello, this is Grace Kelly," she said in her regal voice when I answered what I thought would be a typical phone call.

And the surprises kept coming.

Toward the end of my internship, Editor Geraldine Rhoads took me to a publishers' luncheon in a private club on Madison Avenue. When we checked in, the receptionist said that we had to enter the dining room 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 library into the dining room. A few men looked up and scowled, but most didn't even notice.

We sat down at our table, and my heart was pounding. "Did we just do that?" my former naive self asked.

"We just did that!" my new, more self-assured self replied.

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 bold.

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.
Posted in: Career & Office | Tags: feng shui, career, college, internship, College Success Stories

Feng Shui for Peace of Mind at Work

Sat Jan 27 2018 | Author: Carol Olmstead
This week, I'm posting excerpts from my interview with Carole Jakucs, BSN, RN, PHN, for While she was writing specifically for the nursing profession, these tips apply equally to all high-stress professions and situations. The practice of Feng Shui, Carole writes, can take your self-care plan to a new level. She included a link to my "Elemental Personality Quiz" to help nurses and others identify the Feng Shui Element that influences their personality.

Here's what Carole Jakucs wrote:

Nursing is a high-stress career that requires its professionals to maintain their overall health in order to prevent exhaustion and compassion fatigue. Adopting an exercise regimen and healthy eating habits are well-known to benefit both body and mind, but there are other practices out there that can add more depth to a self-care plan - including meditation and Feng Shui.

Carol Olmstead, FSIA (a certification from the Feng Shui Institute of America) and Feng Shui master practitioner, adds "Nurses also can also practice Feng Shui on the job by clearing clutter at workstations and in patient rooms." Also, opening blinds and curtains to let the daylight in whenever possible creates a better environment by relying less on fluorescent lighting, which is harsh on the eyes," she says.

If having fresh flowers or plants at work isn't possible, silk flowers work since silk is part of nature, she added.

Olmstead said if you only have time to do one thing to get started with Feng Shui, begin by clearing clutter. "Clutter blocks the flow of Chi," Olmstead said. "Chi is energy. Anything that holds back the flow of Chi is a negative in your environment. Clutter represents delayed decisions and the inability to move forward."

When removing clutter, think of the 3 Rs - remove, repair or replace. Also, if you don't like it, love it or need it, why hold onto it, she asks her clients.

Olmstead agrees that the goal of Feng Shui is to create a balanced, harmonious environment indoors that makes you feel like you're connected to nature, and she shares Feng Shui basics on her website Feng Shui For Real Life.

"Think of how we feel when we're outdoors with the breeze blowing, sitting near a body of water and feeling the warmth of the sun," she said. "We're trying to create these same feelings when we're indoors."

Olmstead, who offers tips sheets on her website on ways to start practicing Feng Shui at home and at work, says knowing which Feng Shui Element they are can help nurses create a more relaxed environment for themselves.

Posted in: Career & Office | Tags: No Tags

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

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