Blog

Focus some Feng Shui LOVE on your Home this Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

It’s February and it’s time for you to focus some LOVE on your . . . Home.  I’m not talking about de-cluttering or organizing. (Always a good idea, though.)   I’m talking about all those areas of your home that you’ve been ignoring or neglecting.  Valentine’s Day is coming and you can give the gift of time and attention to one of those hard-working, day-in and day-out supporter spaces in your home.  You know what I’m talking about:  the kitchen pantry; the mudroom; the landing on the way up or down stairs; the blank wall begging for artwork; the entry hall table; the formal living or dining room that never gets used.  We are wired to prioritize and when it comes to our homes, sometimes that’s not such a good idea.  In fact, making one space more (or less) important than another led to one of the worst ideas in home décor ever – plastic-coated furniture in the formal living room so it will stay nice for the guests (and spills won’t stain.)

Say Happy Valentine's Day to your home with these chocolates!

Even though most of us probably don’t do that, we do inadvertently place levels of importance on our spaces.  Sometimes we ignore them because they are behind closed doors (the pantry, any closet), or are pass-by places (the mudroom, the entry way table and the spot on the way up and down the stairs).  Sometimes we ignore a space because we think it will take too much work (hanging art on that blank wall).   And sometimes we neglect spaces because we’ve relegated them for special occasions (the formal living and dining rooms) and then we don’t plan any.

In Feng Shui there is no hierarchy of spaces.  They are all equally important in balancing, harmonizing, simplifying and beautifying our lives. Your home is your sanctuary, your personal paradise.  Every space is for your use and enjoyment. Your life is the special occasion worth celebrating in this space.  So this Valentine’s Day, focus on one of those ignored or neglected spaces in your home.  Clean out the pantry and enjoy cooking that’s easier and faster.  Organize the mudroom and find boots, gloves and hats in no time.  Hang a beautiful piece of artwork on that blank wall.  Throw a party in the formal living room. Champagne doesn’t stain!

In this month when we focus on love, buy some flowers (for the entry table) and candy (put it in a beautiful dish) for that very special place in your life:  your home.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

A warehouse decorated for a wedding inspires thoughts of Feng Shui.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

My nephew recently got married in a warehouse in Portland, Oregon.  Are you imagining cement floors, exposed brick walls and air ducts in the ceiling?  You would be exactly right – except now imagine sparkling crystal-like bead curtains separating the ceremony from the reception tables, white chairs facing a simple alter, a flower-strewn path, candlelight shimmering.  The place had been transformed.  The Left Bank Annex offers open warehouse space for conferences, dances, exhibitions, and weddings.   Just like our homes, this annex provided a blank space upon which the couple could express themselves.  Standing in this beautifully arranged space reminded me of the Feng Shui truism:  environment mirrors consciousness.  My nephew and his bride created a beautiful environment for us to anticipate, experience and then celebrate their wedding.   Isn’t this what we want in our homes and offices — a space that expresses who we are at this moment in our lives?

In the space, the couple hung from the ceiling opaque white gauze curtains to separate the bar from the ceremony area and transparent crystal-like bead curtains to separate the ceremony space from the reception tables and dance floor.  White chairs faced the front of the building through windows that framed the sunset.   Each chair had a beautiful printed schedule with the names of the family, the attendants, and the music being featured.  A small white table served as the alter and held a simple wooden wine box for the couple to enclose letters they’d written to each other along with a bottle of wine to be opened when they needed to be reminded what brought them together.  Battery-operated tea lights hung from wires along the back wall of the reception area.  The flowers, tablecloths and placards all matched the wedding colors – silver, spring green and white.  At the end of the evening, guests were given sparklers to send the couple off on their honeymoon.  As guests, we felt entirely taken care of – a schedule told us what to anticipate, placards told us where to sit; sparklers were passed out: every detail was handled.  It was a Feng Shui triumvirate:  we felt safe, comfortable and surrounded by beauty.

A blank space invites us to decorate.  Frankly, it can be harder to look at our own rooms filled with stuff – furniture, lamps, pillows, rugs, artwork and clutter– and imagine a blank canvas upon which to describe who we are. Just like weddings can rekindle thoughts of romance, an empty room gets me thinking about what to arrange in it!

I invite you to imagine starting fresh with your space – like a big, open warehouse.  What would you do differently?  What would you keep the same?  Would you paint the walls or hang wallpaper?  Would you consider separating the room with a curtain hung from the ceiling?  What artwork would stay, be sold or given away?  Would you change color schemes?  Go from traditional to modern?  Feng Shui reminds us to create our spaces to help us reach our goals.  The decoration of the warehouse for my nephew’s wedding was an apt reminder of how we, too, can start fresh — turn a space into exactly what we need and want.  Feng Shui gives us the tools and guidelines – and inspiration — to do it.

Now where can I hang a beautiful beaded curtain?

(For photos of the Left Bank Annex – before and after – go to:  http://www.facebook.com/thrivingspaces)

Feng Shui balance: work, rest and play!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

My business tag line is Work, Rest Play with Feng Shui – and it’s meant as a reminder that our spaces can help us achieve a Feng Shui balance so that our lives can express it, too.  Here in the U.S. we’re not so good at balance.   We are the “workaholic” culture; we now work more hours than any other country on the planet. I contend we now play harder than anyone else with our penchant for extreme sports, X-Games and the competitive nature of children’s athletics. What I don’t think we do very well is rest.  I’m not talking about sleep – which we also don’t get enough of according to many studies– but rest, the conscious act of being still, the replenishment of total relaxation. Resting is the yin energy, to action’s yang energy.  You’ve probably heard the saying:  we’re human beings, not human doings!

Don’t have time to rest, you say? It has become a badge of honor to be busy, much to the negative impact on our nervous systems. Even the giraffe gets to rest if she outruns the leopard. Unfortunately for us, we never seem to outrun that leopard and the cortisol that pumps through our nervous systems as we race through our days is doing damage when it doesn’t get turned off.  Rest is important enough for our health and well being to put in the schedule.  I was reminded of this in my restorative yoga class recently. Of course, I had other things I was supposed to be doing – but I’d committed to going and there are only a certain number of spots in the class and it was in the schedule, for goodness sake! (I practice what I preach and schedule rest.)

Yoga pose © Mitarart | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

In restorative yoga, the teacher instructs you to arrange your body in a gentle stretching position supported by props – bolsters, blankets, blocks and my personal favorite – the eye pillow. You allow yourself to be totally supported by the floor beneath you and all the props around you holding and/or apply pressure. Your job as the student is to relax, to melt, as my teacher tells us, into your mat for up to fifteen minutes.   In Feng Shui, we often talk about environments supporting us – creating spaces that harmonize and serve our goals. We do this by moving furniture, arranging things, de-cluttering and enhancing with accessories. I realized that I was doing all those things in my restorative yoga class,  allowing the floor beneath me, my mat and my props to totally support me. I was, in fact, de-cluttering my mind and body while allowing the gentle flow of ch’i – my breath mingling with that of my classmates – to restore me.

What is rest to you? If you can identify what relaxes you and make time to restore yourself, you’re practicing Feng Shui at the most fundamental level – letting your environment support you so that you can do and be all that wish for.

Energize your cubicle workplace with Feng Shui!

Friday, July 20th, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the Veteran’s Administration for their employee Diversity Day 2012 “Perceptions, Stereotypes and Conversations Leading to Understanding”.  Topics were wide-ranging and fascinating from What Our Names Say About Us to a display on how to raise Koi (with live fish)!  For those employees who stopped by my table on Feng Shui, I learned that many were interested in how to energize their cubicles. Office cubicles offer both opportunities for ease in working and problems to solve for the Feng Shui practitioner. 

What’s great about working in an office cubicle?   Office cubicles have been designed and arranged to maximize storage and optimize workspace. Most cubicles are built with plenty of storage space above and below the desk so you have clear space to work without having to store your files on your desk.  Another great option in cubicles is open, useable wall space either with a built-in bulletin board making it easy to place artwork that supports and enhances your workstation or a white board for making notes and keeping organized. Plenty of storage and a built-in art or planning wall are two good Feng Shui reasons to enjoy working in a cubicle.

What about the challenges of cubicle office space?  Most challenges revolve around feeling uncomfortable and dealing with noise.  We are at our best in terms of creativity and productivity when we are spatially comfortable and confident.  This can be achieved when we are seated in, what’s called in Feng Shui, the power or command position.  This is the place where, when seated behind your desk, you can see the door.  It’s also preferable to have a wall behind you or next to you for support.  In most cubicles you are facing one of the walls with your back to the open doorway when seated – exactly the opposite of the power/command position!  And, because it’s all built-in you can’t change the location of the desk.   What do you do?  With Feng Shui there usually is a way to “fix” an arrangement problem.   The fix is to place a mirror on the wall where when you look up from your work with a quick glance you can see if someone is coming into your space from behind you.  This easy fix can immediate give you the confidence of having control over your space – and you will be able to work more productively.    In addition to using sound cancelling headphones or placing a sound machine or water fountain on your desk (if allowed), mirrors can also be helpful to mitigate noise.  A mirror placed facing away from you toward the wall where the noise is coming from is a way to intentionally “reflect” back the noise away from you without negativity or judgment.   Obviously it’s also important to speak to your co-workers about keeping the noise down!

It’s always rewarding and fun to share Feng Shui and I particularly enjoyed meeting the open-minded, enthusiastic employees working at our local Veteran’s Administration during their “Diversity Day” many who said they’d be putting these Feng Shui recommendations into practice!

Practice Feng Shui: Listen to Your Clutter Meter

Friday, May 18th, 2012

A client I visited recently was sighing unhappily at the cluttered state of her bookshelf when she turned to me and said, “I would love to come and see what your house looks like.” She said this after I had shared one of my favorite Feng Shui mantras: Clutter is stuck energy.  She thought because I am a Feng Shui Practitioner that my house would be a perfect model of organization, elemental balance and harmony, and that I kept it clutter-free. I confessed this wasn’t exactly so.

My home has clutter.  I have shelves that need to be cleaned out.  I have a kitchen desk that attracts the mail and a variety of other paper.  I don’t always put the toothpaste back in the drawer. I consider my home to be a work in progress, just like me, and most of the time I’m happy with how it’s running, though I’m aware there is ongoing room for improvement.

I have a certain level of tolerance for a certain amount of clutter — where the needle tends to hover on my internal “clutter meter.” I believe we all have one — and that it lets us know when too much clutter is interfering with our daily lives and keeping us stuck. Personally, I need a bit of clutter around to energize me, to remind me of the things I need to do, to stop me in my tracks and make me look around.  Plus, sometimes I just don’t have time to put things away at a particular moment. So I give myself some leeway. As an example, when new magazines arrive in the mail, I put them on the coffee table for a while, then move them to my bedside table and then to the bookshelf in the bathroom.  I know this violates an organizational guideline I try to follow most of the time, “touch paper one time,” but this method suits my purposes and keeps me happy. Chances are my method is different from yours, but it works for me because I love to read magazines, but not all in one sitting and not only in one place.  (It is certainly different from my husband’s, who would prefer that magazines live out their lives only on the coffee table. The needle on his meter tends to stay at 0.) But I put a limit on the time I let magazines travel around my home. When they’ve been in the house for a month (and new ones have arrived), I go through them one last time to rip out the recipes or page of gardening advice that caught my eye, and I recycle the rest.

Clutter becomes an issue when it’s the only thing you see.  When you walk into your home and are awash in clutter, all that stuck energy weighs you down. And things get lost in clutter — invitations, socks, an overdue library book. Consequently, opportunities also get lost: You might have met someone new and interesting at the event you missed; your feet got cold; you spent money paying library fines instead of on something more fun or useful. Clutter acts like a dam that stops the life force energy Ch’i from flowing freely through your home and through your life.

A de-cluttered space!

Decluttering your home is one of the easiest Feng Shui practices I know of to break the dam of stuck energy.  It can be done without spending any money, unless you need to buy some storage bins.  It can be done in any amount of time (5 minutes is all you need to de-clutter a coffee table!) and over time. To keep the clutter meter needle close to my tolerance level I schedule a de-cluttering date every week. I have found that things tend to slide a bit as the week progresses, so by Thursday my clutter meter registers that it’s time to clear the spaces. This schedule works well for me as it is the end of my work week and I want to free my weekend for fun.  De-cluttering gives me some breathing room to then rearrange things, to look at a room with new eyes, to feel the flow of renewed energy.

So here’s another favorite mantra of mine:  Feng Shui is a practice, which means it’s ongoing, and you get better at it every time you do it.  So pick a space that feels dammed up and enjoy some de-cluttering time. You’re becoming a Feng Shui practitioner!