Over the New Year’s weekend, I went on a few dates with a new guy. A mutual friend had set us up and, for the first week of the year, we had a great time: good food, good evenings, good conversations. One Friday night he was sitting in my living room (well, living “area”—I live in a 500-square-foot studio casita) and I told him about my latest writing assignment.
“I have a feng shui consultant coming to the house on Monday,” I said excitedly—albeit with a sense of cynicism. “She’s going to tell me how to improve my love life.”
Simultaneously, we both looked accusingly at the piece of artwork that hangs above my bureau in the most prominent spot in the house.
It’s a beautiful print—lonely, desolate and enthralling (to me, at least). It’s a drawing of an abandoned farmhouse, in a place I imagine to be Kansas, rendered in bled-dry shades of tan and yellow, surrounded by anemic grass and bare trees.
Terribly depressing. I love it.
“She’s not gonna like this,” I said with a laugh, and rose from the couch to adjust it, as it was hanging slightly crooked.
As I was gingerly moving it, its hanging wire snapped and it fell off the wall, into my hands.
When I later related this story to Carol M Olmstead, founder of Feng Shui for Real Life, she smiled warily as she eyed the painting (which I had re-hung and which, indeed, she did not like). “Nothing happens by accident,” she said knowingly.
Olmstead is a certified practitioner of the ancient Chinese art of feng shui—which literally means “wind” and “water” but, more to the point, describes the way in which chi (energy) flows through a room or a house to bring good things into the lives of the inhabitants. Feng shui encompasses everything from the colors of the walls to the positioning of the furniture to one’s choice of bedsheets.
Each house is divided into a grid, the bagua, with nine general sections that correspond to various areas of life, such as family, wealth, career and creativity. Each section has a corresponding element (wood, fire, water, metal), color and shape. The love corner of every house is in its far right corner when one stands facing in the front door.
“Is part of your house…missing?” Olmstead asks as she curiously inspects the wall between my kitchen and bathroom.
“Yes,” I reply. There’s a corner cut out of my bathroom where the main house butts into my casita. “That’s the big house’s guest room.”
“Well,” Olmstead says matter-of-factly, “that’s your love and relationships corner. And what you do have of that corner is taken up by the toilet.”
Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.
While some tenets of feng shui seem arbitrary, a lot of it is literal. The toilet in my relationship corner signifies that I’m flushing love down the drain. Keeping shoes by the front door tells the universe that you’re ready to bolt at any second.
Having pictures of your family, kids or pets in your bedroom means they’re “watching” you in bed. So, many of the things Olmstead told me to do were common sense, once I thought about it.
Since my love and relationships corner, well, doesn’t exist, Olmstead recommended I hang a large mirror on that wall to present the illusion that the space continues. She suggested I replace the drab, dog-hair-covered quilts on my bed with more luxurious sheets to make the bed more inviting. In reference to three ceramic fruits I had on the windowsill next to my bed, she said I’d be better off with two—in the bedroom, you’re always better off with two.
Not only does following feng shui communicate with the cosmos, but it seems to psychologically free the home’s inhabitant. If your drawers and cabinets are stuffed so full you can barely close them, you should empty them to tell the universe you’re ready to accept new things into your life—but when it comes down to it, it just feels good to get rid of stuff.
Surround yourself with positive images and you’re likely to have a sunnier outlook. Whether single or attached, you shouldn’t sleep on a bed you used in a past relationship, not only because feng shui says so, but because that’s just a recipe for being reminded of emotional baggage.
I made a few small changes: I moved the ceramic fruit, I put a small mirror on the bathroom wall and got rid of a whole lot of clutter that was taking up space. There were a few things I wouldn’t do, however, and getting rid of my desolate farmhouse picture was one of them.
Time went by, and suddenly it was a week since I’d heard from my New Year’s date. Being a proactive modern woman and all, I called him one Friday afternoon and asked what was up.
“Yeah,” he said uncomfortably, “I’m really busy lately. This new job and all. I don’t know, I don’t think I have time to be dating anyone…”
“It’s cool,” I interrupted. “Call me if your schedule frees up.”
I hung up the phone and looked at the picture of the farmhouse. Maybe I can part with it after all.
Quick Fixes in the Love Department:
• Place objects in pairs in your bedroom (two candles, two hearts, a vase with two equal-size flowers) to enhance your romance or marriage.
• Paint your walls a skin-tone color; avoid painting your bedroom lavender unless you never want to have sex again—lavender is the color of chastity.
• If you have a ceiling fan directly above your bed, it could be "cooling down" your relationship; if you can't relocate the bed, hang a crystal from the fan or its pull chain.
• Keep the area under your bed clear so the chi can flow around you and your lover in bed; if you must store objects under your bed, limit them to soft objects and avoid metal ones.
• If you want to attract a romantic partner into your home, make room in the pantry and refrigerator for his or her favorite foods.
—From "27 Ways to Rev Up Your Love Life" by Carol M Olmstead