My ex and I separated more than 10 years ago, and while the initial purge of his stuff and our stuff and my stuff-that-reminded-me-of-him-in-a-bad-way happened years ago, I am still Marie Kondo-ing my two-bedroom co-op of my marriage. In fact, this week I posted on CraigsList a vintage Heywood-Wakefield dresser that we bought for our then-newborn daughter, but I am opting to sell in the spirit of minimism and cleansing.
If you are transitioning out of a serious relationship, you understand what I am talking about. The stuff in your house is not just stuff. It holds meaning, often deep and complicated and emotion-evoking. If an ex has moved out of your house, or you have changed homes after a breakup, it is time to feng shui.
Want to learn more about how to use feng shui in your life? Check out these online feng shui courses on Udemy.
Feng shui and divorce
In other words, if you always totally fucking hated that Picasso rip-off painting in the dining room, and fought bitterly with your ex about it because his manipulative mother gave it to you as a wedding gift, now that he has left it is time to take that motherfucker (the painting, not him) to the curb and call it a day.
In my case, clutter in any form is a trigger for me, and home stuff related to my marriage especially so. First, my husband had a shopping problem and a spending problem and a hoarding problem and a messy-as-the-day-is-long problem. Some of those problems were painfully familiar to me from my childhood, during which my mom would do things like buy expensive clothes and antiques while we were on Medicaid. The amount of money being made had little to do with the amount of money being spent in both my marriage and my childhood, and that left me feeling vulnerable (in a bad, scared-of-being-homeless way, not a Brene Brown-personal-growth sort of way). The net result was that I felt out of control of our finances, and by proxy, my life. My quality of life overall suffered through my constant battle against a steady inflow of stuff that cluttered our home.
Now the apartment is all mine. And after this cleansing, I have more space than I know what to do with. I also have a grip on how much I have, how much I need to buy, a sense of what I want to buy — and how much of that I can afford. Today, my home is a source of comfort.
I am a spiritual person. I don’t answer a religion per se (I like to say that I have no problem with any religion – just the ones that suck), but I spend a lot of time thinking about a higher being. I also believe that things have power. Whether photographs and travel momentous physically contain energy, I don’t know. But there is power attached to the ideas that things represent. And when things represent bad times or people who make you unhappy, it is time to get them out of your house. Open up space for good things.
My experience with a feng shui consultant
A few years ago I hired a feng shui consultant: Laura Cerrano, of Feng Shui Manhattan, helped me focus on my goals (a serious relationship, more money, career success, less conflict with my kids), identify some frustrations (work deals that don't gel, stresses with certain family members who shall remain you-know-who-you-are), and take a fresh look at my living space. Laura scooted around some furniture to “open the flow.” Helped me work through some paint chips I'm considering.
Then shit got serious.
What is feng shui?
If you don't know anything about feng shui, here are the basics:
Feng shui or fengshui, is a Chinese practice that recognizes energy forces attached to objects and places. The goal of feng shui is to harmonize a person with their surrounding environment. This can happen through the design of a home, placement of furniture and other objects in an environment, and arrange and purge possessions based on your own individual relationship to them.
Things hold energy. Your living space is full of energy. Some of it is evident — When you walked into my apartment, you had to navigate a cluster of heavy furniture and a scary swarm of flipflops, sneakers and pumps. That clumsy navigation is energy spent negatively — even if you didn't realize it. A pile of unpaid bills on your counter stir up stress every time you pass by. Dirty windows are an eyesore that weigh you down.
But things also hold a lot of energy specific to their histories. Even if you don't believe that the antique teak armoire in my bedroom brings with it the mojo of past owners (I'm not sure I buy that), I find it very easy to sign onto the notion that the sweet memories I attach to the Monte glider in which I rocked and nursed my kids are evoked when I sit in it today.
Laura urged me to get rid of things that represent old relationships and bad memories. “If you want to attract a new romantic relationship, you have get rid of objects that make you think of past loves,” she says. Right on. But in the case of a marriage — one that generated two kids — where do you draw the line?
5 divorce-specific issues in feng shui
1. Everything I own is from my marriage and I can't afford to replace it all
When I split from my ex, 90 percent of the furniture and about 60 percent of the artwork was from my relationship. Seriously, Laura, I can't afford to replace everything I own. (Unless we super-charge the ‘wealth' center of my apartment. Stat.)
2. I like my stuff!
I've got a nice pad. I'm rather smitten with the cluster of paintings I arranged next to my bed when my ex moved out. But you don't have to be an expert in detecting bad chi when it comes to a lovely water color from Santorini, Greece — purchased on the trip where we got engaged. Not to mention my favorite apple–green Le Cruiset dutch oven that he gave me for my 30th birthday and the Czech cut crystal stemware that were a moving-in-together gift from dear friends.
3. Some of the stuff from my marriage is valuable
Apparently, what you see when you walk into a home is critical. At my place, guests were met with a giant vintage German poster pimping tobacco, featuring a sinister man with Arian features, save for his white robe, head scarf and Arab-tan skin. Not only did Emmanuel and I find it funny and quirky, its acquisition had a great back story — and we didn't mind shelling out some serious cash for it.
Long story short: I'm totally over that poster. But the burden of finding it a new home is a stress.
4. Lots of stuff is attached to good memories
Just because I'm ready to move on from past heartaches doesn't mean I need to move on from great love. Does it? The folk painting bought on a favela tour in Rio on our honeymoon? What about the water buffalo carving from a riverboat trip in Laos? If I ditch everything I own as it relates to my ex, doesn't this denigrate that relationship? Suggest that the whole thing was a failure? I don't believe that. He's just not my husband any more.
5. These are not just my memories — they are my kids' history
All these objects I've been instructed to remove are touchstones for stories. Stories I am reminded of, or asked for by Helena and Lucas. They deserve to hear about where their parents met, or married, or funny travel adventures that led, ultimately, to their existences. Should I cleanse the house entirely of their dad, don't I also erase their past?
Feng shui rules: What you should know
Feng shui map
One of the basics of feng shui is the bagua map, seen below. You can apply this map of nine squares over your entire home, or over a single room. Each square represents an important part of your life, and the way that furniture and belongings are arranged in each space, how energy flows throughout that space, and how you feel about the the things in those impacts the corresponding area of your life.
For example, if the relationship/marriage corner of your bedroom is full of unfolded clothes, a jewelry box full of gifts from your ex, and general disarray, consider why it is like that. Also, ask yourself: How is your romantic life? Are you satisfied in that part of your being?
See where this is going?
Feng shui and mirrors
In feng shui, mirrors are considered powerful sources of energy for areas of your home that may naturally lack good flow, or areas of your life that you wish to enhance. For example, if you are seeking more financial wealth, consider hanging a gold-rimmed round mirror in the wealth/corner of your office or home.
There are specifically designed “bagua mirrors” that are considered too powerful for indoor use, and have specific uses and placements. However, you can use any flat mirror in a way that will enhance your home or office.
A few things to keep in mind for using mirrors to enhance the energy in your home:
- Do not place a mirror directly opposite a door.
- No mirrors directly across from or above the bed (sorry!).
- No mirrors directly across from a desk.
- Be mindful of what the mirror reflects. For example, a mirror directly across from a toilet is bad mojo, as well as a reflection of something unpleasant from outdoors, such as an electrical wire, or disliked neighbor.
Feng shui and plants
Common sense dominates feng sui rules when it comes to plants: Plants are great, bring life and fresh air into your home or work space.
Dead, dying and spiky cacti are bad feng shui, as is an over-crowding of plants.
Use plants in areas that you want to invigorate, cleanse, repair. Also, use plants where they thrive and make you happy!
How to feng shui your life
Deep practitioners of feng shui will go deep into the different corners of each room of their home, identify the meaning of every object, and introduce healing and power symbols in strategic locations. Here are some basics for each room of your house.
How to feng shui your bedroom
I once admired the Rolex of a man I’d been dating. He said he’s been wearing it every day for 25 years, ever since he bought it with the money from cashing in the engagement ring that he’d given a great love — and was later returned.
“I wonder if subconsciously you hang on to that heartbreak by wearing that watch every day,” I said. “Maybe if you swap that one out for a new watch, you will finally find the wife you’ve been looking for.”
“That’s heavy,” he said, and smiled. “Maybe.”
About a year after my husband and I separated, I realized it was time to buy a new mattress. Sure, there was the perpetual sag that left me with achy muscles each morning, no matter how many times I flipped that sucker. But more than that, a bed is a bed. A marital bed is a marital bed. Where all kinds of things happen between a couple. Tender talk. Dreams shared. Bitter arguments that were indeed not solved before going to sleep. Adult things. Mundane things, like folding laundry and sharing aloud from magazines under bedside lamps. The dull ache of missing the other person’s breathing when he is away on business. Hours and hours of energy spent as a married couple on that mattress.
Swapping out that Serta and its ex-shaped sweat stain was more than just indulging in a sweet plush pillow top that promised a good night’s sleep. That purchase was about accepting that my marriage was over. That chapter of my life was done. I needed to pack away all those sweet and nasty memories and move forward. Put that part of my life to bed, as it were.
So I did. Even though money was not abundant at that time, I filed this expense under “health” as I believe quality sleep is critical one’s well-being, especially as the mother of two very young children who was not getting a whole lot of sleep. I also wasn’t getting a whole lot of sex.
I didn’t stop at the mattress. One of the countless things my ex-husband and I fought about was bedding. I prefer crisp white linens, while he hated anything without color. While we both loved the taupe raw silk coverlet from ABC Carpet and Home, I traded in all my bridal bedding for all-white everything. Virginal white.
And then something happened: Sure, I slept like a log. But something else.
I got a boyfriend.
And I started to have sex.
All the time.
And while that relationship ended after a year, I have had the most wonderful time dating since my divorce. Sometimes on my new bed.
Recently my enthusiasm for post-divorce exploratory dating has been on the wane. I looked around my bedroom to see what else might be clutching tight to negative vibes. Old vibes. And I see that everywhere I look is old paint. Paint from when my husband lived in this bedroom with me. There are nail holes we pounded together to hang a beloved Indian bridal tapestry. Water stains from a storm that canceled a weekend trip to Philadelphia. Scrapes and mars that happen with life. A life together.
And so I made an appointment with a painter. To freshen the place up a bit. But also to freshen up the energy. Pack away some old and welcome the new. My bedroom doubles as a home office, and I hope the paint will also bring in some new business and more money. Money I may invest in a new watch for a certain someone.
Feng shui of bed placement
Based on the basics of feng shui, it is easy to understand that the placement of where you spend eight or more hours per day is important.
When it comes to bed placement, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure the energy flow in your bedroom and life are optimized:
- Make sure the mattress is firm and supportive
- Solid headboard, with no wiggly joints
- No storage underneath!
- No mirrors directly facing / reflecting the bed. In fact, hard-core feng shui practitioners say no mirrors in the bedroom at all.
- No fans, light fixtures or chimes above the bed
- Make sure you can see the door when laying / sitting in bed
- But the bed should not be directly in front of or facing the door
- Do not place your bed against a window, or perforated room divider. Make sure the bed is positioned against a solid wall
- Tables, lamps and other items should be balanced on either side of your bed.
- There should be sufficient flow of space around the bed on both sides.
- Minimize any electronics in the room, and consider removing the TV, stereo, and office equipment. Move computers, tablets and phones out of the room at bedtime.
Clean out your jewelry box
People often hoard old jewelry because it is valuable, often loaded with sentimental value, and they argue that it doesn't take up much space. These are all reasons you should cleanse your life by selling unwanted jewelry that you don't wear any more.
If you have jewelry you no longer wear, contents of your jewelry box can be transformed into something that brings you joy, wealth, and/or health.
Sell your engagement ring after divorce
Feng shui applied to jewelry is especially potent when it comes to those who are recently divorced or breaking up with a romantic partner. After all, how many bad feelings do you have attached to that diamond engagement ring? What about other gold, diamond or gemstone jewelry?
By cleansing your jewelry box, and selling engagement ring through reputable resources like the auction site Worthy.com (which has an A+ Better Business Bureau Rating), you can quickly turn that diamond, gemstone, gold jewelry or timepiece clutter into cold-hard cash — which you can then use to improve your whole life.
I often get the question “Where should I sell my wedding ring?” Keep reading below and discover what these ladies decided to do and how happy they were with the end results!
Examples of how women have turned jewelry-box clutter into wellness:
- Bonded with kids on a cruise paid for with money from selling ring from a broken engagement.
- Used money from selling earnings from an ex-boyfriend to earn a yoga instructor certificate — and start a new career!
- Profits from selling engagement ring after a divorce used for a hiking retreat in Italy.
- Jewelry inherited from an aunt with whom the new owner had a long and painful relationship, was auctioned on Worthy.com, and the money was used to landscape her yard — which honored the aunt’s love of gardening, gave the niece joy, and improved her home’s value.
Get rid of clutter and things that hold bad memories
Many relationships involve precious jewelry — investments that represented care, love, tradition and a shared vision for the future.
When the relationship ends, those antique, estate, or just used rings, watches, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets can linger in velvet-lined jewelry boxes for years — or even the remainder of the new owner’s life!
Here’s the thing: Even if you have diamond jewelry that's is worth tens of thousands of dollars, it
Why? You’re not enjoying it.
Those diamond rings, necklaces, earrings, and broaches represent something negative (even if there are fond memories attached).
Where to sell unused jewelry
There are many options for selling your estate, engagement, bridal and other fine jewelry that you no long want or wear. A few stand out as quality options, but by far the most impressive is Worthy, which is actually an online auction platform where hundreds of vetted buyers bid on your item, driving it up to market rate.
Worthy stands out among other online diamond buyers:
- Each piece of jewelry that goes to Worthy's marketplace is set to either GIA or IGI, the two most respected, independent jewelry laboratories in the world, where a certified report is made available for free to you to keep, as well as potential buyers. Other jewelry buyers simply give you an appraisal based on a single estimate from their in-house jeweler.
- Get a free estimate on your jewelry at Worthy now, within a minute.
- You are in control of the sales process, including minimum price.
- Your item will be shipped overnight by a secure FedEx mailer, and you can track your item every step of the way.
- Your jewelry is insured for $100,000 during this process.
- You can be paid cash within a few days of the auction close by Paypal, bank transfer or check.
Check out my personal Worthy review here.
Recent Worthy auctions:
1.00 CT Round Cut 3 Stone Ring Sold at Auction for $4,691
GIA 1.04 CT Round Cut Solitaire Ring Sold at Auction for $3,870
Do you have a smaller ring, that you expect will sell for $1,500 or less? What about gold or silver jewelry? Cash for Diamonds USA is also a reputable company that will buy your gold and diamond jewelry for market rate, easily.
Feng shui your living room
Your living space is where you relax, and connect with family and loved ones. A properly feng-shui'd space serves its primary function. Here is how to maximize your living or family room:
- Clear your room of clutter. Every thing that is in your living room should be something that serves a purpose: It is used, played with, is beautiful or useful.
- Does everyone feel safe and comfortable in the room? Lots of precious antiques, or white surfaces that must be kept clean, result in anxiety and stress for people spending time in your living room.
- Everything has its place. Instead of leaving shoes in a pile on the floor, buy an attractive shoe rack. Weed down your collection of books and games to family favorites and install an attractive shelving unit to store them.
- Keep air fresh and circulated, by opening windows and doors, caring for plants and using fans.
- Install plenty of light, especially where you need it most, like near reading areas. Keep windows clean and unobstructed.
Feng shui your office
Your office or studio — whether in a commercial space, a separate room in your home, or a corner of your bedroom — is central to your professional and financial success. A well-designed, decluttered office is central to your flow of creativity, productivity and overall career success.
- First, make sure you feel good about your work space. Do you like the art on the walls? Is your desk chair comfortable? Do your papers feel organized? Take steps to turn negative feelings about your office space into positive feelings.
- Make sure you can see the door from your seated desk position. Use a mirror to augment your line of site if this is not possible.
- A solid wall or even chair back behind you is important.
- Clutter. Clear the clutter!
- Prioritize maximum natural light, or plenty of lamps, and lots of fresh air in constant circulation!
Feng shui your kitchen
The kitchen is considered the heart of a home in most cultures. It is where you eat, prepare food, gather to nourish yourself and those you love.
Feng shui'ing your kitchen can be tricky, since there are so many important appliances that must be considered. But, don't get too bogged down in specifics about exactly where the sink, stove, refrigerator:
- Aim for soft colors, and natural tones, opposed to black, or stark black and white.
- Find ways to welcome natural, bright light into your kitchen.
- If the space above your stove is dark, place a mirror there.
- Keep it clean and tidy — including that Tupperware drawer (you know what I mean)
- Minimize clutter. Find places in pantries, cupboards and drawers. Give away or throw out any appliance or utensil you have not used in the past year. (More below on where to get rid of your unwanted stuff)
- Store your knives out of sight, like in a drawer. This adds to a calm vibe.
Feng shui your bathroom
Bathrooms tend to be small, full of potential leaks (which represent money leaks), bad odors and unpleasantness. To turn this energy landmine into a gold mine, keep these practices in play when it comes to feng shui-ing your WC:
- Keep your bathroom door closed at all times
- Always put the toilet lid down when not being used
- Make sure to fix leaky faucets
- Unclog slow-moving pipes
- Frequently open windows and otherwise make sure the air is fresh
- Hang plants above the toilet
- Keep your bathroom clean, as well as free from clutter. Make it an inviting space that will renew you!
Feng shui your front door
The front door of your home is one of the most important areas to practice feng shui, as the entrance is considered the portal to wealth. While the design of your home and entry way is likely already fixed (unless you are undergoing a remodel, or building a new home), there are some general guidelines that can enhance your relationship to abundance, especially money and health:
- The front door should open into the house.
- Ideally, the door opens into a wide, open, uncluttered space, full of light and fresh air.
- When choosing a door, pick a material and design that makes you feel protected.
- Give your door some love. Address maintenance issues like a paint job, squeaky hinges, or the need for new hardware. Trim the hedges and plant flowers near the door. Make sure it is easy to find.
- Avoid placing a mirror directly across from the front door, and instead place one on a side wall.
How to find a feng shui consultant
When I hired Laura to help me cleanse, I met her through a boyfriend I'd recently broken up with (who is also a writer, and also wrote about his experience with her services, insisting on mentioning how beautiful she is in his essay, which hurt to no end).
Feng shui consulting is a mostly local service, though some experts do work remotely, basing their advise on photos, floor plans, email and Skype communication. and to find a qualified practitioner who can help you make meaningful changes in your home — and life.
To find a feng shui expert:
Can't find a feng shui consultant near you? Check out these online feng shui courses on Udemy.
What to do with all the stuff you've decluttered?
While Marie Kondo is great at helping you get stuff out of your house, she doesn't help you figure out what to do with it!
In this section, I will help you find charities to give to. But consider selling some of your unused items and make some cash.
Where to donate household goods, furniture, blankets, bedding, and clothes
The reality is that there is way too much stuff in the world, and it is harder and harder to find a charity that wants your stuff — especially if it is not especially valuable.
However, never forget to collect a receipt for any donations, as a tax write-off can make more sense then trying to sell your items individually.
Goodwill and Salvation Army have locations throughout the United States. You can find a drop-off center by googling “goodwill donation center near me,” and “salvation army drop-off location near me.”
There are no doubt other charities like churches, shelters, and outreach services that collect gently used clothes. Charities often have donation bins, especially for clothing, and if you have a bounty of furniture to give, you can arrange for a Salvation Army donation pick up.
How to sell clothing
If you have high-quality, name-brand clothing that is only gently worn, you can likely make some cash by selling on sites like thredUP, Tradsey, Swap and Poshmark. Here is our review of thredUP, which services as an online consignment store.
What to do with electronics, old books, video games, DVDs, CDs, iPhones, and Xbox
If you have a heap of books you no longer need (no matter how smart they make you look sitting on that
I had some success using Decluttr to unload some old books, CDs and DVDs (am I dating myself?). The site has a very cool app that lets you scan the bar codes of media, as well as old smart phones, computers and Xboxes, then generates an estimate of the value of your old electronics and media, and then sends you a shipping label. After a few days your junk is processed and you receive a payment via Paypal. Golden!
How my post-divorce decluttering worked for me
Laura's advice was to move a bunch of not-yet given kids gifts out of my bedroom where I also purged old magazines and rarely worn clothes — methods to boost the love vibes, apparently. I bought yellow paint for the hallway — an invigorating choice for the “health center” of my home, and a potted tree for the “fame” corner of my office. The tobacco poster is now in a closet, along with the Greek painting, and many boxes of old toys, clothes and housewares that will be given to the Goodwill where they can go on to clutter someone else's chakras.
Laura told me with a casual confidence that I should see positive changes immediately, and all my goals accomplished within a year. In the week after her consult, I secured two new business partnerships, landed one new client and have had fewer fights with my kids. And on Saturday I went on a second date with a great guy — one who didn't roll his eyes when I told him I'm into feng shui.
Cases in point: A few years ago I purged my wedding gown (beautiful – but I just can’t see myself wearing it on a date anytime soon, and I wouldn’t encourage a loved one to re-wear a frock that represents a relationship that ended in divorce!); a folder stuffed full of handwritten lists and clippings from Martha Stewart Weddings that I’d saved from my nuptial planning SEVEN YEARS AGO; and a beloved quilted silk coverlet for my bed – again used during my marriage.
So what good came of all this decluttering? In general, I feel a sense of lightness and control as I look at my kitchen cupboards and know just what selection of grains and spices are at my disposal for dinner. When I needed a certain drill bit the other day, I knew exactly where to find it. In the past I would have clenched up at the thought of slogging through a giant drawer of hardware and left the window blinds uninstalled. There is a serenity that comes with knowing that I have more than enough, and yet am closer to the leaner, more purposeful life that I crave.
But there have been other, less tangible changes that I believe are rooted in that house-cleanse. On the work front, I launched this blog, which grew into the most important career and creative endeavor of my life. On the personal side, I closed some doors to my marriage that I didn’t realize needed addressing. And I found enthusiasm for dating, which lead me to the man I've been involved with for two years.
A feng shui cynic could argue that I was simply ready to make these life changes, and the cleaning just stemmed from those motives, and that could be entirely true. But let me tell you — there is something truly cathartic about handing over a still-soiled silk wedding gown to the less fortunate knowing that you never have to inadvertently catch a glimpse of it — and all that it represents — when digging through the linen closet for the Neosporin.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.