Last week a feng shui consultant spent three hours at my home. 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.
If you don't know anything about feng shui, here are the basics: 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? I found five divorce-specific issues in feng shui-ing my place:
1. Everything I own is from my marriage and I can't afford to replace it all. 90 percent of the furniture and about 60 percent of the artwork. 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 my ex proposed. 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 it 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 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 denegrate 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?
And so I have been following lots of Laura's advice: moved a bunch of not-yet given kids giftes 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. So far? In the week since her consult, I've 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.
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.