Here are some ways I’ve discovered to thrive in small spaces with a romantic partner.
New York is the land of broken dreams and shattered hearts. It's also a city full of success, hope, and major cash money.
I moved to NYC years ago, and though I am a relatively successful writer, I sometimes wonder when I will become the next David Sedaris/Chelsea Handler. I also started my own greeting card and gift business. And while my company's growth has surprised even me, I couldn't help but dream of eventual world domination. I was thinking about how I could make this happen a little more quickly when I was literally stopped in my tracks. By a book. A chance encounter with a book lying on the sidewalk entitled Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect, and Happiness. Had I found my answer? Could feng shui help?
You may have heard of feng shui, the Chinese practice of arranging homes and rooms according to "chi," or energy, to bring health, love, career success, money, and basically make your life totally badass overall. A "bagua," or map, is drawn over your space and divided into nine quadrants: Helpful People, Creativity and Communication, Love and Relationships, Fame, Prosperity and Abundance, Family Relationships, Knowledge and Spirituality, Health, and Career and Work. You then arrange your home in accordance with the areas. Things might need to be moved around, tossed out, or added. In theory, feng shui sounds amazing. In reality, I was skeptical — but why not try it? It couldn't hurt.
I read through the book anyway, eagerly looking for tips on how to get my shui flowing in the right direction. But most of it seemed arbitrary. Place a red candle here. Add a plant in this corner. Why was my love corner where my desk was? And my family area in my bedroom? That's just weird. I didn't mind making changes, but they had to make sense. And how was I going to do this overhaul in a small NYC apartment? I knew I needed to bring out the big guns: a feng shui consultant.
After searching on Yelp (seriously, how did people figure out anything before Yelp?) I finally narrowed it down to five possible feng shui consultants. I heard back from my top two at the exact same time! I had originally only anticipated choosing one person, but this felt like serendipity. Like the universe was trying to tell me something. And who was I to not listen to the almighty universe?
The first consultant was Ali Sherbach, owner of The Feng Shui Project. Upon speaking on the phone, I was immediately charmed by her upbeat personality. I felt like she could help me. Like Cher Horowitz makeover help me.
Ali came over and quickly assessed the terribleness of my apartment. OK, my words, not hers, as she was nothing but sweet. Ali pointed out things that while now are totally obvious, I was completely blind to. Her approach to feng shui was more LOA (law of attraction) than traditional feng shui. Which was a good thing, if you ask me. Her methods made far more sense than just putting a random crystal in a corner.
I normally work at my dining table since it's far more comfortable than my desk. Lucky for me, my dining table just so happens to be in my fame area. She explained that fame could be combined with my career area since they're so related. Ali suggested moving my print of Gwen Stefani as a saint to the wall above my table as well as my Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer candles and my inspirational cross-stitch quotes to create a space for all my inspirational ladies. I took it a step further by adding some of my favorite funny girl books, adding my photo of Gwen and me and a printout of a few of the lyrics from "Formation." Luckily, in the Helpful People area of my apartment, I just so happen to have a large painting given to me by a friend as a gift for scoring him an interview that ran in Italian Vogue. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but I often remark to my friends that people of all ages and sexes are oddly helpful and friendly toward me. Which has been the case long before I had the painting. Once, I tripped and fell, banging up my knee pretty badly, and everyone from little old ladies to the guy at the drugstore to a group of teenage girls rushed to my rescue to help me bandage my gushing knee. Another time, I was lost and wandering around aimlessly in the Swiss Alps when a couple of Australian girls appeared out of nowhere, offering me a ride back to civilization.
Ali pointed out that my TV wall was filled with pictures that aren't exactly encouraging. Though I absolutely love feminist British-Iranian artist Sarah Maple, looking at a woman in a burqa every day doesn't exactly make me feel peppy. Nor does looking at a family photo with the aunt who once told me I would go to hell because I wasn't Catholic.
I redid my wall with more positive images, including ones from my favorite musicians, photos I had taken, and a piece from a photographer I interviewed. I even framed some of my writing work. I have struggled at times with writing about sex, feeling on the one hand liberated and on the other hand like I should be hiding it. If I was really going to be successful, it reasoned I ought to embrace it. So I framed an article I wrote for Playboy and hung it on my wall. I also added some Indian Kama Sutra drawings I got from an old calendar and an art piece of Rati the Hindu goddess of love and sex. Not only was I embracing the sexual aspect of some of my writing, I was incorporating my Indian heritage as well.
Ali also advised me to get rid of the dead wood decorative sticks in my vase and replace them with fresh flowers that I would buy every week. I don't mind spending money on essentials, but I often have time spending money on things like flowers (even though I like them) because I'm simply too practical. I am even OK with "frivolous" things like manicures, because other people could see my nails. But flowers were simply for me. And that inability to treat myself for my own pleasure was part of my problem. Ali pointed out my utilitarian nature wasn't helping me in the money department. Or any department for that matter. By committing to buying myself flowers every week, I was not only telling the universe I was worth it, but I was inviting abundance in by not clenching so hard to every penny. I committed to buying flowers every week.
Laura Cerrano came over the following week. Laura was decidedly more traditional in her approach. She started off by pointing out that my trash cans were right next to my front door and in my Helpful People area. Not good. The garbage cans were literally eating up all the good chi. Which is somewhat ironic considering I always loved Oscar the Grouch growing up. Sadly, living in an NYC apartment makes moving them elsewhere next to impossible. The good news is the Helpful People area benefits from metallics and grays, so I decided to trash (ha, get it?) my plastic IKEA trash cans and replace them with bright, shiny, metallic silver trash cans.
She also suggested putting up a photo of a beach or sea scene. I decided to keep it simple and posted a photo I found on the internet of an idyllic Thai beach. Practioners of feng shui also like to use something called "ringing in the money cure," which involves tying three bells with red string to the front door. Lucky for me, Amazon had several of them (albeit with coins not bells), which I was able to get for not too much money.
As far as my bathroom (which was also in the Helpful People corner), she proposed painting it white, as there was too much fire energy in the bathroom. I love my moody red bathroom, so my heart sank a little. The last thing I wanted to do was paint it. So I decided to just buy a white faux-marble toothbrush holder instead.
Another idea Laura had was to turn my Apple TV screensaver into a vision board. My first thought was "Duh! Why didn't I think of that before?" I work from home and I stream music from my iPad onto my TV, so my screensaver is on all day. I switched off the animal screensaver I had and created my own, which consisted of my dream office, books by my favorite funny women, bookstores, card stores, and a pic of Beyoncé with a crown from the "Grown Woman" video because the crown, the trophy, the glass of whiskey, and the look of confidence on her face pretty much sums it up. I also took down the word "chic" I had on my wall and had carried around with me since college, and I put up the word "yes" in light-up letters. I swear it hypnotizes me with its positive vibes.
OK, so have I hit the jackpot? Not yet, but it's only a been month as I write this. And as both Laura and Ali pointed out, it can take months to see a change. However, I did see an increase in income this past month due to new clients, and I had a great showing at the National Stationery Show.
Regardless of whether or not I had immediate monetary gain, I couldn't be happier that I decided to make over my apartment. I just felt better. More upbeat, positive, and eager to work. Now everywhere I looked were signs of positivity, from my screensaver to my walls to my desk. I had always thought I was thoughtful about decorating my space. But feng shui prompted me to take a deeper look at everything I have around me. I had chosen old family photos to hang because I liked the retro look of them, but I never stopped to think how looking at photos of people who verbally abused me affected my energy and the energy of my home — same thing with gifts from exes, prints from bands known to be womanizers (I still love the music, but I didn't need that sort of energy), and a sign like "chic," which reminded me of the fashion industry I once worked in and no longer cared for. In the wise words of my guru Oprah, "What we dwell upon is who we become." And thanks to feng shui, I was now officially dwelling on positivity and success.