I know a lot of people in their 20s complain about small apartments, but my living space gives “minuscule” new meaning. It’s technically a one-bedroom (but really, more of a studio) in Manhattan’s West Village, where renting a shoebox for one week costs more than the combined total of everything in your savings account. So, the apartment is small, but the location is great and I don’t want to move further away in search of greener (and cheaper) pastures.
In saying that, the space I share with my boyfriend (yes, we squeeze two people in there) is a little sad. Neither of us like spending much time there—there’s no natural light, it’s way too small for our stuff, and the space, in general, just has an off-putting vibe.
Right now, we’re deciding whether to resign our lease in the first week of June or give up this slice of real estate for something bigger, in a cheaper neighborhood. And, despite all its flaws, I really don’t feel ready to leave yet, I so called in feng shui expert Dana Claudat for some tips on making my teeny apartment a place I actually want to spend time in. I followed most of them, and it’s made a noticeable difference. My apartment isn’t any bigger, but it definitely feels more like a space I’d be happy to call home—well, at least for another 12-month lease.
Claudat’s first tip is to use gold or glittery homewares throughout a main room, like the living room. “The idea is that a big dose of high wattage sparkle will amp up the good vibes in a room and bring things to life,” she explained, suggesting I add glittery picture frames to my walls or hang some gold-framed mirrors to make a small space also feel bigger. “This is great for a small living room of neutral-colored furniture, a room that feels dark, or a bathroom that’s uninspired. Adding a golden or glittering accent is great to amp up the prosperity vibes, too.”
I’m not personally huge on sparkle and glitter, but I do love the copper and gold homewares trend. Instead of a large mirror (expensive!), I picked a couple of small pieces, like shiny copper mugs to hold my pens on my desk, and to store my makeup brushes in my bedroom.
Live plants are really important in feng shui, but because I absolutely do not have space for a garden (unless you count the herbs on my fire escape?), Claudat suggested decorating the walls with hanging plants.
“Watching things grow and caring for them as they grow is the most awesomely simple way to tap into your own life expansion,” she says. “Growing plants is a great way to grow your life, and loads of plants keep your air cleaner and full of oxygen as they grow.” I found this tutorial online that I’m keen to follow/beg my boyfriend to follow on my behalf this weekend.
I love this tip, but sadly didn’t get the go-ahead from my landlord. “If you’re adventurous, paint your ceiling a high-gloss white. It is luminous and it will make a small space infinitely bigger,” says Claudat.
Ugh, I’m so guilty of keeping my phone charging my phone next to my bed or watching the occasional Netflix show on my laptop in bed when I’m on alone—something Claudat says is a big no.
“Your bedroom can become a next-level peaceful sanctuary. Try really hard to keep the TV, computers, iPads, and phones out—or at least unplug them and power it all down when you sleep,” she told me.
Apparently the “electronic static in the air” can deeply interfere with your sleep, your love life, and your feeling of overall wellbeing. “Keep things clear and calm in your bedroom, and you’ll feel it echo in your life every day,” she adds.
Claudat also had a specific (and simple) feng shui tip that’s supposed to help with the financial area of your life—which, obviously, is always welcome. “Embrace the seemingly never-ending succulent trend and get a collection of succulents growing in your home,” says Claudat, explaining that the left corner of a room from its entranceway is the best place to keep the plants.
“If you want to be more classic in your money plant selection, go for a jade plant that’s a more traditional symbol of wealth,” she added. I have a terrible history with keeping plants alive, so I started with just one small succulent on my coffee table. Two weeks in, and it’s not dead yet!
“One of the best habits to keep the energy flowing in small spaces is to keep the air clear of the stuck feelings that can build up,” Claudat told me. She asked me to make a weekly ritual out of “clearing the air” by opening the windows, playing super-positive music, dusting, and cleaning obvious mess away.
Then, I was told to “clap in the corners of the room, imagining any bad vibes being chased away.” Next, she suggested I burn aromatherapy candles or hand-rolled Tibetan incense. Obviously, I felt ridiculous doing this, but it was nice to at least have a tidy apartment—and the fresh air/good music/candle combination made my space feel more positive and livable.
“Curate your walls so that the art and photos you put up make you feel the emotions that you want to feel in each room,” Claudat recommended, telling me to scour Etsy, vintage shops, and flea markets for something affordable that also makes me “feel great.”
I eventually settled on two pictures from Australian photographer, Aquabumps. They shoot beautiful beachside snaps in Bondi Beach, which is where I used to live before New York, and the photos bring back really happy, homely, relaxing memories of a very chill life that I used to lead by the beach.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2016.