The holidays are nearly over and it's time to put away all those shiny baubles. But if the thought of un-decked halls gets you down, it's time to rethink the de-decorating process.
Taking down the tinsel can mean de-cluttering and freshening for the New Year if you incorporate some principles of feng shui (pronounced fung shway), the ancient Chinese art of creating a good energy flow, or chi, in the home.
Feng shui practitioners promise to enhance health, harmony and financial gain.
Or, for the skeptics, it just looks nice.
Rick Brightly's bedroom was stuffed with college dorm furniture and his love life was stalled when he got a makeover from HGTV's "Fun Shui." He traded his decor in South Brunswick, N.J., for a more sophisticated, minimal and uncluttered feel.
Brightly says since then even his love life has picked up — although he doesn't attribute it to any hocus pocus.
"If you're excited about the place where you spend a lot of time, you portray yourself differently, and people react differently to you when you're out in the world," Brightly says.
The basic principles of feng shui include placing strategic representations of five natural elements around your room — earth, water, fire, metal and wood. Modern feng shui divides your room or home into a grid of nine equal areas, called a bagua map. Each area corresponds to certain values in your life, such as love, career and spirituality.
Don't know your chi from your chai? There are still a few principles that anyone can apply:
Begin the clearing out process as you take down your tree. Are there ornaments still in the boxes that you haven't put out in years? Are you holding on to a family decoration that you don't really care for?
Give these things to a relative, donate them to charity or throw them out. Feng shui consultant Carol Olmstead says you can make room for new, positive energy by getting rid of "emotionally loaded things that you don't really use anymore."
One strong temptation after the holidays is to save and re-use packing boxes and wrapping materials, especially with current concerns about recycling and the environment.
Olmstead, whose business is called Feng Shui for Real Life, urges her clients to resist that temptation. Otherwise, she says, the clutter sends the message that you can't get moving into the future. She calls it the difference between "a prosperity consciousness and a poverty consciousness." Expect that you'll be able to buy new boxes and packing materials when you need them, and make room for new things to flow into your life.
But if you really want to honor the planet, go ahead and save your packing cartons, says "Fun Shui" host Stephanie McWilliams, who feels it is perfectly OK to save utilitarian materials. Organize them out of sight by putting them in labeled containers.
The same approach works for your closets and the kids' toy box. If new clothing and toys came into the home during the holidays, it's a perfect time for family members to work together to give away some older garments and toys that are no longer being used.
Let your children select a few toys they don't play with any more, or clothing they've outgrown. Explain these will not be thrown out, but will be given to a younger child who can't afford new things.
Give everything in the room a thorough cleaning, both experts suggest.
This is also a good time to repair things, McWilliams adds. Don't keep broken objects around to haunt you with your failure to mend them.
She recommends that you energetically wipe out the old and make room for the new: "Reboot your house like you reboot your computer."
The number three is considered auspicious in feng shui. There are three sides to a triangle, a powerful symbol representing the fire element, which works to increase your passion, emotion and wealth, Olmstead explains.
To replace the triangular Christmas tree, Olmstead recommends following the Chinese tradition of moving 27 things, which is nine times three. The moves could be as simple as moving a lamp from the center of a table to one side of it, or as large as rearranging the sofa so you can look out the window. Or clear off one shelf, one drawer or one end table.
McWilliams also suggests re-evaluating the position of your furniture and "marrying" some pieces in new ways. Create seating arrangements that are open and welcoming; face chairs toward the couch to symbolize conversation, for instance.
Now that the glitter is gone, look around and ask yourself whether it needs more permanent greenery. This can include real or artificial plants, or pictures of plants or outdoor scenes. Both experts suggest bringing in more nature by adding a lush new plant, placing it in the health area of your home if possible, to ensure a healthy beginning to the year.
"Feng shui tells you to take a look at how your life changed with the colors and shapes of the holiday season," says Olmstead. "See what changes you could make in your decor afterwards to sustain that feeling."
If you miss the bright colors from your decorations, consider adding some touches of new color now. Use pillows or candles with the holiday colors you most enjoyed.
There's no need to overdo it with decor changes, though. Change — and feng shui — is all about balance.
McWilliams advises that you consider what is out of balance in your room, including color and texture. If you feel stressed, she says, remove the fire colors such as pinks, reds and purples, and bring in soothing blues and greens. If the winter blues and light deprivation get you down, she suggests sunny yellows.
This is also good time to adjust your lighting. McWilliams tells her clients to unblock and open windows and curtains, and bring in full-spectrum light bulbs.
"Every single object in your home is speaking to you," McWilliams says. "Let's just pray they're saying something nice!"
On the Net: Feng Shui for Real Life (www.fengshuiforreallife.com); Evolving Arts (www.evolvingarts.com); "Fun Shui" on HGTV (www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows—hshui/)