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A Simpler Space

Body+Soul, Volume 4 September 2005

If you've ever cocooned yourself in a cabin or basked in the serenity of a spa, you know the effect physical surroundings can have on your mood. Homes can feel happy, welcoming, comfortable -- or just the opposite. And because you live there, your everyday environs can be reflected in your sense of well-being. We've pinpointed five common problems with solutions as simple as moving a piece of furniture. Call it an energy makeover for your home -- and for yourself.

Problem 1: Too Much Clutter in Living Spaces
How the Room Looks: Messy (with papers and other items accumulating on floors and flat surfaces) and cluttered, with no space for new things.

How You Feel: Overwhelmed, creatively blocked, embarrassed (which can limit social gatherings), depressed, or sometimes even financially disorganized, as you lose track of bills, bank statements, and other paperwork.

How to Fix It: The easiest way to minimize clutter is with proper storage. Everything needs a place to "live." Boxes and baskets work well; use several that match to create a sense of organization and intention. Minimize clutter by the front entrance, in hallways, and crammed behind doors, which can keep energy from flowing into the room. Eliminate objects you don't often use as well as those that harbor negative memories. Limit yourself to just a few purely sentimental objects in each room.

What You Gain: A sense of clarity and renewed control over your space -- plus a feeling of being unburdened.

Problem 2: Couches and Chairs Blocking Doorways or Positioned with Their Backs to the Room's Entrance
How the Room Looks: Empty and uninviting, since we tend to feel uncomfortable sitting with our backs to others on ill-placed furniture.

How You Feel: Unwelcome, uncomfortable, restless, or nervous.

How to Fix It: To create an inviting space, arrange furniture so that it faces the entrance of the room. Move seats and sofas away from doors and hallways so they don't prevent energy from flowing. If you have two sofas in a room, put them facing each other so that you see their sides as you enter the room; neither sofa should have its back to the entrance. Additionally, you can place a chair perpendicular to the couches to "greet" you as you enter. Chairs placed diagonally in corners also help open the space.

What You Gain: A welcome feeling that invites connection, conversation, and comfortable gatherings.

Problem 3: Dull Colors on Walls, Bedding, Furniture, and Floor Covering
How the Room Looks: Drab and weathered, even with brand-new furniture.

How You Feel: Unmotivated, unenthusiastic, even depressed.

How to Fix It: Cheerful colors in your home can enliven your emotions. Light blue and lavender work well in bedrooms, bathrooms, and other private spaces. Pink and peach comfort and nurture the spirit, making them ideal for bedrooms as well. Green, a healing, inspiring color, benefits living rooms and sitting rooms. Like the sun, yellow "feeds" us with energy; it therefore works well in dining areas. The stimulating shades of red and orange invigorate entertaining spaces. You can either paint the room or add colorful furniture or linens. To create more-intense moods, choose items with deeper, more saturated shades.

What You Gain: A sense of feeling uplifted or relaxed, depending on the colors you choose.

Problem 4: Energy-Zapping Plants, Dried Plants, or Lack of Plants
How the Room Looks: Cold and lifeless, with stuffy or musty air.

How You Feel:  Low on energy, stressed out, and agitated.

How to Fix It:  Plants help clean the air. They also give off oxygen and circulate nature's energy, so consider adding thriving selections to your home. Upward-growing plants with rounded leaves, such as ficus, peace lily, and pothos, add a feeling of liveliness. Place them in corners to keep energy circulating in the room. Other plants that have spiky leaves, such as cactus, are believed to disrupt energy flow. Since dying plants, dried flowers, and potpourri lack life, avoid these as well.

What You Gain: Improved air quality and energy flow -- plus a connection to nature and a sense of tranquility.

Problem 5: Artwork and Photos Don't Inspire
How the Room Looks: Unbalanced, uninviting, and cluttered.

How You Feel: Low on self-confidence, unmotivated, and unable to break old thought patterns and habits or move on after challenging events.

How to Fix It: Take time to evaluate your art and photographs. If a given picture doesn't generate a positive impression, a poignant memory, or a thought-provoking outlook, rethink its inclusion in your space. Remove any images that you've hung up just to cover the bare walls and replace them with ones that add a measure of balance, insight, or joy.

What You Gain: Increased feelings of confidence and personal power.

Text by Jayme Barrett