An urge to clean up a messy closet when faced with annual tax forms could be more than procrastination. In the practice of Feng Shui—a philosophy that brings your environment into harmony—clearing clutter rids a space of negative energy and invites change. Consequently, straightening up a closet could very well lead to a new job or relationship.

Based on the ancient Chinese study of energy flow, Feng Shui explores connections between you and your environment, Benicia Feng Shui practitioner Maria McCullough explains. It teaches the principles of energy flow and how to arrange rooms to set the stage for life improvements, including wealth, safety, productivity, health and love. The practice helps right what is wrong at home, work and in your life, offering a guide to happiness and personal growth, says McCullough.

While some consider Feng Shui to be a pseudoscience, its principles can offer practical (and cost-free) tips to freshen up a space. “Your home is a mirror of your inner self, so if your home is messy or if your business is messy, or there are issues or things you don’t like in your life, then you are drained,” she says. “Everything in your home either nourishes or drains you.”

Chinese Element Symbols

“Often referred to as the art of placement, Feng Shui means wind and water, the essential natural elements that circulate everywhere on earth and permeate everything,” wrote expert David Daniel Kennedy, author of Feng Shui for Dummies. At the heart of these elements is what is known as chi, or universal energy. Through Feng Shui techniques, environments can be influenced to tap into beneficial chi to improve life. “Feng Shui can be used anywhere as energy affects all facets of life,” says McCullough, who consults in homes, businesses, landscapes, classrooms and health clinics. She was trained under Terah Kathryn Collins, author of The Western Guide to Feng Shui. A former school principal, McCullough’s interest in Feng Shui grew when a teacher asked to paint her classroom green, a color that evokes vitality and growth. She asks clients what is working or not working in their lives, then focuses on a corresponding part of their home or office. Feng Shui has been around for centuries, and today is a popular component of home decorating, landscaping design and self improvement.Feng Shui isn’t a magic formula, but can provide a visual reminder of those areas that are valued, or that you are working to improve. McCullough calls this “empowerment through environment,” and added, “It gives you a sense of power. In life you don’t always have control. If you feel you are in control, you can start making changes.” The start of a new year is an excellent time to put

Feng Shui into use—to consider what is holding you back, or causing conflict, she said, adding that a first step is to clean up and de-clutter. Getting rid of the tired and unwanted is vital, and sets the stage for new possibilities. At the start of a new year, McCullough gets rid of items adding up to 27, a multiple of the numbers 3 and 9, both important numbers in Chinese numerology. The next step involves evaluating an environment using an octagon (Bagua) to map out the energies of a home or work space. McCullough calls this a treasure map to your environment and life, and noted that each part of a house corresponds to different areas of life, such as wealth, health and love.

Essentially, Feng Shui is about living with what you love. According to serious practitioners who believe wholly in its concepts and complexity, cleaning, de-cluttering, using plants, mirrors, fountains, crystals and other elements of this ancient practice can invite positive new beginnings.