Piles of unread mail. Closets full of old clothes. A front hallway littered with shoes. Having clutter anywhere in your home or office…in the kitchen…or on your desk hurts your well-being. It drains your energy and can make you feel disorganized… lethargic… and distracted. One way to clear up: Use feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”), the ancient Chinese art of arranging spaces to create balanced, harmonious environments. Karen Kingston, author of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (Broadway), explains how to create soothing spaces that will make you feel relaxed and productive.

You might not realize it, but when you walk into a room or a building, you have an instant reaction to it. Your chest may tighten, or you may feel sad or agitated. A space could also make you feel calm or elevate your spirits. Walk through spaces in your home, and notice how you feel. Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to the natural flow of energy in a space. Find out if clutter is slowing you down…

THE ENTRY

According to the principles of feng shui, your home’s entryway is an important spot. When it is easy to walk through, it makes your life easier. Get rid of such things as racks with coats hanging five deep…piles of shoes…and dying plants with dusty leaves that greet guests. Make sure that the door opens fully. Doors that bang into baskets or clothes or other obstacles symbolize tension in the home and create chaos in your mind.

THE KITCHEN

Your kitchen is another vital place in feng shui because it’s where you create nourishment for yourself and your family. Keep dishes washed and the sink clean—dirt is another type of clutter. When a kitchen is tidy and every utensil and appliance has its own storage place, it’s easier to prepare food. Clear the cupboards of old food. If you have more appliances than you need and not enough room, clear out the ones that you don’t use. Either give them away or sell them. Put the appliances or tableware that you use most often in the easiest-to-reach places.

THE BEDROOM

A bedroom should be used for only two purposes—rest and intimacy. Bringing work, computers, televisions and exercise equipment into the bedroom introduces stress and clutter, which crowd out rest and intimacy. Keep the room tidy and clean. Hang up your clothes, or put them in drawers. Don’t keep a clothing hamper in the bedroom, because dirt of any kind creates stale energy. Change your bedding once a week to keep your energy levels boosted. And pay attention to what’s under the bed. If you have a bed with drawers underneath it, keep clean linen or clothes there—not unused sports equipment or file boxes with papers.

WHY DO YOU STILL HAVE THAT KNICKKNACK?

Clutter is not just the belongings that litter your cupboards and hallways. It also includes items in disrepair. Taking care of repairs is an investment in your home and yourself. When you continually have to look at broken belongings that you haven’t gotten around to fixing, such as a broken chair or blind, it saps your energy. Another type of clutter: Trinkets (either those that you bought for yourself or that were given to you as gifts) that you have been holding on to for years even though you don’t really love or care about them. They have lost their meaning…take up space…and stop you from enjoying a photo or keepsake from your life right now.