Q: Every year around this time, my wife starts strewing Christmas stuff all over the house. We have two Christmas trees, wreaths everywhere, and she has enormous collections of Santas, snowmen, reindeer, angels, stuff the kids made when they were little. I like a clean, uncluttered look and it starts to get to me after a week or so. How can I convince her to tone it down?
-A.J., New Rochelle
A: Oh, hello, Mr. Grinch! I gather from your remark about the kids that you and your tinsel-loving spouse have jingle-belled and bah-humbugged your way through many a Christmas together, so it’s a shame to let a season of merriment become a month of marital discord. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a matter for a home decor expert, but I posed your question to interior designer Phyllis Harbinger of Design Concepts/Interiors in Cortlandt Manor — and not only because her last name means “messenger of things to come” (which sounds like a character in A Christmas Carol), but because she’s a certified feng shui consultant.
“I suspect she might be cluttering all the time,” Harbinger responds, insightfully. “People that like to live with clutter are afraid to let go of the past — it’s more a personality thing.” She was willing to offer a little feng shui ammo for you, though. “Feng shui is not an exact science. It’s the art of placement. It integrates design and psychology and the emotions that different elements bring up. It could be driving him crazy not so much because of the clutter but because of where she’s placing things.” I remind her that you said “all over the house.”
“There are ornaments in the shape of an icicle, like a spear or a dagger, and that’s not good for our chi, our energy,” Harbinger continues. “If there are way too many daggers, it’s symbolically annoying. He might not even be aware.” As a person who adorns her own Christmas tree with about 400 lovely glass icicles, I’m slightly alarmed at this news. But my guess is that it’s the multiple Santa and reindeer shapes that are causing your distress, so we press on.
“Color can also be really great or it can be problematic, depending on how it’s used,” Harbinger explains. “Because you have bagua, certain colors in certain areas might be making him not feel good.” A quick Google search reveals that bagua is “a dried meat product” …. Wait, that can’t be right. Okay, this is more like it: Bagua means “eight areas” and is an energy map of your home involving the eight feng shui areas. These areas can get thrown out of balance.
Clearly, adopting a feng shui approach to your wife’s festoonery is too complicated to cover here, so Harbinger introduced the “c” word: compromise. Your wife gets to go crazy decorating just one room, “the Christmas room,” she suggests. “Then edit. Have just one wreath on the door, strings of garland in one space, not every space, not such a deluge. This is really not so much about feng shui as creating order,” she goes on. “She’s obviously very into this stuff, so it’s not going to be a win-win for either of them. He’ll have to give in to the fact that it’s a short season, and she’ll have to let go of a few things. She doesn’t have to get rid of it — she just can’t have it all out every year. Organize and rotate the collections, then every year, you’re seeing something new and exciting.”
So when your wife starts decking the halls — and the living room and the dining room and the family room and the den — explain that she’s blocking your chi and upsetting the bagua. “Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary for rest and peacefulness, and if you don’t feel that, you can create illness,” Harbinger says, offering a final persuasive point. “Even though it’s Christmas, we have to function in our daily lives.”
Have a merry one!