Spruce up your space with a few inexpensive additions that make a cheerful impact. "This is when you want to make some juicy upgrades," says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy. "Think about bright pillows for the sofa, new drapes, and area rugs to warm up bare floors." If you've considered painting an accent wall a bolder or richer color, now's the time.
According to the EPA, the air inside a home can have two to five times the pollution level as the air outside. Since fall and winter bring longer stretches of time indoors, pay extra attention to your home front. Annie Bond, author of "Better Basics for the Home," offers a simple strategy: Leave your shoes at the door so you don't track dirt, mold, allergens, and chemicals into the home. While you're at it, add a few indoor plants such as English ivy to help clear the air. Lastly, eradicate lingering mold, a known allergen, by using Bond's all-purpose solution: Combine a teaspoon of tea tree oil per cup of water in a spray bottle and spritz.
Rather than stow all your old summer gear, determine what might last another season and what won't. You'll cut down on clutter and storage, as well as save yourself the trouble of making these same decisions next spring. If those ratty beach blankets have seen better days, don't pack them into winter storage; cut them up and use them for dust rags. Recycle, donate, or sell your unwanted stuff, and pack the rest of it away.
Take a cue from local-food advocate Deborah Madison, author of "What We Eat When We Eat Alone," and revamp your pantry. "Every fall," she says, "I clean out my cupboards and fridge, using up what's there, throwing out the old and expired stuff, and assessing what I need." By doing so, she ensures that she's got fresh versions of everything on hand -- from smoked paprika to dried lentils -- should the urge to cook strike in the middle of a snowstorm. In addition to stocking up, make sure your kitchen appliances are running efficiently. Maggie Wood, a green home consultant, suggests vacuuming the condenser coils of the refrigerator and cleaning up the grease buildup in the oven's vent system.
One of the best ways to make your house feel homey, says Gillingham-Ryan, has nothing at all to do with decor. "Start cooking again!" he says. Break out a new cookbook, experiment with an unfamiliar recipe, and start sizzling, sauteing, boiling, and baking. Nothing creates a cozy indoor atmosphere, especially when it's cold out, like the smell of a home-cooked meal.
Before the hustle-bustle of the holidays throws your routine off-kilter, take some time to reconnect with the earth, viewed in most mind-body traditions as the source of power and stability. "We're often mentally hovering a few feet above the ground," says Kate Hanley, author of "The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide." "It's important to get back in touch with the ground beneath you." So make a five-minute savasana your new daily habit: Lie on your back with your eyes closed, listening to your breath and feeling the earth support you.
Fall is the season when the lungs, believed to harbor sadness and grief, are most vulnerable, according to Chinese medicine. In response to cold, dry weather, they begin to constrict. To keep yours healthy and strong as cold and flu season approaches, Ni suggests this breathing exercise: Sit with your spine tall and your hands on your abdomen. Draw in a deep breath for a count of 10, expanding your abdomen and then filling your lungs. Exhale in reverse for another 10 count, squeezing out all the air you can. Do this for 15 minutes.
"Once the lazy days of summer are over, turn up your inner fire to sustain you through the coming winter months," says Hanley. She recommends bumping up your self-care practice a notch or two. If you walk, walk more briskly; if you lift weights, add more reps to your session. "If you do yoga, do more heat-building poses like plank and chair pose," Hanley says.