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Spring Cleaning... Lose your clutter to win your health!

Dear Ellen, It’s Spring Cleaning time and I feel so overwhelmed with my clutter, I just don’t know where to start!

Working with hundreds of clients as a health coach over the past 12 years, I have found that decluttering our homes and lives can have a significant effect on behavioural change and ultimately on our health. In general, as people start to control the clutter, they begin to take better care of themselves both mentally and physically. One stress survey conducted on behalf of the Huffington Post revealed home organization is one of the most universal and common stress triggers and that the primary cause of home-related anxiety is shown to be clutter. Rather than thinking of clutter-clearing as a tremendous chore, start thinking of it as one of the most effective self-improvement tactics available to creating space in your life for new insight, energy, joy and experiences! Here’s why and how!

10 Reasons Why: Less Mess - Less Stress!

  1. Clutter can cause us to waste time or be late as well as increase frustration levels when we cannot find simple, everyday items crucial to our well-being.
  2. Clutter has been shown to negatively affect our ability to focus and process information as it can drain energy when our minds become overwhelmed and senses go into overdrive to process surroundings.
  3. Research has shown clutter to raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  4. Clutter can negatively affect emotional stress, which can lead to physical ailments such as back pain, stomach aches or headaches.
  5. Excess clutter in the workplace has been shown to decrease productivity, professional behaviour and task performance.
  6. Clutter can be a constant distraction as you might find yourself weighed down with feelings of guilt about your surroundings not looking the way they "should."
  7. Dust, pet dander and mould lurk in clutter, which can trigger allergic reactions, respiratory distress, coughing, potential asthma problems and poor air quality.
  8. Clutter can be a haven for germs which can breach our immune system.
  9. Messes can increase the risk of fire and injuries (tripping over items for example).
  10. Peter Walsh, de-clutter expert and author of the excellent “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight”, defines a clear link between over-consumption of stuff and over-consumption of food which has been further backed up by significant research.

How? When in doubt, OUT!

Simply organizing and storing all the clutter does not get to the root of the issue if nothing really disappears. I have found the most effective two part solution is to

  1. Eliminate “stuff” area-by-area
  2. Follow up with an on-going organizational system that prevents it from building up again

Decide where to begin. Decluttering is an activity that takes time, thought and energy. Plan your time and place. Remove everything all at once from the chosen area (refrigerator, closet, desk, table, cupboard) to see IT ALL TOGETHER (this in and of itself can be a powerful motivator!). Then, with each item, ask yourself:

My De-Clutter Cheat Sheet

Does this item make me feel good? 

When was the last time I used it? 
Who else might better benefit from it?

When in doubt, OUT! Only keep the items you are NOT hesitating about. Be ruthless!

Bag items into three categories (all non-bagged items get re-organized and put away)

  1. Keep elsewhere
  2. Throw away
  3. Give away

So, make a JPEG of the above for your smartphone (or print…) and prepare yourself….next week we start by de-cluttering the kitchen!