Clutter: Bad for Your Health? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Clutter: Bad for Your Health?

The New York Times has a piece that links health issues, including weight problems, to disorganization and clutter:

Ms. Johnson says she often sees a link between her client's efforts to get organized and weight loss. "I think someone decides, 'I'm not going to live like this anymore. I'm not going to hold onto my stuff, I'm not going to hold onto my weight,'" she said. "I don't know that one comes before the other. It's part of that same life-change decision."

On its Web site, http://www.nsgcd.org, the group offers a scale to help people gauge the seriousness of their clutter problem. It also includes a referral tool for finding a professional organizer. But since the hourly fees can range from $60 to $100 or more, it may be worth consulting a new book by Dr. Tolin along with Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, "Buried in Treasures" (Oxford, 2007), which offers self-assessments and advice for people with hoarding tendencies.

Dr. Peeke says she often instructs patients trying to lose weight to at least create one clean and uncluttered place in their home. She also suggests keeping a gym bag with workout clothes and sneakers in an uncluttered area to make it easier to exercise. She recalls one patient whose garage was "a solid cube of clutter." The woman cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds.

"It wasn't, at the end of the day, about her weight," Dr. Peeke said. "It was about uncluttering at multiple levels of her life."

Previous Comments

ID
116274
Comment

Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Since I moved back home with mama, I gained weight, and I also have a lot of unnecessary just-in-case-I-move-out stuff I've been holding on to. I've been back home for four years now. Maybe it's time to let go. :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-11T20:35:21-06:00
ID
116275
Comment

i strongly connect the clutter in ones environment to an inability to stay focused. Thoughts in and of themselves are trapped packets of experience we encapsulate and traumatize ourselves with rather than maintaining an awareness of the here and now. Sometimes they can seem useful but in reality they are safety blankets giving us confidence in the decisions we want to make. Each piece of clutter is a manifestation of our beliefs, worries, and addictions. You can learn alot about the issues you need to transmute by taking stock of the possessions you keep. i'm not saying we need to get rid of our beliefs and addictions (worries i'm not so fond of). Rather, possessions can tell us something about our Self's and the issues we are dealing with. Let them be indicators and not ends unto themselves.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2008-01-12T02:02:49-06:00
ID
116276
Comment

Nice post, Daniel.

Author
ellen
Date
2008-01-12T06:38:37-06:00
ID
116277
Comment

GTD... It will change your life. Everything needs a home (including thoughts and food). If it can't be stored properly, you don't need it (yes, food relates in this case). If you need it, make sure it has a place in your life. Does that chocolate cake have a place in your belly or on your thighs? ;-) Currently, my choices for most things are purge or store. If you store, it needs a dedicated place (even if it's a "pending" folder/shelf you revisit weekly)... It can't be left sitting around. Clutter is distracting and dilutes focus. Apply it to your inbox and you'll see how quickly this mentality can make your life easier. LW, I strongly recommend reading Getting Things Done or researching the concept online. If you can shift the way you attempt to manage tasks and priorities, you quickly start seeing opportunities everywhere in your life. Like any other concept, you don't have to follow it to a T. It's the principles and concepts that are enlightening...

Author
kaust
Date
2008-01-12T14:16:45-06:00
ID
116278
Comment

Yep, Knol, we've become David Allen fanatics, too. Our whole editorial/design department has been reading "Getting Things Done" and pulling tips from it. And, man, have I been purging while and since moved. And we're doing the same thing at the office as we expand into the new space because the clutter should had piled up there. But, the hardest damn GTD thing for me to tackle is my e-mail in box. I'm perpetually behind. And on phone messages. Trying to be better, though. Everybody who doesn't know what we're talking about, Google GTD, "getting things done" and David Allen. The Life Hacker stuff is cool, too.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-01-12T19:08:09-06:00
ID
116279
Comment

i strongly connect the clutter in ones environment to an inability to stay focused. Good grief, Daniel. You hit the nail on the head. I constantly have a head full of ideas, and I change my mind a lot. LW, I strongly recommend reading Getting Things Done or researching the concept online. If you can shift the way you attempt to manage tasks and priorities, you quickly start seeing opportunities everywhere in your life. Like any other concept, you don't have to follow it to a T. It's the principles and concepts that are enlightening... I'll take a look at it. I have another organization book that I haven't finished reading, which is another symptom of my problem. As a matter of fact, I haven't reading most of the books I own. I start on a book, get interested in aother book and start reading that one, and so on. Maybe I should try audio books. :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-12T22:21:49-06:00
ID
116280
Comment

So just being lazy has been ruled out?

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-01-13T08:44:52-06:00
ID
116281
Comment

I have found that my depression and anxiety problems have made it difficult to actually tackle clutter. I get overwhelmed every time I try to organize and mentally shut down. So the who thing just feeds into a vicious circle.

Author
Willezurmacht
Date
2008-01-13T09:26:55-06:00
ID
116282
Comment

I lived in my old house for seven years and there were definitely "pockets" in the house that were home to certain "periods" in my life. The backroom had cabinets filled with old college books and journals. A large set of kitchen cabinets collected things from when I was in therapy. I don't know why I was holding on to all of this stuff but it was one of those things where I always told myself "one day I'm going to purge that cabinet". When I moved I chunked ALL of it. Along with a ten-year-old couch my father bought me and I'd always felt guilty about hating and wanting to get rid of (symptomatic of a larger relationship problem). It was PINK. Yes, PINK. I always thought it was symbolic that I kept the couch but never let it see the light of day without a slip cover that was more "my style". I lugged that couch all the way to the new place...when it wouldn't "fit" inbetween the new furniture purchased for this "new" relaltionship, I finally let it go enough to put it out on the curb. I felt twenty pounds lighter. I can't explain it. It was WONDERFUL to dump that couch. I totally believe in this concept. I think I was modeled this by my mother. She is a big "throw away-er". Such as, if you leave something unattended in her living room for five minutes and she walks by and doesn't know why its there or it doesn't seem to have an IMMEDIATE purpose...she will throw it away. Its a big joke in our family. But, she's the most mentally and physically organized person that I know. She has organized places in her house for "memories" that she stores. If it can't be labeled and placed in a box, its labeled and placed in the trash. :) From her, I've learned that there are actually much fewer "things" that hold sentimental value than people think. When we decided to move in together, "The Man" stated that he wanted to move it all ourselves. I balked initially...but I find that you feel much less weighed down by the things that you own if you can actually strap them on your back and move them YOURSELF. I know this isn't a physical reality for most people...but it really seemed to make a difference in what we decided to keep and what we decided to throw away. When we moved in to this place, both of us had to throw away some things we felt attachments to...but now, this place feels much "cleaner". Willez-I suffer from depression and anxiety at times myself. I have found that attempting to do it "all" will make you shut down mainly because you can't do it "all" perfectly. Choose ONE cabinet at a time. One small part of the house and give yourself a specified time frame (such as two hours). If you can draw a mental line around that one cabinet and see it separate from the "whole" project, you might find that tackling it seems a lot easier and you don't shut down quite as quickly. Also, it helps if you remind yourself frequently "I don't have to do it all now and I don't have to do it all perfectly".

Author
Lori G
Date
2008-01-13T09:51:33-06:00
ID
116283
Comment

Will, anxiety and depression certain made one of my family members a clutter rat. Most of it stemmed from being a twentysomething female living at home with mom again after having dropped out of college, broken up with her fiancee, and dealing with other personal issues that made her have a negative view of life in general. Her room always looked like a bomb had gone off, and Mom pretty much gave up on making her straighten up on her own (even when she did make her clean it up, the room would end up just as cluttered again within 2 wks) It was only after some deep spiritual counseling that she drew the strength to move out on her own, and she managed to get both her life and her surroundings in order.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-01-13T10:05:39-06:00
ID
116284
Comment

"I totally believe in this concept. I think I was modeled this by my mother. She is a big "throw away-er". Such as, if you leave something unattended in her living room for five minutes and she walks by and doesn't know why its there or it doesn't seem to have an IMMEDIATE purpose...she will throw it away. Its a big joke in our family. But, she's the most mentally and physically organized person that I know." - Lori The key: don't allow it to reach the stage of "can I throw this away." Before it becomes a "personal item" or personal burden (read: comes into your ownership), its value should be assessed and it's place should be determined. You don't need that cute, free stuffed animal or that free, company-branded coffee mug (which is probably your 13th cup of its kind). If you do, ditch two others to make room for the new one. Garage sale them or take 'em to NUTS, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. There are few animals other than humans that collect and horde for the sake of collecting and hoarding. Pack rats freak me out and it's hard not to think someone with a lot of clutter doesn't have separation anxiety/issues. I somewhat agree with Lori about "doing it all." Still, I suggest doing one room at a time... Pile up the keep, throw, and "pending" stacks. Make the "throw" pile the biggest (exceptions: furniture). Seriously, you don't need it most of it and it simply weighs you down mentally. If you wouldn't grab it during a fire, there's a great chance it's not really valuable or needed... Again, furniture is an exception unless you have three couches stacked on each other. D and I purge almost monthly...

Author
kaust
Date
2008-01-13T10:19:18-06:00
ID
116285
Comment

My mom is coming over at 2 to go through my garage. She used to live here and moved out in September to get a place with my sister and her kids. My wife and i took over the payments and moved in. The new place for mom and sis is smaller and so a good bit of my moms stuff must stay with me for the time being. i have been continually shifting things around the past 4 months getting rid of things and organizing things. i am still far from done; but i'm always moving in that direction. i create pockets and shift piles of things into new spaces as i organize and create livable environments. The garage has been the worst place to be. The door is currently broken so it acts as a large dank storage room. It houses my moms remaining stuff as well as everything of mine that is not even near currently useful. i constantly have to shift things around to make different areas accessible in my journey to weed through everything. What keeps me sane amidst this is shifting through things. Looking at what is there. Putting them in general piles of related usefulness/characteristic. Being able to at least sense a direction on my path to order and moving purposely forward. Knowing where everything is in your life is more than just having a spot for everything and getting rid of the trash. By organizing your home and various environments, you create grooves for the processes which make up your life. Bills have a place to be and a place to be written. You know if there are any to be paid because you know where it would be if it had not been. You know where your cookbooks which can influence your diet and health as well as organize your shopping trips around lists rather than habit buying convenience foods. Having compartments in your environment and designated spaces create compartments in your mind for information...

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2008-01-13T11:51:39-06:00
ID
116286
Comment

Ironially, my pastor talked about disorder during his sermon today. He said that if you get used to disorder around you, you will get used to disorder within you. Will, I can totally relate to your situation. I got my diagnosis back in 1999, and I just got off medication eight months ago. Anxiety makes you run in circles without going anywhere, and depression weighs your down like ten anchors. It's bad when just getting out of bed in the morning wears you out. I've been doing much better, but I've developed a lot of bad habits along the way. Forty extra pounds and piles of clutter - pardon me, HOT GARBAGE - are signs of the past that must be dealt with. Like the family member Jeff mentioned, life bummed me out. Thanks to a couple of nasty panic attacks, I lost my job and had to move back in with my mom for the second time. I think I was numb for the first couple of years because I don't remember most of it. I think I did sort of give up at some point back then. I've always been a pack rat (hereditary - won't say who) and I've been the type of perfectionist whereas if I couldn't do it perfectly the first time, I wouldn't do it at all. Therefore, I was defeated before I even started. I have made some changes recently, but I have so far to go that the task seems daunting. My biggest problem is paperwork. The thought of all the sorting, filing and shredding I have to do gives me indigestion. I've gotten rid of bags and bags full of shredded documents, and I still have so much more to get rid of. Lack of storage is also an issue, so I have no choice to give some things away. No matter what you do, you can't fit an entire apartment into a bedroom. Oh, how I miss that walk-in closet!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-13T13:35:41-06:00
ID
116287
Comment

From Zen Habits, one of my favorite blogs at the moment, comes The Minimalist’s Guide to Fighting (and Beating) Clutter Entropy.

Author
kaust
Date
2008-01-13T21:21:12-06:00
ID
116288
Comment

Thanks for the link, Knol. I like this one: 3. Clear floors and flat surfaces. Keep them clear. A room looks so much cleaner if all flat surfaces, from the floor to tabletops to countertops, are clear of clutter. Remove everything from these surfaces except perhaps one or two decorative items (don’t clutter with knick knacks). If you find stuff making its way here, clear it out. Clearing surfaces once a day or every couple days is a good routine. When I see an empty spot, I feel like something is supposed to be there. Don't know where that came from.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-13T22:15:46-06:00
ID
116289
Comment

"When I see an empty spot, I feel like something is supposed to be there. Don't know where that came from." - L.W. From the world of design/art, think of it as negative space. Use it to accentuate the real items you cherish. It's hard to showcase things you love when you surround them with things you kind of like or things you could fit in a space. ;-)

Author
kaust
Date
2008-01-14T07:50:15-06:00
ID
116290
Comment

So just being lazy has been ruled out? It had good lawyers, and got off on a misdemeanor.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-01-14T08:34:21-06:00
ID
116291
Comment

thanks for the encouragement, guys. I am going to take about 3 square feet at a time.

Author
Willezurmacht
Date
2008-01-14T08:36:28-06:00
ID
116292
Comment

From the world of design/art, think of it as negative space. Use it to accentuate the real items you cherish. It's hard to showcase things you love when you surround them with things you kind of like or things you could fit in a space. ;-) Good idea! Break it down for a creative. :-) BTW, when I was at the laundromat this morning, I had my organization book with me that I never finished - "Messie No More" by Sandra Felton - and I read almost up to the point where I left off. I am going to finish it this time, I promise!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-14T12:47:48-06:00
ID
116293
Comment

Whatever happened to "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"? I guess we're talking not small stuff here. I am the most cluttered person I know. I was even voted most disorganized in school. But I have only recently indulged in self-justification by reading, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder..." There is a study to prove almost every hypothesis out there.

Author
Krystal
Date
2008-01-14T14:01:13-06:00
ID
116294
Comment

Krystal, I do remember a study I heard on TV about workers who were more productive having messy desks. However, I think that when it comes to home life, if the mess is having a negative effect on your life, you may have to reduce it.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-14T14:11:03-06:00
ID
116295
Comment

From Amazon's synopsis about A Perfect Mess: "Their thesis is solid enough: that organizational efforts tend to close off systems to random, unplanned influences that might lead to breakthroughs." Krystal, that's the beauty of GTD. It allows for a mess. The key is having a place for the mess/clutter (a central repository for random thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc or a "pending review" file) and having a system for reviewing and handling the mess/clutter. I use iGTD and Yojimbo to keep myself organized. They are both made for Macs/OSX. iGTD allows me to create "scenarios" or "places" where a task might be performed such as desk, home, work, errands, etc. It also has a general Inbox where you can accumulate thoughts as they flow. The idea is to document your thoughts and tasks so you no longer have to worry about them. It allows your brain to be free rather than constantly and partially focused on many tasks that may or may not be relevant at the moment. In many ways, it allows you to be more creative because you free your mental RAM from the unimportant worries (at that moment). By using a system like this, your brain isn't always worrying about forgetting or missing something. Store it and forget about it until it's relevant. Yojimbo is like a filing cabinet or even a scrapbook for the Mac. You can store everything in it including electronic documents (email, PDF, Doc, Excel, etc), websites (links or full pages), notes, passwords, serial numbers, etc. You can tag them and categorize them. Once it's in Yojimbo, you can forget about it. It has its place, you know that place, and it's easy to locate because you have one filing system for those items. Yojimbo allows you to keep a clean virtual workspace with a loose but unified storage method. Together, iGTD and Yojimbo changed the way I operate on my computer and actually changed the way I perceive physical tasks, to-dos, and storage solutions. For instance, now I have a junk drawer... I used to have a "spare room" that accumulated all sorts of things. Now, I think about where something belongs before it comes into my possession. If it doesn't have a home and "probably won't", it doesn't even come home with me or enter my possession. The spare room now serves as a functional yoga/fitness room and my work surfaces are becoming increasingly bare and overly functional for a multitude of tasks. Still, being overly organized can be as disorienting/limiting as being disorganized. If your system is too strict and doesn't allow for flexibility and growth, it will hold you back and can distract you as much as massive piles of clutter can.

Author
kaust
Date
2008-01-14T16:08:03-06:00

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