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Is Your Cluttered Home or Office Making You Sick?
Is Your Cluttered Home or Office Making You Sick?
If you’re sick of living with clutter, you could be becoming sick in other ways as well. Living in a cluttered environment causes both physical and psychological issues that can adversely affect your health.
According to the 2010 “Stress in America” survey by the American Psychological Association, most Americans experience moderate to high stress, and 44 percent report that their stress levels have risen over the last five years. A cluttered environment adds to the stress in our lives. Along with being aesthetically overwhelming, clutter also causes immense anxiety due to financial problems resulting from disorganization, such as late fees, missing bills, purchasing duplicate items unnecessarily and storage unit rental fees. Lost things mean lost opportunities, lost time, increased costs and conflict within your family. In addition, excess clouds your clarity.
My company, ClutterDiet.com, did a survey of our members and readers in 2009, and discovered that one of the biggest issues people have with clutter is anxiety over how it affects family and friends. People are afraid to entertain in cluttered homes, and they are afraid that their children will learn bad habits and grow up with the negative effects of disorganization.
For many, stress and health problems are caused less by what they are doing and more by what they aren’t doing. Being disorganized steals time away from the things that matter most to you—cultivating a hobby, exercising, spending time with loved ones or learning something new. And doing positive things for your health is harder when you can’t locate your exercise gear or your supplements and medications.
Clutter also collects dust, and what is dust? A 2009 Environmental Science and Technology article reported that ordinary household dust frequently contains the chemical insecticide DDT, arsenic, decomposing insects, pollen, human skin and fecal matter from dust mites. Disorganized spaces are much more challenging to keep clean.
If clutter has reached the level that is considered hoarding, there are even more health dangers present, such as the risk of piles toppling, infestations of insects and vermin, and blocked exits. Even a nominal amount of clutter can cause injuries to you or your family if out-of-place items fall on you or cause you to trip.
As a professional organizer for more than a decade, I have realized that people are often motivated to finally get organized when they “get mad” at the clutter and see what it’s doing to their lives. Getting organized is very much like losing weight: It requires prevention, reduction and maintenance.
Prevention. You first want to prevent additional clutter from coming into your home. Typically it’s either given to you or you purchase it. Be mindful of what you allow across the threshold. Unsubscribe to catalogs and magazines you’re not reading, don’t fall victim to sales ploys in stores, and don’t pick up unnecessary freebies.
Reduction. Just like exercise helps reduce excess fat, you can make a deliberate plan to take on projects to reduce clutter. I recommend starting in your bedroom closet so that each day can begin with less stress. Then tackle your kitchen and laundry area next, since they are the “hub” of the home where most daily activity occurs. I often suggest doing a primary project each weekend, two smaller projects throughout the week that take 15 to 30 minutes, and one quick task you have been procrastinating over.
Maintenance. Once your rooms lose all of their weight, you need a plan to keep it off. Your daily systems and routines like mail sorting, dishwashing, cooking and laundry have a lot to do with clutter accumulation, so make sure you practice them faithfully. You might want to become “motivation partners” with someone who can keep you accountable to your goals, similar to having a workout buddy. Your motivation partner can also provide objectivity, which is one of the best factors to bring into the process. You’ve been looking at your stuff for too long, and your partner’s fresh set of eyes can give perspective you could never have. He or she can even have a daily check-in with you for awhile to make sure your maintenance routines stick.
One of the most common “danger phrases” we hear in my profession is: “I’ll just put it here for now.” Clutter is actually a manifestation of decisions that haven’t been made and actions that haven’t been taken so, in essence, all clutter is related to procrastination. If you are putting something here “for now,” you are putting off that decision and creating more clutter. Decide whether to keep it, where it belongs, what to do next with it or where to donate it. Being more decisive about your stuff, your time, your information and your money is the best advice I can give you to be healthier and more organized in 2012.
By: Lorie Marrero
Certified Professional Organizer, Lorie Marrero, is the bestselling author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life. She is also the creator of ClutterDiet.com, an innovative program allowing anyone to get expert help at an affordable price. Her organizing books and products are sold online and in stores nationwide.Lorie is the spokesperson for Goodwill Industries International, and she is a sought-after expert for national media such as CNBC, Family Circle, WGN News and Woman's Day. She writes weekly as the organizing expert for Good Housekeeping's Home Style blog. For more information visit, ClutterDiet.com.
February 16th, 2012