Don’t think clutter impacts on your wellbeing? Think again!
I’m sure we’ve all watched those episodes of Hoarders and thought to ourselves – “How can people live like that?” Piles of decades old newspapers lining the hallways, stuffed toys stuffing every single closet, rusty saucepans spilling out of kitchen drawers. Ugh – it sends most of us non-hoarders into a tailspin! Often in these shows, there’s some sort of documented psychological issue that precipitated the hoarding – the compulsive need for “things” often comes from a place of deep unhappiness, anxiety or trauma. It really is quite a serious condition, and if you, or someone you know fits this category, I’d highly suggest looking for some professional assistance to help you work through it.
But I’m not talking about that level of clutter today. What I want to talk about is our everyday, run of the mill clutter. The type of clutter that the vast majority of us DO have in our homes, and which doesn’t come from a place of mental distress. It just comes from a busy life, full of stuff and things, and potentially with limited amounts of time and space.
Overflowing wardrobes, toys sprawled across every single room in the house, bathroom cabinets teeming with expired beauty products, cans of corn with expiry dates of October 2013. You get the idea. Most of us have clutter. And most of us just put up with it, perhaps telling ourselves that we’ll get around to clearing it out “someday”. Right?
Apart from the mental health aspects, the thing that always strikes me about the people on those Hoarders-type shows is how physically unwell they generally always are. They often complain of having multiple health conditions, many of which disappear once they get on top of the cleaning, clutter and chaos.
As with pretty much everything in life this falls on a continuum. We don’t have to have floor-to-ceiling clutter to be affected by it. Even your average run of the mill clutter can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. All the more reason to make that “someday” today, and take action on clearing your home of the unnecessary “stuff”.
Here’s just a few ways clutter affects your physical health,
- Increased respiratory stress – due to dust, allergens and airborne particles
- Increase falls hazards – not to mention the intense pain of stepping on a stray Lego piece barefoot – youch!
- Mould. This stuff is toxic. Don’t just think about the mould growing on your shower curtain. How about the mould you didn’t know was growing on your winter boots, or that suitcase you put away slightly damp last winter?
But it’s not just about physical wellbeing – it never is! We already know that our physical health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to our emotional health – mind-body connection, right? So these physical health issues will certainly affect our emotional wellbeing.
But there’s also more direct correlations between clutter and emotional and social wellbeing.
- Blocked chi – the ancient Eastern practice of Feng Shui sings the praises of clean, uncluttered open spaces. This is because clutter is thought to block the flow of “Chi” throughout a space. “Chi” is the life force, we want it to be able to move freely and swiftly for optimal health, we don’t want it to become stagnant or stuck. When Chi can’t move freely, our energy and stress levels can be negatively impacted. Not convinced? Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine yourself walking into two rooms. The first, bright, breezy, airy, lots of natural light, plenty of wide open spaces. The second room, piled high with books, clothes, bags, shoes, too much furniture shoved into the room. Maybe you’ve already been in two rooms similar to this. Close your eyes and focus down into your body – in which room do you feel the most comfortable? The least stressed? The happiest and calmest? I know which one it is for me. In fact, I use de-cluttering as one of my stress management techniques. You know I’m getting stressed when you see me emptying my collection of Women’s Health magazines into the recycle bin!
- Financial stress: Bills that get misfiled and forgotten so you attract late fees, food that gets wasted as it’s stuck at the back of a cluttered fridge. Having four almost identical black clutches because you can never find one as it’s stashed somewhere at the back of your wardrobe so you just buy a new one. Clutter costs us money, and that causes us stress.
- Guilt – when faced with clutter in our homes, or our lives, many of us experience extreme guilt. “I really should sort that mess out”, “I really need to clean out that spare room”, “I really need to take those bags of old clothes to Vinnies”. We instinctively know that our clutter is detrimental to our health, so we feel guilty about it, which simply amplifies the negative emotions we’re already feeling.
- Not to mention how clutter affects our ability to manifest the life of our dreams – it’s all about abundance and the law of attraction. This part is pretty new to me, but the total expert on it is Denise Duffield-Thomas from luckybitch.com , check out her website to see how clutter impacts on your lucky (or unlucky!) life. There’s also lots of correlations here to financial stress – just as I mentioned above!
This is seriously one of my favourite things to do in the entire world. (I know, I’m strange – sorry!) But I simply love the feeling that comes with clearing a space, and feeling the fresh energy flowing through. I always feel calmer and more focused in a de-cluttered space, and I seriously struggle to focus in a cluttered, messy office. So yes, I’m struggling a bit now, as my office has gotten pretty disorganised towards the end of this year, due to a pretty hectic last few months! But don’t worry, I’ve already got a few days over the Christmas break set aside to declutter, clean and sort out my office!
In fact, I love de-cluttering so much that at the start of 2014 I set myself a New Years Resolution – to declutter 2014 items from my home! Sounds impossible? Nope, it’s not. In fact, I’m so, so close, to 2014 items. I’ll blog about it when I hit my target. (And no, I didn’t start with a Hoarders-style situation!)
My de-cluttered bookshelf.
But if you’re not a seasoned de-clutterer, don’t despair. There’s a million and one resources out there about de-cluttering so feel free to Google away and find one you like, but a couple of my favourites are listed below:
Katrina, the Organised Housewife – she runs a free year-long de-cluttering challenge, which is awesome and very simple to undertake.
Peter Walsh (from The Living Room tv show)
Denise Duffield-Thomas, of Lucky Bitch
(ps. No affiliate links here, I just love to share the people I think are great!)
So over to you? Are you a de-clutterer? Do you do a yearly de-clutter, or are you more of a de-clutter daily type of person? Or are you just drowning in a sea of kids toys, tupperware containers and “one day I’ll fit back into them” clothes? I’d love to hear your story – let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,
Live your best (uncluttered) life.
Are you on some kind of health journey? If you’re reading this blog, chances are the answer is yes. So let me ask another question. What has prompted you to be on this journey – is it motivation or inspiration?
Inspiration. Trumps motivation. Every single time.
Most people don’t undertake health transformations for no reason. There’s usually a catalyst. They see themselves in an unflattering photograph, or the scale clocks over to triple figures, or they get chest pains after running for the bus. Something happens to make them think – “Crap, my health isn’t great, I’ve GOT to do something about this”.
That’s motivation. But motivation is fleeting, it doesn’t usually last for long periods. Once those skinny jeans fit better, or the scales start reading a happier number, the reasons to maintain that health journey start to lose importance, and the commitment fades. That’s because motivation is usually extrinsic, it comes from outside of us. It’s about pushing ourselves to do what we think we SHOULD be doing. That’s never going to last long, because eventually it becomes draining and tiresome.
What you really need is inspiration, not motivation.
These two terms are often used interchangeably. But there are distinct differences, and these differences are the reason why some people’s health journeys are more successful than others.
As I said, motivation comes from our environment, from outside of us. Inspiration, however, comes from within. It comes from somewhere deep inside of you that drives you, because you absolutely know with all your heart and soul that whatever it is, is the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
When you’re inspired to make a life change it doesn’t necessarily become easier to do, but you’ve got more chance at sticking with it. Because whenever the road gets tough you focus back on your inspiration – your reasons why – and they’ll always be there. Your health becomes a priority, it takes precedence over everything else, it becomes a part of your identity.
This is why people who are inspired achieve their goals fully and more greatly than those relying solely on motivation.
So what’s the take home message? Get inspired. Take some time to figure out exactly why you’re on your health journey.
Ask yourself “What is my motivation for A, B or C? How can I turn my inspiration into motivation.”
It’s a subtle mindset shift, but it can have powerful results.
Do you want to lose weight to rock your bikini on holiday in Fiji in three months? That’s motivation. Or is it to lose weight so that you’ll still be healthy and fit enough to travel to Fiji when you’re 80? That’s inspiration.
Do you want to quit smoking because it’s making it hard for you to catch your breath on the soccer pitch. Or do you want to quit smoking so you live long enough to coach your grandkids’ soccer games? Inspiration.
Over to you. I’d love for you to share your experiences of motivation and inspiration below. What have you found has made the difference in helping to achieve your goals?
What do you want to change in your life? Go on, I know there’s something you’d like to be different – most of us have a list as long as our arm.
The sticky bit is that change is hard. Really hard. For whatever reason, we humans are definitely creatures of habit and we find it hard to move outside of our comfort zone, even for the simplest of things.
This is the reason why “6 week programs” and “30 day challenges” are all over the place right now. We all seem to need a bit of an external push to create the change we seek. So I thought I’d add my two cents worth to the mix. These are my two favourite pieces of advice for creating positive change in your life. And they’re totally linked, so really it’s actually one piece of advice in two parts.
Part 1: Act as if.
Now I didn’t create this advice, it’s been bandied around so much over the decades that I don’t even know who thought it up. But here’s the crux of it – work out what or who it is that you want to be – then act as if you’re already that person. Simple really. Want to be the person who eats healthy food, not crap? Buy healthy food and stick it in your fridge. That’s what a healthy food eater does. Don’t overthink it. Just do it (to borrow another well used phrase.)
Part 2: It’s easier to create a new habit than it is to break an old one.
It’s true that we really are the sum of those things we consistently do every single day. Our habits are deeply ingrained, not only into our lifestyle, but into our very neurological makeup. Our brains love habits – because once we’ve created one, the brain doesn’t have to think about that particular activity anymore, and it can have more time to rest. Brains are lazy like that – they don’t want to do any more work than they have to! So once we’ve created a habit we’re hardwired to keep it. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break habits, but it can be hard. However, creating a new habit does seem to come a bit easier. So I always encourage people to create new habits to help crowd out the old!
Socrates – he knew his stuff.
Want to curb your 3pm-sugar-fix-must-have-chocolate-now habit? How about you start implementing a 2pm green smoothie habit? You’ll find that you probably won’t need to 3pm sugar fix after that. Try and think of different ways you can hack your bad habits. Sneaky, but effective.
So there you go, my top two bits of advice for creating change. Because change is good!
Until next time,
Live your best life.
Yowzer – we blinked, and now it’s February!
Surely that was the fastest January on record. Or was it just me?
Way back in December (the month before last, now) I decided as part of my 2014 goals I was going to set myself a series of mini month-long personal health challenges. I have since discovered my awesome running buddy is doing the same – so it’ll be interesting to see which challenge we each come up with each month.
For January, my challenge was to start a daily meditation practice. But I have to admit, it wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped. I probably meditated about half the days of the month, which is still an improvement on zero days of meditation per month. But it wasn’t my goal to only meditate every second day.
What went wrong? Heaps of things really – teething babies, new jobs, start up business demands, blah, blah. But those are simply just excuses. What really went wrong was the fact I didn’t make my intentions public. I didn’t shout it out to the world. It happens so often – we set ourselves a goal – but we don’t actually tell anyone, or even write it down or say it out loud to ourself. So then, if we don’t follow through and the goal isn’t attained, it doesn’t really matter because we’ve got no-one to be accountable for it anyway. Right?
Not this month. Not for February. So in the spirit of FebFast, here’s my intention for this month.
I’m giving up alcohol and chocolate for the entire month. (Insert shocked gasp here!)
How on earth am I going to manage, you ask?
Well honestly, I’m fairly sure the alcohol is not going to be a problem. I didn’t drink at all for an 18 month period while I was pregnant and breastfeeding my little Mooch. In fact, it’s only been in the past three months, since she finally dropped her night feeds that I started having the occasional glass of wine with dinner. So why give it up then? On two occasions over the Christmas party period I had about three or four drinks – which is nothing in comparison to my olden days efforts! But on both occasions I woke up the next day with a shocker of a head cold, both lasting about a week. Initially I wrote them off as coincidence. (Silly me, we know there’s no coincidences in life, right?)
But then, after Australia Day last weekend, it happened again. Third time’s the charm. Fast forward seven days and I’m still recovering from that cold. So clearly alcohol is doing funky things to my immune system and it’s time to call it quits for a while.
And then – the chocolate! This one is going to be much harder to give up. I’ve never really considered myself a chocaholic sort of girl, though I do seriously love the stuff! But I’m quitting it this month because I can see that it does have some kind of hold on me. I have this little habit of “rewarding” myself with chocolate every time I do the groceries. Which I’m now realising really isn’t healthy. Even though I mostly stick to the good quality, dark chocolate. It’s still not cool to inhale half the block on the drive home from the supermarket.
So that habit is going too! Give me strength.
I’ll keep you posted through the month on how I’m doing. So far, I’ve managed to survive two whole days – go team!
How about you? What are you giving up for FebFast? What do you dare live without for the next 26 days?