Many of us try to be organized. It’s no fun living in chaos, with messes here and lost items there. Especially frustrating are situations like not being able to find things when heading out the door, while trying to get to work on time, causing faster driving, and setting that stressful pace for the morning…and wreaking havoc in other ways we may not realize.
Research indicates that when our environment fails to meet our needs, it affects our functionality, productivity, social choices and health.
Integrative physician Isaac Eliaz, MD, Lac, MS, indicates, “As humans, we are products of our environments…since the environments we create reflect and affect our physical, mental and emotional health. When life gets cluttered, our physical as well as mental/emotional systems can also become cluttered and function with reduced effectiveness.
Issues associated with clutter include mental and physical fatigue, clarity, motivation, self-esteem and illness associated with exposure to environmental toxins. For instance, excess dishes, laundry and dust increase germs, mold and bacteria, increasing the likelihood of getting sick. And the resulting stress from clutter is linked to health risks, such as digestive problems, suppressed immune response, heart disease, insomnia and depression.
Also, if you can’t get past one area of your life, it can be hard to move forward in other areas. For example, not having control over your home environment, may make it hard to take initiative in other areas, such as taking better care of your health, by going to the gym or exercising at home. So, clearing the clutter is about more than just a clean home.
Research suggests three needs that must be met for our environmental comfort.
In addition to creating satisfaction, Eliaz suggests cleaning and organizing is a physical activity that reduces stress and anxiety. He indicates, “Mild to moderate exercise – even in the form of housework – boosts mental health, reduces stress and promotes healthy circulation. Organization and reduced clutter promotes increased efficiency and better energy utilization, therefore allowing more time for what’s truly meaningful.”
Professional organizer Rowena List has observed that once people clear the clutter they feel inspired to work on their health. Her clients say things like, “I have more time to go for a daily walk, prepare healthy meals and take time to relax. I did not realize the clutter in my home was causing me so much stress.”
Research suggests measuring the degree of comfort versus stress you feel on a scale, where each is at opposite ends – comfort is at one end and stress the other end. Once you know the area causing you the most discomfort, start there.
List suggests starting small. Take fifteen minutes and start with one area – your shoes, a pantry or desk – and go from there. And it’s as simple as keeping what you need and tossing or giving away what you don’t.
Letting go is key, suggests Eliaz. He adds, “Like a huge weight has lifted, we can experience freedom from unnecessary distractions and disorder when our physical, mental and emotional energies are best optimized in a clean, organized, health-promoting environment.”
Cheryl Patterson has a B.A. in Psychology and has researched the area of stress for over ten years. For more on Cheryl visit www.cherylpatterson.ca.