By Susan Gardner
Which sounds are prominent as you approach the holidays? The sounds of company as you welcome family and friends, or the sounds of silence amidst clutter and frustrated desires?
Clear your way to schedule and pace your decorating, cooking and entertaining, whether minimal or over the top. The focus of holiday is celebrating life, relationships, homes and connections in the higher spheres. When we raise our glass to life, let it be to health and hope, especially in our homes.
As a professional organizer, I share the connection between our health and the physical state of our house, suggesting a system you can use to get ready to entertain or to experience the depths of personal celebrations.
Three ways clutter affects our health in significant ways
Clutter can zap energy. Looking at it, our mind becomes distracted or frustrated. It traps energy and the flow of air through the house. The more things we have, the more dust and dander collects. It often hides problems wreaking havoc on the floor, sometimes causing mold. This aggravates breathing problems, especially in small children or vulnerable adults. Clutter also increases falls, as people step around and over things.
Clutter affects your eating habits. Another health problem is that we do not eat as well when our environment is cluttered. A 2017 Psychology Today study “showed that people will actually eat more cookies and snacks if the environment in which they’re offered a choice of foods is chaotic, and they’re led to feel stressed.” Because the kitchen becomes less useable, we eat out more, eat more processed foods. Planning meals during the holidays — either dishes to take to parties or meals to serve at home — adds benefit to health. Organization makes this readily doable.
Clutter affects your mental health. Most obvious, however, are the mental health dynamics of clutter. We become embarrassed to bring people into our house as it becomes cluttered. This includes friends and family as well as service people who make simple repairs, which, left unmade, develop into major repairs. This increases into isolation.
Our mind and clutter are connected: a cluttered mind leads to a cluttered environment, which returns to the cluttered mind. Breaking this cycle takes both change in our thinking and in our action. When we are uncluttered and organized, we feel more in control and our self-esteem increases.
Clutter that is made up of delayed decisions becomes especially tricky. Stacks or piles become invisible to us or glaring reminders of things undone. During holidays, we have ideas of what we want to do, which, weighed against reality, seem far away. This pulls down our self-esteem.
When overwhelmed with clutter, set an achievable goal and picture in your mind a multi-step plan that will get a specific place uncluttered. Declutter entertaining areas first, such as the living room or den and the dining room and kitchen. A next step could be fixing the leak under the kitchen sink. Then, clean the areas that you have decluttered. Bring out some decorations. Now, the kitchen is ready to cook and the dining room is available for entertaining.
“Just as clutter mutes the sounds and dulls the atmosphere in your home, it also mutes your ability to live life to the fullest,” says Karen Kingston, mindbodygreen.com. “Clearing the clutter allows the fresh winds of inspiration to enter your home and your life.”
May sounds of acceptance, joy and laughter fill your soul and your home.
Susan Gardner is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, CPO-CD®, MDiv and a Nashville area resident. She enjoys volunteering at the Underground Art Studio at the Oasis Youth Center and maintains a blog at clearingthewayhome.com.