Decluttering for Your Physical Health

We’re all aware of the quality-of-life benefits of organizing one’s home or office. When paperwork and belongings are in order, it’s exponentially easier to stay on task and be productive. Knowing the exact location of your rain jacket and your client’s file can mean the difference between an on-time arrival at the office and showing up harried and tardy to your 9 a.m. meeting.

People often seek organizational help when they want to bring structure to a space, but few realize that decluttering can also lead to significant improvements in one’s physical and mental health.

Professional Organizer Jennifer Dwyer has been called upon to help dozens of folks whose busy lifestyles and overabundance of personal effects have combined to create disarray in their homes and workspaces. Many such situations have grown from minor inconveniences to potentially serious problems.

“I’ve been in homes where every room is like a storage unit, with rows of boxes covering windows or heat vents, stacks of old papers, magazines and mail creating fire hazards, and furniture that is so buried underneath the clutter that it can’t be used,” says Dwyer, who is the owner and chief organizer of Seattle-based A Logical Mess. In one home she visited, water damage that went unaddressed had caused mildew to grow in the kitchen and bathroom, exacerbated by piles of clothing and furniture that had also become wet and moldy.

In such situations, decluttering becomes necessary for personal health.

“Decluttering or purging their homes can lead to better air quality and healthier hygiene,” says Dwyer, “leading to less sickness, less stress and less anxiety.”

 

Get cooking in the kitchen!

More often than not, cluttered kitchens are at the center of unhealthy living arrangements.

“The most common complaint is that people don’t have time to make healthy meals, and they’re suffering physically from it,” says Dwyer. “The cause, most often, is disorganization.”

Without an effective storage system, cabinets and refrigerators can become overstuffed and unorganized. Ingredients are misplaced or buried under the clutter, thwarting even the best-laid plans to create a home-cooked meal. If food prep surfaces such as tabletops or countertops are piled high, meal-making becomes even less of a reality. It doesn’t take long before fast food or processed meals become the go-to dinner solution.

Dwyer suggests tackling a cluttered kitchen by purging kitchen cabinets of old or unused dried goods, spices, and packaged foods. Jars and plastic Tupperware-type containers are other space hogs. Move those books, boxes, laptops and backpacks off the kitchen counters, creating space for food prep. The result? More room for fresh food storage, increased access to the foods you already have, and adequate space to put it all together. And the best part? More time for other activities.

“The win-win is when a client now feels they can add a walk or workout to their busy day,” says Dwyer.

 

Help is at hand

Decluttering your living room, office, bathroom or kitchen doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Motivation can be found at the library (Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has inspired millions), online (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals website offers a directory of professionals ready to help), or even on TV (watching a few episodes of A&E’s Hoarders has helped kick start many a cleaning effort).

“It mostly takes a little bit of time and elbow grease,” says Dwyer.

In addition to improving physical health, decluttering and organizing can also bring a sense of mental calm and well-being, brought about by repurposing and sharing items that may be useful to others.

“You can donate to charitable organizations that will make use of your old clothes, toys and furniture and you can feel good that you are helping someone else,” says Dwyer. “Let them love the stuff that you don’t love anymore!”

And let the healthy habits grow.

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Sheila Cain

A lifelong Washingtonian, Sheila Cain writes about everything from technology and architecture to food and the outdoors. She lives in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood with her husband, son, dog and three cats.