Clutter reminds us we aren’t finished. It sits there silently taunting us as we go about our day. It acts as mental baggage we carry around with us on the un-written to-do list in our heads that takes up our mental bandwidth.
So how exactly could clutter help or hinder your health goals?
Clutter Reflects Your Current State of Mind
Your home and office are likely as organized as your own mind is… because your mind is active in processing how you interact with your environment. Each time you use an item, you make a decision about what to do with it when you are done – consciously or not. And your patterns of these decisions over time lead to a visible representation of the clarity of your own mind.
Clutter Impacts Self-Control
A cluttered environment is a daily reminder that you aren’t in control. This reminder then impacts the other decisions you make including what and how much you eat or move throughout the day. When you approach life believing you are not in control, you make decisions that affirm that you are not in control. It’s a simple but powerful process that you might not even be aware of that could be sabotaging your every effort!
Clutter Reduces Mental Flexibility
Your eyes need the flexibility to adjust to see something up close like a book and far away like a stop sign. This is a pretty good analogy for your mind as well which needs the capacity to adjust for activities that require different amounts of mental focus. For example, learning something new like playing an instrument requires quite a bit of attention and focus. Whereas other tasks you have done a million times like the laundry should not require much focused attention.
When your home or work environment is cluttered, it can interfere with your mental flexibility by making it harder to focus on the tasks you need to with the right intensity. This makes most tasks unnecessarily more difficult because it just requires more energy to do it.
Clutter is a Physical Reminder of the Decisions You Didn’t Make
Everyday decisions cost our brains energy. And even the decision to NOT make a decision right now costs us. So going through our day ignoring our piles and working around the excess stuff drains us! It keeps us from being able to live our best life because we just don’t have the energy to embrace what’s next.
Which Comes First: Getting Healthy or Getting Organized?
I recently listened to a podcast interview with Chalene Johnson, a superstar in the fitness world. She said that she believed you needed to declutter first before you change your diet, start exercising, or whatever to improve your health. What?!
She suggests that your environment is foundational for building all other habits. When you declutter and put systems in place for staying organized, it helps set you up for success on whatever other goals you have.
De-cluttering Helped Me Finally Make Progress on my Health Goals
As I pondered my own health journey, I realized that almost unknowingly I had experienced this myself! I had been trying for years to change my eating habits and get real about my health priority, but it just didn’t work.
In a transitional season, I slowly put several systems into place for decluttering and organizing. They weren’t perfect, but they were better than I ever had accomplished before. And within a year I was finally able to start meeting some of the health goals I had not accomplished for years before!
Part of it was because I was organized enough in that season to meal plan consistently and cook at home on the regular. I also felt a sense of accomplishment from working little by little on making our home more hospitable so I felt I had the mental bandwidth to extend my self control further throughout my day.
I won’t go so far as to say you have to declutter before you start working on your health… but it’s worth exploring if you feel stuck!
Where to start?
When you close your eyes and think through the areas of your home and/or office, consider which area bothers you the most. It’s the area that you avoid if you can and you feel your throat tighten a little when you walk in the door.
That’s where you should start, but not all at once. Consider what is the first super easy win you can have in that space. It might be getting a garbage bag and finding all the things you know you need to toss. It might be returning some things to other rooms that just don’t belong here. It might be noticing what you never use anyway that is taking up space and could be donated for someone else to use. Whatever it is, try to get a quick first win.
After your quick win, think about your next one. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does need to be doable for you.
Keep the cycle going until that space feels enjoyable and relaxing. Then wash, rinse, and repeat at your next hot spot.
What Do You Think?
Do you have any stories or experiences with clutter helping or hurting your health? Or have you found any super easy decluttering tips you want to share to help us all get going on this process? Please share in the comments below!