The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Let it go and lighten your heavy load

Apart from the ob­vi­ous vis­ual ben­e­fits of a good de­clut­ter, ex­perts say that keep­ing a clean and well-or­dered house also has health and lifestyle gains in­clud­ing weight loss


I’M ASHAMED to ad­mit that un­til this week­end, I owned eight denim jack­ets.

Seven of them are now with Life­line, along with six pairs of boots, five crys­tal vases, nine table­cloths and three boxes of Star Wars Lego.

The Roald Dahl-inspired Big Friendly Gi­ant pa­pier­mâché pup­pet my son made way back in Year 4, and which was big­ger than he was, is sleep­ing peace­fully in the wheelie bin. De­clut­ter­ing feels good. So good, that I’m go­ing to press on, be­cause I’ve dis­cov­ered there’s science be­hind the spring clean, prov­ing its worth on so many lev­els.

Want to be more pro­duc­tive, re­duce your risk of al­ler­gies?

Want to stress less, be hap­pier? Lose weight even? Lib­er­ate your liv­ing spa­ces. Peter Walsh, an Aus­tralian de­clut­ter guru based in the US, says many peo­ple strug­gle to down­size be­cause they at­tach mean­ing to pos­ses­sions.

This sounds silly, doesn’t it, be­cause we know that ma­te­rial things don’t mat­ter in the long run, yet we cling to them all the same.

Walsh, who was a reg­u­lar guest on Oprah, says “stuff” has the power to evoke emo­tion, re­mind us of oc­ca­sions, peo­ple we miss, hap­pier days.

In throw­ing things out, we can feel as if we are be­tray­ing those mem­o­ries.

Sen­ti­men­tal­ity is fine in small doses, but logic dic­tates that we can­not move through life ac­cu­mu­lat­ing with­out also dis­card­ing.

The ques­tion then be­comes: What to keep?

In the best­selling book, The Life-Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up, Marie Kondo ad­vises pull- ing ev­ery­thing out of cup­boards, book­cases and from un­der beds and choos­ing to save only those items that “spark joy”. Ev­ery­thing else must go. If that’s too rad­i­cal – and frankly, I can’t see it work­ing in the pantry (how much joy can be sparked from a packet of soup mix; and isn’t that the point of use-by dates, to tell us what to cull?) – then pop­u­lar wis­dom sug­gests stor­ing in boxes the things you’re un­sure about and if, in a year’s time, you haven’t missed them, then ditch them.

When your house is in or­der, so too is your mind.

David Tolin and re­searchers at Amer­ica’s Anx­i­ety Dis­or­der Cen­tre in Con­necti­cut have done brain scans on com­pul­sive hoard­ers.

Peo­ple were asked to choose, on the spot and with a shred­der present, be­tween items to keep or have de­stroyed. Chronic hoard­ers be­came stressed to

the point of be­ing un­able to make a de­ci­sion, while “nor­mal” hoard­ers, whose homes were clut­tered but not to the point of call­ing in the author­i­ties or a re­al­ity TV res­cue crew, could de­cide rel­a­tively easily.

Psy­chi­a­trists have found that through cog­ni­tive ther­apy, com­pul­sive hoard­ers can learn to live with less.

And when this hap­pens, bingo, their stress lev­els drop.

Why? Func­tion­al­ity im­proves – pre­vi­ously re­stric­tive and per­haps un­hy­gienic ar­eas can be used and en­joyed.

There is phys­i­cally less to worry about and more space to move freely and, by ex­ten­sion, think clearly.

Natalie Schrier, a New Yorker who makes a crust clear­ing other peo­ple’s clut­ter, says well-or­gan­ised homes and of­fices are an in­vest­ment in our well­be­ing and, ul­ti­mately, boost pro­duc­tiv­ity.

The time we spend look­ing for, or re­plac­ing, things can be used far more ef­fi­ciently. Schrier has a point. Had I kept an or­gan­ised wardrobe, with like items hung to­gether, I’d have seen that one denim jacket is suf­fi­cient – and just think of the dol­lars I’d have saved.

Be­ing or­gan­ised and clut­ter-free also makes it eas­ier to keep spa­ces clean.

There is less to dust, wipe, dis­in­fect, pol­ish and fewer places for dirt, mould and spring pol­lens to set­tle.

But one of the most in­ter­est­ing rea­sons to down­size must be drop­ping weight. How does this hap­pen? In his 2015 book, Lose the Clut­ter, Lose the Weight, Peter Walsh cites stud­ies that sug­gest hoard­ers are typ­i­cally over­weight.

He then calls on com­mon sense, say­ing a bed­room that’s neat and tidy is more con­ducive to sleep – and qual­ity sleep, as the ex­perts tell us, is im­por­tant in reg­u­lat­ing weight (not to men­tion mood).

Fur­ther, Walsh says if you are eat­ing at a clut­ter-free ta­ble, you can fo­cus on the food and bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the flavour, mean­ing you’re less likely to overeat.

Whether this is true, I don’t know, but from ex­pe­ri­ence, I do know that when my home is tidy and cup­board doors and draw­ers close with­out jamming stuff in, I feel less har­ried and more con­tent.

I like be­ing able to see what is hang­ing in my wardrobe with­out hav­ing to prise coathang­ers apart.

As for my seven denim jack­ets, what hap­pens to them in their next life is not my con­cern – and I’m all the lighter for let­ting them go.

Less is more.


Kylie Lang is the editor of Qweek­end mag­a­zine, ev­ery Satur­day in The Courier-Mail. twit­ter: @kylie_lang

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LOSE IT: De­clut­ter­ing your home can be a lib­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence which will ben­e­fit your state of mind and your health.
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