PETER WALSH is the author of six previous books, including the New York Times bestsellers It's all Too Much and Enough Already!. He is a popular organization expert who appears regularly on The Rachael Ray Show and writes a quarterly column for O the Oprah Magazine. He has hosted several TV shows, including Clean Sweep and Extreme Clutter. He lives in Los Angeles.
Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down
by Peter Walsh
- Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
- Publication date: 02/24/2015
- Sold by: Random House
- Format: NOOK Book
- Pages: 320
- Sales rank: 152,258
- File size: 3 MB
Read an Excerpt
Part 1 How Clutter Invades Your Home, Your Body, and Your Mind
THE HIDDEN FORCES THAT MAKE YOUR HOME A MESS
Imagine a team of future archaeologists carefully examining the remains of one of today's typical homes. Hundreds of years from now, what would they think of the objects piled up in our rooms? Would they understand why we let our belongings take over so much of the space in our homes?
We don't have to wonder how archaeologists would interpret our early 21st- century homes. They're already trying to make sense of them now.
Earlier in her career, UCLA professor Jeanne Arnold, PhD, did the kind of work that the word archaeology more often brings to mind: examining bits of material left behind by ancient Native Americans. More recently, though, she shifted her focus to a very different society: modern-day Southern Californians. As part of an extended study, she and a team of researchers made in-depth explorations into 32 homes. They carefully photographed the rooms, noted exactly what types of household possessions the families treasured, and observed in real time how the residents used their homes. She wanted to find out what leads so many people to pack so much stuff inside and, once they bring it in, what they do with all of it.
All the families in these homes had kids. In all the homes, both parents worked. These were typical families with busy schedules and not a lot of time for cleaning and sorting. But Dr. Arnold and her colleagues didn't go out of their way to include homes that were especially cluttered. (They accepted families into the study without first seeing their homes.) Nor did they see evidence that the homeowners cleaned up before the team visited.
They found that many of these homes were so crowded that some of the rooms couldn't be used for their intended purposes. In three-quarters of the houses, the garage was so packed with items like sports equipment, boxes of files, lumber, and plastic bins filled with clothing that the cars were parked outside. The garage was too full to hold them.
Dr. Arnold and her team took nearly 20,000 photos in the homes, some of which ended up in a book that she co-authored about the project, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. One shows a shower stall where no one can bathe because it's stuffed knee-high with clothes. In another photo, no one can sit comfortably in front of the computer because the home office is so jammed with clutter. No one can relax on a couch because it's littered with stuffed animals. No one can sort laundry on top of the washer or dryer because they're covered with stacks of groceries.
The notion of "clutter" has different meanings. A household scene that looks like squalor to one might be "just a bit of a mess" to another. In this book, I'll use the word clutter a lot, and I'd like you to understand what I mean by this word.
Dr. Jeanne Arnold, the archaeologist who explores the modern world, and I see eye to eye on the three factors that turn household objects into clutter:
1. It's a lot of stuff.
As you cast your eye around the room, it's hard to make sense of all the visual noise of colors and shapes. Merely owning an abundance of possessions doesn't necessarily mean that your home is cluttered, but it's a good start.
2. It's out of place.
Here's where clutter begins. If you see a fork in the middle of your floor, you know it doesn't belong there. That's because forks have a very specific home, and it's not on the floor. A pile of clothes in the shower (where a person belongs) looks like clutter. Cases of sodas on the washing machine (where clothes should temporarily go) become clutter.
3. It's untidy.
"A beautifully arranged bookshelf with hundreds and hundreds of books doesn't look like clutter--it looks like a nice collection, right? Whereas if the books are all falling out of the bookcase and some of them are stacked and things are sticking out of the books, it starts to look like clutter, since it's not tidy," Dr. Arnold says.
The totally uncluttered definition: Clutter is too much stuff scattered in the wrong place.
"Something like two-thirds of households had, based on a simple visual observation, an uncomfortable amount of stuff," she says. And by "uncomfortable," she means how an average visitor might feel upon entering the home. Most of the families living in these spaces, on the other hand, didn't seem to be too upset about the clutter around them or even to notice it.
"Many of the men in the households expressed no concern whatsoever about the untidy spaces or having lots of stuff. Moms more often commented on it, but only some of them commented on it using language that suggested that it caused them considerable stress," she said.
But it's hard to be truly blissful, calm, and relaxed in an untidy environment. Psychologists on the team found signs that a cluttered house could pose a threat to a peaceful state of mind. Women whose homes were more stressful--based partly on their home's clutter levels--had a pattern of changes in their cortisol levels that showed more chronic stress. Their levels of depressed mood also increased over the day.
When you truly need cortisol coursing through your system, it's great to have around. It shifts your body into a different mode--like shifting your car into a higher gear--so it's ready to fight or flee from an attacker. But long term, you don't want too much cortisol and other stress hormones flooding your system. Revving up your car for too long isn't good for the engine, and excess stress hormones in your system can, over time:
Keep you from sleeping
Make you feel sick to your stomach
Throw off your mental focus
Hurt your heart
Make you feel more anxious or depressed
Contribute to weight gain
A cluttered house isn't a good enough reason to do this to your body and your mind.
After many visits to messy homes, I've come to realize that clutter is a customary part of most families' lives and that many families have given up on trying to keep it under control. I've also learned that the accumulation of too much stuff in people's homes has more serious and negative effects on their lives than they realize. Clutter has:
A financial impact:
Take, for example, the father who traveled constantly for work. He was wracked with guilt because he rarely spent time with his children, so he bought them toys to make up for his absence. When I started working with the family, all their credit cards were maxed out and the huge plastic containers of untouched toys that filled their garage had long ago begun to spill out into their yard.
An emotional impact:
I met a mother who became obsessed with collecting plastic action figures and other memorabilia from a national restaurant franchise. Her 8- and 12- year-old daughters had never shared a family meal at the kitchen table because it was so cluttered with this stuff that they couldn't even see it.
A social impact:
A young mother couldn't say no to the offers of hand-me-down clothes from her family and friends. Once she had the clothes, she felt too guilty to part with them. With three children under the age of 6, her home was so packed with kids' clothing that she felt too embarrassed to have anyone in for a visit. She became increasingly isolated and depressed.
A relationship impact:
A couple collected "gifts" for family and friends, but never actually gave them away. Their surroundings were so cluttered that their grandchildren had never even visited their home.
While many of the homes I visit are much, much worse than the homes in Jeanne Arnold's book, in all of them I find families that are stressed, less happy than they could be, and unable to live the kind of lives they'd like. They're drowning in too much stuff. When we talk about their surroundings, without exception these conversations dredge up powerful emotions like guilt, loss, regret, betrayal, worry, and anger.
If your house is an overstuffed mess, I've learned that more often than not, it's a warning sign that you have some type of trouble--large or small- -in your mental and emotional well-being. In turn, a chaotic home that leaves little room for you and the other people inside can threaten your mental and physical health.
Stuff that overfills a home is usually a symptom of some deeper, more significant issue that has not been addressed by an individual or the family. It's easy to be distracted by the stuff--but the real issue is never the stuff itself. As I often tell people, it's not about the clutter.
My work is based largely around one simple yet powerful premise that I know to be true: You can't make your best choices, your healthiest choices, your most life-affirming choices in a cluttered, messy, disorganized house. You can argue with me as much as you want, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that it just doesn't happen.
If you were to invite me into your home, and I were to see that it's packed full of objects that you don't truly need, use, or want--but can't get rid of--I would be concerned that:
Your mind isn't as happy, relaxed, and focused as it could be.
You are feeling overwhelmed by your possessions and unable to get them under control.
Your weight is likely higher than you would like it to be.
Your relationships with your spouse, kids, and other loved ones in your home aren't as strong as they could be.
The stuff you own has become more important than your and your family's well-being.
You simply don't know where to start making a change.
Does this sound like a typical morning at your home?
When you wake up, the very first thing your eyes see is a cluttered, messy bedroom, which immediately sets an unpleasant tone for your day. You get up and can't find the outfit you know is somewhere in your closet (thus starting your day with a failure). Your kids' homework has disappeared, you're out of milk for breakfast, and your car keys are nowhere to be found. You've had more frustration by 8 a.m. than some people feel all day. If this sounds like you, is it any surprise that you feel tense and on edge before you step out of the house?
I can show you how each room in your home can drag down your happiness in its own special way.
If your kitchen counters are cluttered and your drawers are overflowing with gizmos that you bought in a moment of culinary enthusiasm--but haven't used once--then you're not likely to cook a healthy meal that brings your family together. It's just too stressful an exercise.
If your home office is such a mess that it keeps you from getting your finances in order, it's no surprise when stress, uncertainty, and fights about money disrupt your marital happiness and keep everyone in the home worried.
The clutter in your house may be a cause of deeper personal and emotional issues in your life, and it will almost certainly contribute to stress within your family. This clutter can also directly affect your weight and serve as a warning light that you're making decisions that threaten your health.
Since a cluttered home can so completely drag down a family's quality of life, why do so many people bring so much stuff into their homes, use it so little, and find it so difficult to let go? A more useful question might be: In today's society, how could people not do this?
A Culture of Clutter
In the United States, consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the nation's overall economic activity. The same is true in other developed countries: Of all the spending that goes on, everyday consumers account for most of it. As a result, the forces that run the place where you live--the government, big businesses, the media--keep a very, very close eye on whether you, the consumer, are spending enough.
Did you catch that? The powers that be don't necessarily view you as a citizen, a voter, or a person. You're a consumer. You're someone who buys products, then consumes them. After you eat it, use it up, or wear it out, you buy more.
As I sit at my desk writing this today, the headlines on my computer are very excited about how much Americans have been spending recently. "If You're Average, You'll Spend $98 Today," Time magazine tells me. The typical consumer spent $98 a day last month, pushing the average to its highest in 6 years. That doesn't count things like your mortgage, car payment, or utility bills. It's a measure of your purchases at places like coffee shops, convenience stores, department stores, and online retailers.
If you're contributing to this daily flow of commerce, the newscasts will speak of you in glowing terms. Your neighbors may look at you with envy. But this spending, I fear, will continue to keep you overweight, overcluttered, and underhappy.
This pressure for consumers--I mean people--to keep spending has been building since before you were born. Thousands of years ago, humans evolved in an environment of scarcity, says Peter Whybrow, MD. He's a psychiatrist at UCLA whose main interest these days is trying to figure out why people need to buy so much in the pursuit of happiness.
Our ancient ancestors spent their time seeking the three things their brains told them to chase: food, shelter, and sex. At least two of these were typically hard to find. These primitive people spent a lot of time and energy chasing down a tasty animal to eat or looking for a safe place to spend the night. When they succeeded, their brains' reward centers released chemicals that made them feel happy and content. Another day as successful as that might not happen for a long time, Dr. Whybrow says.
Even in the 1700s, when philosophers and economists were setting up the foundation of our free-market economy, even basic necessities were still scarce for most. "You can only harness your horse and go to the market once a week," Dr. Whybrow explains. "The constraints of work, the climate, the mountains, all of those things that constrained people were so dominant that they could never imagine the situation where we live now."
Our economy was set up with the expectation that these constraints would always limit our ability to get our hands on food, clothing, and tools. So would our desire to not look greedy in front of our neighbors, says Dr. Whybrow, who covers these issues in his book American Mania: When More Is Not Enough.
Table of Contents
Part 1 How Culture Invades Your Home, Your Body, and Your Mind
Chapter 1 The Hidden Forces That Make Your Home a Mess 3
Chapter 2 The Science Linking Clutter and Weight 23
Chapter 3 Where Am I Now (and How Did My Mind Bring Me Here)? 33
Chapter 4 Clutter and Fat Are No Match for Your Mind 49
Part 2 The Lost the Clutter, Lose the Weight Blueprint
Chapter 5 How the Program Works 73
Chapter 6 How to Eat to Lose the Weight 91
Chapter 7 How to Move to Lose the Weight 129
Part 3 The Six-Week Program Begins
Chapter 8 Make Each Week a Success 167
Chapter 9 Week One: Your Cooking and Dining Areas 173
Chapter 10 Week Two: Your Bedroom 193
Chapter 11 Week Three: Your Bedroom Closet and Your Bathroom 215
Chapter 12 Week Four: Your Financial House 235
Chapter 13 Week Five: Your Living Areas (Family Room, Living Room, Den) 251
Chapter 14 Week Six: Your Storage Areas (Basement, Garage, Attic, Shed) 265
Chapter 15 How to Make Your Positive Changes Last a Lifetime 279
Want a NOOK? Explore Now
From the author of New York Times bestseller It's All Too Much, comes a 6-week program for acheiving significant weight loss and a calmer mind, by clearing the clutter and creating a more organized, happier life.
A houseful of clutter may not be the only reason people pack on extra pounds, but research proves that it plays a big role. A recent study showed that people with super-cluttered homes were 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese! Why? Organization guru Peter Walsh thinks it's because people can't make their best choices—their healthiest choices—in a cluttered, messy, disorganized home.
In Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight, Walsh leads you step-by-step through decluttering your home, your body, and your life in this 6-week program. He'll help you:
• Clear your home of excess "stuff" as you discover your vision for your personal space
• Clear your body of excess pounds as you follow a healthy, super-simple eating and exercise plan
• Clear your mind and spirit of the excess weight of too many possessions
With a room-by room organizing guide, dietitian-approved eating plan, exercise physiologist–developed fitness program, and quizzes to get to the root of your problem, Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight is the only book you need to help you clear the clutter and zap the pounds.
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