The magazine rack is overflowing, the dining room table holds a week's worth
of mail, the stairs are an obstacle course, and you're pretty sure it's
official: You're in dire need of clutter control!
Having too much stuff can not only drain and frustrate you, it can make it
difficult to get things done. That's why WebMD went to five organizational
experts for their top advice on what you can do to control that
What one person calls clutter another calls collections or treasures, so the
first step is to figure out what qualifies as clutter. "Other people can't
decide what is clutter for you," says Cynthia Townley Ewer of Richland,
Wash., the editor of the web site Organized Home.
Peter Walsh, an organizational expert and former host of The Learning
Channel's Clean Sweep show, divides clutter into two general types.
"Memory" clutter is stuff that reminds us of important events, like old
school programs or newspaper clippings. "Someday" clutter refers to
items you won't toss because you feel you might need them someday.
"It's about balance," Walsh says of clutter control. "If you
have so much stuff it drags you into the past or pulls you into the future, you
can't live in the present."
Clutter, Control, and Your Health
Professional organizers who are called to cluttered homes and offices say
their clients use the same words, over and over, to describe their reaction to
the mess: their energy is drained, they can't find things, and it's beginning
to interfere with crucial parts of life -- such as getting to work on time or
"A lot of people express that they are overwhelmed," says Lynne
Gilberg, a professional organizer in West Los Angeles, Calif. "They become
nonfunctional and nonproductive," she says. That's when they call her in
"Clutter is bad for your physical and mental health," Gilberg says.
Too much clutter can be a fire hazard. Dust, mold, and animal dander that
collect in cluttered homes are all bad for allergies and asthma.
"When people see clutter, they use language like 'suffocating,' and 'I
can't breathe,' agrees Walsh. Clutter can be a physical manifestation of mental
health issues, Walsh tells WebMD. Those overwhelmed with "memory"
clutter may have an undue preoccupation with things in the past and become
depressed. Those who can't toss out items because they worry they will need
them may be too anxious, he says.
Clutter may even be making you fat, says Walsh, who wrote Does This
Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? after he noticed an association between the
amount of clutter people have and their excess weight. The common denominator?
A life of consumption -- too much stuff, too much to eat.