“I’ve lost the thread of my life. Help me find the thread”. So lamented a client of mine. Piled around us in her suburban home were heaps of laundry, toys, tools, magazines, sports equipment, pet products and more, all spun together in vague, collected shapes like some forgotten Aztec ruin long since reclaimed by the jungle. More importantly, hidden among the jumble was dust, mold, pet hair and worse. All of it quietly and adversely affecting her health.
Even in less cluttered homes I find one or more family member is afflicted by allergies or worse asthma. Even the dog was sneezing. As a Professional Organizer I dip in and out of many lives guiding, giving perspectives and rescuing homeowners from clutter and sources of health issues.
To have that healthy HG ‘magazine’ home you have to have less stuff. There’s no getting around it. Zen gardens are peaceful for a reason – less to afflict disorder on the mind. Peace comes from space. Clear surfaces invite cleaning. Piled objects repel the mind, overwhelm the spirit. Purge and eliminate. “purge it!”. Organize what you have left effectively, the things you really want and need. Make due with less and you will live longer, liberated, healthier lives and have a healthy home.
People are hurting physically and psychologically by their stuff. If it doesn’t serve who you are now – purge. Older Canadians already know life is more about services and quality of life and less about the gathering stuff. With years comes wisdom.
Sometimes clutter is the result of a life numbing incident – a bad relationship or the loss of a loved one. Cleaning up loses its meaning and the hoarding of things becomes a buffer to fill the void.
Many women have daily schedules timed to the minute with little personal time to live or de-clutter. “My house never used to be this way,” is a common apology. The psychological effects on children of a cluttered home cannot be under-stressed. One client contacted me because her little daughter asked her if, “Daddy could move them to a neat house”. A sweet but blunt wakeup call.
One client’s home had water damage to walls and carpets two years previously that resulted, over time, in a mold and allergen hazard. Mold, indoor pollutants and dust exposure in many homes is resulting in an increasing number of bronchial reactions among children including asthma. The largest growth in emergency room cases in North America, in children under five, is asthma related.
The air in that home had a languid, musty heaviness. In the basement dark patches of mold covered several walls, an area doubling as the TV room. To move about one felt breathless and weary. It was no wonder the woman shuffled and spoke with weariness beyond her years.
In winter the effect is compounded by the sealing of windows and doors with the resulting rise in exposure to indoor pollutants from furnishings, cleaning products, building materials, malfunctioning appliances or dehumidifiers, dust mites, formaldehyde from pressed wood, glues and textiles such as drapes, pollen, mold, hobby supplies, exhaust from attached garages, back-draft from chimneys etc.
Indoor pollution is often two to five times higher than outside. The air circulating from the basement is the worst offender in almost every home. With improper air exchange rates, especially during colder months cumulative pollutants can take their toll.
Eliminate sources; old couches, carpets, cardboard containers and wood. Empty standing water sources. Don’t smoke. Replace cardboard with plastics. Switch to natural cleaners such as lemon juice and vinegar.
Common reactions to poor indoor air: eye irritation, fatigue, sore nose, throat, dizziness or recurring headaches – reactions similar to colds or flu. Everyone has their own level of sensitivity but children are especially vulnerable. Good web sites to find more at The Canadian Environmental Agency site or the US Environmental Protection Agency site. Or my web site at: http://www.decluttering.ca.
The effect for the cluttered home owner is a distinctly overwhelming. The word ‘lost’ neatly defines the feeling and is a common lament. Finding yourself and home again takes time, time to adjust to a new normal and let go of old ways and stuff and become someone new. But starting a little at a time is better than the slippery slope of never starting at all. An organizer can help. I can help.