Welcome to "52 Weeks to a Healthier You"....

Are you thinking about making changes in your life to become a healthier person but don't quite know how to get started? Perhaps your doctor has suggested eating healthier, exercising and losing weight, but it all seems so overwhelming. Many of us already know what we should be doing, but implementing all of those pieces of information can be quite a challenge. Too often we embark on a new diet or exercise plan only to give up after a few days or weeks because it seems too difficult. Well, worry no more. You have arrived at the ideal place to help you make those changes. We are going to develop new habits, one week at a time. Health, exercise, and nutritional goals have been broken down into small, manageable steps. Each week you will add one new habit and have seven full days to perfect it before moving on to the next one. This is not a traditional diet and exercise plan, but rather a journey towards a permanent healthy lifestyle. The steps may seem small at first, but collectively they add up to major improvements in one's overall well-being. In just 52 short weeks, you will be amazed and proud of the changes you have made. You will look back and see just how far you've come on your quest to be a healthier YOU. Now, scroll down in the archives to January 2011/Week 1 and let's get started.... Then, follow each week's tip to a healthier YOU!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Week 23 - Reduce Clutter in Your Life

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!  Is your house overflowing with stuff?  Is your mind overflowing with stuff? This tip may sound more like a housecleaning tip than a step towards better health, but this week we are examining the idea of reducing clutter in your life -- both physical clutter and mental clutter.

We all know what it feels like when we can't find something important -- we know exactly what we are looking for, we remember seeing it somewhere, but we can't get our hands on it!  Frustrating to say the least.  Whether it's piles of papers on the kitchen counter, overflowing magazine racks, an obstacle course for a stairway, or endless lists running through your mind, it all leads to the same thing -- frustration. This frustration leads to stress and anxiety which in turn takes a toll on our health.

Many people turn to professional organizers to help them get their clutter problem under control.  This is all fine and well, but the real issue that needs to be addressed is coming up with your own "box of tools" to conquer this problem.  Ultimately, YOU are the person that has to deal with the issue daily and keep things managed.

Physical clutter -- messy spaces, piles, unfinished tasks -- leads to mental clutter.  And mental clutter has a serious impact on your state of mind and well being.  When an endless loop runs through your head and that loop plays over and over, it is tough to silence the voice and move forward.  You can become nonfunctional and nonproductive.

Mental clutter can affect all aspects of your life.  Your quality of sleep diminishes, becoming more erratic and leading to bad or strange dreams.  Sleep is crucial to well-being, health and vitality; quality REM sleep is necessary for the body to repair and rejuvenate, and an interruption to REM sleep can lead to a host of problems.  You can become drowsy and unfocused during the day, miss important deadlines, and make poor decisions. And you can begin dreading bedtime knowing that sleep is elusive and a serious insomnia problem can develop.

What is a person to do?  As with all of our healthy tips at 52 Weeks to a Healthier You, it is best to tackle this clutter with baby steps.  Take out a sheet of paper.  Begin making a list of projects to be completed. Do not worry at first about organizing your list; just jot down things you need to accomplish.  For example:

  • Clean out garage
  • Organize bills/paperwork
  • Schedule family dental appointments
  • Etc.

Next, take all of the items you wrote down and begin dividing your list into broad categories on a Master To Do List:

  • People To Call
  • Errands
  • Things To Buy
  • Paperwork
  • Household
  • Miscellaneous (ahhhh... the infamous section where a lot can get dumped if you're not careful!)

Begin sorting the items you wrote down in to broad categories.  "Clean out Garage" goes under Household.  "Organize bills/paperwork" goes under Paperwork. Do you need to buy office supplies in order to better organize your bill-paying?  Add those items to your Things To Buy section.  "Schedule family dental appointments" goes under People To Call.

Then, one by one, begin to knock off the easiest things first.  As you accomplish each task, cross it off the list.  This is very important, as visually seeing items get accomplished will begin to reduce your mental clutter.  When you have your list compiled, daunting as it may be, crossing each item off the list results in a sense of accomplishment as well as a visual reminder that you are working towards your goals.  Let your list be the "keeper of your anxiety;" in other words, put it on the list so it stops running through your mind. List it, and forget about it!

Keep the list fluid and keep it "working" -- create a new list each week, transferring any undone items to the next week's list.  This way, the list doesn't become a catch-all for projects that will never get done.  Put major tasks, like "Cleaning out the Garage," on your calendar.  Pick a date, pencil it in, and make it happen!  Break down a major task like this into smaller parts if necessary:

  • Clean out garage storage cabinets and shelves
  • Donate all unused/outgrown bikes, toys, etc
  • Service lawnmower and power tools

Similarly, list the remaining items you need to finish cleaning out the garage, and go ahead and schedule them on your calendar.

Here's an example of my To-Do List this week:

ONLY use the "Miscellaneous" section for tasks that truly don't fit any other category."  Enough said about that.  It's too easy to end up with a whole list of miscellaneous items that never get done!  Notice my Miscellaneous section is blank?

Once you begin breaking down and listing tasks on a Master To Do List, your mental clutter will lessen.  Sleep will improve, your self confidence will go up, and you will be well on your way to tackling both physical and mental clutter.

Don't underestimate the power of getting more organized and reducing all kinds of clutter in your life.  When physical clutter begins to clutter your mind, stress goes up and stress results in inflammation.  Inflammation leads to chronic disease of all kinds -- heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression -- to name a few.

If you are still feeling stressed by your unfinished tasks, stop and take a breather.  Literally, practice the breathing exercise recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil -- his 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise.  For an excellent demonstration of this exercise, click here.  Then, return to your list and know that you can do this!

"Organization isn't about perfection; it's about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” 

                          ~Christina Scalise

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