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Clear the Clutter to Lose Weight

There’s a connection between straightening up our surroundings and losing weight. And it just might turn you into a neat freak.

Beach towel blowing in the breeze

— Getty Images

I start every day by cleaning the kitchen sink. It’s my ritual. After I clean the debris away, I certainly think better, and I’m more organized and confident. I am ready to start the day.

The rest of my house may not be spotless but I try to keep it clean and, importantly, I have far less stuff today than I did before I lost weight.

Each month during my weight-loss period, I called a local charity for a pickup of extraneous stuff. And although it was sometimes difficult to put old-time “friends” in the bags, once those things were gone I never missed them.

Interestingly enough, participants in my fitness and weight-loss classes report a similar impulse to clean the clutter out of their lives. And it’s no mere coincidence.

A January 2008 article in The New York Times, “A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves,” quotes Lynne Johnson, president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, who says, “I think someone decides, ‘I’m not going to live my life like this anymore. I’m not going to hold onto my stuff, I’m not going to hold onto my weight.’”

She adds, “I don’t know that one comes before the other. It’s part of that same life-change decision.” One of Lynne’s clients, for example, cleaned out her home and lost 50 pounds.

People believe that clutter is the result of inadequate organization. But the real problem is not inadequate storage or organization.

Rather, the problem resides in the way people view their material possessions. Each item is as valuable as the next one, so nothing can be discarded. Until the thinking process is changed, no matter how many systems are adopted or storage bins added the clutter problem won’t go away.

To me, clinging to possessions and struggling with one’s weight are closely linked. If you can clean out even one room in your home, you start to regain control and you see that your actions (exercising your right to part with your possessions) yield positive change — i.e., a cleaner, brighter, easier-to-manage space. You realize you have a choice about how you live, and that is empowering.

The exact same philosophies apply to your health, your body, your diet and your exercise regimens. If you’re ready to clear out the clutter in your life, you may discover that you are also ready to discard some of your extra weight. Or, like the students in my fitness class, you will begin by losing weight, and, as a by-product, you will start clearing out the surplus stuff that is holding you back. The decisions are all yours.

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