HEALTH & FITNESS
BRYANT FUKUTOMI / BFUKUTOMI@STARBULLETIN.COM
"Clutter is a contributing factor in noncompliance with taking meds and keeping appointments and exercising and all those things that contribute to have a healthy life."
Lynne Johnson /
Professional organizer and president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization
Mind your mess
Getting organized clears your path to physical and mental well-being
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Just looking at the word can cause a feeling of panic or anxiety. Clutter is something that goes deeper than simple disorganization or a need for spring cleaning; it has become a subject of study for neurologists, psychologists and wellness professionals.
Easy ways to begin to feng shui your enivornment, from practitioner Jonathan Sugal:
» If an item has no use or if a negative feeling or memory is attached to it, remove it immediately.
» If you don't need an item but it's still useful, give it away.
» Add some plants. They provide life and energy --even silk plants, if they are realistic. Choose plants that are soft, rounded and vibrant -- not spiky.
Where to begin
» Mirror Mirror: 941 Hausten St., 945-3412
» Alice Inoue Consultations: 320 Ward Ave., 598-2655
» World of Feng Shui Inc: 1020 Kapahulu Ave., 739-8288, www.wofs.com
Clutter is more than a messy house -- it's a collection of behaviors that lead to a disorganized lifestyle. It's also a psychological condition marked by the reluctance -- or inability -- to part with unnecessary belongings. When clutter starts to have an impact on psychological and physical health, it becomes a deeper issue than a few extra plastic totes can fix.
Clutter has emerged as a valid source of scientific inquiry. Studies have implicated clutter in depression, anxiety and other health effects, including a general dampening of brain function.
In a National Institution of Mental Health study, visual clutter was found to decrease short-term memory and lower attention span.
The influence of clutter even extends to weight and cardiovascular health. "People don't eat well because their kitchen isn't functional, and they don't sleep well when their bed is piled high with stuff," explained Lynne Johnson, a professional organizer and president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. "Clutter is a contributing factor in noncompliance with taking meds and keeping appointmets and exercising and all those things that contribute to having a healthy life."
Experts in organization and mental health agree that getting organized enhances all levels of health: physical, mental and emotional.
On the physical level, a reduction in clutter is clearly a path to a safer environment with fewer opportunities to trip over a baseball bat. On mental levels, a cleared environment can improve thinking processes and create a calmer state of mind. Emotionally, de-cluttering reduces a sense of general being overwhelmed that affects millions.
CARLIE SINGH PARTRIDGE
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The feng shui perspective recognizes clutter as a blockage to the chi -- or energy flow -- in your house or office. Blockages of any kind are seen as inhibiting growth, health and harmony, so de-cluttering is often the first step in implementing feng shui not only in a home, but also within yourself.
Clutter in the home is an emblem of stuck, stagnant energy, which can be blocking specific aspects of your physical or emotional health. For instance, a pile of unopened mail could be causing problems in your marriage, or a cluttered closet could impede your intellectual development. Getting rid of that extra stuff might have a great overall impact on the healthy energy in your dwelling.
Jill Thalmann, owner of the feng shui-insired décor store Mirror Mirror on South King street enjoys demystifying the vastness of feng shui science. "It's common sense," she says. "More obstructions in your environment create more blockages, and obstructions are basically clutter."
She sees de-cluttering an environment as the first step to beautifying it -- before adding the embellishments typically associated with feng shui (think chinmes, money-frog statues and miniature fountains).
Thalmann's common-sense approach is rooted in concern for her clients' overall wellness. "People come to me in various states of ill health or depression, and while I cannot tell them what's medically the issue, I can definitely tell them they can improve the problems by stopping the cycle of procrastinating against clutter."
In nearly 10 years of business, Thalmann has accumulated countless stories about customers who report positive effects of clearing their spaces. "There's no need to invest in only Chinese traditional feng-shui objects," says Thalmann. "The principles can be applied with more simple objects that can blend into any décor. But first, the negative obstructions must be removed, or it will do no good to add the positive objects."
The direct relationship between physical and emotional clutter is deeply embedded in feng shui practices. Practitioner and instructor Alice Inoue provides practical methods to reduce clutter and help people understand the link between their environment and their spiritual and physical well-being.
In her forthcoming book, "Awakening to Shifting Times," she explains: "Clutter is woven into our emotional energy, it ties us to the past, instead of allowing us to live in the present moment, and we hold onto it for various reasons."
Inoue tries to help those who wish to shift the energetic foundations of their lives, and warns against taking a casual approach to feng shui. She teaches that becoming more deeply aware of our environment is a key to unlocking the health benefits of a cleared living space.
Not all clutter is "visible clutter," she says. "Just like a remote control sends unseen signals to change the images on a television screen, so also does our environment continuously send us invisible signals of energy that profoundly influence the screen of our subconscious mind."
Clutter, in other words, can work its way into all parts of our lives, invading our homes, offices, cars, purses, wallets and even computer screens.
The mental aspects of clutter are of interest to Inoue's former student and current practitioner Jonathan Sugal. "Mental can be in the form of too many things to do, unfulfilled commitments, or holding onto negative memories that keep you stuck in the past, contributing to obstacles and frustrations," explains Sugal.
Inoue and Sugal say removing clutter should take priority over all other forms of cleaning.
Inoue encourages beginning with the corners of your space first, for the sake of simplifying the task and getting the greatest benefit.
"Pick any corner in your home and clear it out. It could be just a plant, where all you need to do is water and trim away dead leaves, or it could be a shelf where you have old magazines and books to sort through. Then go to the next corner and then the next. By the third corner, you will begin to feel a renewed sense of lightness and have more energy to embark on a full clutter-clearing journey."