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Losing weight and getting organized

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Two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions are to get organized and lose weight. Curiously enough, the two conditions—a heavily cluttered home and being overweight–often go together like New Year’s Eve and champagne.

How does excess weight—on our body or in our home, add up? You’ve probably heard that the average weight gain over the holidays is 5 to 7 pounds. Now researchers are reporting that it’s actually much lower—just one pound. The problem is that the same pound is still with us the next holiday season, and the next. As the years roll by, one pound morphs into 10, 15, or more; in fact 55% of Americans are overweight.

It’s the same with the “weight” cluttering your home. It sneaks in the door gradually, slipping in while you were celebrating the holidays. Some clutter is foisted upon us by others, but largely it comes in under our own power. It happens so gradually that you don’t notice until, one day, you feel like trapped in your home. In some cases, folks begin to feel suffocated by their clutter. Whether you’ve lived in the same home for one year or thirty, clutter can grow like a wild vine, entangling your very soul.

Both fat and clutter provide insulation. Sure, we need a healthy level of body fat to keep warm, and certain amenities in our homes make us comfortable. But too often, in our need for comfort, we build dangerous layers of fat or clutter to cushion ourselves from the bumpy roads of life. It’s the emotional eating or consuming–eating when we are not hungry or buying things we don’t need–that cause problems.

Putting your home on a diet is probably easier than dieting the body. Yet, a really good thing tends to happen when people begin to let go of their junk: they begin to let go of their excess weight also. Perhaps it’s partly due to increased activity associated with the work of organizing, but I think that as they take better care of their home environment, they are apt to take better care of themselves.

Where should I start?
The bedroom? Office? Kitchen? Garage? I suggest starting in the area causing the most pain—the organizer’s approach to “stop the bleeding”. On the other hand, you can’t go wrong by choosing any one space and diving in with the enthusiasm of a duck to water. The most important thing is to start. The details will follow as you maintain your focus. Be aware of your progress by taking a before photo, so that you can give yourself regular progress reports. Compare what the room used to look like to what it is becoming. This provides encouragement to keep going, to stay the course until the project is complete. Finishing gives a wonderful sense of satisfaction that you deserve to experience.

If you have a dual-resolution to get organized and to lose weight, I recommend that you spend some time reorganizing your kitchen. One helpful strategy is to eliminate “sabotaging” foods, such as candy, chips, ice cream, soda, etc. from your home—all those holiday goodies must go. This requires sorting and purging of your refrigerator, pantry, and every cupboard in your kitchen. If you buy food in bulk, this is a good time to containerize. By storing in serving size portions, you build awareness of how much is being eaten, and you’ll usually store more compactly. Get rid of stale or expired products, and keep a grocery list handy as supplies run low. A magnetized pad on the refrigerator works well.

Make a plan, stick to it
You must be committed to doing something each day toward your resolution to get organized. In a few cases, a weekend or two will whip things into shape. But for most, getting organized to a functional level will involve 6 months or more of consistent work. What will you do to maintain your hard earned order? Retrain your brain to do something every day toward getting and staying organized. As “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” so maintenance will keep clutter away. Adopt the mindset of a clutter vigilante, declaring “Clutter is my enemy and I will not be its victim!”

Get support
Exercise buddies are known to be effective in weight loss. How about an organizing buddy? Through frequent phone check-ins, or actual hands-on help with an organizing project, your buddy can provide the accountability you need to stick to your plan. You can also get online clutter coaching from Click on FLYing Lessons to sign up for daily emails to help you stay on track. Another option is to get a personal trainer (a.k.a. professional organizer) to guide you through shedding excess pounds of clutter at

Get real
The experts at Weight Watchers say that a pound a week is a sensible weight loss goal. This may sound insignificant, but “a pound a week” is a good mantra. Likewise, make your clutter reduction goal realistic. You want a goal that requires you to sweat a bit, yet won’t kill you in the process.

Every day is a new start
That’s one of the beautiful things about going to sleep at night. Whatever happened today is now behind you; you can start fresh tomorrow. Don’t give up. An organized life can be yours in 2005.