Clutter Really Does Stress You Out

Cluttered house

I keep seeing references to clutter causing depression. Then, I see photos like look like Real Simple magazine or a zen monastery, suggesting that I am depressed if my house doesn’t look like that.

Sure, a tiny part of me is tugged toward wanting a state of perfect household simplicity, but I find the perfectionist judgment more stressful than the clutter itself.

Does clutter cause depression? When I dig into the fine print, these references seem to lead back to a 9-year research project at UCLA on dual-income, middle-class families with school-age children. The book documenting the study, Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, ends up being a story of stuff and clutter.

Researchers didn’t actually make the clutter-depression connection. That was a very short blog post barely about the study, published when the book was released in 2012. Researchers did measure cortisol levels of study participants (through a saliva test), and they did find a link between high cortisol (a stress response) and clutter—but only among the women who worried about clutter.

Clutter didn’t cause depression—at least that isn’t what this study found. Cluttered houses caused stress when the women in the houses were bothered by it. Keep in mind that they had anthropologists and their team of photographers, videographers, and others tramping through the house, opening the closet doors. No wonder they were stressed.

But, those who took pride in their tchotchkes weren’t stressed.

University of California TV (UCTV) produced a three-part series of videos on A Cluttered Life: Middle-class Abundance on stuff, food, and space. If you are motivated to make changes to your life by seeing the lives of others, it’s worth the 20 minutes to watch these shows to see what families and the researchers say about clutter. It sure helped me to see my stale areas of clutter from a fresh point of view.

Yes, but MY Clutter

My house has areas where stuff gathers—like a tumbleweed picking up bits of yarn, pencils, stray books, and such. I don’t mind it until those tumbleweeds grow into my useful spaces.

I don’t love the clutter. I don’t love getting rid of the clutter, either, so THAT is the spot where I will focus.

Why keep the clutter? How does it serve me?

Having a stack of books reminds me that I really want to read them. Then, when I spread the books out and look through them, I realize I no longer really want to read them. Clutter be gone. 

Having a tote with sewing projects near the general homeschooling area gives me something to do when I listen to my children read. It looks a bit messy, but I use that stuff, and it is a changing mass of 3-4 projects I can choose from. Clutter can stay.

I’ve been evaluating my areas of mess to see if they actually serve a purpose and, if so, whether that is a worthy purpose.

I mentioned that my family is focusing on our kitchen. Holy junk mail. I don’t think I’ve ordered from a catalog for at least 9 years, but there is my kitchen table covered in catalogs that I have to hold until I tear off my identifying information. Maddening. So, I stand at my kitchen table and tear off my name and address. I put the catalog in the recycling pile and the address in the shredding pile. It’s a long process. The task doesn’t seem to quite end.

Mail is the ugly clutter cause in my house, but the cause will be different for each of us. Don’t just clean it up. Cut the clutter by finding the cause and cutting it off. You can actually opt-out of a lot of junk mail, including pre-screened credit and insurance offers or catalog, through direct-mail associations. You probably also need a place to put the stuff that legitimately requires your attention: incoming mail, invitations to keep, and bank statements. Get rid of what you can, then organized what you can’t.

Just identify your clutter causes, and address those in addition to clearing out clutter and cleaning the house.

Then, Keep It Clean

Need a guide to regularly keeping your house in order? This may seem like an odd suggestion, but I find Martha Stewart’s home organizing and housekeeping printable checklists just the kind of relentless system that keeps me from trying to justify not cleaning. If you are keeping a family binder, even better. You can print 6 things to do every day, weekly or monthly lists, seasonal lists, and specialized lists for maintenance and for moving.

It’s a place to start, so you don’t have an excuse not to.

Image © Jastebb | Dreamstime.com - Messy Room Photo

Is Your Family Organized?

Household Organization Notebook

As your children grow older and have more activities out of the house, as you juggle food preferences or sensitivities, as your family and your household becomes more complex, how do you hold it all together? Any family can benefit from a family binder for household management and family organization.

A 3-ring binder has the benefits of being easy to carry around, easy to customize, and easy to fit all of the tools you need to manage your household as it grows and changes.

Much as with mindfulness meditation, simply pulling oneself back to focus is one of the most important steps to moving forward. Organizing your family and putting your often used tools in one place makes it easy to bring yourself back to focus when you slip—and you will slip. That’s OK. Just keep coming back.

What Goes in the Binder

What goes in your family binder depends completely on what you need to track. Some possibilities are:

  • Calendar – Most families need a shared calendar.
  • Meal Planner – My family has been using the Menu Planner from Homemade by Carmona for the past year. I found it through a colorful photo on Pinterest, and I kept it because I like the flexibility.
  • Mail – We are separating into Incoming Mail, Mail that Needs Attention, and Papers to File
  • Budget
  • Coupons
  • Receipts
  • Shopping List
  • School Papers

Recently, I’ve been noticing which piles my husband lets build up in his area of the kitchen. Primarily, it’s mail that he needs to reach mixed in with mail he needs to file mixed with coupons he’s forgotten until after they expired. The mess makes the collection difficult to use, so I added folders to his binder for each different type of papers.

What you need specifically depends on your family. If you look for home management binders online, you will find list after list of sections along with downloadable forms you can use. Knowing my own tendency to be distracted by my tools, lost in contemplating 98 unused sections of a binder while ignoring the 2 sections crying out for attention, I add only what I know is needed when the need becomes pressing.

If you are distractable like I am, keep your binder minimal.

How We Are Using the Binder

For my family, the binder is the anchor for a whole room—at least that is my husband’s plan for it.

Last year, I used a simple 30-day eco habits challenge to clear away clutter. My family has used this method throughout the year to clear away layers of old stuff. The reason this works for me—for all of us—is the micro commitments are easy to make, and they add up quickly to big improvements.

This month, we are in the midst of another 30-day challenge. My husband, the owner of our family binder, wants to transform our kitchen into his headquarters. He’s motivated because he is going to reward himself with a new laptop once his goal of an organized kitchen is reached.

All of the random papers he used to let flow all over the kitchen are currently in the binder. Now, the binder is a way station for papers as well as a meal planner, shopping list, and receipt holder. We are about to add family meeting notebook to the list as well.

After I introduced my husband to the marriage meeting idea last week, I suggested we use that structure for family meetings. He likes this and has decided to add the family meeting outline to the binder. We also added a spiral-bound notebook where each family member can add ideas for the family meetings in advance (“I need new shoes,” “Let’s go hiking,” or “I want to invite my friends for a sleepover”). We have trouble remembering what we’ve committed to in meetings, so we are using the notebook to remind ourselves.

We’ve been using the binder for a while as a meal planner, so the expansion to new functions as an overall household management tool is new to us.

What Doesn’t Fit in the Binder

Not all important papers belong in a binder you carry around. Start now while you still remember where your important papers are. Gather your insurance policies, homeowner’s or renter’s documents, birth certificates, passports, and other paper. Put these in a fireproof box with a handle. Store them near an exit so you can pick them up and take them with you if you need to leave the house in an emergency.

As you organize your family, notice what doesn’t fit and find other ways to accommodate your family’s organization needs.

Image © Khongkitwiriyachan | Dreamstime.com - Brown Monthly Planner with Notedbook and Pen Photo

Wool Slippers: DIY or Buy

Padraig wool slippers

 

Three weeks. That’s plenty of time to crochet a pair of wool slippers for a family member. Pick up the hook and start now!

Every year, no matter what else changes, we give slippers as a holiday gift. I try to make them different each year. I have piles and piles of leftover wool, so I have my eyes on making simple wool slippers this year.

Do-it-yourself, but Start Now!

Your local yarn store can help you find the wool yarn and the wool slippers pattern. A lot of local yarn shops will not only sell you the yarn and the hook to crochet or needles to knit but teach you how to use them. Many have open times when you can just drop by and sit around knitting and crocheting, asking others for pointers along the way. It’s a busy season, and you will have a great time sharing your last-minute making with others.

Just to get you started, I poked around for a quick pattern and found a super simple pattern on MommyKnows.com for felted, crocheted slippers (Norwegian house slippers). I like this pattern because she explains why she made the choices she did, then she gives you a lot of links and videos to figure out what will work for you. No one-size-fits-all pattern here. If you can make squares then sew the squares together into wool origami, you can make these slippers in a few evenings plus a couple of wash loads to felt them.

Two weeks—no problem.

If you are a knitter, dig into the pattern at MommyKnows.com to find the knit version of the pattern that she used.

OK. Get moving. Pick up your yarn now.

Quick, I Just Want to Order Wool Slippers

Kids wool slippers by Padraig

Not interested, no time, don’t know how to knit or crochet? We’ve got you covered. At bynature.ca we sell the Original Padraig crocheted wool slippers, handmade in Canada since 1977. Every pair is slightly different.

 

We carry a big variety of colors in all sizes from newborn and baby slippers to youth and adult sizes. Drop by to pick out just the right pairs for your family members, or order wool slippers online at bynature.ca.

Padraig wool slippers

Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Squash soup

This easy-to-make pumpkin soup warms and fills us with a similar flavor profile as pumpkin pie but without all of the heavy sweetness of a pie.

Our Canadian readers will be celebrating Thanksgiving next week, so I wanted to share one of my favorite autumn recipes for pumpkin soup, though we just as often make it butternut squash soup. Whatever squash you grew this year or you find abundant at your farmers market, use that.

You can use this as a soup course, serving just a small portion, or you can change the flavors to make it more naturally sweet and serve as a hot dessert substitute for pie. Sometimes we make this our main dish for dinner, but it works well as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Warm to the Bone Harvest Soup

Serves: 4-6
Time: 90 minutes, mostly unattended

  • 2 cups pumpkin, cubed (other squash, such as butternut, works well)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Spices. Balance 2-3 of the following to taste.

  • Ginger
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put all ingredients into a roasting dish.
  3. Cover.
  4. Roast for 1 hour or until squash is soft. A little caramelization around the edges improves the flavor.
  5. Blend until smooth. Depending on your blender, you may have to cool first. With a VitaMix, just buzz it hot.
  6. Return to heat in a saucepan.
  7. Add salt to taste—this depends a lot on the stock used.
  8. Adjust spices.

We at bynature.ca wish you and your family the best during this harvest season.

Image © Msheldrake | Dreamstime.com

 

Why It’s Important to Drink Enough Water

Lifefactory Glass Bottles

 

Drinking enough water keeps you healthy. How much is enough, though? How much is too much? And, how do you keep kids drinking when you are on the run so often? We have answers.

Humans are about 60% water (45-75% depending on age, body fat, gender, etc.). We lose fluids through sweating, breathing, urinating, and moving our bowels, then we replace that water by eating foods high in water (fruits, vegetables, and soup, for example), by drinking non-water beverages, and by just drinking water. We keep our body fluids in balance when fluids in and fluids out are equal.

How much water should I drink a day?

You’ve heard that you should drink a gallon (64 ounces) of water a day. There isn’t actually any scientific support for this number, but it’s easy to remember 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day, so that can be used as a general guideline. An adult male might need about 100 ounces a day while a female might need 72 ounces. A pregnant woman would need to add another 8 ounces a day, and a breastfeeding woman would need to add another 24 ounces, or 3 small glasses of water per day.

You body uses more water when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as you exercise (and you sweat), when it’s hot (and you sweat), when you are sick (especially if you’ve vomited or had diarrhea), or if you are losing weight (to eliminate toxins). To keep fluids in balance, drink more water in any of these situations.

Don’t drink all of that water at once

You can drink too much water all at once. Your intake shouldn’t exceed what your kidneys can excrete, which is about 1 liter or 1 quart of water in an hour. When you exceed what your kidneys can excrete, the excess goes to your cells and swells them. This is why one symptom of excess water intake is a headache, since your brain is 70-75% water.

What happens if I don’t drink enough?

Mild dehydration, when your body is losing more fluids than you are taking in, can result in feeling tired, headachy, dizzy, and, of course, thirsty. If you are exercising without drinking, you might notice muscle fatigue. More severe dehydration can leave your or your children with sunken eyes, sunken fontanel, no tears, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth. You are likely to notice and remedy the lack of water before the severe symptoms.

Dehydration can also lower your metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, keep a close eye on your water intake because “[b]eing even 1% dehydrated can cause a significant drop in metabolism.” If you urine is amber or dark, you need more water.

Drink Steadily

It’s a Goldilocks situation. Not too much, not too little, just right helps to keep our body fluids in balance. Your thirst generally tells you when you need to be drinking, unless you are drinking dehydrating drinks or unless you are sick (or diabetic).

Drink water steadily throughout the day without taking in too much at once.

Your tap water is probably safe, though it’s worth watching the local water quality assessments. If you do need a water filtration system, get one that meets your needs. Most people won’t need anything fancy.

How can I get my kids to drink water?

In my family, we started when the children were small, and we limited non-water drinks. It’s easier to start a habit when your children are young, and the behavior is just what your family does.

One thing that helped a lot in my family was getting a set of four glasses each with a different design. We have the Beatles. When I see John, I know it’s my glass, and I don’t hesitate to pick it up. It’s a funny thing to make a difference, but designated water glasses has kept us drinking more.

Lifefactory Glass Bottles for the whole family

Lifefactory reusable glass water bottles

If you are avoiding plastic and aluminum bottles, so you are leaning toward glass but want to avoid breakage as well, we recommend Lifefactory glass bottles. They are covered in silicone sleeves that make them break resistant and easy to grip, even for little hands.

We like the Lifefactory Glass bottles because of the variety. For adults and older children, you can choose 12 oz, 16 oz, or 22 oz sizes. They have straw tops, loop tops, and flip tops. For little kids and babies, they have sippy tops and bottle tops. Choose a different color for each person in the family, and you will always know whose water is whose.

Lifefactory’s bottles are made in France, and the rest of the components are made in the USA. They are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Wide tops make it easy to add ice. We like the great performance of these reusable water bottles.

When you are teaching your family to have healthy habits, like drinking more water, it helps to have the right tools on hand.

Drink up.