Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.
Ms. Johnson says she often sees a link between her clientâ€™s efforts to get organized and weight loss. â€œI think someone decides, â€˜Iâ€™m not going to live like this anymore. Iâ€™m not going to hold onto my stuff, Iâ€™m not going to hold onto my weight,â€™â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t know that one comes before the other. Itâ€™s part of that same life-change decision.â€
Dr. Peeke says she often instructs patients trying to lose weight to at least create one clean and uncluttered place in their home. She also suggests keeping a gym bag with workout clothes and sneakers in an uncluttered area to make it easier to exercise. She recalls one patient whose garage was â€œa solid cube of clutter.â€ The woman cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t, at the end of the day, about her weight,â€ Dr. Peeke said. â€œIt was about uncluttering at multiple levels of her life.â€