There is a pervasive theory floating around the internet that having a messy, cluttered house is correlated with being overweight. A clean house expert, Peter Walsh, who wrote Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?: An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More, appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show now and again and his views have become TRUE by dint of repetition as they drift from blog to blog. Elsewhere you can take a quiz to see what you know about hoarding, and you can rate yourself on the Clutter Hoarding Scale of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. The FlyLady has written a book applying the Flylady principles to weight loss in Body Clutter, Love Your Body, Love yourself.
I’ve found one cryptic reference to a “2007 study” that statistically links hoarding behaviors and obesity, but have found no trace of the study itself. Perhaps my internet detective skills are not what they once were. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but I want to see screenshots or it didn’t happen.
THAT SAID. My house currently looks like the bottom of a dumpster.
When feeling well and healthy I keep it pretty clean and shiny for the old girl she is, but in July I had pneumonia and was ruined for months. Seriously, I had NO IDEA pneumonia was so debilitating. By the time I recovered it was holiday time and I used my bedroom and the downstairs study/familyroom/guestroom as the “hurl room” in the big rush to debulk the public areas of the house of books, gifts, and assorted crap. By then the benefits of my discontinued Raptiva had worn off. Walking or using my hands is painful, and let’s not forget the broken toe.
Even so, we aren’t even at Level I of The Clutter Hoarding Scale (unless you look in the garage, but that’s all my husband) but it’s messier than I like, and I am CERTAIN that this mess accounts for a few of my excess avoir du pois. Really. The internet said so.
So in the interest of pseudo-science, let’s run an experiment! I WAS going to clean an entire room then weigh myself in the morning, but I’m still too sick from this cold. So I chose my desktop space. In this space I PLAY; when I work, I’m on my laptop. My weight remained the same as of this morning, but perhaps I should clean the entire room before passing judgment on the efficacy of a clean home in weight management.
In the meantime here are some tips that I have gleaned from my internet research on the subject of housecleaning.
1. Start small. My house didn’t get this wrecked in a day, nor did my arms start flopping yesterday. So pick up a few things and lift them over your head a few times for good measure. ONE TWO, PICK UP THAT SHOE, THREE FOUR, MISS THE CLOSET DOOR.
2. Start really, really small. Clean one small area of a messy room. This will inspire you to make the rest of the room clean to match. I choose the living room mantle, or the toilet. What makes one happier than a clean place to…to place the mantel clock?
3. Invite people over. Plan a delightful menu and make a list of housekeeping chores that will deliver your lovely home in peak condition upon the arrival of your guests. Procrastinate for two weeks, clean until you vomit two hours before your cherished guests are to arrive, weep inconsolably, make emergency reservations at your favorite restaurant for 9 p.m. because that’s the only dining slot left. Spend $200 on wine, dinner, and dessert, all the while loudly asserting that only barbarians dine before 9 o’clock of an evening, then lie awake that night wondering why you are broke and fat.
4. Make it fun. Turn on music, set a timer, and do as much as you can in that amount of time. Twirl your feather duster around the ceiling cobwebs and get some exercise while singing lustily to Pink, Aman Amarth, or Beethoven’s Mass in C Major (the Gloria, duh. Be sure to vacate your alto or soprano or whatever you sing for the tenor solo in Agnus Dei) Then be done when your timer dings, no matter how much you did, and treat yourself to a hot shower, new MAC nail polish, and French perfume. Aaaah! Hard work is so rewarding.
5. Set a schedule. Determine what should be cleaned daily (um, nothing I can think of. Can you? Wait! The kitchen! But only if you actually cook that day. Also sinks. They get ugly fast. And the terlet.) weekly, monthly, and on February 29th, and make a list. Or, notice when something has suddenly gotten gross overnight like the doorbell button that you know looked fine last week and for the past three months that now looks all grimy and fingerprinty. Clean with swabs and alcohol and resentfully wonder how many people have RUNG that doorbell with unwashed hands, for heaven’s sake. People are so disgusting, and who is cleaning up after them? Someone who rang the doorbell of her own house with dirty hands? I THINK NOT.
6. Get rid of crap. Seriously, WHY is that tank top you wore in junior high still in the bottom drawer of your dresser? Are you trying to make some kind of point? Do you want to get back into it? It sucked then and it sucks now. Or can you STILL get into it and you are saving it to show off the next time I visit and you casually whip it out and say, “I just don’t know why I keep this old thing. It still fits, can you believe it?” I’m trying to NOT judge you right now.
7. Don’t get out more than you can put back in an hour. This is actually how I cleaned out my attic. I got rid of more than half of the stuff I’d been accumulating for the past twelve years in four sessions of ruthless culling. Each time I was done there wasn’t a giant pile of half-done chore but a pile for the thrift store, a pile for recycling and a pile for the trash, all carted out immediately. If I’d tried to do it all at once I would have likely decided to set the whole house on fire rather than finish. I am certain I lost my first two pounds doing that chore
8. Take breaks. I find housecleaning to be stultifyingly boring. If I don’t take breaks and play with the cat or perform gem transmutes on my three alchemists, or take a walk (when I can walk,) I just won’t do much of it at all. But if I can sort laundry, call a friend, load the dishwasher, lift weights, put fresh linens on the bed, and read a couple of pages, I can do it as long as I have to.
9. Make cleaning a drinking game! This is for couples, after the sun is over the yardarm and the children are sleeping. Every secret cat vomit puddle you find, take a drink. Find a sock under living room furniture? Take a drink. Month-old fireplace ashes are worth two drinks, as are a pile of half-completed crossword puzzles from the newspaper, used Band-Aids (the most vile thing in the world,) and unidentifiably dessicated food items found while cleaning behind the stove. If you trip over a pile of shoes you have to make out which starts an entirely different game we won’t list here. Some matters are sacrosanct.
I made up tip number nine.
10. HIRE A SERVICE.
What is your opinion of the fat/messy correlation or lack thereof? LETS DO OUR OWN STUDY! No numbers required, but do you think you are carrying a few extra lbs, and how do you keep your house? I feel like a scientist. I may have an old lab coat somewhere in the back of my closet that no longer fits.