Guest posted By Maria Gracia
With all the wonderful foods surrounding us and constantly calling our names, it’s certainly not difficult to overeat now and then. Occasionally eating a bit more than we should is not going to cause any major issues…but if we’re constantly consuming too much, the calories are going to keep piling on, which may end up with some serious health issues as time progresses.
In light of this, guess what I just read in the journal Environment and Behavior? One of the factors that can cause us to overeat…is clutter!
In the study, two kitchens were set up…one was organized, neat, and tidy. The other was a mess…strewn with mail, newspapers, and dirty dishes. Hundreds of women were recruited to participate in the study. They were brought into the kitchens one at a time, and given a writing assignment, detailing times when they felt out of control and when they felt in control.
During this time, participants were given snacks, the same in both kitchens, including cookies, crackers, and carrots. All were told: “Feel free to eat as much as you want, because we have tons of this food.”
On average, the women in the messy kitchen consumed twice as many calories from cookies…as women in the tidy kitchen.
“The notion that places, such as cluttered offices or disorganized homes, can be modified to help us control our food intake is becoming an important solution in helping us become more slim by design,” reported Brian Wansink of Cornell University and his colleagues.
Now, I’m not saying that I feel this is the most scientific experiment I’ve ever come across, but the results are certainly interesting. I do know that clutter causes stress, uneasiness, frustration, and other negative emotions. I also know that negative emotions cause most people to seek out comfort…and we all know that comfort often comes in the form of food…and generally the ’empty calorie’ ones at that.
So my advice here is, if you want to eat less cookies, you can certainly start that quest by getting organized! Here’s how…
Tidy Up the Kitchen
The kitchen is the most “involved” room in any home. Besides eating cookies (smile) and preparing meals, the kitchen is a gathering place for family and friends, hence the saying, “No matter where I serve my guests, they like my kitchen the best. It’s also an area to fold laundry, pay bills, read, deposit mail, and handle other paperwork. No wonder this room amasses so much clutter! So, based on the new correlation of overeating and a cluttered kitchen, I highly recommend tidying this room FIRST!
Now rather than thinking about a huge kitchen decluttering mission ahead, break the project up into manageable mini-goals. For the kitchen, your mini-goals should fall into four categories: decluttering kitchen surface areas, decluttering kitchen cabinets and drawers, decluttering the pantry, and finally, decluttering the refrigerator/freezer.
Step 1: Declutter kitchen surface areas. Food is cooked and prepared on kitchen countertops. To me, these areas must be clutter-free for efficient and enjoyable food preparation. Begin by removing as many small appliances as possible from countertop spaces. Relocate them to other storage areas like kitchen cabinets, the pantry, or…even better…to a local charity organization.
The next item on the agenda is organizing paper work. Paper items are easily (and often) thrown on kitchen countertops or tables to be dealt with later. Even though we’re striving for a paperless society, a lot of paper still arrives in our homes. Examples include: snail mail, bills, school papers, catalogs, newspapers, and magazines. Problems arise when action is NEVER taken upon the paper and before you know it, you have piles of paper cluttering up kitchen surfaces. Folders, binders, bins are all possible options for paper management. Sort through these papers on a daily basis. Yes, every day.
Finally, as far as surface clutter is concerned, get creative with your kitchen storage areas. Often forgotten storage space areas include: 1) the walls of your kitchen, 2) the areas above kitchen countertops, 3) inside kitchen cabinets, 4) inside pantry and closet doors, and 5) hanging items under kitchen cabinets. You can fit any unused wall space with shelves, wire organizers, peg boards, hooks and so on.
Step 2: Declutter kitchen cabinets and drawers. Make your kitchen as efficient as possible by organizing cabinets and drawers by frequency of use. In other words, arrange everyday dishes and silverware in cabinets and drawers near the sink and dishwasher, pots, pans, and spices near the stove, and non-perishable foods by the food prep area.
Also downsize your excess kitchenware. One of the biggest kitchen challenges is organizing Tupperware and other plastic containers. Keep enough for daily use to store leftovers and get rid of the rest. Furthermore, excess pots and pans, kitchenware that never ever gets used, and mismatched dish and silverware sets can all be removed in order to create additional storage space.
Step 3: Declutter the Pantry. A well-organized pantry saves you TIME and MONEY! Time from making extra trips to the grocery store, and money from buying food items you may already have in duplicate, triplicate, or more. To organize your pantry, empty it completely.
Then sort through your stock. Keep food items that are safe to eat AND that you plan to eat. Remove all expired items and foods you’ll never eat.
Next store all like-items together. Canned goods stay together in one area; cake/pancake/muffin mixes in another area; pasta, rice, quinoa and other grains, and dried beans in another and so on. Then, maximize your storage space by adding pantry shelves, using the walls, and backside of the pantry door too. Finally, always keep your pantry well-stocked which will eliminate those last minute runs to the grocery store.
Step 4: Declutter your refrigerator and freezer. Similar to the pantry, remove all expired and unidentifiable foods, AND any foods that nobody is interested in eating. Maximize refrigerator/freezer space by adding shelves, effectively utilizing inside door shelving and the vegetable and fruit drawers. Additionally, consider adding a small Lazy Susan to create more storage space.
For the refrigerator, I always recommend placing taller items towards the back so nothing is blocking the rest of the refrigerator contents.
For the freezer, place newly purchased items toward the back moving the older items forward. Most importantly never forget to label and date your frozen products.
Finally… The more cookies and junk food you’re storing in your kitchen, the more likely you are to eat them. Yes, it’s OK to treat yourself now and then…but when it becomes a daily habit, it can pack on the calories. Bottom line…keeping mostly healthy treats in your kitchen and maintaining an organized environment will help you stay slim and trim!
About the Author
Maria Gracia, founder of Get Organized Now!™, specializes in helping people get better organized to live the kind of stress-free life they’ve always wanted.
Her flagship product, Goodbye Clutter, helps conquer the clutter once and for all.