by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer, researcher, clinical practitioner, author, and lecturer
As a holistic medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist, I draw heavily on the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for guidance and inspiration across numerous aspects of life. TCM provides us with a comprehensive lens through which we can view the intricate relationships between our health and our environments, among other energetic connections. This ancient approach to life offers practical everyday guidelines to promote optimal health. And in today’s modern society, these guidelines may be more important than ever. A cornerstone jewel of TCM wisdom speaks greatly to the importance of deeply cleaning and organizing your environment for greater health and happiness.
According to TCM, the spring and fall seasons are the best times for releasing and letting go on all levels. In the spring, we can gently detoxify our bodies, minds, and spirits, as well as our environments, preparing for the abundance of new growth that comes with this energetic and vibrant season. This release of excess baggage—whether it’s accumulated weight from a sedentary winter or piles of clutter in our living space—allows us to create spaciousness, energy, and inspiration on all levels. In turn, our innate healing potential can arise, unobstructed.
Physical and Mental Effects of Disorganization
We are all products of our environments, and vice versa, since the environments we create reflect and affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. When life becomes messy or disorderly, our physical as well as mental/emotional health can also get muddled and we become less energetic and less efficient.
An excellent example of this is the digestive system. When digestion is functioning optimally, it is a highly efficient and meticulously organized sorting process. A strong and healthy digestive system dictates what to keep as nourishment, where to send nutrients, and what to excrete as waste. As an integrative physician, I find that when patients describe their lives as messy, disorganized, or inefficient, they often experience symptoms of bloating, congestion, inflammation, and poor digestion. If left untreated, these symptoms can progress to more serious health conditions . When people clear their clutter, discard unnecessary items, and detoxify their surroundings, the spaciousness and resulting efficiency they create can offer more energy, in addition to improved digestion, detoxification, and overall vitality.
This process involves not just the physical clearing of “stuff,” but a much more subtle process of quieting down the mind and allowing for self-reflection. By doing this, we can reach a heightened level of clarity and insight, as well as deeper compassion for ourselves and others. In this space, we can have a better understanding of where our disorganization may stem from and how to overcome it in order to create a life that is peaceful, spacious, and functional.
The Stress Factor
Over time, being surrounded by clutter slows us down, makes us feel mentally and physically fatigued, and causes stress and anxiety. If we have a cluttered, disorganized living space, letting go of the stresses of work, finances, relationships, and other areas of our lives can be virtually impossible. Similarly, if a workplace is in disarray, it can be difficult to complete tasks well and on time. Just sitting in a cluttered room can create stress, as the clutter provides a great deal of information for the eyes to process and visual reminders of how much work is left unfinished. This constant, low-grade stress can subtly and steadily drain our energy, leaving us overwhelmed, exhausted, and ultimately, physically ill.
We know that long-term stress contributes to many chronic illnesses. Some of the most common conditions aggravated by chronic stress include:
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Autoimmune diseases
In addition, the clutter that populates a physical environment can encourage an abundance of mold growth, bacteria, and other toxins. These pathogens can cause inflammation, respiratory conditions, and toxin buildup, leading to chronic illness down the road.
The first step in organizing for better health is clearing clutter from your external environment. Making small, daily steps to clean and organize can provide you with the space to engage in stress-management activities, such as yoga or meditation, while also bringing about a sense of satisfaction. Studies show that mild to moderate exercise—yes, even in the form of housework—boosts mental health, reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes healthy circulation. Getting organized in our physical world will carry over into other parts of our lives as well, facilitating the ability to make changes in areas like exercise and diet, which tend to need some revising after a winter spent mostly indoors.
With the rising energy of spring, we often feel a sense of regeneration and renewal, coupled with increased motivation and enthusiasm. This renewed energy is reflected in the budding of trees and the sight of the first flower bulbs emerging to show their colors. So take advantage of this naturally arising internal energy to engage in a mild body cleanse, and give all of your living and work spaces a spring cleanse as well.
Health Benefits of Becoming Organized
Organization of our external environment leads to clarity, efficiency, and less energy consumption on all levels of our being—physical, mental, and emotional. From an integrative medicine perspective, these three levels are inseparable. With better clarity and organization, all aspects of life are less congested and health flows more smoothly.
On a physical level, strong organization means better blood flow and less inflammation, less hyperviscosity, and less oxidative stress. Strong organization allows for the right nutrients to get to the right place. We also have better antioxidant protection, which helps beat back every chronic condition, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and depression. When we are more clear and efficient, our energy lasts much longer and our health can benefit on all levels.
Once they become better organized, many of my patients report one of the most important aspects of a successful cleanse: the emotional process of “letting go.” If you de-clutter your mind, your emotions, and your physical space, you’ll undoubtedly experience a sense of lightheartedness and freedom as you unpeel your internal and external layers of obstructions. This process allows for the unfolding of a more authentic, essential “you.”
As an integrative, holistic physician with a focus on mind-body medicine, I base much of my medicine on energetics. I am a firm believer that the overall energy efficiency and clarity created by good organization truly leads to increased longevity and better health.
Overall, a simplified, organized life allows you to realize what is truly important to you. By eliminating the physical and mental clutter around you, you are able to focus on the bigger picture, spend more quality time with the positive people in your life, and accomplish the goals you couldn’t have otherwise. Clearing the tangled cobwebs of disorganization in all aspects of life can allow for profound freedom in health and vitality. And that’s one of the essential keys that can open the door to true healing.
Enjoy a wonderful spring season in the best of health!
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz offers a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.
This is great information. When I got married in 2010 I set about a year long journey of organizing every room, closet, and drawer in our new home…I am a true believe in simplicity and organization. I feel calm and balanced knowing I’m not wasting energy searching for things. And now that it’s complete my husband greatly appreciates and embraces the simplicity and organization too. It is something I also share with patients. I often see many patients with chronic symptoms whose lives are very crazy and chaotic. It’s hard to help people make the connection between the two, but when people are ready for the active stage, they begin to take the steps. Just a few weeks ago, I had a patient with severe digestive symptoms. She shared that her house was so messy she couldn’t even sleep in her bed. Amazingly, when I suggested not a diet – but taking time to clear the clutter from her house, she began to feel better.
Thank you for sharing,
Dawn Palacios, RD, LDN