Clearing Clutter for Holistic Health

Posted on January 15, 2010 0

Clearing Clutter for Holistic Health

Contributed by Dorene Petersen Dip. NT, Dip. Acu, RH (AHG)

We know that health and wellness are the result of several elements: a good diet, plenty of clean water, regular exercise, and fresh air. Herbs, essential oils, and other dietary supplements help us deal with life's challenges. There are, however, many less-than-obvious influences in our everyday environments that can negatively affect our health, too. Clutter, for example. Collecting stuff, the intent to clear out stuff, and the seemingly unavoidable procrastination to "get the job done" can all be a real drain on your energy.

Here are some ideas to help you de-clutter and improve your health in 2010.

1. Share what you no longer need:

This is the perfect time of year to clear out everything from those two most-used rooms in the house: the kitchen and bathroom. Over the course of the year, perhaps you have changed your mind about what you want to put in your body (and on it)? If you're reading this, you probably know that parabens are best avoided in our skin care products, but do you have some lurking in your bathroom1? If you have unopened paraben-free products that you do not need, you may want to donate them to charity; many women's shelters welcome unopened self-care products. Otherwise, dispose of paraben-containing products by composting them, rather than washing them down the drain, as it seems there are some bacteria that can break down parabens into less harmful products; then recycle the containers. (Remember, if you use natural skin care products, their storage life is often shorter than products preserved with synthetics, so go through your stash and dispose of anything that is past its use by date.)

Now to the kitchen: Clear out any food items that are past their expiration date. Compost the contents and recycle the containers. Any products that you are not likely to eat, but are not expired, can be donated to charity; your local food bank is crying out for donations at this time of year.

Aromatherapy Tip: Peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil has been shown to repel mice, so put cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil in areas where you suspect a mouse problem. (Avoid placing the cotton balls in areas that are accessible to children and pets).

2. Try the 1-2-3 Box Approach:

Set up three large-sized boxes. Label one box as Throw Out (items that are worn out or broken), one as Give Away (items that you will donate, sell, or recycle), and one as Keep. Then, go room-by-room and be systematic; work your way completely through one room before you begin the next. Once you have completed a room, seal the Throw Out and Give Away boxes, and place them by your front door.

Aromatherapy Tip: Check your oils. While some oils like Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) will last for years if stored correctly, others (like the citrus oils) will begin to oxidize after a few months. (It is best to store your citrus essential oils in the fridge.) If you've taken the time to train your olfactory memory, you may be able to discern when your oils are past their best. No need to throw them out: Use them to clean the house! (But avoid skin contact as oxidized citrus essential oils can cause irritation.) And don't use them to wash the dog: Fido's skin is sensitive too!

3. Set goals, not resolutions:

For many people, making New Year's resolutions seems like "the right thing to do." Often our resolutions are good ideas, but really big and overwhelming ideas, too. So this year, try setting goals instead. Goals have measurable results and they require a plan. For example, you could make the resolution to Get In Shape This Year...OR, you can set the goal to improve your health this year by drinking 8 glasses of water a day, eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day, and completing one hour of relaxation-promoting activities every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When goals are realistic and clear, they are more easily accomplished, which feels great! Remember, you can always set additional, more challenging goals if and when you want to.

Aromatherapy Tip: Aromatherapy baths are an effective relaxation activity, and also a great reward for accomplishing a goal. To create a soothing aromatherapeutic bath, try a blend of Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and Rose (Rosa damascena).

1In vivo and in vitro studies have confirmed the ability of parabens to pentrate human skin intact and to be absorbed. The health risks from aggregate use of body care products containing parabens have been shown to include increased incidence of female breast cancer, interference with male reproductive functions, and increased development of malignant melanoma. Therefore, where possible, it is recommended to eliminate use of paraben-containing products. Darbre PD & Harvey PW. Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. J Appl Toxical. 2008 Jul;28(5):561-78.

Dorene Petersen is the President and Founder of the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She holds a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from Otago University, New Zealand, a Diploma in Natural Therapeutics from the South Pacific College of Natural Therapies in Auckland, New Zealand, where she studied and specialized in aromatherapy, and is a certified acupuncturist with specialized training in Chinese herbal medicine and moxibustion. Dorene serves as Chair of the Aromatherapy Registration Council and is a member of the Research and Educational Standards Subcommittee of the Distance Education Training Council. Author of numerous articles about aromatherapy and essential oils, Dorene is a frequent lecturer on botanicals, medicinal plants, and essential oils, and has presented at wellness conferences worldwide, as well as lecturing at the National College of Natural Medicine and the Aesthetics Institute, both in Portland, Oregon, and the Birthingway School of Midwifery in Oregon. Most recently, Dorene was awarded the 2009 IHA Professional Award Criteria by the International Herb Association for outstanding contributions to the herb industry in the areas of education, research, and authorship, among others. Find out more about Dorene at


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