Clutter Free Home and Diet
After years of helping people organize their homes, Peter says he started noticing that other problem areas in people's lives started to turn around. "People were contacting me … saying that, 'Suddenly I discovered that by clearing my space, I'm making much healthier food choices and I am starting to lose weight,'" he says.
Clutter and weight can be symptoms of an unresolved, underlying issue in your life. "Eating more and buying more is an attempt to fill the need for something more," he says. "Until you get those underlying issues dealt with, all the rest is a waste of time."
The biggest problem area in Amber's house is her kitchen. How bad is it? There's a treadmill in there! "I call it my shopping bag holder," she says. Amber says her basement, the kids' room and her office are also in desperate need of help. "It's such an overabundance of stuff that [we're] suffocating," she says.
Amber says her family's weight issues are heartbreaking. "My daughter came home from school one day and she was really upset. … She said that she had been teased at school about the fact that she was overweight," Amber says. "I mean, you eat out as much as we do, the weight just starts to pile on. We probably eat out at least once a day, and I'm thinking, 'My God, what example am I setting for my children?'"
Weight is truly a life-or-death issue for Amber. "A couple years ago, I lost a baby at six and a half months pregnant, and at the same time my kidneys completely shut down. My kidneys have about 10 percent functioning left. I'm awaiting a transplant," she says. "They want you to get in as best physical condition as you possibly can because it's a huge surgery."
Amber says she's determined to embrace a new way of living. "I've got to lose this weight. I have to get into a different lifestyle," she says. "I know I can do this, and I need to do it for my kids."
"We need to look at all of the decisions that have created the clutter in your house and the clutter on your body," Peter says.
Take a room-by-room tour of Amber's house.
Before the tour, Amber says she didn't realize how quickly her house and her family's diet spiraled out of control.
Amber steps on and sees she's at her all-time heaviest—242 pounds. Amber's husband Alberto faces the same truth when he weighs in at 192 pounds. Amber's 13-year-old son, Antonio, weighs in at 158 pounds, and her 12-year-old daughter, Isabella, is at 124.
The entire family was shocked at how much they weighed. "I cried harder not about my own weight but because I saw the weight of my children," Amber says.
In all, the family weighs 716 pounds, but they're determined to never weigh this much again. "This is a great day because it is the start of some fantastic new things for you," Peter says.
To organize the living and dining areas, Peter arms the family with an essential tool—trash bags! "One of these bags you should fill with anything that's trash," Peter says. "In the other bag should go anything that you want to donate to charity."
Do the trash bag tango in your home.
One of the first things to go is a fake tree Amber always hated. Peter says the plant reflected the mood in Amber's home. "Easy, cheap, not what you want," he says.
In the corner is a box comic books Antonio got from his mom. When Peter asks if he cares about them, a tearful Antonio says he does. "Why are they over in a box in the corner? If you don't take care of this, what does it tell me?" Peter asks. "You have to care about [your things], and you have to care about [yourself]."
In the living room, Peter notices an urn that holds the ashes of the child Amber lost sitting on a cluttered self. "This has to have a place of honor and respect," Peter says. "The weight, the clutter has to go, and what is important has to stay."
Disrespecting the things that mean something to you is also disrespecting a part of yourself, Peter says. "The house, the head, the heart, the hips…it's all connected."
Peter helps Amber and Alberto sort their clutter into two types: Memory clutter and "I-Might-Need-It-One-Day" clutter. The three of them get to work sorting through clothing, crafting materials and holiday decorations.
One thing Peter insists will stay is a bin of sporting equipment that Amber says they stopped using because they couldn't find it. "If you want the kids to get healthier, you need them to have the stuff out and accessible for the kids," Peter says.
After a preliminary sort, Amber and Alberto make even more progress with Peter's "Quick to Go" technique. They make rapid decisions on what they really need, but Amber panics when she thinks about giving up her great-grandmother's juicer, even though she says she would never use it. "It infuriates me that this can create so much emotion and you treat it with such disrespect by leaving it here in the basement covered in dust," Peter says.
In four hours, a team of 13 people completely clear Amber's basement. "I'm about ready to pee my pants," Amber says. "This is great!"
The kids complained of having a hard time breathing in their room, and Peter quickly finds the source of a horrible odor—dog poop under the bed. "Guys, you understand that one of the reasons the room smells is that there is dog poop under the bed. It's not cool. It's not healthy for you," Peter says.
Peter leaves Antonio and Isabella alone for 30 minutes to see how much clutter they can tackle on their own.
Peter says a cluttered environment affects children's weight in two ways: "Number one, kids learn by what they see. And so what you respect, what you show is important, whether it's the stuff in the house or the food choices, children model their behavior on that.
"The second thing is that if you have a house that's organized and decluttered, then it is much easier when you come to a decision, instead of going for the easy, you go for the good," Peter says. "And they're the important things that create the home you want. Create an environment that will help children make healthier choices."
Peter asks for Amber's vision of the room. "Clean, functional, organized," she says. The first step to achieving that goal is a quick purge. The first thing to go? The treadmill!
As they sort through cabinets and drawers, Amber begins to understand how all of her things are weighing her down. "This is making my life worse," she says. "Who needs 5,000 glass bowls? So it's like trimming the fat and getting rid of all the extra stuff that I'm not using."
But when it comes to the drawers and drawers of utensils, Amber hits a stumbling block. She tries to tell Peter she uses everything in front of her, but Peter isn't buying it. "There's no way you can use all this," Peter says. "This is an illusion."
Find out which utensils you really use at home.
When Peter accidentally breaks a spoon, Amber runs out of the room. "Don't break my stuff!" she says. "I want him out of here!"
Peter catches up with Amber and consoles her. "I am sorry I pushed you over the edge," he says. "I don't [care] about that stuff. This is the first time I've seen the real you."
Amber says she doesn't care about it either. "I don't even want to be the real Amber right now. The real Amber has to deal with way too much for one person," she says.
Peter wants Amber to stop shouldering her family's burdens by herself. "You've surrounded yourself with a whole lot of illusions to deal with the hurt and the pain. It's okay to be imperfect," he says. "Instead of controlling everything in your life, reach out to the people who are offering you help."
"Will you help me?" she asks.
Once she and Peter have sorted through the utensils, cook books and dishes, Peter says it's time get rid of unhealthy foods. "For me, there are two kinds of foods here. There are 'yesterday' foods, and there are 'new me' foods," Peter says. "Yesterday foods go. Chocolate—chocolate's gone. Chocolate's a 'yesterday.' The 'new me' foods stay. Yogurt—great."
In less than two hours, Peter and Amber have finished purging the kitchen. But getting rid of unhealthy foods is just the first step—Peter says Amber needs to deal with the underlying issues in her life.
"Things have power, and so that's why we go to things hoping for some comfort. It's the same with food. Food has power," Peter says. "Many of us then go to the food, often inappropriate food choices. So you can talk as much as you want about the food, but unless you deal with [what's underneath], you will never, never get anywhere. If you focus on the stuff, you'll never declutter. And in my experience, if you focus on the food only, it's very tough to lose weight."
Before they decluttered, the family's living room felt heavy and overwhelmed by a huge television. The team replaced the TV with a smaller set, opening up the room. "It is now way back in proportion. This is a room where you come together as a family."
"It looks more like a loving home," Isabella says.
"That we're going to be making healthy family choices. That we care about our space," Amber says.
Amber can continue keeping her clothing piles at bay thanks to a few tips from stylists Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo on what really works—and what really doesn't. As long as she regularly goes through her clothing—sorting everything into "love it" and "hate it" piles—Amber's clothing will always remain under control.
"It is important for creating the healthy environment that you need to make the healthy choices spiritually, emotionally, everything for you and your kids," Peter says. "And this is where it starts."
Peter points out the room's designated areas for Isabella to do her homework and crafts, sleep and store her Teddy bears, toys and clothes—and nothing is kept under the bed. "It's really important to think of the areas where you do things because then you can keep the room clean and tidy," Peter says.
"I feel like there's a huge weight that's been lifted off my shoulders of messy and everything," Antonio says.
The organizers transformed nearly 1,000 feet of clutter into a lounge, a place for arts and crafts, an office and an exercise zone. "This is so cool," Antonio says. "Because we can lose weight and we won't have to feel bad about our weight."
Some of Amber's old belongings, including her red dishes, cookbooks and her grandmother's orange juicer, are stored in brand new cabinets from Lowe's. New appliances from GE will help Amber prepare healthy foods. "It's clear. It's open. It's a healthy atmosphere," Amber says.
"One of the most important things now is that there is a beautiful, open feeling through the whole house," Peter says.
The first step, Peter says, is to stop buying things. "Stop the craze of consumption, number one," Peter says.
To get rid of belongings you already own, Peter suggests visiting one room at a time and asking yourself, "What do I want from this room?" "The master bedroom and the kitchen are the two most important rooms because the master bedroom drives the house. The kitchen nourishes the house," Peter says. "Start in either of those rooms."
Fitness trainer Bob Greene, author of The Best Life Diet , visits the family to help them create a plan for a healthier lifestyle. "You've taken all the excess clutter out of your house. Now it's time to go after that excess weight on your body," Bob says.
Now that the family has a special exercise zone in their basement, Bob says it's time to start using it. "Walking would be my favorite exercise for health and for dropping weight," Bob says. "You've got a treadmill, and what I want is to start with 20 minutes and build up to 30 minutes a day. When the weather's nice, go outside. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Throw a Frisbee. It's all moving, and it's all good."
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Bob also asks Amber and her family to stop eating out. "People think, 'Oh, it saves so much time.' But by the time you load up the family, get in the car, go to the place, wait to be served, you could have prepared a healthy meal, and also it's expensive."
Instead of relying on takeout, Bob helps Amber plan 21 meals for a week, as well as one or two snacks a day. "The key here is we get organized prior to going to the grocery store," Bob says. "It's going to save you time, and it will save you all those unnecessary things you put in your shopping cart." Bob and Amber take a trip to the grocery store to make sure the family has nutritious meals for the week. "The grocery store is where you make or break your program," Bob says.
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