Professional Organiser, Vicky Silverthorn & Hormone and Mental Health Expert, Kay Ali discuss the impact of clutter on mental health. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
What do cleaning products, a cluttered home and washing detergents have to do with your health? Everything. It’s not often we make the connection, but the products we choose to use in our homes either support or burden our liver. This is big news if health is your priority. The liver is fundamental to our wellbeing, whether that’s mental, skin, hormonal, cardiovascular, digestive, etc. Basically, the liver plays an important role in every organ system that makes up our body. What’s more is it’s adaptogenic. If you need energy, it’ll release glucose; if you ate too much sugar, it’ll help mop it up and store it away for a rainy day; if you over hydrate, it will absorb the excess water to maintain optimal blood composition; if you’re stressed out it’ll even release its storage bank of adrenaline to help get you through. Whatever you need, your liver has your back. It gives you life. Yet, with modern lifestyle practices it can easily become overburdened, slowing it down. As a result, all the systems it supports can become sluggish and overburdened too, driving symptoms of ill health and disease. It’s a recipe for disaster. And here’s the thing; whether we’re indirectly inhaling the products we use in our home or absorbing them through our skin every time we come into contact with them, the role they play in our health is just as important as the foods we choose to eat.
Still think this is a bit far-fetched? Well, consider this; you can buy and eat organic food but if you’re placing your food on surfaces wiped down with chemical cleaning products and eating them in a room that’s been sprayed down with synthetic fragrances, is your meal still organic or is it contaminated? I contacted Vicky Silverthorn, my good friend (and business partner), official John Lewis storage expert and founder of You Need A Vicky, a professional organising company for the home. She’s been organising homes across the world for over eight years and definitely has some amazing tips she’s learnt along the way. Vicky gives us the low-down on how to build a truly healthy home. Here’s what she has to say:
How does living in a clutter-free home support our health and wellbeing?
Vicky: There are tons of studies that have shown that visual distractions and clutter impact our mental health. Put simply, clutter is a huge distraction to your life. I always use the example of a menu at dinner. If you’re out for dinner with a large group of your friends and you open a four-page menu with choices galore, you’ll usually find that everyone will struggle to make a choice. There’ll be a buzz around the table of “oh what should I have? I don’t know what to order?”. The waiter will come around and you’ll always hear someone say, “come to me last”. In a similar way, when you have that much choice around you in the form of clutter and “stuff” it makes decision making in life harder. When your environment is in chaos you suffer with lower productivity, which in turn can lead to lower energy and mood.
Vicky Silverthorn recommends using trays in your home to hold items that are in view as it helps to make your home look organised and put together. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Cut to another restaurant with an A4 piece of paper showcasing two starters, two mains and two puddings. Usually in this scenario people will make a choice really quickly and often say “oh I know what I’m having”. The menu goes down and the socialising continues. We get on with our lives. This to me, highlights the difference between a cluttered house and an organised home. It’s the difference between having too much choice and struggling to make decisions versus freeing up headspace so that you can focus on the important stuff like your kids, your work, your diet etc.
Kay: I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve actually seen this play out with my clients. If I’m visiting their home I can sometimes get a feel of whether life admin is too much and their home is cluttered. What I usually find, is that these clients struggle to find the headspace they need to even introduce microtweaks into their diet and lifestyle. It’s a shame and such a challenge to work with, because the changes I recommend are so critical for supporting their wellbeing. Yet the clutter around them really holds them back. Just a tiny tweak can feel like a mammoth task.
Vicky: Absolutely! We declutter kitchens every single week. One of the things we’ll do is make sure that the work surfaces are clear. When all your items and gadgets are out you don’t have enough work surface, which in itself (even if it’s subconscious), puts you off chopping vegetables because you’ve not got the space to do it. Whereas if you have a chopping station with a juicer, I believe that’s going to make someone more likely to prepare a healthy meal from scratch.
What piece of advice would you give someone who’d like to declutter their home but doesn’t know how to start?
Vicky: The first thing would be to stop looking at getting organised as needing to declutter your entire home. It’s the equivalent of saying “I need to lose five stone by Sunday”. It’s just not realistic and if you do manage to achieve it, it’ll be such a horrible process that it will put you off from ever doing it again. I’d recommend chipping away at your clutter in tiny chunks. The change can still feel dramatic and rewarding. Start with your work surfaces, which will eventually lead you on to a cupboard that you’ll need to put your gadgets in and so on. You'll naturally build momentum. That being said I do hold on to one hard rule. You should declutter first, then use the space your home already has before you go out and buy any additional storage baskets and items. People often do this the other way round, which can lead to the wrong kind of purchases and more clutter.
How important is the cleaning products you use in your home for our health?
Vicky: I’m still so shocked that every home I go into where the family eats organically, really well and even supplements their children for optimum nutrition, use bleach to clean their floor. I’m shocked even saying it out loud; it’s something that’s just missed. People will sometimes say that switching out chemical cleaning products to natural alternatives is a bit over the top. However, I always say, would you put your child in a bath and then say “just one moment, let me just add a drop of bleach”? No one would ever willingly do this. Yet, when you clean your bath or floor with bleach, your children’s hands and body go all over it; they put their hands in their mouth etc. It’s just like rubbing chemicals into their skin like it’s hand cream. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m preaching, but it’s just so huge.
Professional Organiser, Vicky Silverthorn & Hormone and Mental Health Expert, Kay Ali trial natural cleaning products as part of their healthy lifestyle recommendations. Photograph taken at You Need A Vicky HQ by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Kay: It’s true. I mean, when you think of someone that’s just had a new born and you’ve got synthetic window cleaner being used right next to them. And this happens week after week and before the baby has hit 1 it’s got eczema, allergies and asthma. The chemicals we’re using in our home definitely contributes to our health and wellbeing. We’re basically giving our liver more work to do; there’s more toxins to break down and eliminate. It’s as if excess hormones post pregnancy or contraceptive use, or living in the smog of the city isn’t enough!
Vicky: I know right?
Is there a natural cleaning brand that you’d recommend?
Range of Tincture products available to buy here. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Vicky: The brand I recommend is Tincture. The reason why is because it is 100% natural. There are products that are marketed as being non-toxic and healthy, but this is sometimes a smokescreen. Sadly, there actually aren't many genuinely natural brands around. But Tincture is one I totally trust. The reason why Tincture can guarantee that their products are 100% natural is because their bottles contain silver technology. Silver has been used for centuries as a natural preservative, so they use it as part of their formulation so that they don’t have to add chemical preservatives.”
Kay: Yes, their founder, Angelika Davenport, has gone above and beyond to ensure no compromise on the quality. And I have to say, she's done a fab job of it. They look stunning and smell unbelievable too. Looking at the ingredients list I can see they’re using essential oils and not synthetic fragrances, which I love.
Vicky: Totally! Again, my clients will have these beautiful marble kitchens built, but then they’ll have this ugly bottle of washing up liquid on the side. You don’t get that with Tincture. They’re like the last touch of style in your home. Everything is considered.
I remember the first time I saw your washing machine and saw this curious little egg. What is it and why should we all have one?
Professional Organiser, Vicky Silverthorn & Hormone and Mental Health Expert, Kay Ali discuss the ecoegg as a healthier and toxic free alternative to washing detergents. Photograph taken at You Need A Vicky HQ by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
The egg sitting on my washing machine in a little holder is my choice of washing detergent minus all the nasty chemicals. I’ve used various brands, but this one is Ecoegg's Laundry Egg. It contains tiny little balls that are 100% natural and non-toxic. These balls are basically slow releasing washing powder. You throw the egg with your wash in place of washing powder and conditioner. The whites come out crisp, clothes are super clean and soft and it has 720 washes in total. So not only is it economical and healthier for us, it’s better for the environment too.
The Ecoegg Laundry Egg available to buy here. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist © 2018.
The only thing that people struggle with, is that it doesn’t have a strong smell. But that just means it doesn’t have a strong artificial smell, which can only be a good thing. I just use Ecoegg Spray and Refresh, which is a natural concentrate that you dilute in water in a spray bottle (a bit like Ribena) and spray on your clothes or around your wardrobe and room. Talk about freeing up some serious headspace. I mean, you only need to think about replacing your washing powder maybe two to three times a year. It’s brilliant.
Vicky Silverthorn will be running an event on how to organise your wardrobe at John Lewis & Partners, Peter Jones in Chelsea on 15th November. For a chance to meet Vicky reserve your ticket here.
If you’d like to work with Kay to support your overall health and wellbeing please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.