Lose Clutter, Lose Weight, Peter Walsh Says in New Book

Can you lose weight by getting rid of the clutter in your home?

ByABC News
April 30, 2015, 8:20 AM
PHOTO: A cluttered room is seen in this undated file photo.
A cluttered room is seen in this undated file photo.
Getty Images

— -- Andrea Rothschild says she’s tried countless diets over the years.

“I've tried getting rid of all the sugar in my life,” Rothschild said. “I've tried a lot of deprivation-type diets.”

Now, she’s hoping to shed 20 to 30 pounds by getting rid of the clutter in her home.

Author Peter Walsh says there’s a link between mess, increased stress and weight gain, and he writes about it in his new book “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down.”

Scroll down to read an excerpt from the book.

In an interview with ABC News, Walsh said research shows that people who live in “cluttered” environments experience rising levels of stress.

PHOTO: Can you lose weight by getting rid of the clutter in your home?
Can you lose weight by getting rid of the clutter in your home?
Lose The Clutter, Lose the Weight by Peter Walsh

“Once the stress increases, hormone levels increase. Now, the result of that is that you start to overeat,” Walsh said.

Rothschild, a public relations executive from Studio City, California, is willing to give the concept a try, and starts with her messy fridge. Walsh helps her get rid of the old food, making room for healthier items, including some which she purchased at a farmers’ market.

The refrigerator was divided into zones for storing different types of products. This makes it easier to cook at home, rather than order take-out, Walsh said.

They then tackled Rothschild’s untidy pantry and her closet.

“When you step in here I want you to feel like every single thing in here I love, it fits me and people compliment me on it,” Walsh told Rothschild.

Rothschild goes from being overwhelmed to feeling overjoyed.

“I feel a little lighter because there's just not all this clutter. There's not this confusion,” she said.

Nanette Cooley was part of a test panel for Walsh’s book. The Pennsylvania woman says her new, decluttered lifestyle led to a 50-pound weight loss.

“I think by uncluttering things, getting rid of the junk … I wasn't feeling stressed over the mess at home,” she said. “I was able to come home on the weekend and relax, and then more focus and more energy on what I needed to do to take care of myself.”

It gave her more time to dedicate to her weight-loss goals and to make healthy food choices at home.

“I feel healthy. I feel more confident. I feel like I have more energy,” she said.

Along with de-cluttering and eating healthy, at-home exercises are key, according to Walsh. These including performing kitchen counter tricep push-ups and even shoulder presses using canned goods.

“Lifestyle change is what it's all about," Walsh said.

Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down

So many of the people I work with--people who struggle with varying degrees of clutter in their homes and lives every day--have one thing in common: They are frequently not engaged in their own lives. By this I mean that much of their daily activity is conducted almost by rote. They buy things without really thinking about it, eat food without really tasting it, watch TV without noticing what they're seeing, and interact with people around them in a distracted way. Put simply, they're preoccupied by so many distractions they're just not thinking.

If your mind continues to force you to overeat, overshop, and hang on to household items long after they've stopped being useful, your body won't be able to exercise and declutter fast enough to keep up. If your mind continues to be unhappy, overstressed, and unfocused, your drive to maintain your improvements will fade.

To make deep, lasting changes to the appearance of your body and home, you're going to have to use your mind differently than before. I want you to do the following:

  • Work with your mind, not for it. Avoid blindly following your impulses.
  • Observe the things your mind is telling you, without immediately obeying its commands or spending time arguing with it.
  • Recognize when your mind is viewing the world as a darker, scarier place than it really is.
  • Stop confusing the memories attached to your household items with the items themselves.
  • Stop envisioning catastrophe in your future.

  • Celebrate your successes rather than focusing on your shortcomings.


Six weeks isn't very long, but if you have determination and a good plan, even this brief period can become a momentous turning point in your life. In just a month and a half, it's possible to turn an unmanageable maze of a home into a well-organized refuge while you're melting away stubborn pounds while at the same time you're shaking loose upsetting emotions and deeply ingrained ways of looking at yourself.

If you're skeptical that you can accomplish all this at the same time, I understand. Simply trying to keep your home clean at a surface level can be exhausting. If just straightening up the mess you've made over the past few days takes so much effort, how can you possibly sort and haul out years (or decades) of accumulated stuff that has packed the deepest nooks and crannies of your home?

Add to that the challenge of losing weight, which may feel even more difficult than decluttering your home. The work that goes into weight loss can be time-consuming and frustrating. If your approach requires counting calories, carbs, or grams of fat, it adds a substantial chore to your day. If you're steeply cutting back on the amount of food you allow yourself, or forcing yourself to eat unappealing foods, these changes also make each day a new exercise in unpleasantness.

Also, few people make one weight loss attempt, then cruise through the rest of their lives at their ideal weight. If you're currently overweight, odds are good that you remember your history of unsuccessful attempts whenever you're trying to launch a new effort. You likely have a "Greatest Weight Loss Failures" video that's ready to play at any time in your head.

This brings us to the challenge of taming your mind at the same time as your body and your home. Your mental processes can be even more stubborn than your weight or your home's organization. Some people who seek therapy to shake their anxiety or depression learn in a dozen or fewer sessions how to use tools to change their behaviors and thoughts. But some stay in therapy for years.

Even given all these challenges, do I really believe it's possible for a normal human being to make a lasting improvement in all three of these areas in a short period of time? I truly do. You're holding the directions in your hands, and I've seen people do wonderful things with this plan. That doesn't mean it's easy. Starting the program is a bit like getting a treadmill. Just setting the treadmill in your home (and in many homes, that's all the treadmill is doing) won't change your weight. You have to get on it and start walking.

As you start this program, you're going to have to apply a positive attitude, a lot of focus, and some serious commitment. You'll have to power through some challenging moments.

You can do this. I've seen people accomplish these achievements many times, and I know it's possible.

During the next 6 weeks, while you focus on your home, body, and mind, try to keep yourself firmly aimed at the intersection of the three circles in this diagram, so the same effort moves you toward all three goals.

Plenty of people have told me that they've cleaned out their homes, come to feel better about themselves, and watched their clothing size shrink all at one time. Often, they were only focusing on decluttering their home, and the other improvements just sort of happened without any additional work.

But when I was putting together this program, I wanted proof that it works, both for myself and for my readers. I wanted to carefully observe which elements were especially helpful and which needed adjustment before I made the program available to the public. I wanted to make sure it provided the right advice and motivation. That's why I assembled the test panel to blaze the trail for you.

Your Next 6 Weeks: What to Expect

Every week in the Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight program, you'll be making changes in the following intertwined areas. I'll provide specific advice and activities that take you through them.


Each week during the program, you'll tackle a different room or area in your home. You'll be assigned specific "tasks" for each room or space. Some tasks will take only minutes to complete, and some may take days. To help guide you through these tasks, I've provided tips and techniques for tackling each space and dealing with the types of clutter generally found there. I've specifically plotted out your journey so your efforts:

Make a difference early. You'll start in the rooms that have the biggest impact on your weight and your health.

Start gently. You won't have to address as many emotionally sticky areas early in the program as you sort through your belongings. The last week will require you to dig deep into the spaces of your home where you have probably stashed a high density of objects because throwing them away was too painful. By then, you'll hopefully have the mindset to handle getting rid of these items with more confidence and less distress.

Get your body ready for a challenge. Clearing out your home can be quite a workout. You're lifting, squatting, pulling boxes off high shelves, and perhaps walking up and down stairs. So you'll start the program with rooms that should be less physically demanding. Over the following weeks, you'll have opportunities to grow stronger and more flexible while you improve your endurance. The intent is to get you ready to tackle areas of your home where the items tend to be bigger, heavier, and more unwieldy. You'll likely encounter these items in your final week.


I wanted the eating plan for the next 6 weeks to be as simple as possible. I don't want to clutter your time or your focus with a lot of dietary rules. I don't want you to count calories or carbohydrates or grams of fat. You have much better things to do with your time. Nor do I want you to have to go to out-of-the-way supermarkets or order foods online. I certainly don't want you to have to buy new cooking equipment.

What I do want is for you to give your body the right amount of fuel so you stay well-fed and nourished during the coming challenges, but still lose weight. I also want your meals to be pleasurable, so you can sit down and enjoy food that rewards all your senses (it can't be fun to eat mindfully when you have to focus your mind on bland, flavorless food). I also designed this program to be useful and appealing for the long term rather than an ordeal that you can only bear to suffer through for 6 weeks.

In the next chapter, you'll discover dietitian-approved meal and snack plans. All you have to do for the next 6 weeks is pick foods off these charts. So long as you choose a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks from these lists, you'll stay within a daily calorie range that encourages weight loss.


You'll burn off calories every day while decluttering your house. It's quite possible that this amount of physical activity alone would be enough to spark your weight loss. But you'll set yourself up for even better results if you do additional physical activities several times a week. I worked with an exercise physiologist, Liz Davis, MS, to develop a special workout plan to go with this program.

Excepted from: “Lose The Clutter, Lose the Weight” by Peter Walsh. Copyright (c) 2015 by Peter Walsh. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.