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At Home: Removing clutter can turn house to haven

Marni Jameson gets input from two therapists on how to remove stress from your life and turn your home into a haven.
BY MARNI JAMESON Published: September 10, 2012

I recently had one of those weeks so stressful that I would have rather juggled flaming power saws. Not a death-in-the-family kind of week, but a week with a string of everyday life problems that proves the world cares about me about as much as a windshield cares about flying insects.

It started with Hurricane Isaac barreling down on Florida. I braced for the worst by buying 24 cans of tuna, two cases of water and a pack of AA batteries.

Next my 90-year-old father, who was recently sprung from the hospital where he'd spent three weeks fighting pneumonia, had to go back to the hospital. His pneumonia had returned.

Then a dentist, while replacing an old filling that was the size of a radish seed, cracked my molar. Now I need a crown.

Then, while researching a health story I was writing, I discovered undeniable evidence that artificial sweeteners are almost as bad for you as real sugar. (Say it's not so!) My daily Diet Pepsi habit would have to go.

But each day, what got me through was my home. After a day that feels as if I'd spent it inside a churning garbage disposal, my home is — as every home should be — a haven of calm.

Friends, pets, an understanding mate, a large pour of wine, and a long run have pulled me out of past slumps, but this time my house restored me. I looked around and asked why.

Because I move so much, I've pared down my furnishings to only those I love. I also keep the place clean and clutter-free, but the most calming part is the lake view. Sitting on my back porch, which overlooks a lake, is like a tranquilizer.

To add to my notions of what makes a stress-free home, I asked two therapists to share their tips. Diane Lang, a psychotherapist and life coach from New Jersey, and design psychologist Toby Israel, also from New Jersey, both specialize in stress management. They agree that if you don't feel a sense of calm and peace when you come home, you need to figure out why and fix it. Things to remove

Clutter. “Your home reflects what you're feeling,” said Lang. Clutter is a big flag that you're stressed, but it's also a big source of stress. It makes you feel out of control. “If you de-clutter your home, you will de-clutter your life.”

Technology. Every home should have a technology-free zone, with no phones, computers or televisions. “We need quiet, unplugged time every day to disconnect and relax,” said Lang.

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