By Susan Gardner
In January, I introduced the idea that heeding the voice of clutter can open life energy. We can learn to quiet ourselves to ask fundamental questions of our clutter. This month, I describe our sometimes-complicated relationship with clutter. When we understand our clutter, we can move to healing. Regrets lessen, flow is released, and memories find a settled place.
Let’s begin looking at one piece from a pile.
Imagine a designer bag a friend encouraged you to buy because they thought it was FabYOUlous. With your friend imagining it on your shoulder, you bought it amidst a mixture of pressure and curiosity. When your friend moved away unexpectedly, that part of you went missing. The bag ended up on top of a dresser in a spare bedroom two years ago. Why can’t you do anything with it?
As you quietly listen, the bag describes another layer of personality and style within you that your friend saw. It tells you that you miss regular contact with the part of you that you experienced with them. Putting it on your shoulder, you unexpectedly tear up, look in the mirror, think of your friend, and, again unexpectedly, do a little dance. The bag has spoken to you! You take a picture and send it to your friend with an invitation to meet in the middle for an overdue time together.
Learn to listen to your clutter. To understand its arc, we must first understand what it is asking of us as well as representing to us. Some ways you can listen are through touch, journaling, or photography (for an idea, learn about The Focus Project). Speak back to the clutter what you hear, feel and appreciate.
As you do so, identify what is held within the clutter:
- Memories of good days as well as experiences when going through rough times
- Regret of past decisions (purchases, relationships, etc.)
- Loss, grief, illness
- Current living challenges
While standing beside or amidst your clutter, imagine your life with or without certain items. If you are feeling regret or embarrassment, accept the clutter as it is. Feelings of being overwhelmed can be met with defining your next best step.
Specifically, ground yourself in the present by determining steps that are realistically simple. Here are potential next steps:
- If you know what to do with the things, write out a progressive plan with resources needed and follow it.
- If you are overwhelmed with decision-making or knowledge of what to do, ask for help. Call a professional organizer or a non-judgmental and helpful friend.
- If the emotions are flooding in or unexplorable by yourself or with a close friend or confidant, consider finding a therapist.
Finally, find your way to a place of no regrets. This healing place comes from understanding why things unfolded as they did, forgiving yourself and others in the things you regret, describing a preferred future and stepping toward it. This leads to increased stamina for change and more flow into a life energy for an encouraging future.
As a person who respects a good mess, I can assure you that there is a place for transient clutter. However, when the clutter flows from a place of long-suffering inner clutter, a multi-discipline approach can lead to overall healing AND a neater home.
About the Author
Susan Gardner, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, works with people who are caught up in clutter and helps them understand it, make peace with it, and manage it more effectively. As a retreat and workshop leader, she offers the Dammed Clutter Retreat and the Couples in Clutter Workshop quarterly. Susan is an LGBT+ ally, volunteer at Oasis Youth Center Art Studio, retired United Methodist pastor, wife and mother of 3 adult children.