Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Being Compassionate

My phone client said, "I'm feeling beaten and defeated."

Her mom died not long ago. She had to move her father into an assisted living home. She then had to clutter bust her parents house on her own and sell it.

She cried as she said she wasn't able to take care of herself during that time and things piled up at home. The state of her place had made her feel sad and she did retail therapy to feel better. This put her in debt, which made her feel guilty.

She got down on herself for being in this situation. She felt she shouldn't have let things get that bad. Also, she was critical of herself for not being able to clutter bust on her own.

I said that it made sense that she felt stuck and that she wasn't able to help herself. She was physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Everyone has a threshold and when they reach it they shut down. Their capacity and clarity are diminished.

When we get run down and shut down, we sometimes react with self-criticism, hoping it will help us fix the situation. But it depletes us even more.

I encouraged my client to be kind to herself. In a situation like she had been in, it was understandable that she couldn't take care of herself. I said if she was outside taking a walk, and she saw someone fall and hurt themselves, she wouldn't say, "They should be able to get up." She would rush to help them. She would understand that they were hurt and needed assistance.

In her situation, she was hurt. She couldn't take care of herself. The first step in healing would be seeing the situation for what it was. That meant forgiving herself for being stuck amidst her clutter. That meant understanding her need to buy things to feel better. That also meant being okay about hiring someone to help her get up again.

She got it that it was okay to be compassionate to herself.

This released the shackles she had put on herself for being wrong.

She began going through her things. She was able to think clearly and separate out things that she no longer cared for our used from the things she liked and were an active part of her life.

After we finished working, my client kept working on her own. She sent me an email a few hours later and said, "Here's something I found under our work pile today--a dish that has encouraging stones in it.  (It's a fish because I'm a Pisces.)  Dusted and off the floor, it's very pleasant to have."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Clothes Our Life Wears

[Today's blog post is taken from the "Best of" clutter busting archives...enjoy!]

Our things make up the clothes our life wears. How does our stuff, the things we do, and the people in our lives fit?

We get so used to wearing these clothes that we think they are us, that they are parts of us. And even if one of these things is causing us discomfort, we hang onto it because of the intimate association.
That's why I encourage asking, "Do I like this, or can I let it go?" because it helps us see that our things aren't us, that they are here to provide us pleasure and take care of us, or we shed them like a shirt that no longer fits.

I recently helped a client clutter bust his kitchen pantry. He was resistant at first, even though he complained that this part of his home gave him a headache. The resistance felt like he was connected to what was in there, which caused him to try and protect the stuff, even though it was hurting him.

But as I began asking him about each item of food in the pantry, the connection broke, and this gave him distance to see with clarity that the majority of the food in there was old and didn't fit his tastes and life now. He put this food in some boxes and bags to take to a local homeless shelter.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guilt as Clutter

My client said, "I have a desire to tackle all the clutter as quickly as possible and this is what tires me out and leads to burnout.  So while I understand and FEEL the urgency of my situation, is there a way to not feel guilt when I think I'm not dealing with it quickly enough?"

I said that feeling of guilt might come up that you're not dealing with it quickly enough. You can't prevent the thought from arising.

But you can notice how powerful it is. Guilt is loud. It changes the blood chemistry. It has a way of taking away momentum. You can be aware of it with some curiosity, as if it's a thing, just like the things that you are going through in your space.

Because the guilt is a thing in the space of you.

Noticing when guilt comes up is part of the clutter bust. When you feel it, you can talk with yourself and say, "Is this true? Am I not doing this quickly enough? Could I be going faster? Or is it that when I try and go faster, I shut down and give up? Maybe it really does that the time it takes. Maybe I need to be gentler with myself in order to complete this process."

Thursday, April 10, 2014


When you're unobscured, you're mighty. When you're without things to hide behind, you shine. It's a burden to try and hang on to things that were supposed to make you brighter, smarter, sexy, stronger.

Underneath all the stuff is an amazing person. Not measured by standards. But by the presence of who you are.

I never get tired of seeing people without their clutter. After they let go of all the things that didn't matter to them, they radiate an aliveness that no product in the world can deliver.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letting Go of an Image

My client said, "Why am I feeling so lethargic and down?"

I said that's what clutter does. As a collective force it takes away your energy and spirit.

My client said she wanted to have a peaceful feeling in her home, but she didn't have that.

I said let's find and root out the clutter so she could enjoy her living space again. 

She showed me some hidden shelves in her bedroom. They were covered up by silk curtains. She said she hadn't looked behind the curtains in a long time. Of course I picked that area to begin. Most of the time things that are hidden are clutter.

My client showed me special edition classic books that were on the shelves. She wasn't reading them. She preferred reading books on kindle. The book's print was too difficult for her to read.

I asked if she could let the books go since she wasn't reading them. 

She hesitated.

I asked her to tell me how she was feeling. She said she liked how these books made her seem. "Like I'm an intellectual. It's an old idea of who I thought I needed to be. Part of my identity was being a smart girl. It was more for show."

I said that she'd never feel comfortable trying to create and instill an image of herself in other people's minds. Even if she somehow managed to have that effect in others, she still wouldn't feel comfortable in her self.

She decided that way of living wasn't serving her anymore and she decided to donate the books.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sometimes Things Don't Work Out

My client said, "It's a very lovely guitar. I paid a lot of money for it. I took lessons for a year." There was a heaviness in her voice.

I asked her if she still played her guitar. She paused. Then with an even heavier voice she said, "No."

Then my client said, "I have a piano. My daughter and I both play it." Her voice was brighter and filled with energy.

I pointed out the contrast in her voice. I said that it was clear the piano was a part of her life. It made her feel good. She enjoyed using it. But she wasn't enjoying the guitar. The presence made her tired. There was a feeling of guilt in her voice that she wasn't using it.

She said, "But the guitar is gorgeous." There was still that heavy feeling in her voice.

I said there was no feeling of love and enjoyment about the guitar. It was mostly regret that it didn't work out. I said that it happens sometimes that we bring something into our life that just doesn't work out. It can be a thing, a person, or an activity. We hang on to it because we think we should be enjoying it. But we are better off being honest with ourselves that it just doesn't fit out lives.

My client realized that the guitar wasn't making her life a better place to be. It was actually causing her some pain. She decided to let it go.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Kindly Ruthless

My client said, "I'm well organized, but I have a house full of clutter. People don't see it. But it's there. I have stuff hidden away that distracts me subconsciously. I'm haunted by all this stuff sitting here. I can't relax at night in my bed because of all the crap in my bedroom!"

I said that whatever's no longer a part of our life, no matter how nice it looks, or how well stacked it is, or how much we paid for it, this stuff intrudes into our personal boundaries. It's as if we are being attacked by our stuff. The antidote, the thing we can do for ourselves now, is to be kindly ruthless. We go through our things, one by one and one-pointedly decide, "Am I using and enjoying you in my life, or can I let you go?"

This weekend I encourage you to pick an area of your home that is bothering you. Take an honest look at the things in this room and be kindly ruthless.  See what honestly makes you feel good now and what's no longer a part of your life. You might be surprised at what you discover!

Feel free to share your clutter busting experiences.