I was helping someone clutter bust the backroom of her apartment. She wanted to turn it into an exercise room. She was too overwhelmed emotionally to go back there on her own and take care of the mess. She said every time she did she went unconscious. She looked sickly and pale as she described her feelings.
The backroom was a tangled space of things. There wasn't enough room to walk. Often people will have a room where they put things that they don't want to deal with. The things often remain there a long time. It's like an elephant graveyard for clutter.
I asked her about each piece. Because we went through one piece at a time she became calmer and was able to start thinking clearly again. Most of it went into trash bags, or into a charity pile. It didn't take very long. Soon there was just an exercise bike, a walking machine, a table and a TV-DVD unit back there. She was now happy and waltzing in her steps. She got some gold fabric from a closet and pinned it to the wall of her exercise room. It made the room glow.
When we get overwhelmed we lose our ability to function normally. Parts of us shut down and things start to pile up. I know if I'm tired I start to think of things that aren't actually a problem and it interferes with the basic simple tasks in front of me.
A lot of what clutter busting is about is stopping and recognizing our reaction to our surroundings. A quiet voice cuts through the noisy involvement with our problems. It's a recognition that something we are doing isn't working well. It's a knowing, whispered, "Oh". This awareness gives us some inner mental space. I do much better with a sense of quietness in my mind.
From this clearer place we can gently sort our way through the cluttered situation. "Do I really need this thing? Does it make a difference in my life? Is it an unimportant remnant of an old part of my life? Can I let it go?"
I remember when I was in art school and my professor said that the sculptor Michelangelo used to say that the finished statue was within the rock he was about to carve. He needed to chip away at the rock until the statue was completely uncovered. You can approach your living space in the same way, chipping away at things that are inconsequential, and uncovering a really great place you call home.