Three Perspectives on Clutter

Last night I gave a talk about Clutter Busting and my new book at the Northbrook Library. Lots of people showed up. I opened it up for questions. There were a lot. People were passionate about wanting to know how to let go of the clutter in their lives.

One man talked about the clutter in his relationship with his wife. He collected fishing bobs. He had over 1,200. His wife was next to him and said that she didn't like that he had them. She said she threw them out when he wasn't looking. He wanted her to be okay with keeping the bobs. She reiterated that she wanted him to get rid of them. This had been going on for over 15 years. I told them to accept that neither of them is going to change. I said the clutter is not the bobs, but this rift that they've kept alive for so long. It's not serving them, and it's hurting their relationship. A relationship is a living thing. If you want to keep it, you need to find ways to nurture and maintain it. I told them they could spend time on the way home, or when they lay in bed that night or in the morning, talking about how they can best come to terms about the situation. How can they live with things as they are, and be happy.

One woman asked me how to speed clutter bust. She had been tossing things in her attic, but she felt the process was taking too long. I asked her some questions about how she did it. She told me she went through all the magazines she'd been saving for years to find articles she would like. I could tell that her desire to speed it up meant there was an intuitive part of her that sensed going through the magazines was unnecessary. I told her that when she saved the magazines, the articles might have had some value for her, but it had been over five years and she was now a different person with new needs. Her impatience was an indicator that she could toss the magazines without looking through them. We are changing all the time. When you look honestly at your stuff, think in terms of, "Does that fit my life now?"

Another woman told me about some dishes that were given to her by her mother who was now dead. She told me that she hates the dishes, but she can't get rid of them. She feels like they are her mom, and that she would be throwing away her mother. That's how powerful clutter is. You can see how it's not serving you, at the same time there is a compulsive desire to hang onto the thing. When she talked about it she seemed like a scared five year old girl. I told her that our parents have a strong hold on us. They gave us life, and fed and sheltered us, and if they hadn't we would have died, and with that comes a constant feeling to get their approval. Unconsciously we feel if they disapprove, we will die. Even if they are no longer alive. We talked matter of factly about how her living with the dishes created a heavy burden on her that affected her relationship with her partner, and all the people who came into their home, and her health, and her business relationships. It's good to see the honest effects that clutter has on us. Normally it stays hidden and that's what keeps us hanging onto things that aren't a supportive part of our life anymore. Awareness helps to restore the situation. She said she would go home and take an honest look.