"The papers have no business here"

A recent client had a table that was covered in a mound of paper. Its ingredients were mail, articles from magazines and newspapers, articles she printed off the internet, financial papers and receipts, and some random items. I asked how long it had been like that. She had to think about it. She guessed over three years. She looked so weary and sad. I think a part of her had given up. It was like she was a slave to this space. She told me she tried to clear it off occasionally, but she could only do it for about fifteen minutes and then she would give up in frustration and disappointment in herself.

I said, "Let's give it a name!" She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "This mountain, let's give it a name." She thought about it and said, "Mt. Whatthef*#k!" I said, "Great, claim it in your name!" She said, "I claim Mt. Whatthef*#k in my name!" I said, "Good, now that it's yours, let's dismantle it."

I asked her quickly about each item. She responded fast. She was enthused. I think because I didn't shame or blame her, she thought it wasn't that bad of a situation after all. She tossed a lot of the papers. Many were so old that they didn't matter anymore. The papers that she had to take care of, we set to the side.

A half hour went by, she was still at it. She had confidence now because she was doing so well. She got a little stuck with the articles. But then I said, "If you had the day off today and you could do whatever you wanted, would you read this?" She was amazed that she said no to pretty much all of them. The articles at one time were probably like watching endless TV shows for her that she could distract herself for the pain she was feeling. But the pain was being caused by the presence of the articles. Now that they were gone, she was looking brand new. That meant she was bright in her eyes again and smiling.

When we were done, there was the pile of things to take care of. So I had her write the checks she needed to write, and sign the things she had to sign, and she took care of some of them online. That part took a little under an hour.

The table was empty. I had her get out some cleaner and wipe it off. It shined. I said, "This is your space now. It doesn't belong to anyone but you. The papers have no business here. That would be trespassing. You're in charge, what you say goes!"