Recently I was helping someone clutter bust her files. They were in plastic containers in her kitchen. They were completely jam packed. This dissuaded her from getting close to their territory. Even her looking in their direction made her look ill. I felt that had to be really hard on her to have something like this in her kitchen. Even if she wasn't looking at it, it made her sick in some way.
I had her sit down and I brought her one file at a time. If a file was too big, I gave her pieces of a file to go through. This made it easier for her since she didn't have to venture into the files. She could see one thing at a time which is always easier. We get overwhelmed when there are too many things to consider.
I had a trash container right next to her. I gave her quiet time to look at each thing I brought her. If she looked like she was getting stuck, I asked her about the things she was looking at. Some things are loaded. They may just be pieces of paper, but the things on the paper have heavy emotional signifigance. Often the person going through the things is very fragile, so sometimes the smallest overload can make them shut down. So I'm gentle and I say, "What's that thing you're looking at? Is that something you actually need, or can we let it go? Would you be okay if that file had somehow gotten lost?" I help them ask the questions they would normally ask themselves if they were feeling okay.
She was going along at a good pace until I came upon the super loaded file. She looked at it and went extremely pale. It looked like she turned to stone. If she was a computer, she would definelty have crashed. It turns out those were her divorce papers. The divorce had happened a long, long time ago. But she was reacting as if it had just happened. That's the effect that clutter has on us. It's not rational. But it emotionally clobbers us. It shuts us down and makes us incapable of making a decision.
I had to talk with her for a few minutes to help her get some space between those papers and herself. She started to see that she didn't need the papers, yet she was frozen in her abilities to let them go. I had her notice in detail the effect those papers were having on her. I let her know that the effect on her was happening in varying degrees all the time, and that she had gotten used to it. And that she was noticing it now with greater feeling because her full attention was on it. There was just her and the papers. I said, "The divorce is over. You're free now. You don't have to live like this anymore. This is something that is over. You're safe. It's okay."
She let go of the papers and they fell into the trash. She looked tremendously relieved. The color came back to her face in full. She looked like she had been plugged back in and turned on. The possession was over.