One of my first clients was a woman who was very unhappy in her home. She trembled when she spoke. She couldn't stand still. She talked rapidly about a number of random things. I thought the best thing to do was begin right away with the clutter busting. I began asking her about specific things in her kitchen. She responded by saying, "Shut up!" I was kind of startled. I ignored what she said and continued asking about her things. She continued saying, "Shut up!" After the fifth shut up I realized I wasn't helping and it wasn't a healthy situation. I said I was going.
Suddenly she snapped out of her way of being. She apologized. It was like the light had been turned on in her. It felt like she went from being a scared five year old girl, to a strong woman in her actual age of mid 50s. She was probably used to hiding in the five year old as a means of self-protection, but the distorted effect it was having on her was clutter. I told her this by describing how much healthier she looked when she shifted gears.
She said that she felt constant agitation in her home. She dreaded coming back to her place. She could never sit still. She never finished anything. She slept horribly. I said, "The agitation you feel in your home corrupts you. It disrupts your happiness. It's not your fault you live this way because when you feel this agitated, you can't think clearly. You were probably telling yourself 'shut up!' in you head constantly. The thing is, you can do something about this situation now. You can work with me and ask yourself questions about each thing in your home so we can root out the things that are making you feel distressed."
She agreed. I think kind matter-of-factness helps a lot. It helps to point out what's actually happening without bringing in blame. It helps you see the situation clearly. From there, your self-reliance kicks in and you start to function well again.