"My basement walk-in closet is killing me."

I was taking a tour of my client's home this morning when she said, "My basement walk-in closet is killing me." I've noticed the words my clients use with emotional force are great indicators of where to begin the clutter bust.

I said, "You don't need to live under the influence of something that painful in your home. Let's start there." I grabbed the trash bags and headed down the stairs to the basement. Once I find the clutter, I don't like talking about it. I want to wade into the stuff and start asking questions. Too much talking just extends the pain.

The walk-in closet was completely filled. She stood about ten feet back and looked into the closet in a fear trance. That's what clutter does. It intimidates people in their own homes. I think it helps that I walk into the mass of stuff and ask low key questions. I ask in a, "Can you pass the ketchup?" tone. This helps their seriousness about the clutter situation evaporate. When we're too serious, we stay in thinking mode, and tend not to act intuitively.

There was a big wire organizing container with sliding drawers amidst the stuff. It was filled with some old dried flowers and bicycle parts. She bought the container to try and organize the space. That often happens. People will be overwhelmed by their stuff and will buy a variety of containers that are sold as an organizing solution. The problem is the solution isn't in a container for everything, but comes from getting rid of the things that don't matter. For her, the solution became clutter. Things were tangled in and around the container. I pointed out what had happened and she got it. She decided to give the contraption to her neighbor to sell in their garage sale this weekend.

I took the culprit out of the closet. Then I went through the rest of the closet's contents piece by piece. Suddenly it was a lot easier for her to make decisions.