I worked with a client who had a had a package of self-help tapes that were still in their wrapper. That and the thick coating of dust on the plastic wrap made my clutter radar go off.
My clutter radar is my handy inner sensing device that feels a constriction in things. On one level it feels like static from the radio. On another it feels like confusion and tension.
I asked my client if she was going to listen to the tapes or could she let them go. She paused and scrunched her face - another clutter clue. When we love something and it's part of our life, it's easy to say, "Yes." Hesitation, plenty of words in the object's defense, and anxiety are signs of clutter.
My client said, "I don't know, I mean those are supposed to be really good. I should be listening to them. Let's look at something else" I could feel turmoil in her. The thing is when we feel this kind of chaos in ourselves, it's hard to notice that it's turmoil. Turmoil produces distortion and this shuts down our discriminating faculties. It's like the gear chain on a bike slipping off, you don't go anywhere no matter how hard you pedal.
What helps is asking questions. The more basic the better. Asking ourselves questions is like taking small actions, and actions have a way of re-orientating us. I asked her how long she'd had the self-help tapes. She said, "Eight years." I asked her what she likes listening to. She showed me some music tapes. I asked her how they made her feel. She said, "Happy." I had her put on one of the music tapes. As she listened I asked how she felt. She said, "I feel relaxed." I had her hold the self-help tapes. I asked her how they felt. She said, "Like something's wrong with me, and I can't be good enough."
I asked if she was ready to let the self-help tapes go. She said, "Yes." She was clear in her decision.