Yesterday's client was saddled with fifteen filing cabinets in her home office. She had the metal kind on wheels. There were the portable plastic kind sitting on top of her desks. Then there were the high-rise filing cabinets. This was in addition to the large piles of free-range papers on her desks. She sat in her office chair amidst the chaos and was sad.
There's a belief that, "I'll be okay if I just get more space to put my things." That's why people get storage lockers, or buy a bigger house, or put in shelves, or build an addition on to their home. But expanding doesn't bring relief. It provides homes for the chaos and confusion. The stuff stays with us and we suffer with its presence.
I said to my client, "It's time to mow the lawn." It was time to trim things back. The row houses of clutter were driving her crazy. She panicked and said that she didn't want to go through the papers in her files. That's a natural thought. When she thinks of going through the papers, she thinks of all of the papers at once and she shuts down.
I said, "I'm going to make it easy for you." I got one of her big recycling bins and sat it on the floor next to her. I opened the first filing cabinet and I took out only one file. I handed the file to her and I said, "Let's take a look through this and see what you're no longer using." That was simple for her and she did it. I kept giving her little bits at a time and she could handle them.
Then we came across many files that were from her deceased husband. This brought up some deep sadness. They were medical papers from his long and painful sickness. She had been his caretaker. Her heart was still raw. I had a feeling this was the source of the masses of paper. The papers were probably an insulator to her from the pain. They distracted her. I told her that I understand seeing these papers again hurts her, and there's a great value for her in letting the painful reminders go. Clutter busting the papers would allow her heart to open again so she could feel the deep love she felt for her husband.
She went through the papers with the new incentive. We filled two recycling bins. She said she felt a great weight lift from her.