I gave a clutter busting talk this weekend and someone in the audience asked about her family photo situation. She said she had a large see through storage bin of pictures that she hadn't opened up and looked through in a long time. It bothered her even thinking about the bin.
I asked if she ever liked looking at photos. She yelped out in a high cracking voice, "But they're history!" I struck a nerve and she put up her red flag. A scared and fearful part of her was revealed. When we're scared, we instinctively try and protect ourselves. Her defensiveness was a way of getting me to drop the inquiry. But I knew behind the fear was gold.
I asked the woman if she would like to be able to look at the photos. She panicked and again blurted out, "But they're history!" I pointed out how this clutter situation discombobulated her physically and emotionally. I said to her that she sounded like a defense attorney who knew her client was guilty but was trying to pretend she didn't know.
She softened and then started to talk about her family. She mentioned her son. I pointed out how gentle, happy, and melodic her voice sounded when she spoke of her son. That gentleness and ease is a signifier of when something is a part of our life. It fits our life and supports us. But the unresolved anxiousness that comes from the presence of something like the huge bin of photos interferes with the things that are actually supporting us. It's like the rock in a really comfortable shoe. No matter where you shift the rock to in your shoe, it's still going to hurt.
The woman decided that when she got home, she would go through the photos with her son and throw out the ones they didn't care about, and put the ones they liked in one album that they could enjoy.