Learing to Encourage Ourselves

Last Saturday I spoke about Clutter Busting at a workshop. One of the participants raised her hand and said, "I want to have hope that I can get rid of the clutter in my home." Her words felt weary and stressed. I felt she had been putting a lot of pressure on herself about this for a while.

I asked her what she meant by hope. She said she hoped she could rid her home of all the clutter that had taken over her life. I asked if she had started letting go. She said she hadn't. I sensed she felt ashamed.

I told her that when she spoke about her clutter situation, it felt like she was aware of everything that she felt needed her attention and it was too much for her and she shut down. It took away her capabilities to do something about it and left her feeling frustrated that she should be able to do it. And the overwhelment wasn't her fault. The side-effects of living with clutter are discouragement, self-criticism and exhaustion.

I said we function best with kind encouragement. That means we only consider doing what we're able. It's the same consideration we would have when working with a small child. We bring in tenderness and compassion. We approach the situation and ourselves gently. When we are kind to ourselves, we know our limits.

I asked her about the clutter in her home. When she spoke about her books, she seemed neutral. I suggested she start with the books. I said she could take a stack and bring them to another room. I asked her if she would be okay going through one book at a time and asking, "Do I want to read this, or can I let it go?" She said she could. I said when she finished with the stack, she would take the books she's letting go of and put them in her car to donate to the library, and the next time she goes out, she can drop off the books. But for the moment she would stop the clutter bust.

I said I wanted her to have the experience of being gentle with herself and at the same time taking care of her clutter situation. She would feel relief and also confidence. It would leave her open, energized and inspired for her next clutter busting session. At that time, she would decide what she was capable of doing and then work within those limits. What we want to do can be accomplished in doable pieces over time.