Have you noticed that the order of your life is reflected by the clutter around you? If your emotional life is messy, usually your physical life is too. Clutter isn’t just about extra stuff; it can also be about emotional issues.
One of my clients, Clara, is in the midst of a divorce. She has a full time job and is raising her two children as a single parent. Although we’ve coached around several topics, today Clara shared her growing frustration with the amount of clutter in her life.
“I have always been a neat-nick,” she said. My mother’s motto was, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ And that’s how our house was run.”
She paused and said, “Now my house is a complete disaster. It’s as though the order of our house was symbolic for the order of our marriage. As the marriage got messier, so did the house. In fact, it’s not just my house; it’s my car, my desk…it’s everywhere.”
As she described the piles and disorganization, everything felt heavy and overwhelming. She said she felt claustrophobic by both the physical and emotional stuff that surrounded her.
“When the kids came along, our entire house felt crammed,” she explained. “We were so busy, that piles became entire corners of rooms; there was no time to sort or create systems for order. My house feels like one of those fun-houses at an amusement park where the walls appear to be moving and closing in on you.”
“What would it feel like to open up some of the space in your house, and where would you begin?” I asked.
“In my bedroom,” she answered. “It is the messiest space and tends to hold the most emotions for me.”
As we talked, I realized that the level of emotions she had were clearly tied to the amount of clutter there was and the emotional toll it was taking on her. I asked, “How would it feel to have your bedroom space cleaned and organized?”
Clara sat there for a minute imagining how it might look and feel. “It would be very powerful for me to reclaim my physical and emotional space,” She said.
“What are some ideas on how to make this happen?” I asked.
“I could clean my bedroom next weekend when the kids are with their dad,” she said. “I’ll start with the bookshelves and a corner of my room that is just stacked with stuff. I’ll put on my favorite music, grab a diet soda and attack ‘the pile.'”
Clara’s ideas started gaining momentum. “I’ll invite my friend Molly to help sort my clothes. I’ll get rid of anything that doesn’t fit or look good on me.” She continued. “Last, I’ll clean out the bookshelves and the stacks of paperwork and decide what to keep, trash or give away.”
“What will your room look like when it is completed and when will you finish it?” I pushed for accountability.
She described what she called her “everything in its place” room and said it would be done before our next coaching session in two weeks. Just seeing the emotional lift in her mood was worth it. It will be interesting to hear about her experience de-cluttering the physical and emotional areas of her life.
Coaching Challenge: If you’ve ever been labeled a “packrat,” or you find that your clutter is driving you crazy, it’s time to gain control of the stuff in your life. List what areas need cleaning up (house, car, office, files, etc.). Select one area in which to begin. Describe how that area will feel with no clutter and brainstorm ideas to move you toward this vision.
If you struggle with clutter, enlist the help of your friends or even a professional organizer. It’s amazing how much easier it can be to keep things orderly once you have a system. Be clear about the project and the time you are willing to commit. Include what the final results will feel like, what resources you will enlist, the steps you will take, the time-frame, and how you might reward yourself if you need some motivation.