Addressing the Clutter

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“I’m good,” my client responded to the question, “how have you been feeling over the past week?”

Having not received a clear response to the question, I probed.

“Can you further define ‘good’ for me?” I asked.

“Nothing is going wrong right now,” he started slowly. “I’m feeling fine … good. Things are good.”

Again, I probed.

“So, you are telling me ‘how things are’ and what you have said about how you feel about this is that the feeling is ‘fine.’ What is it that you are expressing?”

My client sat quietly for awhile.

“I guess, I’m not really saying anything about how I’m feeling because I’m not sure,” he responded finally.

Again, a pause.

He continued, “I’m just now realizing that I don’t spend much time being conscious of my feelings unless I’m feeling something in reaction to highs and lows. When things are not going either really well or really poorly, I see now that I don’t really pay attention to my emotions.”

We both sat silently, letting that epiphany sink in.

Finally, I asked, “so how are you feeling about not knowing how you feel?”

After moment, he replied. “Kind of weird. Like I’m at a standstill … stuck.”

“Have you witnessed anything in the past week in your life that is stuck or at a standstill?” I asked, simply.

“Well, now that you ask, yes,” he said. “My wife did mention, again on Monday, that I needed to decide what to do with my Mother’s things that we’ve been storing since she passed. They are in an extra room in the house that my wife wants to turn into a guest room. I haven’t wanted to deal with all of it and have been putting it off.”

“Is it emotionally triggering for you to think about getting rid of your mother’s things,” I asked him.

He choked up. “Yes. I don’t want to think about it.”

“Or feel it,” I added, gently.

“Or feel it, he repeated quietly.

Any way we look at it, excusing feelings … whether it’s pushing them aside altogether to avoid experiencing them or not taking the time to look at what’s beneath the emotions we are allowing ourselves to express … keeps us stuck.

I was recently discussing the emotional component to clutter with friend and organizational guru, Barbara Hemphill.

She shared a client story of her own that illustrated a direct correlation between physical clutter and emotional clutter. It also looks at how we label and focus on the concept of “excuses” as the limiting factor in keeping us from action.

Barbara told me that research reveals we are 76% more likely to complete a project if we have an accountability partner. Because of this, when she gives a presentation, Barbara hands out an index card (one of her favorite productivity tools), and invites attendees to write down one specific action they plan to take as a result of what they heard during her talk.

Recently, Barbara followed up on one of the cards to inquire whether the person who submitted it was happy with their progress.

She received the following reply:
“Unfortunately, I have not tackled my garage, which was the action I chose to do. I have been going through papers that I have had in my bedroom and have been throwing them out. I need to get over the feeling of not wanting to be [in my garage]. In all honesty, I have to stop making excuses.”

Barbara shared that her immediate response was one of sadness.

She said this, “What I know, from over four decades in the business of helping people eliminate clutter of all kinds, is that the major stumbling block is not ‘excuses.’ Most frequently it is the result of two factors: 1) the lack of education about how to make decisions and 2) the presence of emotions which block them from making the necessary decisions.”

At the end of the day, if we can begin to stop excusing ourselves from looking at what the real issues are that hold us in any place we don’t want to be (emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually), then we can realize that the game has nothing to do with willpower, but everything to do with empowerment that comes from, first, taking the time to truly see, hear, understand, support and LOVE ourselves … where we are and as we are.

When we point to excuses as the culprit for why we are not attending to things, we are missing the point entirely. That’s like looking at the symptom and treating it like it’s the cause. We also can end up spending more time making excuses (or beating up on ourselves FOR making them) and less time compassionately looking for what it is that is truly keeping us from attending to what we want to work through and accomplish.
As we get closer to the start of a New Year, we will, naturally, begin to think about the changes we want to make. Some of us will start planning and defining our goals. All of this is good, but what I would put up for consideration is to begin with this question.

What do I need to attend to, release, rectify or reconcile first?

What do you have, right now, that needs attention and is causing “clutter” in your life?

Is it stuff, unspoken words, unattended feelings, unanswered questions, certain relationships … what?

Trying to smooth over these things; putting them aside and covering them up with shiny new objects, ideas, plans and goals, is not the answer.

Look at what you have in your life and determine if it truly “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo would
say. Or, as my friend Barbara suggests, “Ask the question, ‘Does this help me accomplish my
work or enjoy my life?’ If it doesn’t, it’s clutter and clutter is postponed decisions.”

Think about it this way, what is the point of trying to make new resolutions or decisions for the future, when you may have so many others in the present that need your attention?

I, personally, have one intention that I’ll be focusing on in 2020. It’s to be clutter free. I, honestly, don’t know how close I’ll get to this by the end of the year, but that’s not really the point. I do commit to getting as far as I possibly can, by taking incremental steps each day. I truly believe that by doing this, I also get closer to the vitality, joy, freedom and sense of flow that I want and seek in life. This is quite a potent driver for me.

What’s your driver and how is clutter blocking or slowing it down?

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and start to the New Year of your dreams!
♥ Traci