The house was so cluttered I didn’t even realize all the stuff I was stepping around. Having a visitor, and watching them process the clutter by their facial expressions, awakened me to the long-simmering understanding that something had be done. I visualized trash bags, crates, a label maker. Oh yes, I was going to deal with this clutter once and for all. Maybe you have been to this place before. If you’re like me, you have been here many times. Before you take the plunge:
Wait! There is something important to do before you get the trash bags and the storage crates.
All of those piles of stuff are there for a reason. Take a room and methodically write down everything that is in it, including all objects in the stacks of nondescript stuff. Once you see it written down, you may be surprised at what is on this list. Is it mostly papers relating to finances? Is it kids’ toys that they have long outgrown? Is it the set of furniture you bought with your ex that is no pushed together to make room for the great rocker and coffee table you recently bought because you love it? Is it all of the above and lots more?
You see where I am going here.
Clutter is a physical manifestation of an unresolved emotional conflict.
If you have not yet dealt with your financial situation, or your kids’ having grown up to another stage of life, or the passing of your marriage, or whatever, these situations will be manifested in your inability to shed the objects associated with them. You may think you have dealt with all this, but the stuff sitting in your house says otherwise. Until you deal with the stuff, you are not free.
What to do?
Realizing what is going on can be a true revelation that will change your life. It may take some time to sink in, or it may unleash a torrent of energy in which you are so ready now to chuck all this stuff from the past. It is an exciting and occasionally dangerous place to find yourself in.
How about doing one more bit of preparation before taking the plunge?
Do a plan of how you want your house to be. It can be a drawing or a verbal description or a list of attributes, but it must be really vivid in your mind. It should not be just a glossy visualization of a House Beautiful photo shoot. It needs to be real for you and deal with your actual situation. It must involve a realization of how difficult it will be to get there. If it doesn’t, you have glossed over something important.
Once you have your vision, make a list of the things that need to happen to get you there. Now is the time to really take stock of your life as well as your stuff. Now is the time to cry over the loss of your children’s childhood, and thus your changed status as a parent. Now you do the final cry over the lost relationship you thought you had already dealt with, but whose evidence continues to sit in your living room. Now is when you steel yourself for that scary trip into the financial past or present that is represented by all those unfiled papers, and make decisions about how to file them.
Your list might look something like this:
• Redo filing system to reflect categories that currently make sense in your life
• Advertise sofa set on craigslist or ebay, or haul out for trash pickup
• Go through the kids’ unused toys and decide which to save for possible grandchildren, and crate these. The rest must go, so pack them up and bring them to Goodwill.
Your list will be different from this one, depending on your situation and the nature of your unresolved “stuff.” It will inevitably involve tears or the equivalent emotional reaction from you. Do not take this stuff lightly, and allow enough time to really experience these emotions. If you don’t, you are doomed to act in this play again and again until you do.
Let people know what you are doing so that you can get their support, but do not let anyone help you. It is important to experience the emotional part of this yourself.
Your mantra is something like:
I will have a home that reflects my current needs, in which every object supports me as I am now. My house will feel beautiful because it reflects my life in a vibrant way.
OK, now is the time to get a label-maker at Staples, a box of new file folders, a supply of lidded clear plastic crates, a box of trash bags, a shredder. This is a project that may take many days. If you have a week to devote, this is great. If you don’t, set aside some Saturdays or whatever and be sure to reward yourself with dinner plans that do not include cooking.
This is really a life project, and may need to be done in stages. Each time you complete a major portion of it, you will feel the unleashing of new energy to put into your current life. Celebrate your new home that reflects your real current needs!
• If you want to delve into this in a very systematic way, the book Getting Things Done by Paul Allen is a great tool.
• If this totally overwhelms you to the point where it threatens your ability to function, you need mental health services. Don’t let it go, your life is at stake.
• If you can’t deal with this now, put it on your list and get to it as soon as you can. If you can’t deal with your stuff, you aren’t dealing authentically with your life!