Ok, you’ve heard it again and again, through life coaches and Feng Shui books popularized by Karen Kingston. I believe in this from experience.
But, I had to write about it today as Oprah had a show on it today. I am watching the show right now. It’s inspiring. It’s amazing.
I have experienced the direct link of clutter to emotional challenge, both through my old job (working with people with mental health challenges) and in my own life (a person without any diagnosis). I will share a bit from both experiences, briefly.
I worked with a teenage boy. Him, his two younger brothers, mother, step father and grandparents lived together in a nice, large, suburban house. I would imagine it to be at least 2,500 square feet. It was beautiful. My thought of it was beautiful, I should say. The reality, was that the inside, and outside was full of clutter. Getting though the front door was a challenge. Getting someone to open the door was a challenge, since the doorbell was covered with clutter so the sound was barely audible (this is a doorbell attached to the wall, 6 feet up). There were two large totes outside, full of stuff. Every room was full of stuff, to the ceiling. Dishes were always dirty. The paths leading from the front door to the TV, to the dining room table (which was not used for eating) to the couch in front of the TV, dirt free. They had not eaten a meal together at their table in years. They had not had a Christmas tree in more than 10 years. They had not had guests over, ever (they could not quote a date to me). All their socializing was done outside the home, often as smaller units of the family. Mornings were a challenge to get ready- the kid’s bedrooms were full of mom’s clutter, their cleaned laundry in heaps downstairs, somewhere, unfolded, ready to wait to be ironed, or washed again. The bathroom, the most clutter free room in the house, possibly also quite a challenge to navigate (I personally never entered the bedrooms and bathrooms). His mother did not want to part with her stuff, instead was seen obsessively organizing it day in and day out to make sure it still existed and was there, right there for her and all others, to see. No doubt was it similar emotionally for her. She had all her emotions in order, but couldn’t get rid of the emotions that were holding her back from reaching her fullest potential. She was- and is, though I have not seen her in over a year and a half- a great, strong, Irish-raised woman. She had good family values, tried the best she could in the only way she could, to raise her kids (all with emotional challenges), and to support her husband, who was moving away from her, going on the road often with his the local college soccer team, as he was the coach. Also, it seemed there was no room in the bed for him; clutter took his place, there, also. She is a spiritual person, always looking to her faith for an answer. But her stuff kept holding her back. She could not part with it, and if she did part with one thing, three came in the next day to take its place. Though, when my coworker started working with her as I got new clients, a professional house cleaner/organizer was bought in for several weeks to help her clear out this clutter. It was an emotional journey for her. We were not able to stay to the end of the project. We helped her get started, but as it took so many years to accumulate that stuff, physically and emotionally, so would it take as long to rid of it. She is in my thoughts (along with her family). I hope they are healing. I hope this Christmas they have a tree.
In my own life, clearing of clutter has proved to be fruitful. Since moving into a home after marriage, having more money, and the ability to collect stuff, I did so. I am a person, my whole life saying I’d prefer to buy experiences (travel to India, etc.) than stuff. Too much a headache for me to organize. Not my strong suit. But, my father in law, who was here, can attest to the amount of stuff I rid of. Years of filing, no longer needed. (Oh how I related to the husband on the Oprah show, I am obsessed with shredding.) Books, papers, stacks and stacks of magazines, old computer printouts (no, I won’t use them), old clothes that no longer fit (but, my Amma in India bought me that for….), kitchen utensils that are broken or have never been taken out of the box in two years, those darn duplicate ladles, (who needs so many, anyhow?), all the coffee mugs (the stained Starbucks mugs, darn, gotta get rid of those!), old coats and shoes…. Evertyhing- gone. I just bagged it up and donated it. It’s gone. Maybe that beautiful salvaar kamiz from amma can be used by someone who it actually fits. The good news is I have had, and always will have something much more sentimental than the garment – the memory. The memory of the smell of the dress having been put in front of the agarbathi to bless on Diwali, along with the sandal/turmeric stained corners (I guess to bless and prevent evil eye), the memory of amma’s Diwali feast, the photos we took, I still have, and the memory of the neighbors coming, drawing kolum and bursting crackers in front of the flat – the sounds lulling me to sleep, then jolting me out of bed every few hours throughout the night. (I should add the jolt was not only from the firecracker’s sound, but the light it produced having been set off right in front of our window, that faced the open space on the ground level of the flat.) No one can take this memory from me. Just because that dress is God knows where, I know where my memories are, with me. Also, as I stepped on the scale today, it has decreased. I have not been more physically active (maybe cleaning, but no work-outs), just ridding of clutter, stuff, stuff that filled my life, unnecessarily and burdened me. Just like that darn weight that is leaving slowly and surely.
If you have accumulated lots of stuff, try ridding your house, your life, your self and your soul of it. See what changes happen. It’s often not easy, it’s emotional, it’s not easy. But remember, it’s just stuff. You can keep your memories, they don’t leave with your stuff!
Thank you, Oprah for the show (which you can watch by clicking the link below) because without which I would not have so vividly described the memory of my time with amma during Diwali.
P.S. You may wonder why I picked a turtle as an image for this article. The woman who struggled with hoarding was a chocolate lover. She dug out her chocolate candy mould for Christmas, making turtle flavored chocolates. She shared them with me (they were tasty), saying she picked the tutle on purpose, as slow and steady wins the race!
Related Posts/ Sites: Feng Shui books popularized by Karen Kingston | Oprah.com Inside the Lives of Hoarders | Slow and Steady Wins the Race. | Where do toxic emotions go once they have left your thoughts, feelings and words? | Clutter Around You Creates Clutter In Your Brain
Images courtesy: Turtle from wehug.com | Shredder - Microsoft Clip Art