Clutter is a topic that seems to be coming up a lot in coaching these days- and it is also something that clients often dismiss as something embarrassing, something they should't be facing or talking about. I really don't agree - I think talking about clutter, especially in the home, is a topic that cuts right to the chase of what we believe and want to do with our lives,
I really believe, and this underpins all my coaching, that everyone is more than capable of making the changes they want in their lives - and that if they don't it's often because on some level, and in some way, the situation is either working for them, or there's a deep clash of values that results in "stuckness".
It is worth remembering too that living in the midst of clutter and chaos can be quite a happy creative space - just look at many writers' or artists' studios! A key question then is often "how is keeping just things the way they are working well for you?" and bringing to awareness what got us to this cluttered point in our lives and homes the first place.
It might also be that we want to generate more space, to create order and make it easier to find things in our homes- or it may be that with clutter we no longer conform to some inner image of what a "good" householder should properly do.
So the symptom may be that there is a plethora of stuff that clogs up the house- but that's not the cause... and treating the symptom without the cause and without knowing what we are trying to achieve and why, is not likely to work in the long run.
Don't dismiss clutter as being somehow an unworthy topic for a coaching conversation - I think it is a huge topic for the 21st century that cuts right to the core of how we want to live on this planet- and what we will leave behind....
It helps to separate the issue into the key issues: In practical terms the key components are
1- Freeing up space - Decluttering now. There are many tested, standard ways of doing this - room by room, bit by bit, five objects a day, using three cartons labelled "keep", "throw", and "recycle, sell or give away"....
2- Moving forward - New systems for organisation. There are many of these including things like "one in one out", "a place for everything and everything in its place". Its about having a place for the keys, for the birth certificates and the read library books....
These two steps are well covered in books and media and are fairly intuitive, so what I want to focus on here is what is less often addressed:
There are several key aspects:
1/ ISSUE: What is clutter? It's like defining what a weed is in the garden! a weed is just something that is growing where it's not meant to be. It's worth looking, studying and photographing the clutter- what is it actually? Is it laundry that has not had time to be put away, or is it broken electronics, paperwork, old children's toys that are long outgrown? And where is it? If there are several people in your household whose is it?
2/ PROBLEM: What is the problem exactly? what is the situation stopping you from doing that you want to do, or feeling that you want to feel? Is it stopping you having people round and visitors calling? Does it mean the shed is a fire hazard and new DIY tasks require that you buy things again rather than dig the tools out of the messy shed?
3/ IDENTITY: What do you want to keep, to have around you and on display? Do you treasure keepsakes, items that have been handed down the family? Do you treasure old books - or having the space and calm space to sit and meditate with candles without risking a fire? Are you someone who has a lot of functional things - running shoes, free weights, yoga mat, climbing harnesses, musical instruments- canoe paddles? Do you still use them now? Do you still want to use them - if you had the time/space/ paddling buddies/ roof rack/ musical & orchestra mates?
4/ LETTING GO: Honoring your self, your past and the stuff- What does that mean to you? This is a hard one so read 5 first...
5/ What do you WANT? Money? Just to be rid? Giving things to someone else? At its most basic decluttering is not hard - just grab a bin bag, break everything so it fits in the bag and shovel everything into it & put it in the car and drive all the junk to the nearest land fill (!) Now I know most of the people I work with would be horrified at that thought- so I'm not suggesting it as an answer, but the advantages are that its quick, immediate and the problem is gone. But its not acceptable? why?
You need to work out whether your reasons are environmental? whether its about honor in some way? or whether its about throwing away money?
Once you know- then the way forward becomes clearer!
If its about making money and not throwing away money then there will be a time commitment and some work required. It's going to be a project to sell things on ebay, gumtree, car boot sales, yard sales... But you'll get there. Decide what you're going to do with the money (buy new stuff? Go on holiday with the family?) and how long a time you're going to work on this - 3 months?
If it's for environmental reasons then separating the stuff - some wood things might be burnable for winter fuel or spontaneous campfires and BBQs (don't burn painted and treated wood, and clear up the screws and nails), textiles can be recycled as patches for quilters, as non-paper toilet paper rags, as dusters- clothes recycled to charity shops, womens' shelters, refugee or emergency camps, fancy dress boxes in schools and nurseries. Spectacles are often collected by opticians, musical instruments to young musicians... It will take a bit of time, but many if not most things can be found a home.
If it runs deeper, if its a question of honor then that's great - and its going to take a bit of hard work to figure out what needs honoring? Is it the young you for whom climbing or music was everything? Is it great aunt Betty whose tea service was so precious to her and to your mother? Is it your wedding gown - that you'll never use again but that no one else is allowed to ever touch either- it would be a violation of that time and those dreams? Is it the books which cost so much and were so treasured? There is no easy answer here - I would recommend handling the things and being with what arises - you'll know. It might be a spontaneous ceremony, a give away, a breaking of plates and burning of things on a bonfire, or taking a beautiful framed still life photograph that you can keep when the object is gone.
It will be whatever is right for you- and if you've understood that this is what is all about- then that's huge. Much as we like to think we are logical modern people, in my experience most hanging on is about honoring the dream, the time, the memory of who we were then - and comparing that to what we became, knowing that we can't go back and that someday we will end.
That can be sad. Be gentle, learn about the role objects play in your life, and also remember the wise words of TS. Eliot
" What we call the beginning is often the end,
and to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from."
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