Why Clutter is not Simply a Messy Space.

Clutter. We set up tasks, goals, time lines and yet, it feels so hard to tackle. Often we can get to the starting line, but cannot follow through to completion. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming that we continue to put other tasks ahead of it just to avoid it a little bit longer. Even with the best intentions, with reminders written and alarms set, we find a way to avoid it. But why can’t we just settle in and get it done?


The answer may surprise you.

Today I worked with a client who had finally cleared space on the desk but had been so overwhelmed with the mess everywhere else in the room, she couldn’t create a real commitment or intention to get it done. At first glance, it made sense that it was just a daunting task. We even had a few laughs about it. Yet I knew that there was a back story that had to be addressed before any mess could be cleaned up.

“Why do you need to clean this room?” I asked, picturing the photo she sent of the piles  on the floor and the challenges she has been faced with in the past few months.

“Because it will then be clean and organized,” she said simply.

“Look around the room,” I said. “What does this mess represent to you. It is not just a messy room. What is it to you?”

There was silence until her crackled voice broke through her tears. “Oh god,” she said as if just seeing the room for the first time. “This room is a reminder of all the things I can’t do. The things that I don’t get done. The chaos in my life.”

This was the heart of what mattered. This was why it was so challenging. It had little to do with the actual job of cleaning up the room. That wasn’t the job she was avoiding. It was a clearing of her life. The room signified failure to her, which was why standing in it for too long became overwhelming. Yet beginning to understand what it symbolized,  then visualizing what was on the other side, made it a much more important task. It was no longer a to-do that could wait. She had waited long enough. It was now something she recognized as too important to ignore.

In that moment she realized that a clutter free space would also create one without preconceived notions and a self sabotaging story about who she was. Instead, a clutter-free space could represent who she was about to become. In that moment she realized the clean up wasn’t nearly as hard as the clutter she was holding onto.

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