Last year I took a trip home to visit my mom and I suggested we spend a day throwing out all of the clutter that had accumulated over the years in her kitchen and living spaces. This exercise has routinely been a part of my work with my clients, asking those that I work with to organize their personal space. Participating with my mom, in the home I grew up in, surrounded by possessions I recognize and remember, gave me a different perspective. Ridding ourselves of unneeded belongings is sometimes easier said than done.
Clients have told me before that they prefer to live in an environment where belongings are not organized. The responses vary from, "I am used to it, I know where everything is," to "I would never be able to maintain everything put away, there is no point." Some clients have told me they prefer to live in spaces where there are things on the floor, piles of paper on the counter, clothes everywhere.
I always try to meet my clients where they are. I always try to take their preferences as most important. I always try to allow the client to be the expert. But I must admit, in this particular discussion, I consistently have believed that people who say they prefer to live in personal spaces full of chaos should be supported in changing.
I have not been able to understand a benefit to living without organization. To this end, at the very least I ask my clients to clean up their personal spaces for a trial period and see if it offers them a positive experience. In this way, we can determine whether the obstacle is the effort it takes to initially organize or whether there is actually an attachment to the chaos.
The closest I come to being authoritative with my clients is in the realm of organization. My clients have looked at me with tears in their eyes, full of fear to give up their possessions, and yet I ask them to continue forward. I trust the process. I believe that when people clean up their personal spaces, there will be room for breathing fully, for growing more, for flexibility and creativity. I am confidant I can hold the space for someone to experience the loss and emptiness that comes from parting with historically comforting material possessions. I am certain that there will be relief in organization.
When we begin the process of separating from our chaos it is very important to have someone with us, someone that we love and trust, someone that will confront patiently, someone that will hold us accountable. It is just as important to remember, (and our chaperon can remind us), that we keep chaos around us because of chaos we have experienced and still have internally. These choices are not grown in a vacuum, the desire to nest and fill a void is naturally human, especially when we have past experiences that are unsettling.
Let me know how the process goes, keep me posted if you like. This blog is in response to you all writing to ask about why we clutter our lives and how we can address it. There are a million specific tools and strategies online to assist you with the organizing process, but in my opinion the most crucial piece of advice is to have a buddy system where someone helps and mentors you. You are not alone in being surrounded by chaos, many of us have from time to time made those same choices, and you do not have to be alone in working through it toward organization.