Clutter - we all have it - whether it is one kitchen drawer that seems to attract bits of everything, or a closet that has too many sizes saved for the eventual diet-downsize, or a garage that we can no longer park in because we're storing too many things we may not actually need... It is a common thing and very few people are exempt from the clutter-collecting habit (some just may be better at hiding it)!
I am writing this blog from my home office - the area of my home that is the biggest catch-all area for my family. There is a hefty breeze coming through my window, cooling my face and distributing papers everywhere across the room! Why are they all over the room? Because they're not filed... I am reminded that nobody is perfect and even I, who work with clients on a regular basis to de-clutter their homes, have areas that need to be tended to.
Clutter on a smaller level is usually just the result of being too busy, not caring very much about those particular items or that particular area of your home. It is not affecting your everyday life. Once a month or twice a year you finally get to cleaning that small area that is an eyesore and all is right with the world again.
Clutter on a large scale is another thing altogether. It can have massive and destructive effects on people's lives and needs to be addressed! It can be caused by several things and rarely is it just laziness... From my experience, saving items for potential future use (or hoarding) can come from a mentality of scarcity/lack, or it can come from too many things happening in life at one time and that person or family becoming overwhelmed and feeling like they have lost some (or all) control.
The first was clearly demonstrated in my family. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles were famous for it - cleaning, flattening and folding pieces of tin foil, wax paper, paper bags; cleaning and stacking ice cream tubs, margarine, sour cream, yogurt containers; folding and stacking used wrapping paper, tissue paper, bows, ribbons; having several boxes of buttons, elastics, popsicle sticks, bottle caps, paper clips, twist ties, plastic bags, and other sizes of boxes; even saving gifts of clothing for the future event of the clothes on their backs literally falling off of them... These people lived through The Depression. They either grew up or raised their children during a time when you couldn't buy sugar, had to raise your own livestock/hunt, grow your own vegetables and sew your own clothes if you were lucky enough to have land and an income of some sort to afford the necessary supplies to do this. Even when our economy changed, jobs were readily available on every corner, opportunities to educate oneself through internet and correspondence programs existed, and government incentive programs/grants/loans were offered, you could not convince them that even if they lived another 100 years they would never be able to re-use all the containers, bits of paper, foil, ribbon and elastics that they had filled every nook and cranny of their home with! You cannot get across that if you have Tupperware or the equivalent of, there is no need to save the DISPOSABLE containers that you are given from fast food restaurants/take-out places/deli counters. And they would never throw away "perfectly good" shirts/socks/pants, etc. even when you could see through them because they were so worn, or were "air-conditioned"... Some people may have inherited these habits - to these people I want to stress that you can break the cycle and be free of clutter!
Most of us today though, suffer from hoarding habits due to becoming overwhelmed and stressed. In the days of dual incomes, working parents, blended families, and being introduced to the "latest and greatest" objects every day, we are victims of feeling less in control of our day-to-day lives than ever before. This is translating into how we cope with our spaces, and before long our spaces start to reflect the chaos that we feel. "I'll get to that later" never has a finish date on it... "That's not a priority "right now" turns into "ever"... And soon, you don't recognize the space you once loved... Or you may start collections as coping mechanisms. In your mind you might be praising yourself for preparing for future events. You may not have the "equipment" to deal with your marriage's demise, the unexpected pregnancy, the down-sizing of your company, or the bad diagnosis, but you do have...the popsicle sticks for the future kids' birdcage project; the 10 different sets of plates and serving dishes in case everyone you knew came over at once, or you decided to become a caterer; the sushi sets for when you learn how to/find time to make it; the 6 George Foreman grills because you got them at a fraction of their cost at a Boxing Day sale and now you'll have a spare if one breaks down or they stop making them altogether; the 8 different sets of towels for when you decide to re-model; the extra closet full of tiny clothes for when you lose the 30-80lbs you've gained over the years; the drawer of mismatched socks because you'll "find them one day"; the garage/basement/storage unit full of furniture that doesn't fit/suit your current space but because it is solid wood/good quality/an antique, it is worth something and cannot be discarded; and boxes or shelves full of items reserved for when you have that eventual garage sale.
(One thing that helps a lot of people truly "let go" is reminding them of the benefit donating some of these objects has on other people's lives. The single parent trying to make ends meet, the struggling student just starting out, the young couple with a new baby... Helping others, helps you.)
Too much clutter, clutters your mind. Chaos breeds chaos. You need to find the root of why you are creating clutter and deal with it. A professional de-clutterer/organizer can help with physically removing the clutter and the better ones can even explain to the client why having consuming amounts of clutter is unhealthy (physically/mentally/emotionally). If a de-cluttering process is truly successful, the client usually experiences several emotions while going through it. This is normal, as you remove layers of clutter, you are removing safeguards... Things may be felt that have been "pushed down" or repressed, panic may happen because the things you have avoided thinking about or were fearful of are now surfacing again, any emotions relating to detachment issues may surface, etc... A de-clutterer's job is to help the client break these attachments, thereby giving the client back their personal strength by making/supporting hard decisions of letting go, and create freedom through creating space. Once more, energy will flow properly through the space and any hard feelings will give way to hopefulness, inspiration and calm.
I will add that unless the client is willing to embrace this process, it is futile. They will continue to "just get by" instead of really living. They won't be able to clearly see the path they once wanted for themselves, through all the crap they've stored in the way...
They say you can get a true sense of someone, by what they would take with them if their house was burning down. What would you grab in that last second? Would you be able to find it???