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I put a post up on social media a few months ago and asked “What are the BENEFITS of clutter?”
There were a lot of excellent answers, and I think it’s helpful to talk about them openly because there are legitimate reasons to keep the clutter around.
- we can easily see what we need to do if objects related to our tasks are out in the open
- it takes less time to maintain (we don’t have to put things away, take them out, etc.)
- by not clearing clutter, we can jump into new projects
- it makes our environments feel nest-like and cozy
- when the surface is covered with things, we don’t have to worry about “keeping it clean”
- it allows us to postpone decisions we don’t feel like making
- clutter can stimulate the mind. It’s fun to look at a full desk and shelves
- we have an excuse for not “having it all together” in other areas of life
- less stuff in landfills
- if we haven’t thrown anything out, then everything is still possible!
- we don’t have to worry about tossing something we’ll need later
- if we’re “too busy to put things away,” we feel important and like we don’t have to do anything about those items
- “Clutter equals stuff, stuff equals needs met, needs met means I’m caring for my family”
- it’s great to always have things on hand (impromptu card, gift, craft with the kids…without spending any extra money)
- the “stuff” reminds us of events or experiences, so we won’t forget them
- we won’t feel bound by perfectionism or the idea that “everything has to be in its place to enjoy life”
- it’s fun to find something a year later that you forgot you had
These are really incredible perspectives, and I think it’s really healthy to ask ourselves what GREAT things about us are being represented by our clutter.
For example, it probably shows that we value our time, we’re realistic about how much we can do in a day, we want to feel successful, and don’t want to let anyone down by trying to clear the clutter and then doing it poorly. We also might see that when we move quickly and leave piles of stuff around, we are showing care and responsibility for our work, family, life, etc.
When we can really look at all the good that is represented by our clutter, frustration, anxiety, etc., it helps us to understand why we are subconsciously keeping ourselves from tackling it.
This is what I learned from Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good, When Panic Attacks, Feeling Great, and other books.
And then, when we truly see all that good, we may also ask, “Do I really want to get out of clutter? If all that mess represents so much good in me, then if I throw it away, it means I am throwing away all that good.” Dr. Burns’ students (the TEAM CBT therapists) use that strategy all the time–essentially telling their patients that perhaps they don’t want to work on that problem because it is serving them so well–and maybe there’s something else they want to work on instead.
Usually, at that point in the session, the person will say something like, “Well, it is helpful to see all the good that is represented, but this problem is actually hurting me in a lot of ways, too.”
That’s when they do a cost/benefit analysis and look at HOW it is hurting them. Let’s do that now with your clutter.
Is it causing you to feel more anxiety than you’d like to feel? Is it hurting your relationships? Costing you time? Preventing you from moving forward on some other goals? Preventing you from having people over to your house? Impacting the internal chatter we discussed in the previous audio?
Because if there IS some kind of pain happening inside of you because of your clutter, but it also represents so many great things about you, then where do you go from here?
This is where Dr. Burns introduces the “Magic Dial.” Essentially, instead of pressing a “Magic Button” and getting rid of all the clutter (which also gets rid of all the good it represents), you simply dial it down. You tell yourself, “I don’t have to swing the pendulum all the way to the other side…. I can just dial down the overwhelm so it isn’t “overwhelm” anymore.
This is where YOU get to set the agenda. You don’t have to live in a pristine environment like that friend/neighbor/family member you feel is always judging you. You don’t have to create a home that looks like a magazine–where nobody lives. You don’t have to get rid of your favorite blankets or toss your favorite magazines or donate the things you truly treasure. But you CAN decide to give yourself a little more space, a little more ownership over what you keep and what you don’t, a little more light and joy in your environment than you currently have.
Yes, as you start digging things up, you may also “unbury problems,” but that’s okay! You can categorize them as projects and add them to your “Someday” or “Next in Line Lists.” We can show you how to create a Command Central that will manage all the tasks and “stuff” that comes into your mind. Our community can walk you through the “how-tos.” But you need to be ready to take the next steps. You need to set the agenda. You need to decide that staying stuck isn’t your lot in life.
The psychological work that prepares you to get organized is probably the most important step of this whole process. If you’ve seen shows on TV where cleaning crews pop in to give someone a home makeover, and the person absolutely falls apart because they can’t handle all of the changes taking place, you know what I’m talking about. They weren’t really ready. They hadn’t decided that they were really ready to dial down the overwhelm, and they were holding tight to all the GOOD that those piles and piles of things represented. It hurts my heart to watch things like that. But when you do the mental work, when you decide what you truly want for your life–and that includes an organized, clear space and mind and life–then the actual doing of the work isn’t that hard. We could transform your entire home, business, family, and life in just a few months.
The main question is, “Are you ready?”
The “LearnDoBecome Invitation” is to take some time to record the benefits and costs of the clutter weighing you down–whether it’s physical clutter, digital clutter, or perhaps some mental clutter.
Would you like to work with Team LearnDoBecome to build your STEP Command Central?
Click here to either get on the waitlist or get registered for Four Weeks to Finished (depending on when you are reading this/when you click).
And if you’d like to access the full audio series from the beginning, visit our “Start Today” page!
We’re so grateful to have you with us!
Thanks for the info. As a professional organizer I listen to you to keep fresh and able help clients and myself .
April Perry says
I’m so happy to hear this, Jeanice! You do such an important work with your clients. I’m happy to be able to support you a little bit here behind the scenes!
Can a lifetime member come watch to get an “ah-ha” moment or two, for free?
April Perry says
Hello Melinda-Deanna! We have lots of options for a-ha moments! We’ll be doing some Facebook Live lessons for our whole community in the coming weeks and months, so make sure you’ve signed up for our email alerts at https://learndobecome.com/inspiration. And then the STEP Mastery group has monthly live replays of the calls you can access in your STEP Library. We’re also adding lots to our YouTube channel: https://LearnDoBecome.com/youtube, our podcast: https://LearnDoBecome.com/radio, and our free Community Facebook group: https://LearnDoBecome.com/FBfamily. Thanks so much for being with us, and we are happy to support you!