Three Ways To Deal With Clutter, Even When You Are Resisting It


How I reconcile my push-pull relationship with clutter. Ways to tackle a new habit to let it go.

I got it! I'm as stuck regarding my reluctant release of papers and unsorted boxes as my friend—I'll call him Pat—is about his depression. I was feeling pretty good about my coaching of Pat who let himself get back into depression. I'd just heard a tape by Tony
Robbins who suggested changing one's inner state was as simple as understanding how you created the state of despair, and then seeing that process as your recipe for depression. If you didn't like the outcome of the recipe, go to another recipe and follow the steps toward contentment. Well, Pat said "You're right" several times, and I said I didn't care about that, I cared that he planned the menu for a desirable emotional state rather than for anguish. He agreed he'd take the steps he knew would get him out of his distress.

Then, loving friend that he is, Pat reciprocated! "So how did you do with your sorting?" He knew I'd decided to spend an hour a day on that the past two weeks. "How many boxes did you empty?" I'd gone through two in two hours when another friend was there
giving me encouragement through the process. I admitted I hadn't emptied another box because there were too many papers I ended up keeping. And he proceeded to exhort me to be as vigilant about my stuck place as I had urged him to be about his distress. Damn! He buried the knife deeper: "What's good for the goose is good for the gander!"

It’s relatively easy for the optimist I am to stay happy most of the time. It’s equally easy for Pat to delete emails and to sort piles of papers before they become boxes of papers. I had to take his challenge. Pat promised that for the next two hours he would swim,
read Albert Ellis, and not host any negative thoughts. I agreed that I would be ruthless in sorting—keeping only personal papers and material useful to my work as speaker, writer and coach.

To my amazement, I got through two boxes. One of them was full of heavy card stock from six entrepreneurial projects ago that I was saving to use for scrap paper, but I put 95% of it in recycling and kept a modest 5% for grocery lists, notes for roomers, and the like. Sounds easy to you, maybe, but it actually wrenched the part of me that is capable of aching when I miss out on something desirable. Yes, I know there's always new paper coming in, but this has nothing to do with logic, just as Pat's focusing on what isn't working instead of what is has nothing to do with logic. It is as “simple” as stopping eating when you're no longer hungry or abstaining from cigarettes or alcohol if they are your downfall. Changing a habit may not happen overnight, but it can change! That's the thing, it can change!  Share more of my inner and outer adventures at

I admit to feeling rather sheepish about my 50+ boxes, many of which have been in the basement, unlooked at, for most of the 26 years I've lived here. I can be smug if I choose and say, "Well, at least I'm not spending money and putting stuff in storage." But of course I have put it in storage in my basement. I told Pat it wasn't debilitating
to me like his depression was. But he reminded me that clutter keeps me from having space, physical and emotional, for things that are important. And I remember how often I've done co-counseling sessions on my push-pull over keeping stuff and being content about it or holding on to it and being disgruntled. Some choice! I also am aware of how expansive I feel when I walk into my bedroom-office and the floor and desk are (relatively) clear.

It's easy to pontificate on how many more important things there are to do than sort. Yet I am the only one standing in my way. I've certainly been told by enough people in my life that they'd be glad to come over and carry out the untouched boxes to recycling. I
get anxious at that point and say, "But there might be something important in there!" And they reply, "So take 5 minutes for what might be important and then I'll carry it out to recycling." They recite the mantra "If you need something, you can find it on the Internet." It's all very laughable, isn't it! If I haven't needed/ used something in years, why am I keeping it? Duh! If I'm sporting flab on my belly, why am I eating cookies? If I'm embarrassed by the weeds or the kitchen clutter, when am I going to attend to them? Hmm and Hmm!

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