"I'm touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful - collecting these shards of spirituality - that we may be helping to bring about a healing."
One of my clients, called Martha recently told me that she was trying to help her sister, Elizabeth get back on her feet.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth, had recently been laid off from her job after suffering from an illnes.
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Elizabeth's house had always been a mess, but after the lay off it had become so filled with clutter that there was no place to walk or sit.
My client, Martha, had thus offered to buy her sister a car as a way to motivate her to clean her house. Martha, even went so far as to offer to help Elizabeth to clean up the house.
Martha was therefore quite shocked when her sister refused the offer, even though she desperately needed the car. Elizabeth was unwilling to get rid of her clutter.
Why Was The Clutter So Important To Elizabeth?
Underneath all addictions, lie feelings of fear, emptiness, helplessness, loneliness and aloneness.
Addictions are a way for the addict to feel safe from experiencing these difficult and painful feelings. And an addiction to clutter is no exception.
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It's about having a sense of control over feelings of un-safety. Clutter, like all addictions, provides momentary feelings of comfort.
However, as with any addiction, the clutterer needs more and more clutter to maintain the illusion of safety and comfort.
The Fear Of Not Having Enough
When my grandmother was moving house, my son offered to help clean her house.
However, while helping to clean and organize her house, he discovered that there were huge amounts of clutter in the house.
While my grandmother's house had always looked neat and clean, what we didn't realize was that the cupboards and drawers in her house were filled with clutter.
So, while cleaning, my son told me that he had found 6 broken hair dryers in just one of her cabinets.
So, Why Would My Grandmother Want To Keep Six Broken Hair Dryers?
My grandmother grew up during the great depression and had always had a fear of not having enough. No matter how much she accumulated materially, she never felt that she could ever have enough. The six hair dryers thus made her feel safe from her fear, even though they had stopped working.
Difficulty Letting Things Go
Katerina, has trouble throwing things away, especially magazines with important information in them. She subscribes to many magazines but, being the mother of three small children, she doesn't often have the time to read them all.
So the magazines pile up and pile up. Katerina, hopes at some point to have the time to read them, but that time never seems to come.
When asked why she won't throw some of the magazines out, her answer is, "because the magazines contain important information in them that I don't want to miss."
Katerina fear's missing out on some important piece of information, because having information gives her a feeling of safety from ignorance. It makes her feel safe and in control to have all the magazines around her with their important information, even if she never gets to read them.
When we don't feel safe on the inside, then we try to make ourselves feel safe on the outside, and clutter is one way of doing that.
Whether it's things, such as hair dryers, or information, such as in magazines and newspapers, clutterers do not trust that they will have what they need. In addition, clutterers may be resistant people who see messiness and clutter as a way of not being controlled by anyone who may want them to be neat.
Healing The Addiction To Clutter
Clutter is created and maintained by a wounded, frightened part of oneself.
The wounded self is the part that operates from the illusion of having control over people, events, and outcomes.
As long as this wounded self is in charge of decisions, the clutterer will continue to accumulate clutter as a way to provide comfort and the illusion of control over feeling safe, or continue to be messy as a way to resist being controlled.
Healing occurs when the individual does the inner work necessary to develop a strong, loving adult self.
A loving adult is the aspect of us that opens to and connects with a spiritual source of wisdom, strength, and love. A loving adult is capable of taking loving action on their own behalf.
The loving adult operates from truth rather than from the false beliefs of the wounded self, and knows that the comfort and safety that clutter seems to provide is an illusion.
This enlightened individual thus realizes that no matter how much clutter accumulates, the clutter will not help them to feel safe.
The loving adult knows that safety and integrity do not lie in resistance. Only a loving adult who is tuned in to the guidance provided by a spiritual source and capable of taking loving actions on one's own behalf can manage to successfully create a sense of inner safety.
"It's always hard to deal with injuries mentally, but I like to think about it as a new beginning. I can't change what happened, so the focus needs to go toward healing and coming back stronger than before."