The Cost of Clutter

thumb_IMG_7810_1024If you think getting organized is expensive, please consider the costs of being disorganized. As a professional organizer, I hear a lot of unique stories; especially this one. I received a call from a lady in another city who was worried about her parents. Her dad had left the home. The mom’s lifelong relationship with her stuff was thought to be the culprit. The daughter wanted to know if I’d be willing to meet with her mom and “talk some sense into her”. I told her I’d be happy to meet with her mom. I would make an observation and give her my honest feedback when I visited her home. I couldn’t control the outcome, but I could certainly give her my perspective.

I agreed to make the trip to a town an hour or so away. I quickly understood what the family was up against. She did have a lot of excess stuff in her small home. Since she was now living alone, she took charge of arranging and cataloging all of her treasures in a somewhat orderly fashion. At least it felt orderly to her. She admitted that she needed to arrange and manage her things in a more tidy manner.  She didn’t accept responsibility for the family challenges and estrangement. She was defensive about her belongings and had stories and “excuses” for them all, every last thing in her home. The arrangement of her things clearly did not allow space for another human. I felt sad and heavy for her and her family.

When did STUFF and its history become so cherished that human loved ones are cast aside? Obviously I am not blaming stuff for all the issues in this family home. But the attachment to stuff clearly had a huge role in their problems. My mind brims with all the possibilities and what ifs as I reason with this lady. Is there any way you would be willing to let go of some of your stuff? I can help you with options for sale or donation. Can you make room in your home for your husband? Would you be willing to work with a trained counselor in order to improve your marriage and family relationships? Is keeping all the stuff more important than keeping your husband? It was hard, if not impossible, for her to see a perspective other than the one ingrained for many years. “You’ve been married over 50 years; could you not work at it a little longer???”, I wondered.

I was hoping I had helped and that some of my inspired suggestions would turn the situation around. When the daughter called me for a report of our session, she thanked me profusely for my suggestions and mostly for truly caring. As far as she knew at the time, so much relational damage had been done, and so many ruts had developed in the journey, that she didn’t believe her parents were going to make it for the long haul. I’d be dishonest if I said I walked away from this experience and didn’t look back. I grieved in my own way for this couple. They’d shared so much life and family together. It saddened me deeply that they wouldn’t plod forward. What is my “take home” from this scenario? People are more important than stuff. No stuff is worth casting aside the closest personal relationships. Nothing is worth fighting for to the extent that it supersedes our interpersonal relationships; especially the ones closest to us!

CLUTTER: Anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.”  Peter Walsh

2 thoughts on “The Cost of Clutter

  • June 29, 2016 at 2:39 am
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    This is something I see over and over. Unfortunately, we live in a society that places emphasis on physical possessions and the accumulation of things. It is therefore reasonable to assume that many people identify heavily with their belongings. Having lots of things is associated with having wealth or status. The advertisements we see daily beat this concept into our heads. The clutter conundrum is something we as a society have helped to create and extolling the virtues of a clutter free world are often met with resistance. Seeing this daily has changed my outlook about “things” as I’m sure it has yours…

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