Posts Tagged ‘Spring Cleaning’

Is fear holding you back from getting organized?

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Every so often I have to declutter something in my home.

I don’t want to lose touch with what my clients experience and I like what it does for my peace of mind. It frees me of some amorphous burden I sometimes experience in other parts of my life. It’s like a form of exercise or meditation for stress relief.

Today’s lesson is brought to you by hair conditioner.

You see, I have very thick, wavy hair that gets tangled easily if I don’t use some kind of detangler or conditioner. Years ago, maybe once when I was a child, I was washing my hair and I’d run out of detangler. The next thing I knew, my mother was doing her best to detangle my matted mess and causing me much pain and anguish in the process.

I never thought about it until today but while I was decluttering my bathroom and utility cabinets I noticed I had a lot of hair conditioner. Even more striking however was how much I resisted letting it go, even though I wanted to declutter. I thought, “How many bottles of hair conditioner do I really need?”

In fact, I thought about all the rationale questions I ask my clients:

“If it disappeared could it easily be replaced? YES.”

“Do I love this particular bottle? NO.”

“Did I have enough already? ABSOLUTELY!”

So when it came down to really examining my own resistance to letting go of an abundance of hair conditioner, I had to trace it back to that moment of pain.  I never wanted to be caught without it again. “Doing so,” my brain told me, “would surely lead to pain and suffering.

In California recently, thousands of people have lost their homes to wildfires. I know from my experience as a professional organizer and from friends who have lost their homes in fires, that going through extreme trauma and loss can be devastating.  The recovery process is long, complicated and fraught with real fears of attachment and letting go.

I once had a client who had survived the loss of two homes through fire. Her collection of emergency supplies could fill a small garage.

Fear, I’ve learned, doesn’t have to come from a big trauma.  It can come from small events too.

Fear lives in your body and your psyche for a long time. Fear of loss, fear of change, fear of re-experiencing pain. Fear is such a strong and powerful emotion, it doesn’t matter how much time goes by or even what caused it in the first place; It continues to rule our behaviors and our habits.

So what can you do when you notice fear ruling you at a time when you need to feel strong?

Let’s say you need to downsize your home because you are moving to a smaller space. When it comes to doing the simplest decluttering, pay attention when you see yourself holding on to something for apparently no obvious reason. Notice what emotions come up.

Ask yourself,”what does this item remind me of?” Don’t minimize it, no matter how silly it may seem. If a memory gets triggered, allow yourself to review it.

  • What in that memory may be getting in the way of your home organizing goals?
  • Is it a fact that whatever you remember will or could happen again?
  • Is it probable? If it did, how would you cope?

Imagine letting go of the item and see what comes up and what you would do if it happened.

There is amazing information in our brains that can help with not just the act of organizing or decluttering but can also give us insight into ourselves to help us heal from our biggest traumas or even small ones.  The pain is real.

The question is can you control how you react to it now? Doing so will empower you to take control of the fear.

Once you can objectively examine the real benefit of getting to where you want to go, you will realize the real price is holding onto an old fear when you no longer need to be afraid or even better, when you know you’ve survived.

I can throw out that old hair conditioner now.

Nesting Your Way to Better Organization

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Spring. It’s that time of year when so many of us are inspired to clear out the old to make way for the new.  It’s more than just “Spring Cleaning.” It’s nesting!

Though the term is typically associated with preparing for childbirth, according to the World Dictionary,* nesting is defined as:

“The tendency to arrange one’s immediate surroundings, to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control”

There are several times in your life when you may find nesting helps express your personality and emotion:

  • At the start of a new season
  • When you’ve just moved to a new home
  • When your (last) child living at home leaves for college
  • In the weeks before undergoing a medical procedure
  • During a career search
  • While recovering from a loss, divorce or breakup
  • Preparing for a loved one who is entering (or re-entering) your home

If you are feeling the urge to “nest,” here are a few simple tips to keep in mind that will help you achieve a greater sense of clarity and control.

  1. Focus on one area at a time such as your office, cubicle or bedroom and resolve to finish the task even if it takes more than one session.
  2. Start by clearing one surface space such as a desktop or even a bed. Having one clear space is a great motivator to keep you going and you’ll need it for the next step.
  3. Sort like items into three piles Keep, Toss and Not Sure. The goal here is not to get stuck on the “Not Sures.”
  4. Remove the items you no longer want or need by placing them in containers (bags or bins) for donating or recycling.
  5. Identify the purpose of each “Not Sure” item and ask yourself, “Does this still serve me or enhance my life in some way?” If not, consider letting it go, donating it or re-purposing it as something you would probably use.
  6. Assign a permanent home for the items you know you will keep and contain them with other like items especially if they are small to help you find them again.
  7. Clean and/or dust areas as you go. Create a fresh space to resume the activity you do (or plan to do) in that space.
  8. Enhance your newly organized space with something fresh or inspirational such as a vase of flowers, a piece of art work or a photograph you love to bring new life into the space.

When you’re done, go out and enjoy the beauty of Spring!