The Best Answer for the Worst Clutter

old shoe new shoeThis past weekend an article came out in Minnesota’s Star Tribune that featured an interview with organizing guru, Peter Walsh. In it, Walsh states “Clutter isn’t really about stuff at all. Rather, it’s about our relationship to stuff. Clutter becomes a problem when people look for meaning, support and affirmation from their belongings, instead of from other people.” Brilliant as always. I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to describe an approach I take, to illustrate this point.

There comes a time, after working with certain clients, that Mr. Walsh’s point becomes clear. She is assigning more value to her stuff than to people. I’ll hand the client a pad of paper and ask her to write down the top five most important things in her life. If she gets stuck, I may ask, “What are the things you want to be remembered for?” and “What sort of things would you like to doing more?”

Typically the answers are things like spend more time with my kids, be more successful at work, be able to have my friends over more, travel more, do volunteer work, go back to school, make people laugh, etc. Two things always come out of this exercise.

First, the client realizes that clutter gets in the way of EVERYTHING that is most important. Not once has anyone told me, “What’s really important is having more stuff than anyone I know.” It’s very easy to think more stuff helps, but, all too often, it hurts. An EMPTY dining table, for example, is valuable . You can use it to process mail away, process clean laundry away,  then share dinner on it with a friend. A dining table FULL of stuff that has taken up permanent residence is devoid of value.

Second, the things that the client recognizes as most important are not things at all. They are people, relationships, and experiences. When you give yourself the opportunity to take a deep breath, step back, and ask yourself what are the most important things in your life, it soon becomes apparent how important the people and experiences in your life are. It then becomes easier to ask yourself, what stuff is bringing you closer to these people and experiences and what stuff is getting in the way.

If you keep finding yourself getting stuck with too much stuff, listing your top five important things, is a great place to start. The next step of sorting it all out will be easier, but may still prove challenging. That’s where a professional organizer may come in. Helping you take the less important stuff out of the way, so you can get to the most important stuff is really what we’re all about. Having someone nagging at you to throw it all out, is what family is for.