People have to feel safe emotionally before they'll let you touch their stuff.
When people have a lot of possessions it’s usually because they don’t feel safe. Their lives are out of balance tipping toward fear more than power.
That’s why when they are presented with the decision to let go of something it is often hard. Having less can feel like being less. Less power, less identity. Who am I without these things? It can be truly frightening.
There is often also the feeling of shame and guilt. People at some level know they are out of balance. They know they have too much stuff. And, they know other people judge them for it.
Sometimes people who are out of balance – all of us occasionally - don’t know how they got there so they imagine the worst. They think something’s wrong with them. Maybe even a mental illness. They watch Hoarders on TV and compare their situation to the extreme cases hyped up by a reality show. They begin to see themselves as hoarders. The vast majority are not, by the way.
If someone has had the courage to invite you into their cluttered space treat the moment with the grace it deserves. Come into the space with an open heart and listening ears. See them first. Then see the clutter.
Knowing they have an advocate often awakens a person’s own power and motivation. They get excited about the idea of the space clearing out. As you begin the decluttering process your kindness and encouragement will buoy them as they start making those first editing decisions. As you listen to where they are you can gently pace each session accordingly. When they see the space begin to open up the momentum will build, and they will be ready for harder decisions.
Organizing at its best is a no judgement zone. As an organizer you see both the current reality and the potential. You’re not there to fix someone. Your role is to create a space where someone can tap into their own power and insight. Be the person in their life who sees who they really are. Powerful, smart, organized, capable, alive.
A space may not end up as clear as it could, but that’s not necessarily the goal. If someone shifts on the inside - that’s progress. You don’t have to be a therapist or have all the answers. Just do your job in a compassionate way and trust the process. Love, sensitivity, and compassion are powerful motivators.
People first, clutter second. If you get the order right amazing things will happen.