Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Clearing Clutter

"There are days when all we can see is clutter. Do know that those are good days, for we cannot change what we cannot see."... Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht

Related SpokenWords, Emotions & MindStates - confusion, ataxia, ballup, chaos, disarray, disorder, huddle, muddle, snarl, topsy-turviness, hash, hugger-mugger, jumble, jungle, litter, mash, mishmash, muddle, rummage, scramble, shuffle, tumble, hodgepodge, macédoine, medley, mélange; disarray, mess, muss, ruck

Even the related words for clutter tend to clutter ! Today I so wanted to write about dreams, but my own personal clutter won out. I even received several emails about clutter it is.

I truly shouldn't be writing this blog entry because my entire office is a mess. For the past week I've been working on a variety of projects, most of which required pulling my filing cabinets apart. As I searched for things I needed, I was struck by how disorganized my files had become. When did this happen? It seems to me that I had re-structured them not all that long ago.........or was it?

Once we begin to notice clutter it tends to turn up everywhere. I walked into my office closet & there it was........every shelf & drawer. Piles of things that I have little recollection of placing there. How is it that I can be with these piles every day, yet not see or remember anything about them?

I noticed that I was actually afraid to look around the rest of my life with my eyes of the day. What if I found this everywhere? Could I possibly be that lost in my life.......AGAIN?

My memories went back to the late 80's when I had a clutter-wake-up. We were living in the Albany, NY area & my husband was re-locating to Oklahoma & I was to stay to market the house & finish up some work projects. Our sons had just left for college & even the dog had run away. Yes....I was alone with myself, something that I preferred not to experience. During those years my bingeing issues were big & unresolved, usually waiting around any corner to take over my life.

To complicate matters, my husband suggested, quite strongly, that I clear out the house. I was stunned by this because to me, the house was just fine. It was clean. I was a good homemaker. We needed all the things that were there & I certainly wasn't about to get rid of the things I'd collected & loved.

I remember the cold & snowy night I returned from Oklahoma, feeling alone & frightened for some reason. As I waited for the house to warm up, I began thinking about what my husband had said. I decided to have a look in one cupboard in the kitchen to see if he could possibly be right. I couldn't believe what happened next. It was like I never, ever truly looked inside that cupboard, yet I was in & out of there at least a dozen times a day. I was especially stunned by the piles of margarine containers that were bent out of shape & yellowed. There must have been 50 or so.......

Why did I own these? I seemed to remember that I collected them for leftovers. Quite honestly, I don't like leftovers & certainly these were the most depressing containers I'd ever seen. I remember tearing... What had happened to me? How widespread was this pattern of disorganization & not-remembering? I opened a few kitchen drawers & realized that they contained things that I didn't even recognize. I had no idea what to do with some of the gadgets that lived there. I began to feel surrealistic, like I was a visitor in my own life. Since I was working in gerontology with Alzheimer's patients at the time, I began fantasizing about perhaps being in the early stages. Not very funny. For some reason my bingeing came to mind.........yes, it was like my entire life & home were on some sort of bender.

By this time I knew I was on to something, intuition perhaps & I had a slight twinge of awareness that this was going to be a very important something. My inner mind suggested that I make some spot visits to other matter where I went, the same was waiting for me. My goodness. Think further.....And if this was the case with my home, what about the other parts of my life? I thought about my work, my hobbies, my goals & my relationships. Were they also full of clutter & detachment? What couldn't I see? What was I missing?

Of course, this idea added to my earlier uneasy feelings about being alone & being afraid of myself, but sometimes when fear mounts, it does reach it's peak & thank goodness, that is what happened for me. I reached the top of the fear- mountain & now I could sense the release. I was willing to see & so now I was free to take care of things.

How does one begin when there is so much clutter, confusion & disorganization? Here are some things I did. They may sound a bit excessive, but I needed a plan to set me free.

1. I rented a copy of Ghandi. I knew that he had gotten down to one loin cloth & his glasses. I thought he would be a good mentor for me. I watched it twice !

2. I decided to set up 3 categories to help me evaluate my possessions & those I had ownership over. These included garbage, things I didn't really need or had too much of & had to go & then, group 3....things I needed or truly loved. The last was a tricky category because the binge part of me could say this about anything. For this reason I set up a temporary area in the garage. I could place things there & after a week I could re-evaluate. There is something positive about getting things out of the house. This is the beginning of releasing......

3. I made a folder for each room & listed every area separately, including each drawer, closet, shelf, etc. When I began a room, I had to stay with it until it was finished. Of course, some rooms took me a week or so. The basement took me several weeks. What I mean by staying with it was that I didn't allow myself to do a drawer in the kitchen & then one in the bedroom. I noticed the tremendous desire to do seemed far too related to my troublesome behaviors of the past & so it was disallowed.

4. I made myself actually touch or handle everything I owned. Then I decided it's category. And yes, this was very time-consuming, but as I look back, it was a very important rule. I learned much from this exercise & it translated into changed behaviors that follow me to this day. Rarely do I purchase things I don't really love or need. I used to buy more compulsively & so this was a tremendous benefit for me. I learned to appreciate what I had & of course, realized that I had far too much. I didn't need all of these things to live happily. In fact, they had gotten in my way.

5. I allowed myself one job & two hobbies. One hobbie had to be a physical activity & the other one could be whatever I wanted. The reason for this rule for me was that I had tons of hobbies. I started things, but didn't finish them. I'm a person who is interested in just about everything. I love to knit, sew, embroider, do needlepoint, do beadwork, do crafts, etc., etc. As for work, I had several jobs going, yet I wasn't truly doing what I wanted to do. I came to realize that unless I stopped this binge behavior, I would never come to do what I really wanted to do. In other words, I was pushing my subconscious mind to focus hard. My mind had gotten lazy through the years & so my goals had wandered away.

6. I rewarded myself each day with something non-tangible. I had forgotten how to do this & so for me this was another adventure in getting to know myself better.

It took me about 3 months to complete this task. It was truly a journey to find myself & to get to know myself, perhaps for the very first time in my adulthood. I did end up reviewing my relationships & actually ended a few friendships that truly weren't. I shortened my Christmas card list..... & enhanced my most important relationships.

So, how long did this last? Well, at the beginning of this blog I mentioned that I was surrounded by clutter. Obviously, this is an ongoing process, but it is very rewarding. I do the house thing every year or so........or when it speaks to me. Once you have done the big process, more frequent messages are received.

If you are motivated to do this, don't be surprised if you get some big releases & creative break-throughs ! I'm expecting one once I clear out this closet!

"The true & creative me is located under that pile of clutter. As I come out of hiding & direct my attention to my clutter, I come directly in contact with my true self." ...Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht