Clutter: A Catalyst for Clarity

August 17, 2011

Imagine a beautiful wedding dress—a floor-length ivory silk organza gown with sweet pink rosettes dotting the skirt here and there, a lovely soft scooped neckline with a finely gathered bodice, and beaded capped sleeves.  One of my students brought this awesome item to my “Consciously Clearing Clutter” class.  I ask all my students to bring an item they consider clutter but can’t let go of.  This exercise allows them to dig at the deeper reasons for holding onto a particularly troublesome piece of clutter.

After doing the exercise this student carried the dress sans carrying bag to the front of the class to share what she discovered.  We all gasped at its magnificence, yet she carried it haphazardly—bunched in her arms, like a pile of clothes you would give to charity or take to the dry cleaners.  It seemed heretical to treat such an awesome item with such nonchalance.  Here is what she told us:

A Storybook Wedding

She wore this gown to her first wedding.  She was on her third marriage when she stood before us.  When she married for the first time, she thought she was on her way to becoming a princess.  Husband #1 was undoubtedly her prince.  The dress represented the fantasy she had been nurturing as she prepared for marriage and probably well before that.  It was a storybook dress for a storybook wedding.

For a brief moment in time her fantasy seemed real.  The gown symbolized how she would live—happily ever after—pampered, taken care of, tended to.  Somewhere along the way the fantasy cracked and shattered.  Poof!  The prince went off to seek his fortune.  The princess vanished.  Real life set in.  

I can’t imagine how heartbroken she must have been once she discovered that marriage, and life for that matter, are no tea party.  Owning the gown allowed her to hold onto that fantasy—if only when she goes to the back of her closet to find it.  Now a remnant of her past, it evoked ambivalence.  In one moment it could whisk her away to that storybook life and in the next slap her in the face with the pain of a shattered dream—a marriage that couldn’t continue. 

Clutter:  A Catalyst for Clarity

She stood in front of all of us that night and told us the gown was a symbol of what she imagined her marriage would be.  Her insight was more magnificent than the gown itself.  What mattered more than this gown or any gown was how she saw herself.  Being a princess wasn’t going to get her very far.  It comes with so many expectations along with an equal number of disappointments.   Seeing herself for who she really was—a young woman learning about and experiencing her own growth—would take her much farther.   

She could have chosen to bring anything other than the gown that night, but she knew on some level she was poised to let it go.  Her princess fantasy seemed to evaporate before us.   She couldn’t give me an unequivocal yes when I asked if she would let it go, but we all knew she saw herself differently.  We had witnessed her transformation, and she had gotten clarity from an item she called “clutter.”

Bev Hitchins © 2011

One Response to “Clutter: A Catalyst for Clarity”

  1. Julie Gray Says:

    This story gives me chills! What a powerful exercise to take your students through. I am sure they not only gained from their own insights but from these powerful insights in others. You re-tell the story beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing.

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