A Modern Viewpoint

January 18, 2018

Clutter—Let me free associate for a moment:

  • Stuff not being used, but someday I’ll need it;
  • Things once considered valuable because my parents treasured them;
  • Something someone could use but since I don’t know who, I’ll postpone doing anything about it;
  • Something I could get money for, but trying to navigate E-bay is way too much trouble;
  • My children’s toys saved for my grandchildren, except my children are too busy building their careers to build a family;
  • Clothes that no longer fit, but someday I am going to lose that weight;
  • Clothes no longer in style, but I paid a lot of money for that suit (I can’t just donate it!);
  • Papers I might need to prove who I am, what I’ve achieved or what is due me but are really of no value;
  • A hodgepodge of items I need to put into order, but, gosh, I just don’t have the time to do that…

You get the idea. Note the rationales used with each one.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing Arthur Miller’s play “The Price” at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. So moved, I borrowed a copy from the library so I could delve into Miller’s deep-felt, profound yet simple words. Here’s one quotation that hit home for me:

Setting the Scene

Victor in his late forties is responsible for emptying his father’s brownstone apartment because the building is going to be demolished. Time is of the essence. The house must be emptied within the next day or so. His father died years ago, but Victor chose not to deal with the apartment or anything in it until the moment the play begins. The curtain opens to the living area filled with furniture and artifacts that represent his father and mother when they were alive. Victor is joined by 89-year old appraiser Solomon, whom he found in the Yellow Pages of the phone book (circa 1968). We learn as the play progresses that Solomon’s career in estate sales was over until Victor called him to buy his father’s estate.

At one point, Victor is afraid Solomon is going to cheat him. Solomon explains why much of the furniture probably won’t sell:

“I’m giving you the architectural facts! Listen—wiping his face, he seizes on the library table, going to it—You got there, for instance, a library table. That’s a solid beauty. But go find me a modern apartment with a library. If they would build old hotels, I could sell this, but they only build new hotels. People don’t live like this no more. This stuff is from another world. So I’m trying to give you a modern viewpoint, and if you wouldn’t understand the viewpoint, it’s impossible to understand the price.”

Old Hotels

Solomon makes a good point: They’re not building old hotels anymore, yet so many of us are attracted to “old hotels” and what filled them. Old hotels are our rosy memories—the romantic ideal that we aspire to recreate. The not-so-rosy memories attached to those items we’ve more than likely repressed and forgotten.

But guess what? If we take a moment to examine the items that evoke a rosy glow, we discover a dark side to them as well. For example, the exquisite wedding dress that symbolizes a marriage ended in divorce or the outrageously gorgeous and expensive Stuart Weitzman shoes that are a killer to walk in for more than five minutes.

We want to sit in the lobby of those old hotels, sipping tea and savoring the grandeur of it all, but how long can we sit there? How does sitting in that lobby enhance our present life? The same is true for those items and the rosy memories we attach to them. We  might be able to recreate the happy memory for a moment, but not for long.

It’s All about Viewpoint

Those memories are ephemeral, but the items are real. We can’t bring back your father sitting in his Lazy-Boy chair or your mother wearing her mink stole, yet we’ve decided to hold onto both the chair and the stole because we’re able to slip into a rosy reverie whenever we see them. Meanwhile your wife or roommate can’t stand the stodgy old Lazy-Boy and we discover the skin of the mink stole is dry and cracked. That dark side I mentioned above keeps popping up!

Perhaps we need to let go of our illusions—things that are or are likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses. We perceive the items we are holding onto as valuable for whatever rationale we ascribe to them. When we crack the illusion, the items are just things—a dress, a pair of shoes, a chair or a mink stole. Do these items enhance our present life? If we were unabashedly honest, we would say, “No!”

It all comes back to viewpoint. Why hold onto something passed its prime? Why keep straddling the past and present? Our life is here now. Our power is in the present. We need a modern viewpoint.

The thrust of this story is that a woman committed to sign up for one of my classes. The fact is she ghosted me. So, what happened?

A woman I didn’t know called asking about the services my business ALIGN offers. She wanted help with clearing her clutter—not her physical clutter, but the mental, emotional and spiritual clutter she has been grappling with. I offer a class called “Consciously Clearing Your Clutter, Uncovering the Subconscious Reasons for Your Clutter.” Although the focus of this class is ultimately on clearing physical clutter, much of the class helps people identify their intangible attachments to it.

For the past several weeks preceding the call, my attention had been and continues to be focused on re-branding my business. ALIGN currently works with three different tools: clutter, tarot and essential oils. It had been 12 years since I launched ALIGN. I was in the process of clarifying what aspects of my business are important to me.

During this re-branding process I rediscovered my passion for clearing clutter. Physical clutter is an important issue, because it literally covers a host of feelings no one wants to look at. But the more insidious clutter is the mental, emotional and spiritual clutter that we contend with day in and day out.

For the most part, we go about our days unaware of the stuff that fills our minds and hearts. The woman who called, we’ll call her Judy, wanted help with this kind of clutter. She was in town for only a few weeks. Could I help her now? Yes!

What One Phone Call Will Do

This one call was all I needed to create a class that would address the issue of intangible clutter. I was on it! In one week I gathered my thoughts and resources. I developed a four-session agenda, the class objectives and the handouts for the first session. The class is called “It’s an Inside Job! Consciously Clearing the Clutter within You.” I was ready!

Judy said she would call me back a few days after the initial call. She didn’t. I called her. She answered the call and said she couldn’t meet on the upcoming weekend because she had a friend coming to visit her from out of town.

She promised to call me Saturday morning to set a meeting time. No call Saturday morning. When I called her the next day, she agreed to meeting Thursday at 5:00 pm. Subsequently I sent her an e-mail asking her to consider a few questions before coming to class.

Thursday at 5:00 pm came and went. No Judy. The next morning I discovered she had sent me an e-mail a few hours before our agreed-upon time telling me she couldn’t make it. She indicated she had time to meet during the next few days. I responded using both e-mail and phone and asked her to call or text me. No text. No call. No response during the following 24 hours.

I finally got the message. Judy wasn’t coming.

Once I Knew I Was Ghosted

First, I was ticked off! Why string me along? She could have said, “I’ve decided I don’t want to take the class.” Instead, her cat-and-mouse approach drew me in and pushed me away several times until I finally figured out she wasn’t coming.

I confess I stewed on this awhile—a couple days, until I stumbled across a segment of the book I am currently reading, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Gregg Braden. Substantial information precedes the following quotation, but you’ll get the gist:

“Unresolved negative feelings that underlie chronic hurt—our beliefs—have the power to create the physical conditions that we recognize as cardiovascular disease: tension, inflammation, high blood pressure and clogged arteries.”

Braden goes on to cite researcher Tim Laurence from the Hoffman Institute in England, whose research shows that the potential impact of our failure to heal and forgive old hurts and disappointments cuts us off from good health. Laurence’s research indicated that “teaching people to ‘tone down’ their emotional responses to life situations could prevent heart attacks.”

This segment by Braden gave me pause. I needed to let go of the negative feelings I was harboring by being ghosted. I needed to move on. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Her behavior taps into memories and feelings of being ghosted in the past. It became imminently apparent I had to forgive Judy and forgive her now! Staying healthy is my priority.

The Bigger Picture

Braden’s words helped me to understand the bigger picture of this interchange between Judy and me. I believe Judy sincerely wanted to let go of her internal clutter. Otherwise, why would she have called me? Unfortunately she just wasn’t ready to do the work it required.

The few questions I sent her in advance of the class tipped her off and triggered her fearful “I’m in” and “I’m out” response. I suspect she wasn’t totally conscious of her handling of the situation, let alone the impact it had on me. Still I would have liked to have helped her.

The Bonus

Judy was the impetus for me to develop this class—a class I will launch within the next couple of months. I have her to thank for galvanizing me into action. This is the bonus of having had this brief encounter with her. I am grateful for it.

“They” say that you teach what you need to learn. Healing myself of the internal clutter that blocks me from living a happy and love-filled life is the work I must do. If I can do it, then I can help others do it, too.

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere

September 28, 2015

Everyone has clutter. For some it’s not visible, but the mental residue of unwanted thoughts and worries rests in their mind. For others, a pile here and a pile there are periodically swept away and then a new pile is born.

But what about the person who feels the need to cover every flat surface in her home with a multitude of crystals, knickknacks, and tchotchkes? Or the person who has so many clothes, she cannot fit them all into her closets and bureaus? Or the person who cannot get through the endless stacks of paper that confront him in his home office, on his kitchen counter or covering his coffee table?

Why does clutter exist?

What I’ve learned during the past 10 years of helping people de-clutter is to listen to each client’s back-story, because in that story lie the reasons why the clutter exists and persists. In most cases there is loss or trauma hidden underneath all the stuff. How much clutter there is at the present time and how it is handled depends on the degree to which the trauma has been dealt with.

Those who have undergone a loss or a trauma have a critical need to feel safe. Job loss, death of a loved one, a sudden disability, or a violation of any sort is an example of such trauma. Tangible, physical items, like clothes, shoes, cars, or even paper, can give the illusion of safety and control. Since most of us determine what we bring into our home, the single act of buying an item we want but don’t need can give us a sense of control—control that didn’t exist when or after the trauma occurred.

Why is there such resistance to addressing clutter?

Most people don’t realize there is a whole lot more to clutter than just stuff. Having possessions is a wonderful distraction. Anything you own means you have to manage it, store it, maintain it, repair it, use it, clean it, or display it. When you have too much of it, it becomes clutter. We Americans have the wherewithal to buy lots of stuff we don’t need. Why do we do it? Because we can and because it soothes us temporarily. I suspect, though, there are other reasons.

If we were to probe more deeply, we might discover the feelings that propel us to acquire unnecessary, excess stuff. If we were to face these feelings squarely, we might call a halt to the endless influx of stuff we allow and usually welcome into our homes. This is not easy to do. In fact, this is a profound realization, and when people get it, they are willing to start dealing with their clutter in a deep and lasting way.

My Possessions, My Self

August 21, 2014

De-cluttering is not a callous stripping away of our possessions.  Rather, it needs to be a thoughtful assessment of what is meaningful and useful.  The items we possess are integral to our personality.  Here are two opinions I agree with:

“We need to project ourselves into the things around us.  My self is not confined to my body.  It extends into all the things I have made and all the things around me.  Without these things, I would not be myself.”  — Carl Jung, C.G.Jung Speaking

 

“Objects, like people, come in and out of our lives and awareness, not in some random, meaningless pattern ordained by Fate, but in a clearly patterned framework that sets the stage for greater and greater self-understanding.  To continue the theatrical analogy, a play or drama also needs a set and props.  In our own lives, we select the sets and props of different ‘acts’ (or periods of life) in order–often unconsciously–to display images of ourselves and to learn by reflection of the environment around us.”   —Clare Cooper Marcus, House as a Mirror of Self

 

One of my clients was stuck in her clutter. It wouldn’t move, or more precisely, she felt paralyzed by it…until she decided to register for my class “Consciously Clearing Clutter.” She knew she needed help. Once she accepted the fact she needed assistance, things started happening:

  • She altered the boundaries between her and her husband. Initially he couldn’t understand why she needed to take a class to help her with her clutter and discouraged her from doing so. Now he applauds her decision.
  • She cleared the clutter from her home office. Before the class it was a room she shuttered to enter. Now she feels energized and eager to work there.
  • She felt hopeless before taking the class. She kept telling herself she was a failure. Now she sees the results of her initial efforts and is committed to keep going. Failure is not an option.

You’ve heard this story before, but what happened? Why the change? Some will say it’s serendipity; her need and the class converged at the right and perfect time. Yes, I agree, but before that could happen she reached a critical point. I suspect her thinking went like this: “Things are so bad. I’ll never get out of this hole alone. If I want to clear my clutter, I’ve got to approach this differently. Since I don’t know how, I’ve got to get some fresh ideas.”

Looking at the Shadow

‘Resistance’ is a dirty word when we’re confronted with an issue we believe we need to overcome but seemingly cannot. My client couldn’t address her clutter. Resistance blocked her way. Every time, I suspect, she felt resistance, she beat herself emotionally and issued repeated “Stop Work” orders.

Her resistance, however, served a purpose. It kept her from addressing the issue until she was ready. It was highly unlikely any substantive work could have been done until she was ready to confront it squarely. At first blush, clutter seems like such a straightforward commodity to address, yet anyone who organizes and de-clutters without investigating its deeper issues will probably be mystified by its inevitable recurrence.

In her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers shadow expert Debbie Ford wrote, “Most of us are driven by the eight-year old within us. That child who didn’t get his needs met is begging for acceptance.” Ford goes on to say that if we delve into our memory as far back as possible, we’ll remember the trigger for a particular unmet need. Because it is so far in the past, we are more likely to remember it with compassion and better able to identify the origin of its power.

“If we don’t shift our perceptions of our true selves,” Ford asserts, “we’ll be stuck repeating our past behaviors.” My client began my class seeing herself as a failure and ashamed of not being able to clear her clutter independently. By the third class her self-perception had shifted. She had completed class assignments, shared her victories with work colleagues, and recreated greater balance with her husband. More importantly, she was committed to continuing the process. She wanted to deal with her clutter once and for all.

Shifting Out of Resistance

Ford claims we can tell what work is left unfinished by identifying our sub-personalities. Sounds psychotherapeutic and probably is, but stay with me for a moment. Ford believes you can find out what you need to do to resolve any recurring patterns of behavior (e.g. habitual clutter).

She suggests you get quiet and go within. Call forth any person in your subconscious (i.e. unresolved relationships, lovers, family, friends, heroes and spiritual leaders) and let that person appear. You can access anyone you know by going within. Start a dialogue with him. Ask advice on what to do about a particular issue. Listen to what that person has to say. Give him time to respond. You’ll get the answers you are looking for.

These so-called sub-personalities await your call. They want attention and acceptance, and if you give them that, they will return it with love and compassion. Ford writes, “If you befriend yourself, you’ll break the continuing cycle of loss of self or loss of others…By reclaiming everything you hate about yourself, you open up a world within where you have access to the entire universe.”

Embracing Acceptance

Here’s the exciting news: By embracing a seemingly insurmountable situation, you position yourself for personal transformation. You gain an awareness of self you didn’t have before. You not only discover but release powerful energy, knowledge and resources you never knew you had. All that pain was simply a catalyst to move you to a higher spiritual plane, where freedom, happiness and calm reside.

When you find yourself being resistant, acknowledge and honor your feelings. They are real and deserve attention, but when you are ready, seek to accept whatever situation you confront. Look for its blessings because that will lead you to a better place—to your own personal transformation. You’ll discover acceptance is a mighty motivator.

Bev Hitchins © 2012

I have lots of intentions.  Don’t you?  For example, Ive set the intention to visit the Iguazu Falls in Argentina.  Guess what?  I am no closer to manifesting this intention than I was when I stated it for the first time two years ago.  What happened?  I got distracted and put it on the back burner.  Did you put yours there, too?

It turns out that everything has a certain electrical frequency, even intentions.  Not only do our bodies have a frequency that changes due to a multitude of internal and external factors, but our thoughts and intentions have one, too.  The higher the frequency, the healthier and happier we are.  The lower, the more prone we are to being depressed and immobile.

In her memoir Grand Obsession, Perri Knitze asks Graves, “So do we each have our own frequency?”  Graves is one of the piano tuning experts she hires to regain the perfect sound her piano had when she bought it in New York City before it was shipped to her home in Montana.  Here’s what he replies,

“We have a full spectrum of frequencies.  We have to watch how we treat our frequencies.  What we image, ingest, taste—we have a lot more to learn about biochemistry.  We do things that don’t let us grow, like watch degraded stuff on TV, eat depleted food, listen to music with a ‘heavy’ frequency.  We don’t vibrate like no sine wave.  The way we vibrate is deep.  We have to understand what biological waves are all about.” 

Wow!  I suspect I have unconsciously imagined, ingested and tasted a lot of degraded, depleted, heavy stuff.  I didn’t even know it.  It’s too easy to digress about the shoot-em up television shows, MacDonald’s hamburgers, and heavy metal music of which our American culture boasts.  Let’s focus on intentions for now. 

Change Causes Resistance—Even if it’s for Our Own Good!

Even if we have an intention, it’s sometimes tough to get beyond the first step of setting it.  Here’s an example.  During the first session of my most recent “Consciously Clearing Clutter” class, I asked participants to declare an intention for the next three weeks while the class occurs.  They identify a particular area they plan to de-clutter and commit to working on it for a minimum of five minutes every day.  No more than five minutes is required.  The class meets four times. 

At the second session, one week after the first class, only one out of four participants had honored her intention.  At first I was surprised.  These participants had paid good money to work on their clutter.  They are expecting to see results by the last class.  Staying where we are, stuck and unhappy, holds a frequency we are familiar with.  Our long-term discomfort turns comfortable.  To raise our frequency to a higher, healthier level takes effort, in most cases, a concerted one. 

One participant in my class had decided to focus on the poorly designed laundry area in her home as her assignment; this same area also serves as a pass-through to the garage.  Due to a number of factors, laundry for her family of five piles up and often clogs the passageway.  She rarely sees the floor.  Her report after the first week was discouraging.  She couldn’t do her five-minutes-a-day de-cluttering.  Only a load or two of laundry was washed, in spite of her family’s average 13 loads a week.  

When the Frequency Shifts—Look Out!

At the end of the second week, however, things started to shift.  She reported having done many loads of laundry and was beginning to see the floor again.  Even more amazing was the problem-solving that occurred during the third class. 

She herself is an engineer and had asked movers to change the location of the washer and dryer before her family moved into the house.  Months later, it became clear the new location of the appliances wasn’t working.  Mentally she has been feverishly reconfiguring the space ever since they moved in.  Nothing seemed to feel right.

During the class we discovered that it took two hours for the dryer to dry a load of clothes—way too long, especially for a 13-load a week family.  A new dryer was in order.  This discussion spurred more ideas from others in the class:

  • Why not get a professional consultant’s opinion on how to redesign the space?
  • What if she delegated laundry duty, or at least a portion of it, to the two oldest children?
  • How about using a Wash and Fold Service, that takes dirty laundry and returns it washed and folded a couple days later?

All of us engaged in solving her problem, and she was open to hearing our ideas.  From hopeless and overwhelmed to ready for action, this participant left the third class with options she hadn’t considered before. 

At the beginning of the class everyone had set an intention and agreed to support each another in realizing it.  By the third class a noticeable alignment had occurred.  From there the problem-solving ideas gushed out, one right after another. 

Intention is Everything

Let’s return to Perri Knitze and her piano, which she calls Marlene.  In her memoir, she writes, “I tell Graves about my first encounter with Marlene, how I resonated deeply with her, how I fell hard for her.  What was it I experienced?”

This is how Graves responds:  “You experienced the intention of every person who ever worked on that piano,” he says.  “The person who tuned it, the person who built it.  That piano carries their intentions.  Intention is everything.”

It’s the same with us.  Who are we hanging out with?  Have we defined our intention?  What is the intention of those folks we choose to be with?  That’s why a class or a like-minded group is so helpful.  If we set the intention and commit to it with the added benefit of being with like-minded people, the likelihood is great we will see it happen.  And if it’s clutter you are struggling with, consider setting an intention with my “Consciously Clearing Clutter” class! 

Hey, want to visit the Iguazu Falls?  Together we can support each other’s intention, raise each other’s frequency, and see what solutions percolate to the surface.  Together we’ll experience the mysterious unfolding of an amazing Argentinian adventure.

Bev Hitchins © 2011

Clutter Gets a Bum Rap!

June 28, 2011

How many times have you put something down and then couldn’t find it?  When you do go looking for it, it isn’t there. 

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For

At first it’s puzzling.  You start looking in piles and places where it would most likely be.  Unsuccessful, you move to other piles and places where you haven’t been or touched in ages, but, gosh, it might be there.  In the meanwhile, your concern is ratcheting up.  You start talking to yourself in not so kind and gentle a voice, “Where did it go?  Who’s been messing with my stuff?  I am sure I put it there!”  And if someone is close by, like a spouse or friend, you get them looking, too.

As your sense of frustration builds, the other person you’ve enlisted slides right into the pitch of your emotional vortex.  You start getting angry at the piles you have let accumulate and the stuff you should have put away.  “How could I have let things get this way?  Where is that damn thing I am looking for?”  You start having heated exchanges with the person who agreed to help you when she suggests looking elsewhere.  “No!” you scream.  “That’s ridiculous.  IT ISN’T THERE!”

This was the scenario with my client’s husband a couple evenings ago.  He had just spent hours writing a book review—a valuable piece of intellectual property.  Ready to send it (via the U.S. Postal Service) to the organization who requested the review, he began to look for THE LETTER—his only source of communication spelling out the details of when and where to send it.  No e-mail or website had been provided.  He had to have THE LETTER!

The Search

The search began in earnest on Sunday evening at 9:00 PM.  At one point my client goes to the Internet to track down the organization.  Since her husband couldn’t remember its name, her efforts resulted in three possibilities—a creative approach in this technological age but a woefully inadequate replacement for THE MISSING LETTER.  Not until 11:00 PM did their frantic search end.  In a last ditch effort, they checked the trash scheduled for pickup the next morning.  Lo and behold—they found THE LETTER among the detritus of daily living.  What a relief!  All the angst and pent-up worry, however, didn’t let my client go to sleep until 1:00 AM. 

When I saw her the next morning, she was exhausted and started blaming all the piles of clutter stationed around the house.  The poor clutter!  It gets blamed for so much.  We know, though, it wasn’t the clutter’s fault—at least the physical piles of clutter.  Perhaps we can more accurately lay responsibility on her husband’s distracted (dare I say cluttered?) mind.  Apparently THE LETTER had been residing in the reviewed book along with a piece of junk mail for a while.  When the junk mail was tossed, so was THE LETTER. 

Slowing Down is Our Best Revenge

How many times have we done this–thrown something important away with something unimportant?  I confess, I’ve done it many times.  Maybe the best way to stave off these inadvertent mishaps is to just slow down.  I mean, where is the fire?  We have access these days to so many ideas and opportunities, it’s mind-boggling.  We want to do this, try that, go there, and acquire whatever.  We forget that life consists of small things, like details.  We go on to the next thing before we finish what we’ve been working on.  We rush through life. 

Perhaps a comedienne said it best, when she told her audience what she wants engraved on her tombstone—GOT IT ALL DONE, DEAD ANYWAY.  Yep, we are all going to kick the bucket one day.  So, let’s enjoy each moment in the meantime.  By slowing down we can be more conscious of what we are doing with stray pieces of paper, jackets we thought we left somewhere else besides in the back of our closet, and anything else we put some place for “the time being” rather than in its proper home.  We can circumvent the angst and anguish of looking for lost stuff.

Let’s exonerate our clutter.  We’re the ones who need to calm down and become more mindful our actions.  By giving ourselves a second or two more as to where we put things and what we’ve put where, we can imprint that moment onto our memory and possibly prevent our tossing important items into the trash.  After all, what’s two seconds compared to two hours of fruitless, frantic hunting?

Bev Hitchins © 2011

Three thousand pounds of paper—yep, that’s how much paper my brother shredded before he moved to his new office.  That’s 1.5 tons!

As a tax accountant for 37 years, he was obligated by law to keep clients’ returns for six years before destroying them.  I have a hunch he kept them for many more than that.  Then, two years ago he sold his tax accounting business and hung his shingle as a wealth management specialist. 

My Brother and His Paper

Earlier this year he decided to move his business from a spacious building he owned to a suite of offices near his home.  It became imperative to downsize.  Unable to join him, I heard about the move from both him and his assistant.  What they found could be called, dare I say it, “CLUTTER!”  Forty-year old accounting textbooks, IRS tax manuals from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Wall Street Journal newspaper articles from the late ‘90s might not seem outlandish for an accountant-historian to keep—but for an accountant-turned-wealth management specialist—I don’t think so!

Perhaps the most interesting item found among the reams of paper was a life insurance policy belonging to our mother who died in 1990.  The policy was purchased in 1915, a year after she was born, for a whopping ten cents.  The annual premium was $1.40.  He’s now checking to see if he can cash it in—21 years after her death.  Good luck!

Me and My Stuff

If you’ve read my website (www.alignyourlife.net) or previous blogs, you know I held onto my mother’s stuff for nine years after she died before I could let it all go.  That was a pivotal experience because five years later I went into business as a professional de-clutterer.  Although I still hold onto more books, photos and paper than I need or can appreciate, I have refined my taste for clutter. 

But what is it that keeps me tied to my stuff?  Just yesterday I was reviewing a box of old photos, many of which were taken when I was a baby.  All the members of the previous generations—my mother, father, grandmother, aunts and uncles—are gone.  It was easy to dispense with all the duplicates and poorly focused pictures, but the majority was put back into the box and placed on a high shelf in my closet.  That constitutes CLUTTER in my book!

Is It a Matter of Identity?

It just might be.  In both cases, my brother’s and mine, the stuff we held or are holding onto represents the past.  For him it is his livelihood.  He was an accountant for 37 years, will always have the CPA credential behind his name, but is now a financial management expert.  For me, it is my family.  I was a baby long ago, had parents and extended family that loved me, and now am a parent-less middle-aged adult. 

Our focus on the past assures us we mattered and fuels us to believe we still matter.  In a convoluted way our clutter substantiates and symbolizes our past successes.  It’s tangible proof.  My brother had a thriving accounting business.  I had family who cared what I did and how I thought.  He is now in the midst of starting a new business, and I continue my quest for greater self-awareness.

Beware of Illusions

Lest you think my rationalization is a good excuse to hold onto clutter, it isn’t.  It is an illusion.  I know deep down clutter is a deterrent to living a life fully in the present.  I’ll admit I still struggle with unraveling its complex threads and their sticky nature of holding me back. 

In contrast, my brother has just freed himself of literally tons of clutter.  He has opened space in his business for new clients and new successes to enter.  He’s lifted the monumental weight of the past—past clients, projects, history—from his shoulders.  He’s launched a new chapter in his business and his life.

So, let me ask you:  Do you have clutter?  How much of it symbolizes your success?  Why do you believe you need it now?  If you answer “Yes” to the first question, then it might be worthwhile to probe the deeper answers to the other two.  So much of the stuff of our past doesn’t matter anymore.  We don’t need it and it doesn’t help us.  Dissecting our illusions may be our ticket to freedom—feeling fully free to create and enjoy our successes of the present.

Bev Hitchins © 2011

For the past six years I have been reading my clients’ Tarot cards to plum the deeper reasons for their clutter. The pictures on the cards allow us to peek into our subconscious. We hold a boatload of thoughts and feelings in that space. Not all of them are loving, supportive or useful for moving ahead in life. In fact, they can be downright subversive.

If we can catch a glimpse of what we are holding in our subconscious, we can begin to understand how we sabotage ourselves. All of us have dreams of one sort or another, and yet many of us can’t realize them. Nebulous fears, regrets, and resentments hold us back. We repress them so adeptly that we’ve convinced ourselves we’ve dealt with them completely. The cards let us know we haven’t and that more work needs to be done if we are going to free ourselves from our self-imposed shackles.

A Real Life Example

I have created a Tarot spread to explore the subconscious reasons for clutter. Below is a subset of that spread. Each position in the spread has a question or issue attached to it. After a client shuffles the entire deck, she chooses a card for each position. It’s important to note, all the cards are face down when the cards are picked.

Many believe it’s chance as to which cards are picked. I believe it’s the Law of Attraction at work. Otherwise, why would they be spot-on, as seen below? I recently read the cards for a woman who underwent back surgery more than 10 years ago. A couple of years ago something went wrong. Ever since she suffers chronic back pain and cannot sit for more than two hours at a time. We looked at her clutter issue through the cards using the Rider-Waite deck.

Position 1: Why Does She Have Clutter?

When we turned the first card over, my eyes shot open! She picked the Ten 0f Swords. The card shows a man lying on his stomach with ten swords in his back. It’s no coincidence that swords are piercing her back, rather than another part of her body.

A complex card, the Ten of Swords indicates the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. To step over the threshold into the new, my client needs to liberate herself from old patterns of behavior and drop her emotional baggage. She wouldn’t have picked this card if she wasn’t ready to do the necessary work to cross the threshold at this time.

Swords represent thoughts. After years of living with her pain those thoughts have etched a deep fissure into her self-image. Holding onto label clutter, she may see herself as a disabled victim unable to fulfill her life’s purpose. All the while this is happening, resentment may be building on the subconscious level. My client thought she had dealt with these issues, but the cards indicate more work needs to be done.

Position 2: The Current State of Her Clutter

She picked the Knight of Wands for this position. This Knight is full of energy and passion, and so is my client. She admitted a strong desire to move beyond her clutter, but how to do that is her challenge.

In this card, the handsome knight rides a cantering horse. Applying this image to my client, you would think she is ready at a moment’s notice to do her necessary de-cluttering work. But, wait a minute! The Knight is charging left and I interpret that as making a beeline to her past, not her future.

What if she were to slow down and get more comfortable with where she is? It sounds ironic knowing she wants to move beyond her clutter. Yet, getting peaceful, grounded and quiet right where she is will more likely allow her to turn right than rushing like the Knight of Wands to the left.

Position 3: What Blocks Her from Clearing Her Clutter?

Once again the swords have re-emerged. This time she picked the Nine of Swords. Not as physically brutal as the Ten, this card depicts mental and emotional agony. Key words often ascribed to it include “guilt,” “worry,” and “overwhelmed by feelings.” Clearly a lot of painful, burdensome thoughts, like blame, worry or doubts, have occupied my client’s thinking.

The good news is that the number Nine indicates action. Even though this card appears in the “blockage” position, my client is ready to explore why she has these thoughts. Doing that may then catapult her to dig out their root cause. She’s on the verge of making a change and wants to at least straddle the threshold.

Position 4: Her Strategy for Clearing Her Clutter

Wouldn’t you know—the Death card appeared. Don’t gasp or gulp. This is very good news because it means change and transformation. Death appears as a skeleton knight. Wow! Another knight on a horse, but this time the horse faces right and has one leg lifted to indicate stepping forward. For my client, this could mean stepping out of her clutter and into the future.

At first my client wasn’t happy when she saw the card. Granted, a skeleton isn’t cheery. I assured her that by letting go of the past (what the skeleton represents), she could begin to embrace the present. Her well-ingrained, but damaging thinking has her stuck, but if she sees it for what it is—an illusion, this will enable her to move forward, albeit reluctantly. Not knowing what lies ahead is scary, but taking one step and then another will gradually erase the fear and shift her focus to new and exciting enterprises.

Position 5: Her Next Step to Clear Her Clutter

The final card was the Nine of Pentacles. A beautifully dressed woman is surrounded by a grape vineyard and nine pentacles. In this case, pentacles represent her body and the foundation of her physical being. What a sharp contrast to the Ten of Swords in the first position. Here a self-confident woman is standing with a hooded falcon perched on her left hand. The hooded falcon represents her ability to control her feelings and demonstrate that she is not ruled by her unconscious doubts and fears.

The card’s message is for my client to start seeing herself as the Nine of Pentacles—healthy, enjoying life’s finer pleasures, and knowing she is in control of her life. This takes discipline. After years of thinking otherwise, it may take her awhile to embrace this new line of thought and self-perception. The good news is that her thinking is something she can control. What a great way to start this transformative process. It costs nothing but discipline and time.

My Concluding Remarks

Before we started, my client thought the cards wouldn’t reveal anything of great merit. She didn’t expect them to strike at her core issues like they did. By her picking the two nines (Swords and Pentacles), the one ten (Swords) and the Death card, she got confirmation that she is ready to change. Had she picked ones or twos in the same suits, the cards would have reflected a longer journey to get to where she wants to go.

Even though some of the cards aren’t happy, they hit the mark. She can see where she is in her de-cluttering process and readjust her compass. Of course, she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to, but that’s not likely in this case.

If you are feeling stuck in your clutter or any other issue for that matter, you might want to get reading with me.  I offer readings on the phone and in person, if you’re close to Northern Virginia.  On the phone you’ll need a deck because you’ll be the one picking your own cards.  Readings last an hour and cost $85.00.  Check out ALIGN’s website for more information.   The cards are a useful tool and can help you navigate the vicissitudes of life if you let them.

This is the third of three articles discussing the use of essential oils when clearing clutter.  I diffuse Young Living Essential Oils (YLEO) blends when working with my clients.  To understand the context of this blog, you may wish to refer to my last two blog entries dated October 13 and September 27, 2010. 

In my last blog I identified three oil blends that when diffused during the clutter clearing process can have a calming and uplifting affect on those doing the work.  To be successful, it’s not uncommon to experience lots of emotional heavy-lifting.  The diffused oils make it optimal to traverse the emotional and mental blocks that keep us locked into our clutter.  Many contend that once the clutter is gone, their job is done.  This assumption, however, is false. 

It takes work to maintain newly cleared space.  To keep it that way, requires changes in attitude and behavior.  Clutter, remember, is an outer manifestation of what is going on inside you.  How you approach each day is fundamental to examining your attitude and behavior. 

For example, if you are out of sorts with your boss, you may end up tossing today’s, tomorrow’s and the next day’s mail in a corner when you get home.   Having had an argument with your significant other, you may feel the urge to “shop until you drop” and then leave the unopened bag on the living room sofa for weeks on end.  Or perhaps you are so consumed by a deadline at work that you let your dirty dishes stack up in the sink. 

By not dealing directly or in a balanced way with issues before us, we begin to neglect ourselves.  We forget the commitment we made earlier to keep our space clutter-free.  Instead we let the clutter accumulate again.  It starts insidiously.  One bag begets another.  One pile attracts another.  Before we know it, we’re frustrated, frantic and fit to be tied all over again.

One way to keep balanced and on track is to diffuse essential oils.  (See previous blogs for information about diffusers and YLEO blends.)  I suggest using three blends for maintaining a clutter-free environment:  Harmony, Gathering and Gratitude. 

Stress—A Clutter Culprit

Many will point a finger at stress as the cause for our clutter recurrence.  When stress enters, our focus goes to the “crisis” at hand and how we are going to handle that—not necessarily on keeping our clutter contained or our space clutter-free.  That’s why altering our approach to stress merits attention.  Instead of resisting it, what if we welcomed it? 

The essential oil blend Harmony helps to establish and maintain a positive attitude, an important ingredient when confronting stress.  The 17 single oils it comprises reflect the complexity of the blend.  Three of Harmony’s single oils, Hyssop, Orange and Rose, underscore its unique ability to bring the body and spirit into harmonic balance.  Under stress, we might have the urge to withdraw.  Hyssop counteracts that urge; Orange promotes mental clarity and emotional balance; and Rose creates a sense of well being.  The inner harmony that this blend generates prevents us from surrendering to the battering that stress imposes.  It helps us to remember that self-care is of utmost importance if we are going to thrive in this 21st century.  

Aren’t We Really Seeking Peace and Balance?

It is so easy to get distracted these days—terrorism, the economy, our finances, family or health can rivet our attention away from ourselves and our life purpose and fracture the inner peace we are seeking.     

A blend called Gathering can keep us focused, grounded, and connected.  Three of its nine oils are spiritual and found in the Bible:  Galbanum, Frankincense and Sandalwood.  Galbanum when coupled with Frankincense enhances the connection to our Higher Power—where inner peace resides.  Sandalwood reduces tension, confusion, fear and stress.   The unique combination of essential oils in this blend helps us to gather our thoughts, so they can be focused, allowing our heart and mind to work together harmoniously.  They enable us to concentrate on our own life and avail ourselves of our best choices. 

At the End of the Day, Let’s Be Grateful!

Another way to keep our space clear of clutter is to take time to be grateful for both the tangible and intangible gifts we receive each day.  The blend Gratitude was formulated to elevate, soothe and appease the mind while bringing relief and relaxation to the body.   Taking a moment to relax at the end of each day allows for reflection and an opportunity to be gentle with ourselves.   One ingredient, Myrrh, promotes spiritual awareness and encourages us to open our heart and mind to receive gifts, while another ingredient, Ylang ylang, inspires self-love, confidence, joy and peace.  This unique blend fosters a mind-body connection that enables us to appreciate the blessings in our life.

Exposing ourselves to these rich aromas we begin to see the beauty and bounty of our surroundings.  We no longer want to ignore the mail, toss our purchases on the sofa, or let the dishes stack up.  We slow down.  We stop behaving as if no one cares.  We become conscious and we are grateful.

The Same Oils Are Found in Different Blends

It is interesting to note that the some of the same oils are found in each of these three blends.  Two in particular, Frankincense and Ylang Ylang, are found in all three and seem significant in helping us maintain a clutter-free space.  For example, many of us suffer from mental chatter.  We get so distracted by constant nattering about this and that that we lose our focus and forget our purpose.  Frankincense helps cease this chatter, increase spiritual awareness and inspire meditation. 

If left unaddressed, all that mental chatter can lead to anxiety, fear and anger.  Ylang Ylang can soothe those emotions and lift our fears.  An effective complement to Frankincense, it helps balance our male and female energies and fosters intimacy.  Clearing our clutter and maintaining a clutter-free space are intimate acts.  Many of us who have clutter have difficulty being intimate with ourselves.  Ylang Ylang creates the opening for us to meet ourselves.  If we allow that opening, we end up discovering a partner, not an adversary.  We feel empowered to stay on track.

Conclusion

Essential oils can enhance our clutter-clearing efforts.  Although not required to do the job, they can affect all aspects of our being—body, mind, heart and soul.  Consider them as a friend, helpmate, or companion as you begin or continue to clear your clutter.  They have the power to transform the energy of your space, your clutter, and ultimately you.  They help us remember the commitment we made to keep our space clutter-free.  They encourage us to heal and to seek the life we are meant to lead.  Isn’t that what we are here for?  Well, then, let’s get on with it!

I used Connie and Alan Higley’s Reference Guide for Essential Oils to list ingredients in the oil blends discussed and to describe their qualities.  You can order Young Living Essential Oils at www.youngliving.com.  Please use my member number #303970 as your sponsor and enroller.