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     Sober From Clutter

Every Sunday in the spring and summer, an acquaintance I have goes out all day to yard sales. It's her ritual, her habit, and the "thing" she does on Sunday. She's addicted! She's really looking for something to feed her Spirit and Soul, make her feel good, change her life, get what she wants; all the while, all around her she is drowning in clutter. But she can't see the forest for the trees.

Many of the things we do, think, say, and the way we act or react are out of HABIT. Most of the time we are totally unaware of these actions, thoughts, or sayings because they are so ingrained into our fiber of being, or we are in some kind of pain. If you want to correct, change, or replace a habit, you must first become AWARE of the old habit and replace it with a more desirable habit.

To break an unwanted habit -- such as hitting the yard sales every Sunday or shopping till you drop -- you must look deep within yourself to discover the true REASON behind it. You must admit you have a habit that is undesirable, and be committed to changing. Becoming more mindful of your actions and undesirable habits will help you become more aware of what you are buying, saving, or hoarding, and WHY. It will allow you to be more in tune with yourself, and cause you to stop and listen.

For one whole day, be as conscious as possible of ALL your actions, thoughts, and sayings towards your clutter, your shopping, and of saving stuff; from the time your eyes open to close and all the time in between. Pay close attention to the emotional causes of your clutter behavior and what EFFECT it is having on you and possibly those around you. Question yourself; ask why you do the things you do.

What are your spirit and soul LACKING -- or what fears do you have that you feel you must buy, collect, or hoard in order to replace that "lack" or feed that fear? What emotional reason is causing your clutter problems? What are you doing that might be REPLACING something missing in your life? Maybe you aren't even aware of it yet. But once you become aware of the "why," you can start to move forward and discover the "how." How can you change these habits, rituals, and compulsions?

For the next 31 days, every time you start to bring something into your life, stop and ask yourself, "Why do I feel I NEED this? Why do I want this? What is it replacing in my life? What has just happened; what did I just feel (or not feel), or think that makes me WANT this? For the next 31 days, get "sober" from your clutter everyday by tossing or giving away the stuff that is causing your clutter, and your pain. Remember that you are trying to replace your old habits and "addictions" with new and supportive ones. Like the addict -- who replaces getting high or going bar hopping with AA meetings and new social activities -- so must you find a replacement for your clutter.

According to the 7th Edition of Contemporary Marketing: "Motives are inner states that direct a person toward the goal of SATISFYING a felt need. The action is taken to reduce a state of tension and return to a condition of equilibrium." Marketers have also concluded that our SELF-CONCEPT or how we view ourselves plays an important role in our buying behavior. Marketing has become a "science," teaching that what you buy makes a statement about your personality. What kind of a statement does your "stuff" say about your personality? Do you buy clothes that almost fit, promising yourself you can lose a couple of extra pounds? Do you buy electronic gizmos and gadgets because your peers have them and you want to fit in? Do you lavish yourself with luxuries to try and make you feel better about your life? Do you buy collectibles until the collections take over your life with the hope that one day they will bring in the "Big Bucks?"

Your possessions, collections, and all the "stuff" you are buying or holding onto are not who you are. We fall prey to filling up our lives with "things" because we're being fed the message that "things" will bring us fulfillment. However, others and your possessions are not responsible for your HAPPINESS. Dependence upon others or your possessions will only fill your void temporarily, if at all. You will eventually become bored, feel alone, or empty, and become a victim of clutter and debt.

If a gift giver gives you a gift FREELY, then it belongs to you and only you. You can do with it whatever you want! It's yours; you own it now. It's now your property! But on the other hand, if the gift giver gives you a gift with STRINGS attached, then they really didn't give you a gift. You know your gift has strings attached if the gift giver:
  • expects you to keep it forever
  • expects to see you enjoying, using, or displaying their gift
  • asks, "Where is such and such?"
  • asks, "Why don't I ever see you using such and such?"
Instead of a gift, they've given you fear, guilt, and a BURDEN that you must keep their gift, carry it around, and display it. Many fear they must hang onto gifts given to them. Even if never used. Even if they don't like it. Even if it doesn't fit their needs. Fearing by giving it away they will betray the gift giver. Oh the POWER they have over you.

Stop living with fear and guilt. Today, choose your own beliefs of what you can do with gifts that are given to you. It's really okay to let go of things that belong to you that you no longer use or have a need for. And have the COURAGE to get rid of the gifts that are taking up your precious space.

When you begin clearing out your clutter you'll create a VACUUM and nature abhors a vacuum. But don't worry, because something or someone will soon rush in to take the place of where your clutter used to reside. The form of replacement wouldn't necessarily be more stuff -- it may be OPPORTUNITIES or people instead. You might have the ability to pursue and accomplish what you'd really like to do or be, now that you've made room.

I know you can be stronger then your fear, your pain, or your sadness. You can be STRONGER then your habitual spending, hoarding, or saving by being determined, by carving out the time, and by putting some effort into reasonable expectations of getting organized.

Just like the alcoholic or drug addict, you are HEALING. Healing needs to take place in the mind, body, and Spirit to be effective. A big step towards your healing will depend on you having the knowledge of what you can do by yourself and the acceptance of the reality that you might need help. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


Janet L. Hall, FSII, is the The Organizing and Feng Shui Wizard -- and her books, taped seminars, and other products are all available directly through www.OnlineOrganizing.com. Visit her website at www.overhall.com or contact her at .

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