When traveling to an appointment to meet a new client and their clutter, I really don’t know what to expect until I arrive at the home or workplace.
Ben was a new customer from Tucson, who described his desperate need to change his chaotic life and he really wanted immediate results. He wanted to put his house on the market within the next week…
I told him we could do it, but would have to empty everything- meaning every room, corner, shelf, cabinet, pantry, closet, table, drawer and furniture. After that it would have been an easy job to make the house presentable for any future buyer. He had just moved in the home and the walls where in good shape, maybe some patching up. It was all tiled, so no carpet needed to be replaced or steam cleaned.
We began in the kitchen together with his teenage daughter, just to get a feeling on his mind set. The young one was starting to collect all the dirty dishes and the dad and I focused on the counter top. The trash I threw away was double checked by Ben and every little thing was still of value to him. This kitchen was stuffed from floor to top and every nook and cranny was overflowing, but for all he had a use. None of it could go.
There is no way that I could get any headway here and no way that this house would be presentable within the next few days. Obviously my client was in deep trouble and no matter how hard I would try, this could not be solved today. Creating a simpler and more enjoyable life can be a long journey, depending where you begin. We settled on just targeting the things he would like to sell; taking pictures of items, putting them online and storing them in the garage to be out of sight and ready for the buyer.
Ben should have emptied his chaos and sold his house. He is a single dad and his next step is to travel across country with his daughter and move in with his parents to get out of financial debt and eventually start all over again- the prefect time to build that new framework. I tried to explain that there is no need to bring his stuff or putting all this clutter in storage. Too often a new beginning with the old confusion does not work because it leads to falling into the old habits. A clean start is much more successful.
“Ben, you don’t need the tea kettle, I am sure your parents have one” and he replied “but not this kind”.
By letting go he would set the conditions to unfold into a new life. Clients that are deeply in need of help, like Ben, wish to change immediately but can’t let go of their long established pattern of cluttering.
Not to judge is very important. I see myself as a carpenter, setting up a customized framework for my clients to unfold into a simpler and better life. It is possible for all of us to get caught in an unpleasant journey and it actually happens quite often. Ben is retired from the Air Force, with a good career, health insurance, some paid vacation, single dad and doing his best.
What our society, politicians, employers, schools and media puts so bluntly in front of us leaves hardly any space for a healthy lifestyle. For many to stay in the game they have to work hard to survive, absorb stress, show no weakness, take little time off and ignore the warning signals from their body. The punishment is harsh, many bury themselves in debt because they need to console their existence with stuff.
Unhealthy eating habits lead to illness, sleepless nights are solved with drugs, anxiety and depression can be brutal followers. For Ben’s teenage daughter, this game has been reality from the time she was born and she would need a great change of experiences to build that stable framework for her future.
I see it reoccurring across the country and Ben’s story is not unusual. Him and others alike, function in the outside world and rather seldom let you in on their dilemma at home. My job is to be kind and set up the right framework for my clients, providing helpful tools, so time will take care of the unfolding of more space and happiness.
It sure is hard sometimes to set up a new beginning and be patient. But, building a framework really works and not just for decluttering. Try it!
“Building a new framework is difficult, but no more than remaining in the old structure that is about to collapse on you” -FRITZ Space Maker