At the Heart of Organizing

Clutter-clearing and organizing are a big part of feng shui, no doubt about it.  There are all sorts of practical systems out there to help with getting and staying organized, and they do work if they’re a good fit for the organizing style you have inherently.

 Sometimes, however, a persistent mess or neglected area isn’t there for lack of a good system – there’s something hidden at the heart of it.

A few years ago I had an organizing business, and I was working in the home of a lovely woman who had a state of chronic disarray in many of the rooms of her house.  As I walked around to survey the whole situation, looking into various options to help sort out and move items out of the way in the main living areas, I noticed that every single drawer, shelf, closet and cupboard was completely jammed.  There was literally no place to store anything more, no place to move anything to.  Looking for a way to free up some space, she told me that there was a storage shed outside on one side of the house; she and I went out there to see what might be possible.  

I couldn’t help but notice that my client was becoming progressively more nervous, which I could find no obvious explanation for.  Of course, for me as an organizer, every situation, though highly personal to the client, is fairly neutral for me as I have no history with the place at all.  Though I know that all sorts of emotional associations are there for the client, I’m in a neutral state of mind about the project, and the things in the house are just things in the house.  Experience has shown that the emotional importance of something for the client will show up, but often the only way I may know about it is a change in expression or body language in the client.  As we opened up the storage shed, decided what could be cleaned, what could be re-organized and what could be tossed, the nervous tension just kept ratcheting up.

I should say that this woman was an experienced professional woman in her 50’s, successfully running her business as a psychologist, and her home as a recently single mother of two teenagers.  She was intelligent, focused, and high-functioning in her life.  But, something with enough emotional charge to it can unhinge the most collected of us.  As we stood there, going item by item through the shed, with me doing the majority of the forward motion, the dam of tension finally broke to a torrent of tears.   Recently divorced, she said that in the last days of her marriage her husband had spent a lot of time outside, sitting by this shed, and she couldn’t be out there without reliving a lot of the overwhelm of the end of her marriage.  To her, the shed was not just a shed, it was also the storage place of years of frustration and the death of a dream.

After the cleansing tears, and some solid emotional hand-holding support on my part, much of the charge had disappeared, and we were able to clean and organize the rest of the shed, and begin to create some space inside the house by moving overflow items outside.  

The chronic holding-pattern of stuff in the home began to move into the flow of life. 

Sometimes, organizing is not about organizing, it’s about healing.  Places or things in a home that hold sorrow, difficulty or loss, can form the unconscious glue that holds a mess in place.  These are situations that require care and lots of loving support to be with so that the stuck emotional charge can be transformed and freed to flow again into the current stream of one’s life.  The principle I have found is that the support present has to be greater than the underlying overwhelm.

If a stuck place in your home feels more upsetting to you than you can consciously understand, if you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of organizing a garage, a closet, or any space in your home, it’s possible that what is needed to go forward is not a good organizing system alone, but loving support.  Go gently and carefully through these places.  Perhaps, ask a loving friend to be there with you if only to hold the space of solid support for you as you bring a frozen part of your past into the loving space of the present.  In the end, not only will something in your outer life be more organized, you will have a piece of yourself back that has also been stuck in that frozen place.  And, it’s having oneself that is the big prize, and the point of it all.  

? ? ? ? ?