Mike Nelson founded ClutterLess (CL) Recovery Groups Inc. on the belief that clutter is often a psychological problem. He has authored three books on the subject, including "Stop Clutter from Stealing Your Life." On his Web site, Clutterless.org, he writes that "cluttering is a physical expression of our emotional condition."
A spokesperson for the Pleasanton chapter of the ClutterLess self-help groups, which meets weekly, said cluttering isn't a problem until it interferes with life. There are different extremes of cluttering, with hoarding--a psychological term--being at the top.
"There's a lot of emotion associated with that stuff," the spokesperson, who declined to give his name, said. "It's the concept of perma-clutter--it's been in your house so long that you may not even know it's there."
Marriage and family therapist Bridget Melson, of Trinity Life Solutions in Pleasanton, said she's seen chronic clutter issues present along with other issues like memories of an unpleasant past, weight, depression and fatigue. Piles of stuff in the home become physical manifestations of psychological barriers, she said.
The spokesperson for CL said it's easy for non-clutterers to deal with a mess by cleaning up. Yet, with emotions deeply rooted to their possessions, clutterers and hoarders approach it from a psychological standpoint. It's also difficult to help someone because people are ashamed of their mess.
Organization problems have been made popular through TV shows like "Clean Sweep" on TLC and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Yet with the psychological aspect so closely tied to the stuff, it could be difficult to declutter without causing anxiety.
"One of the problems that we have with the news," the spokesperson said, "is that a picture of a big mess is fascinating, like a car wreck. But looking at that doesn't really solve anybody's problem."
While saying cluttering has psychological associations, Bridget Melson said it's also a bad habit. She recommends people do the following to help with the clutter:
*Get out of denial
*Clear it out now, not later
*Call a non-cluttering friend for help
*Get organized quickly with the help of containers
*Tell your brain "no!" when justifying a need for something never used
*Use positive self-talk
*Make lists when shopping and stick to it
*Ask yourself if you need things you're tempted to purchase and practice saying "no"
*Change old, unhealthy traditions that cause you to clutter
*Replace needless shopping by taking day trips to the park or to the city
ClutterLess is always looking for new members and anonymity is respected. The group meets Mondays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Pleasanton Presbyterian Church, Rm. 7, 4300 Mirador Drive. At the meetings, various topics related to clutter are discussed and people are encouraged to make a pledge to help themselves. Call 294-9246 or 846-5060 box 2. The group is free, but a contribution of $2 to $5 is appreciated.
The CL spokesperson said there are many success stories, some of which tell of people no longer needing to go to the group and others who continue to make progress each week.
At the end of the day, Mike Nelson stresses that stuff is secondary, whereas friends, family and pets are important.
To learn more about chronic clutter and the ClutterLess groups, visit Clutterless.org.
A Self-Help Test from ClutterLess
1. Do you feel overwhelmed by your clutter?
2. Have you tried to clean up or organize repeatedly, with no lasting results? Do you feel like, What's the use, it will just get messed up again?
3. Are you ashamed to have guests in your home?
4. Do you feel more confused in your home than in the outside world?
5. Do you buy more of everything because you never know when you will run out?
6. Do you have multiple copies of books, software, clothing, etc., because you can't find what you already own?
7. Has your spouse or partner expressed dismay about the way you live?
8. Do you hold onto broken items because they might come in handy someday, or I'm going to fix them someday?
9. Do you hold onto relationships that do not serve you, saying, this is the best I can do?
10. Do you feel like there will never be enough for you?
11. Do you believe that you do not deserve any better than what you have?
12. Do you feel more lack than prosperity in your life?
13. Do you want to change these things?
If you said yes to half of these questions, you may want to attend a meeting.
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