Most of us have done some sort of introspection during this pandemic. It may not be a quiet, peaceful, meditative kind of thinking. I'd argue that it is a "between the chaos" type, the instant, knee-jerk thoughts between teaching, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and maneuvering through a very different reality than we are used to, often with a house full of people. It may be about the quality of your job, your family relationships and dynamics, maybe even the meaning of life, and how to move forward.
Many people have also honed in to their surroundings, largely because of quarantine. It is what we are faced with more now than ever before. I'm willing to bet that most people who are doing this are NOT thinking positive thoughts. Many are thinking about the wrong piece of furniture they purchased, the indulgent shopping spree that left them with too much, the redecorating they want to do, and the things they've accumulated that are weighing them down. When I take time to reflect, I notice that these short bursts are often negative, filled with frustration, and counterproductive, and they leave behind a common feeling...shame.
Here are some of the things I hear from my clients about their homes:
I have way too much stuff, and it feels bad.
I don't have any energy to get rid of all of this, and it's driving me crazy.
I am so disorganized, and it never changes, no matter how many books I read
I just can't seem to stick with anything.
The next thing is hear is how my clients are embarrassed that they need help. They feel shame.
I do a lot of reading, and one of my favorite authors is Brené Brown. She is a professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host whose work on shame and vulnerability has made her extremely relevant. Her Shame Resilience Theory (https://positivepsychology.com/shame-resilience-theory/) has become an extremely useful tool for me to understand when I work with clients. Part of changing a behavior is first accepting responsibility, then gracefully embracing a new way to move forward. Shame drags us down, gets us stuck, and can be the cause of addiction, anxiety, and depression.
I believe having a home that is a "soft place to land" is important to our well-being. A home that brings you stress or shame is not one where you can recoup, love yourself, and love others, and it comes together in ways that are different for everyone.
Our home is not decorated with a theme. We surround ourselves with things that give us pleasure, make us smile, bring back a fond memory. I have a jar of coral we collected on a beach on a family vacation in our bathroom. There's seaweed tacked to a board that a friend collected and mailed to me, right next to a picture of my grandmpa, my dad's military name tag, and a piece of art I tried years ago. I have an old penny taped to the handle of our refrigerator. It holds a very powerful memory of a difficult career decision I had to make, one that I am very proud of.
When I work with clients, I get to know them, what their priorities are, and what meaning their surroundings have. Getting rid of items and setting up an organized system is only a part of what I do. In order for change to occur, I really need to understand a person, and perhaps get to know what role emotions, like shame, have in keeping them from moving forward.
I've said before that am not a therapist. I strive to be the best professional organizer that I can be, and for me, that means understanding the role emotions play in the way we live in our surroundings. It's a small price to pay for the privilege of working with people in their homes to change their lives, maybe even in just a small way. Letting go and moving forward may not be easy, but it is the ONLY way.
I'm here. Call if you need me.