The Psychology of Clutter and Strategies to Help

Rosemary talks with Debbie Bowie, a professional organizer, about how minimizing clutter during and after a crisis — like a loved one's brain injury — can significantly decrease anxiety.

[The Psychology of Clutter and Strategies to Help] [An Interview with Debbie Bowie, Certified Professional Organizer] Hi, I'm so pleased to have with me Debbie Bowie, the author of "Rock Scissors Paper," a great book. I wish I had read this book when I was having a crisis with Hugh. He had had a cycling accident. I had so much clutter, and everything was all over the place. What I didn't realize is how much clutter contributes to anxiety. So I'm going to talk to Debbie a little bit about that. You say in your book that everything has positive and negative energy, and that clutter can cause anxiety. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yes. Everything is alive with energy. And the energies are either positive or negative. Paper and clutter have a negative energy-- a chaotic negative energy that affects your energy, and then can cause feelings that are uncomfortable. Fear, anxiety, overwhelm. Everything is alive with energy, and the energy talks to you. So it's going to affect you. >>Right. So what simple strategies would you offer to a caregiver that might help to organize and reduce the anxiety from all this paper? First of all, don't have the paper in your face. Having it on the dining room table in a place that you pass by all the time, you can't help but hear it talking to you all the time. It's just going to keep the anxiety alive. I would recommend, if you're going to be a piler-- some people pile, some people file-- if you need to have it out in the open, put it in a room where you can close the door. Don't have it in your face all the time. I also recommend that you keep the papers associated with the crisis or the challenge at the time, separate from the rest of your papers, so that if you need to find something there's only one place to go to get them. Third I recommend that you consider getting help to get those papers in order because when you're in crisis, the last thing that you're going to make the time to do is paper. Because it's hard to do. It's difficult. It's boring. It's time consuming. It requires a certain kind of brain power that you don't have when you're in the middle of a crisis. So I recommend finding a friend, a family member, who is good with paper who wants to be of service at that difficult time, and ask them to help you set up a way to keep those papers straight. What simple strategies can you offer to people to create flow and get the family to chip in, and get some help around the house? Ideally, to have the best energy in your home and in your life-- and what you have in your space affects what happens in your life-- is to have things flow in and flow out. It's just like in our bodies. We eat food, drink in liquids, and we release. The same thing needs to happen in your home if you're going to have a home that feels good and supports you. Things come in. There is no problem with that. It's getting them to leave that's the problem. And it requires a level of consciousness. I think the best thing to do is involve everybody in the process. What happens a lot of times in families is moms take on the responsibility of making sure the house is well maintained. They do the flow. They make things come and go. It's all on them. Well, that's a whole lot to do. If first you involve the husband, and make sure the couple is together in "Let's keep a clutter-free home because it's less stressful, it feels good." And then have it be part of the family culture for everybody to clear on a regular basis. To maintain a clutter-free space is really important. It's not something you demand, it's something that's just part of what everybody does. That is the way to go, and not have one person be solely responsible for it. After reading your book, I've started cleaning my office. And I found Comcast bills from 11 years ago. I found the anesthesiology bill from Hugh's surgery. Now that has to have negative energy, so can you talk a little bit about what we should keep and what we don't need to keep, and about getting rid of that negative energy. One of the things that is helpful to remember is there are 3 main categories of things to clear-- broken things, anything with a negative association, and static things. What you're talking about is the papers have--the anesthesiology reports have-- the energy of the association of that accident. They hold the energy of that accident in place. It's almost like it's a raw wound sitting open there. The ideal is to release anything with a negative association. It holds the energy of a time--you don't need to have that in your face anymore. When you let go of that, it's like you took a step forward into a recovered life. And you weren't living partially back in that trauma. Clearing things that are broken. Broken things are work, plain and simple. Broken things will keep you broke, or they can translate to health issues. Broke attracts the same kind of energy. Like attracts like. So you want to get rid of broken things. You want to get rid of anything that brings back a memory, reminds you of a person where there is not a good relationship, anything with a negative association, anything that's not moving, that's just parked. Usually you find those in the back of the closet, up in the attic, garage. You can find them all over your house. But things that are just sitting there, not being loved or used, those are the kinds of things to get rid of. Thank you so much for being with us, Debbie. It's been a great help, and I'm sure that everybody's learned a lot about how to reduce their anxiety by clearing their clutter, thanks again.
Posted on BrainLine March 5, 2013.