“Those who are tidy, are just too lazy to search for their stuff”. That was a saying we used to excuse our cluttered rooms with when I was a teen. But is it really that simple? Is it really just about some people being tidy and some people being messy? I used to think that this was all that was to it.
Yet today, as with many things, I see it from a different perspective. There are so many nuances to being messy. Of course, not every messy person has a traumatic past, but more often than not, this is actually the case.
In the past few years Mindfulness has become more and more popular in the western world. And with that came the realization that the world around us is a reflection of how we feel on the inside. So, when we feel balanced and calm, our outside world will reflect that. It is extremely hard to be calm and centered in a chaotic environment. And at the same time, one can not remain restless in a calm and balanced environment.
Most of you will probably be able to relate to this: You clean your home and you love the freshness and balance. Then over the next few days you get busy, things are being left where you put them, kids keep dropping their toys everywhere, the laundry hamper is overflowing and before you know it, there are little things spread out all over the house. You may not notice it at first because you were too busy, but you begin to notice that you get agitated. I get that pretty often. Well, maybe every two weeks or so. And once I get agitated, I look around my own house and realize that it has become messy. Then once I clean, I feel calm and balanced again.
But that is not the type of clutter I want to write about today. What I want to focus on is the ongoing clutter, the clutter that is always there, the clutter that never gets removed. The clutter that keeps us stuck where we are emotionally. In most cases, this clutter is directly linked to traumatic events.
Clutter could stem from the fear of letting go. This would be especially the case if a person grew up during or shortly after a time of war when people did not have much and had to use everything they had until it fell apart.
Others may feel comfortable in their clutter simply because their mind is also very cluttered and clutter keeps them busy and stops them from thinking.
Whatever the reason for clutter is, the worst part is not the clutter itself, but the self-shaming, the guilt, the resentment towards one self. Not only does this trauma survivor clutter their house, but they also punish themselves for it because deep down they know that they should have a clean house when guests come to visit. For the most part, they want their home to be clean, yet when they are supposed to declutter, they panic. Letting go of things is like having to face their trauma. Even if it is just subconsciously. And that will eventually cause depression and anxiety on top of everything else. In essence a clutterer clutters to bury their true feelings and then punishes him/herself for it. It is a viscous cycle.
So how can we begin the healing journey? At first we have to acknowledge to ourselves that we have been suppressing an immense amount of pain for probably many many years. Then we have to be willing to let it go.
Most trauma survivors are afraid to let go of the trauma because they don’t know who they would be without it. The trauma has been a part of them for so long. Simply cleaning the house and rigorously throwing away everything would merely rip off a band-aid. This could never work because the wound underneath, the wound that was caused by the trauma so many years ago, would still be bleeding. The band-aid would just be replaced by another one.
If we truly want to change our clutter habit, we will have to seek out professional support to help us with our clutter on the inside. And then, as we heal on the inside, so will our outside change and adjust to our new view of ourselves.