Helen Williams © 2017
Sometimes when I hear the word, “clutter,” I picture a little old lady, puttering around a tiny cottage filled with various collections and memorabilia – tiny spoons from every state, egg cups shaped like chickens, wicker bagfuls of yarn and knitting needles. I feel comforted and homey in this imaginary setting, a benign and pleasant environment for sitting down and having a cup of tea and a nice chat.
But the reality of “clutter,” for many of us, is neither pleasant nor benign. In my case, my clutter reflected depression, feelings of overwhelm and paralysis, and a challenging lack of natural “executive function”– that characteristic that some of us are born with and some of us are not. Even if you don’t have it – maybe especially if you don’t – you know what executive function is: It’s that ability to keep track of things and to establish and maintain orderly routines. If you don’t have great executive function skills, you may be awash in clutter, disarray, and disorganization. You may turn to friends, family, and the Internet for help.
If you’re very lucky, you live in the Washington, DC, area, and you can avail yourself of the wisdom of Bev Hitchins, creator of Align and presenter of a decluttering program called Consciously Clearing Clutter. Bev’s approach is different because it digs at what is underneath your clutter. In a four-class series of exploring the reasons we accumulate stuff and how to differentiate junk from the treasure that is meaningful to each of us, Bev gently invites the attendees of Consciously Clearing Clutter to ask themselves questions – kind, loving questions – about how they got into this literal mess.
At the end of the four weeks, your feelings about clutter, and your realizations about how it came to be, may astonish you. It’s not because you’re a “slob,” or are “disorganized,” or somehow “just can’t get it together.” Maybe it’s because you have ADD. Or because your parents got divorced. Or perhaps you have suffered a great loss, and it never healed. Whatever the reason for your clutter, it is emphatically not because you are somehow defective! The four sessions will whet your appetite for even more help.
As an amazing bonus, Bev offers an affordable monthly group meeting for people who have taken Consciously Clearing Clutter and want to keep exploring. The rules of this group are: show up, and need support with decluttering. Each month, Bev provides thoughtful prompts, readings, and exercises to help her members discover ways to cope with their clutter and the attendant emotions that show up when we dig into our clutter. At the end of a meeting, each member sets a decluttering goal for the month. Weekly support phone calls and texts among members help keep spirits up. There is no such thing as “failure,” because even if a decluttering goal is not met, the group is there next month to encourage one another to keep going.
I know, because I attended Consciously Clearing Clutter for three years. Month after month, I did the exercises and cried the tears and laughed the laughs, and I faced the challenges and backslid and had incredible triumphs, and I just kept going back and back and back to the meetings. Until, suddenly, I had run out of decluttering goals. Bedroom closet? So empty you could hike in there. Constantly messy kitchen? Only messy about once per week nowadays. Paper-piled desk? Everything is scanned and/or shredded. Stressful rage at other family members’ failure to keep “their” areas neat? Gone, because if their clutter infringes on my spaces, I move it and get on with my day, in my lovely and clean space.
I did all of this with the love, compassion, and support of Bev Hitchins as she led our group through the challenges and triumphs of decluttering our homes—and our souls. I learned that this process takes time, and that if we love ourselves enough while decluttering, we will succeed. It’s not a race. The primary goal of decluttering is to enhance one’s life—to make room for beauty, pleasure, and peace.
If you don’t live in the DC area, I urge you to contact Bev anyway. She is a brilliant and loving teacher, and I know she has suggestions and support to offer you. You deserve a beautiful, clear space to live in. Bev can help you get there.