Editor's Note: Clutter is one of
those things that is hard to define, but we know it when we see
it. Clutter fills our closets and even the cleanest homeowner
can be a clutterer. Invariably, we find how true this is when
Cluttering can however, be
addictive for some people, filling a need in their life that they
don't understand. Clutter represents disorganization, but it
can go deeper. If cleaning up the clutter around your house is
distressing to you, Dr. Paul may have some insights.
Addiction to Cluttering
Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Clutter is a big problem for many
people. At a lecture that I gave, I asked for a show of hands
regarding how many people had problems with clutter and
disorganization. I was surprised to find that at least half the
people raised their hands.
One of my clients told me that she
was trying to help her sister get back on her feet after her sister
had been laid up with an illness and lost her job. Her sister's
house had always been a mess, and had become so filled with clutter
that there was no place to walk or sit. My client, Rebecca, offered
to buy her sister a car if she would clean up her house.
Rebecca even offered to help her
sister clean up the house. Rebecca was shocked when her sister
refused the offer, even though she desperately needed the car. He
sister was unwilling to get rid of the clutter.
Why? Why was the "stuff" so important to her?
Underneath all addictions lies fear
- of emptiness, helplessness, loneliness and aloneness. Addictions
are a way to feel safe from feeling these difficult and painful
feelings, and an addiction to clutter is no exception. It's all
about having a sense of control over feeling safe. Clutter, like all
addictions, provides a momentary feeling of comfort. However, as
with any addiction, the clutterer needs more and more clutter to
maintain the illusion of safety and comfort.
When my mother died and my son was
cleaning out her house, he discovered huge amounts of clutter. While
my mother's house always looked neat and clean, the cupboards and
drawers were filled with clutter. My son told me he found 6 broken
hair dryers in one cabinet. Why would my mother want to keep six
broken hair dryers?
My mother grew up during the
depression and always had a fear of not having enough. No matter how
much she accumulated materially, she never felt that she had enough.
The six hair dryers made her feel safe from her fear, even if they
Carrie has trouble throwing things away, especially magazines with
"important' information in them. She subscribes to many
magazines but, being the mother of three small children, doesn't
often have the time to read them.
So the magazines pile up and pile
up. Carrie hopes at some point to have the time to read them, but
that time never seems to come. When asked why she won't throw them
out, her answer is, "Because there might be something important
in them and I don't want to miss it."
Carrie fears missing out on some
important piece of information; information that may give her the
peace she is seeking. It makes her feel safer and in control to have
all the magazines around her with their important information, even
if she never gets to read them.
When we don't feel safe on the inner level, then we try to make
ourselves feel safe on the outer level, and clutter is one way of
doing that. Whether it's things, such as hair dryers, or
information, such as in magazines and newspapers, clutterers do not
trust that they will have what they need. In addition, clutterers
may be resistant people who see messiness and clutter as a way of
not being controlled by someone who wants them to be neat.
Healing the addiction to
Clutter is created and maintained
by a wounded, frightened part of oneself, the wounded self and the
part that operates from the illusion of having control over people,
events, and outcomes.
As long as this wounded self is in
charge of the decisions, the clutterer will continue to accumulate
clutter as a way to provide comfort and the illusion of control over
feeling safe, or continue to be messy as a way to resist being
Healing occurs when the individual
does the inner work necessary to develop a strong, loving adult
self. A loving adult is the aspect of us that opens to and connects
with a spiritual source of wisdom, strength, and love. A loving
adult is capable of taking loving action in our own behalf.
The loving adult operates from
truth rather than from the false beliefs of the wounded self, and
knows that the comfort and safety that clutter seems to provide is
an illusion that no matter how much clutter accumulates, the
clutterer still feels afraid. The loving Adult knows that safety and
integrity do not lie in resistance. Only a loving adult who is tuned
in to the guidance provided by a spiritual source and capable of
taking loving action in one's own behalf can create a sense of inner
Practicing the six steps of Inner Bonding that we teach develops
this powerful loving adult.
About The Author
Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books,
including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?"
and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the
powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now!
Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com