Tips on How to Help a Friend Clear Clutter

Some outer-order experts argue that you’ll do a better, quicker job if you clear clutter alone.

That’s certainly true for some people. They want to go at their own pace and make their own decisions.

And it’s also definitely true that some people are not good clutter-clearing companions. One friend said that when her mother tried to help her go through her closet, all she heard was, “You can’t give that away!” “That’s still perfectly good!” “You might find a way to wear that!”

But from my experience — both as the clutter-clearer myself, and as the friend who’s helping — I think it can often be helpful to have a companion.

A professional organizer can be great, obviously.

But even a friend can help with morale, the drudge work, and the decision-making.

In my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, I make a point that there’s no magic one-size-fits-all solutions for establishing order; we all need to do it in the way that’s right for us. Also, outer order is something to pursue if it makes you (or someone else) happier; not for its own sake.

As part of my happiness-bully side, I beg my friends to let me help them clear clutter; I love to play this role.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Often, people want you to witness their appreciation for a possession. They want to share an important memory, or they want you to admire something once dear to them. I find that after talking about an item, people are sometimes able to relinquish it. Help them explore these memories and associations.

Sometimes, it helps to take a photo of an item. Or if there are several items that are important for the same emotional reason, you can help them identify their favorite and get rid of the others. The favorite college t-shirt, not every college t-shirt.

Use gentle language and re-framing to help people let go. Instead of saying, “Realistically, you haven’t fit into those outfits in five years, I really don’t think you’re going to be able to get back to that size,” say, “If your body changes, don’t you think you’ll feel like getting new clothes? You won’t want to wear things that have just been hanging in your closet this whole time.”

Or instead of saying “That’s not flattering” or “That’s completely out of fashion,” say, “Well, it looks good on you, but you have many things that look better. Don’t you think you’ll end up wearing those things, instead?”

Be a quiet, helpful presence. Often, I find, people don’t really need my help at all. I don’t need to do or say much. Just by being there, I help them set aside time to think about clutter, stay focused, make the extra effort (like running to get the step ladder to check the top shelf of a closet, instead of ignoring it), and make decisions instead of procrastinating. As you’d expect, this is particularly true of Obligers, for whom I act as outer accountability.

Point out people’s reactions. It can be hard to know ourselves and our own responses. I say things like “It doesn’t seem like you really like that,” “You just said that you’ve never used that,” “You have a dismissive look on your face when you hold that,” or “I see your face light up when you’re holding that.” Whether they agree or disagree with my characterization of their reaction, people get clarity from it.

Make sure you both have the same vision. Recently I helped a friend clear her closet. She loves clothes, has a lot of clothes, and wanted me to help her go through them. She was defensive at first, because she was afraid that I’d try to get her down to a capsule wardrobe. So I had to reassure her, “You love clothes, you love having lots of choices, you can keep all the clothes you love. I’m just here to help you identify the items you don’t like, don’t wear, or think don’t look good anymore.”

The point isn’t to get people to a particular predetermined outcome; it’s to help people clear away whatever feels like clutter to that person.

If you’re looking for more ideas for how to clear clutter and add beauty, get a copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

Do you ever help other people clear clutter — friends, children, sweetheart, co-workers? Have you found any strategies that help?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Katie Treadway.

Related Posts

  1. A Yearly Challenge: How to Deal with Post-Holiday Clutter? Here Are My Seven Tips.
  2. Are You Clutter-Blind? Or Do You Know Someone Who Is?
  3. How Clearing Clutter Can Help You Lose Weight, If That’s Something You’d Like to Do.
  4. Struggling to Get Something Done? Set Up Outer Accountability (Especially if You’re an Obliger!)

The post Tips on How to Help a Friend Clear Clutter appeared first on Positively Positive.

It’s Messy

Cross Roads

Fast forward and I can bring you to the end of the story I am about to share but truth be told, I am still sorting the ending out. It is still a bit messy. I want to be in control. I need to be in control. I have for as long as I can remember. But now, even as I type this, I am physically and mentally exhausted from it. The veil has been removed.

Apparently, for me to move forward and heal I have to stop pretending. I say this because once you see things, you cannot un-see them. You have to face the music. You have to be brutally honest. But I am confused at times on who to be honest with. Myself, obviously. But should I be honest with everyone? I mean brutally honest and tell them how I really feel.

Will this help me heal? And then I realize, I want to help them heal. Wait, scratch that. That is a lie. I want to heal and sometimes because that is my main goal, I want them to say things to help me heal. I shouldn’t care where they are in their journey. They need to figure that out for themselves in their time. Is that selfish? Is this part of what they mean by extreme self-care? Get bratty, selfish and downright honest? I toggle between saying to myself, “This whole thing, this self-awareness and true growth is going to come because you take ownership for your actions alone.” And then another part of me says, “If they would right their wrongs and be honest with the part they played, things would get better faster.”

Are you seeing the control issue come through? I want to control me and I want to control them. All so that our relationship can get pretty like a rainbow-colored bow preferably by the end of next week. And maybe us cuddling a puppy. But I can only control me.

The Beginning

It is easy now as I look back on my past 50 plus years that my story started at a young age. I can see now that the way I handled things was to make decisions on my own so as not to bother anyone. My mom was busy raising six children and watching that my dad did not over-indulge in alcohol. She did this right up to the day he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease. He died just two years later.

I am a mom and I know the job it is to be tuned in to your kids’ needs. If my parents did not see blood, you were fine. You could be screaming with pain. Emotional pain. But it was drowned out by the many chores and tasks that my mom had to accomplish and the long work days my dad put in. They did not see the child with an eating disorder, the other child with the substance abuse problem or the one just needing a hug on a bad day. Even in a small apartment where it would be virtually hard to miss the obvious clues. There wasn’t an elephant in the room. There were many elephants in the room in our home growing up.

Moving On

A funny thing happens when you move out and search for more. A bag comes with you that you don’t remember packing. It is heavy and it is always with you. You naturally dive into it and take out your poor coping skills. It is the easy route. Hopefully, a new bag gets packed with better tools but you are slow to find what you are looking for. You are a bit lost most of the time. Who do you trust? You are meeting so many new people but aren’t sure if they are the ones you should listen to. You are still young. In your twenties, newly married, considering starting a family. You have a nagging feeling something is not right but don’t know what to do with it. You go to therapy. You talk about the past a lot. At some point, you get tired of talking about the past. Let’s get this thing fixed. What do I do now? I need skills. Really good skills and fast.

I See It

You work really hard at trying to get answers. You read a lot. You tap into what you believe it is and then it is gone. Overshadowed by self-doubt. In your ‘real’ life, not just on the couch of the therapy sessions, you have unlocked the door to your past at some point. You are ready to do the work. But you get busy and life gets in the way of you fully moving forward. You develop new skills, ones that help you be a good mom. You emulate those who inspire you. You see the open door to your past waiting for you to go back. You get distracted. You lose your way a lot. Demons from the past keep showing up. Again, you use poor coping skills.

You should know better by now. But the easy road keeps showing up. The one that teases you with a short cut to relieving the familiar pain quickly. It helps right away. You get frustrated because as you resort to old ways, new pathways are waiting to be developed. Healthier pathways. But that ‘better’ road is a bit uphill. You try it but then tire of the work. That way is unfamiliar. It’s encouraging to know it’s there but you are not sure you can maintain speed with such an incline. You finally rest instead of going back to the old way. Perhaps that is progress.

Going Around In A Circle

You are in therapy again. Hoping this time she can give you the answer. Perhaps she will have an express route to the end. One that takes you to the top of the ‘good, healthy’ hill without having to do the work. You know she has it. Isn’t that why you are there. Oh, that’s right. You are the one who has to uncover it for it to have real meaning. You are on the healthier road again. Developing really good skills. Skills you are sure will help you as you move forward. You are a parent now. You keep setting goals. You get your college degree and then, of course, set out to achieve the next degree. But you continue to resort to old habits.

Ironically, while sitting on your couch as the empty nest arrives, you even develop some new bad habits. Where is the better version of you? Where did she go? How do you permanently get healthy in body and mind? You find the solution. It keeps coming up in books, videos and more recently in Podcasts. It is the same message you have been hearing for years. Take care of yourself, be still and listen. A part of you doesn’t believe you are worthy. How is that part of you still around after all these years? Who has been feeding and nurturing her? She should be gone by now. But it is stillness that shows you the answer. The bad habits you have formed or resorted to again are what is feeding her. It is so easy to recognize but harder to conquer.

Am I Ready

The real answer comes when I ask myself if I am ready to accept my flaws and recognize that I am worthy of lasting growth. No big goals. Just stillness.

Taking care of the young girl in me that is ready to be seen, listened to and loved. Even with more goals to reach and examples to set, quietness needs to come through. I am only one of many children in my family. All of us are fighting our own battles but the one I care most about is mine. I am a piece of my family’s puzzle and entitled to my views on how I see the past and how I want the future to look. But right now, it is the present that I need to embrace and accept.

There will be many roads ahead and some will be disguised with tempting fruits and immediate numbing potions to indulge in. I know better now so I will choose wisely and question what comes in my path. The door to the past is still open but I choose not to go back. The work is not up ahead either. The work is in the present. It is all I can control. The path to self-love is a long and consistent one. It is a goal worth reaching each day. I am ready.

Kathleen McDermott is a native of the Bronx, NY currently living and working as a nursing supervisor in Brewster, NY. She is a life-long writer and loves learning. She is currently building her freelance writing career as she pursues a Masters in Nursing Education. She loves her family, honesty, being outdoors, and her puppy.

Image courtesy of Yoann Boyer.

Related Posts

  1. Living in the Mess of Life
  2. How I Managed to Do Something I Love and Built a Life I Found Worth Living
  3. In Order to Move Forward, Make Space for Stillness
  4. Stop Dwelling in the Past and Start Living in the Now

The post It’s Messy appeared first on Positively Positive.