Can we KonMari our mind?

Hi Friend,

I love Esther Perel. If you haven’t heard of her I highly recommend you tap into some of her amazing work. She has podcasts and books and is considered a relationship guru.

This week I stumbled across a video series that I’d signed up to months ago and hadn’t watched.

The very first video was a discussion Esther had with Julia Samuel. Julia is a psychotherapist who has, for the last 30 years, worked with those who are grieving the loss of a person they love.

Something Julia said leapt out at me when I was absentmindedly listening to the short interview:

“We want to be able to organise our feelings as tidily as our sock drawer. We want to Marie Kondo our feelings.”

That got me reflecting on my work with chaotic clutterers from all walks of life and their expectations of working with a professional organiser or hoarding expert. Underlying the desire to become organised are a number of assumptions and, quite frankly, myths about how being organised impacts everyday life and relationships. As if organising our stuff will some how magically organise our minds and emotional life.

Today I’m going to bust three of these myths wide open. From someone who appears to have her s**t together outwardly (well, periodically if we’re being totally honest since COVID hit), I’m going to tell it like it is.

Assumption #1

A place for everything and everything in its place means your life will be easy, goals will be eviscerated, and success is assured. This is a common aspiration for clients. They want to be able to put their hands on exactly what they need when they need it in seconds. Great goal. Certainly a help in the kitchen and office where time is of the essence. Also good when you are wanting to invite people over because, in theory, you can “tidy up” and be visitor ready in minutes rather than days. Muscle memory takes over and things fly into their “homes” as if like magic (my husband has accused me of being a witch/magician at times).

HOWEVER, this level of structure and organisation takes time–sometimes YEARS–to set up and perfect. It often involves creating bespoke storage and undoubtedly means significantly less stuff. All those people you admire who can deftly wrap a gift in 5 minutes flat have thought about the process and accounted for each step making sure the tools are available with the minimum number of steps to access them. They do this with EVERYTHING. They’re constantly thinking of more productive organising solutions to save time and reduce friction in the processes. Sounds admirable? Maybe but it’s boring, time consuming, and let’s face it inflexible! I mean wow betide family members who forget to return the scissors to the drawer or leave their shoes in the hall for the “chief organiser” to trip over.

I know because this is ME. I know firsthand this can be a burden and is often indicative of being controlling and rigid. One of the biggest draw backs for me is being chronically late because my perfectionism tells me “just one more load of washing… then I can leave.” Releasing my grip on order has improved my relationships and made me a better partner and parent.

Assumption #2

Organised people have charmed lives without difficult emotions or struggles. As suggested by Julia Samuel, outward organisation is assumed to reflect inward order. In fact it’s often the complete opposite! In attempting to control their inner world, people who are fastidiously organised, are attempting to force order on their outer world hoping this will keep them busy enough so they can avoid coming in contact with uncomfortable private experiences.

Sound familiar? Same goal as compulsive acquiring and difficulty discarding, right. Same problem different solution. We’re all in the soup together.

Assumption #3

Tidy home equals tidy mind. Similarly, when we look admiringly upon the perfect home environments of others we assume that their emotions are filed away tidily. That somehow they can purposely pause between stimulus and response and select the most adaptive emotion to express in the circumstance. Being psychologically flexible like that doesn’t come from organising our physical world. That skill comes from actively practicing acceptance and defusion skills in order to take action towards our core values. It all starts within. But remember, no one is effortlessly organised and no one’s emotions are tidy.

Ask yourself, or the person you’re helping, to verbalise the reasons for striving to create physical order.

  • What do you/they imagine will be the benefits of organisation?

  • Are your/their expectations unrealistic?

  • Is your/their focus on the physical stuff a way to avoid the psychological stuff?

Like losing weight everything in its place doesn’t “fix” the psychological environment. The same problems will remain if we don’t learn to handle our difficult inner experiences flexibly. This is the place to start.

Until next week :)

Jan <3

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