The Shame that Hides in Clutter

I’ll always remember the morning of December 10th, the day she was letting me in her home for the first time. We stood outside, her hand on the door handle, telling me she wasn’t sure she could do this but knowing it was time to. It took several minutes and she opened the door.

For the four preceding weeks, Cathy and I worked together to prepare her for the next phase of her makeover – her home transformation.

You see, Cathy had not had any visitors in her home since she moved over a year ago. She also admitted to me that she had not had visitors in her previous home for over a decade.

What Cathy was experiencing was not foreign to me. She had gone through some very emotional stages in her life and with it came the inability to deal with the physical stuff in her life. In fact, rather than deal with the stuff that was coming in, it became a toleration, something she just started to put up with. It became easier for her to let things pile up than having to make decisions about where to put them, to donate them, to organize them or throw them out. Instead, they piled up, just like the feelings Cathy was experiencing after significant losses in her life.

Cathy didn’t want to tell me how serious the clutter was in her home but on a Friday evening, after working with her for a few weeks, Cathy got real with her stuff. She had too much. It was a mess. And it was time for her to deal with it.

She took several photos and posted them on Facebook, as she shared the emotional toll her clutter had taken on her. She expressed deep shame and cried as she shared the reality of what she was living in.

She reached out to me and I couldn’t help but be extremely proud of her. She was taking the steps to get clear as to why she had clutter, why she had hoarded things, and that she was now ready, in full awareness, to let them go.

This was a monumental step for Cathy. It’s never easy to admit that there’s an issue. From the outside, all looks great. But what you don’t see behind closed doors, or what is going on inside, is what I see with my clients.

I reassured Cathy that she could let go of the shame she was feeling. There was no judgement on my part. I told her that she should be extremely proud of herself for taking the steps to now say enough is enough. It’s time to clear it out, make space for her home to breathe and for her to live life fully again.

As we stepped inside her home, it was immediately apparent that there was clutter. And yes, there was too much. But beyond all of that was Cathy, in the middle of it, asking for the support she needed to let it go. She wanted to transform her home as much as she wanted to transform her life.

We spent the next hour going from one room to the next, assessing what would stay, envisioning the home she has always wanted. I wrote my notes and planned in my head how we would transform her home in a week’s time.

We left on a high note. Cathy was feeling better and she had most definitely begun to let go of the shame that she was feeling. We stood in her kitchen, a space she confessed that she hated. I vowed to her that we would transform her home so that she would love every room, including her kitchen.

As we hugged each other goodbye, I knew that the next step, the day of her home transformation, would be a transformative day for her, and the rest of her life.

– Pierrette