What Lies Beneath

Dig deep to find real change.

by Amanda LeBlanc

With Thanksgiving approaching, many of us will reflect on the things we are thankful for. We mention the big things like health, family and a roof over our heads. We would never be so materialistic as to mention a Chanel handbag, 100 pairs of shoes or a new cocktail gown, right? So why do we place so much emphasis on “the stuff” all the time?

This is a problem I see all over the place. I see stuff materialize into some very deadly sins — greed, envy, and gluttony. We forget to be thankful for health when we are out shopping and want things we can’t afford. We forget to be thankful for family when we see others going on big vacations we want to go on. And we forget to be thankful for a roof over our heads when we are busy remodeling our homes or buying a bigger one. It’s a very scary time. I’m not the only one who feels it. Our priorities are not in the right place. So many people are only looking out for themselves, and keeping up with the Jones has even the Jones trying to keep up with themselves. So how do we change? It’s a choice, a decision and then decisive action in that direction. I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m not saying it’s always going to be fun, but we have to take responsibility, be adults and change our ways.

As a professional organizer, I have been in homes where clients really want to change and they don’t know where to start. They call me for several reasons; one, they need help in the actual process of getting organized, or two, they need a guide (almost like a therapist). I can walk through a home with someone and listen to what they say or, better yet, what they don’t say, and I start to see what’s lying underneath the clutter. Most organizers would agree that the clutter in your home is just a symptom of something else going on in your life. To start freeing yourself from the bonds of clutter you have to understand why things got out of control in the first place.

One of my favorite stories is of a client with way too many clothes. For privacy’s sake, let’s call her Pam. Pam lives in Georgia and has what appears to be the perfect family, perfect home and, well, perfect life, but appearances are often deceiving.

When Pam hired me, she had no idea what we were about to uncover. Pam’s closet had more clothes than I had ever seen, and I have seen some amazing closets. Pam’s first problem was that the closet wasn’t big enough. Her second problem was that she wasn’t purging anything. After going through four or five racks of clothes and only seeing one bag of donations, I knew we had a much bigger problem. I told her to take a break from purging. I went to lunch and thought about Pam and the things she had said. I realized that as she went through the clothes, she would bring up memories of wearing the outfit, but more important whether she received a compliment in what she was wearing. This was the only common thread I could go on. I went back to the house and I asked her to tell me when her love of clothing started. She told the story of how when she was a kid she would write down what she wore each day and then mark a star next to it if she received a compliment.

There it was again, the same comment. So I asked her, “Why did you care so much about the compliment? Was your mom hard on you about your appearance?” I didn’t even know why I brought her mom into the equation, but what came next answered that question and more. Pam paused, welled up with tears and said, “In all my life, my mom has never told me I was pretty.” There it was! And so we talked about broken relationships, their effect on our life and that she was using clothing to fill a hole. She began to understand that this emptiness could not be filled with clothing and that she had to learn to love herself. At this realization, one bag of donations became two, and two became 20!

She is still working through this realization and certainly still has a lot of clothes, but she understands now where that need comes from, and we are working to fix it.

Pam’s story is one of many, and maybe you have a story of your own waiting to be uncovered. Maybe you know what it is already and you just don’t want to admit it, but looking inside is the first step to change. Until next time, be thankful and keep it organized!

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