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Emotions Associated With Decluttering: Anxiety, Elation, Anger, Fear, Depression.

A subject that frequently comes up at Clutterless Recovery Groups meetings is the emotional effect of decluttering. One emotion that we clutterers feel is anger at being called "messies, packrats or slobs." Helping clutterers learn to accept, understand and deal with our emotions is what Clutterless Recovery Groups is all about. We clutterers know that our clutter is not just stuff. We clutterers have it for a reason, and the reason is often based on deep-seated emotions.  Clutterers are not hoarders, though we may have some hoarding tendencies. Please don't call us hoarders.

This is why we clutterers cannot just let someone come in and declutter or organize for us. We resent it. We clutterers may feel depression or anxiety because of the fear of losing our stuff and our control. Well-meaning friends may say, "I saw a woman on Oprah (or some other show) just go in with a team and organize and clean up her house. Why can't I do that for you?" Once you stop shuddering, just tell your friend that tactics like that may work for simply disorganized people, but that we clutterers are more complicated. But don't expect understanding. Few outsiders understand clutterers, anymore than people used to understand alcoholics. Until the last fifteen years or so, most people thought alcoholics were just weak-willed people who didn't stop drinking because they were lazy and didn't want to. Today, thanks to a lot of media attention, most people understand that alcoholics can stop, but it requires a program like AA, treatment, therapy or a combination of all three. Clutterers are in a similar boat, though it is much smaller. There are no treatment facilities for clutterers and we probably don't need them anyway. A group setting like Clutterless can certainly help. Some of us also go to therapy.

But we don't do these things until we accept that our cluttering is not just about our stuff. We have to understand that we clutter for a reason and want to discover (or unclutter) that reason.

When we first start, we don't realize this. We just go after the symptoms, not the disease. That's fine. We should applaud ourselves for getting started at all. As we delve deeper and deeper into our clutter, we uncover emotions along the way.

The first emotions are often elation, or pride, and anger. Good. We need more pride in our lives. Some of us then get angry -- at our clutter, at ourselves for letting it build up. That's okay too. Anger is a positive tool when turned against our clutter and a negative one when turned against ourselves (which leads to depression).

But what about later, after we have made some headway? Fear shows its ugly head. We become fearful that we will lose something important because we feel we are going to make mistakes. We become fearful that our clutter was helping us hide from the outside world and now we will have to face that.

Some of us have used our clutter as a barrier to having relationships. When we declutter, we no longer have that barrier. We can invite friends, family, lovers, neighbors over. But, since the relating to others muscles have atrophied, we are afraid we will not know how to relate to these people. We are like teenagers, just learning how to act with our peers.

Relax! Nobody is perfect and people probably won't notice all the little things you feel like you are doing wrong. This is a time when a support group (local or online) can really help. You'll be surprised that most of us are, or have been, there. People who already know you will just be happy that you are coming out of your shell. People who are just meeting you will just think that is the way you are. Very few will suspect that you really are an alien and call the X-Files investigators. Besides, you probably haven't uncovered the pod in your basement yet, so don't worry.

More emotions come as well -- just about the whole gamut. We'll talk about them later.