Clearing Clutter Support Group Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 – I hope you will follow along for the next 7 weeks while we go through this 8 week session of the Clearing Clutter Support Group.

Agenda: Week 1
Welcome, Introductions and Warm Up – What has motivated you to come today?
Ground Rules/Guidelines for Group
Group Exercise
List of Topics
Assessment Tool
What is your definition of clutter/hoarding?
Why do we have clutter?
Safety Concerns
Checkout/Challenges/Homework: Awareness of Acquiring, Goals for Course

There were 14 of us in this very small room today at this very cute Branch Library. We just love this quaint little community Library and are so fortunate to have a partnership with the London Public Library and this ongoing space for our Clearing Clutter Support Group.

So, we were a little worried today that a few people would attend the group who were not on the list because there was a mistake printed in the CMHA Program Guide with information about the group but no information about how to register. Fortunately, there was only one woman who came who was not on the list. She came early so I was able to chat with her. I let her know that the group was full and she wasn’t on the list, but I reassured her that she was here and it would be okay, we would just see how things go. Often, there are one or two who don’t show up so it can all work out in the end. Which of course it did! This woman came up to me at the end of the group to thank me for making her feel so welcomed.

Now, this was a first. We had three people for this group ask if they could bring a support person for the first week. I am sure it can be very scary to come out to this type of group for the first time so I can understand this request. Two support people attended with two participants. At first they thought that they could just sit back and observe but they soon saw that they would have to participate the same as everyone else.   In the past we have had a mother and son, husband and wife, sisters, etc. so its not a problem but yes both would need to sign up and both would participate in the program. The two facilitators myself and Kara Kelly both actively participate in the group exercises and personal challenges.

There were actually 10 participants, 7 women and 3 men, today which is pretty awesome. Some of the issues that arose were losses, letting go of items, acquiring too much stuff, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, don’t know where to start, addictions, mental health issues, moved a lot in the past and stuff was stored away in Storage Facilities, living with others, churning (moving stuff around), collecting specific items such as books, CD’s, tools, etc.

Participants were very quiet for the first hour of the group but by the break everyone was chatting away.  So, as you can see the agenda is full and it is a very intense two hours which fly by in a blink.   I am so looking forward to this session and happy to be back in this role.

My challenge for this week is to get up off the couch in the evening and do one thing that I have been thinking about.  It could be something like hanging up some clothes, doing a load of laundry, or re-potting a plant.  We will see how I do.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the group and I will do my best to answer them here.  Thanks so much for following along with us.



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What is your Resistance to Clearing the Clutter?

What is your resistance to clearing the clutter?

What do you think holds you back from moving forward?  I believe these three things are tied together.

  • Resistance
  • Your Inner Critic
  • Limiting Beliefs


Think about something that you have wanted to do, you think about doing it but can’t seem to get started.  Maybe it is something that has been on your to do list forever.

What thoughts come up for you?  The reasons why you can’t do it – limited budget, lack of time, too many commitments, the goal is too big, no related skills, etc.

All of these can be just excuses which = resistance to change which can = clutter

When you say you want to make a change but take no action to support it….what are you saying about yourself?  “I am not important enough, my needs don’t matter,  others needs are more important than mine”.  What else?

Your Inner Critic

  • Is not a fan of change
  • Wants to keep you safe
  • Likes to stay where things feel familiar and comfortable
  • Does not want to rock the boat
  • Is a loving little liar
  • Is scared so she makes up all kinds of excuses so you won’t make progress

The clutter she thinks you can’t handle could be keeping you from getting that great job, meeting a new partner, or improving your health. It’s not the clutter your inner critic wants to hold onto, it’s the fear of change and the protection from what feels like a big scary goal.

I have a great example of this.  I was scheduled to present a one and a half hour workshop on this very topic which was coming up in a couple of weeks.  I was driving to work one day and was thinking about this and thinking “oh no, why did I sign up to do this, what was I thinking, what do I really know anyway?”  Fear was setting in but I knew right away that this was just my little scared self and my inner critic wanting to keep me safe and inside my comfort zone.  Knowing this can really help you to feel like you can move forward and take some risks even if they are scary.

Limiting Beliefs

Some examples of limiting beliefs are things like excuses (see above), negative thoughts, worries, beliefs from the past ie: family values, past failures, fears, etc.

You can see how these three areas are similar and are tied together.

The way to overcome the challenges of your own limiting beliefs is to change them to something new, a new belief.  Remember, you have learned the lessons from the past and are ready to move on and ready for new experiences and new empowering beliefs.

You have to be able to give it up…..for example:  you could say “I’m done with that, I’m ready for the lesson and I have learned from it.  Thank you I am ready to experience something new.  I am ready to move on.

Are you ready to let go of your resistance to clearing?  What stops you in your tracks?  Please share in the comments below.


Posted in Emotional Clutter, goal setting, Inspiration, Organizing, space clearing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Simplify for the Holidays?

Most of us can probably feel the energy and the anxiety of the festivities coming up. Just pop into any retail store and the pressure to buy and to give as much as possible is everywhere. There is this feeling of I better get it now or it will be gone. You might even be thinking of previous years when you felt stressed the day before Christmas and you were worried you didn’t have enough or you missed someone who is sure to give you something. Ugh!! I remember one year as a youngster thinking I would stay up all night to finish knitting a scarf to give to my brother. Lol

When I was younger and a stay at home mom with two young children, I actually made all my gifts for friends and family. That was certainly a happy time even though we had little money. That was back in the day of macramé, knitting, crocheting and ceramics. I was so proud of those gifts and had really poured my heart and soul into them. I have heard of families having this as a theme for Christmas gifts.  Good idea, but maybe too much pressure, especially for my family.

Anyway, back to now. I believe that things are really changing and people are more aware of the fact that they do not need a lot of gifts. A lot of people in my circles will say that if they “need” something they will just go out and buy it. In my family we would pick two names each and had a limit of between $40.00 or $50.00 but it was all about “what do you need, what do you want?” I would just try to surprise people because what is the point really if you are telling people what to get you and they know what they are getting.

We have changed over the years and started to play the Christmas present game where you can take a gift from someone who has opened one or from under the tree. This is a competitive game and one that has caused confusion and hurt feelings in my family. Oh my!! So this year we have decided on each person bringing one gender neutral gift ($30.00) limit and then you get a gift. No stealing but if you want to exchange with someone at the end, then no problem. Basically, you bring a gift, you get a gift. No pressure. Love it!!

Of course when it comes to children this can be a bit more challenging as Christmas is really for the children.  I have my four grandchildren to buy for and will try not to go too overboard on gifts for them. I really do believe that experiences and spending time with them really means so much more to them. So, as well as the gifts we purchase, one on one time with the grands is really important and it allows them to feel special and gives them the attention that they so crave and need.

Some more great advice from me and my friends:

From Me

For my shopper friends. You know who you are. And who doesn’t love a little retail therapy or perhaps time out with a friend or family member. I often go out shopping with my mom and it is just something social that we do to spend time together. Perhaps you find little gifts or cards for friends or family over the year on sale or a special treasure for someone. My advice to you is to make sure you keep all those gifts together (remember like with like) and then when that special day or holiday arrives you can easily find that special gift and you are not out trying to buy that same thing or trying to find something else.

April Norton

Did you know that women are highest risk for heart attacks around the holidays because they are the ones that do most of the work? I know firsthand since mine was January 6.  She says “You don’t have to do it all.  Enlist the help of others, especially if the event is held at your home.  People are happy to contribute and just may need to be informed about how they can help.  You do not have to e a martyr or have everything perfect.  Let go of expectations and enjoy the time with your family.”

Jakki Petricca

1.  Have no expectations or try to live up to others standards/expectations
2. Do not over buy
3. Do buy some emergency gifts like boxed chocolate and wrap it, never know who you may need a small something for
4. Do baking early and freeze it so come Christmas everything is done

Janet Barclay (Your Organizing Business, Organized Assistant)

“Don’t feel obligated to go to every gathering you’re invited to. You can’t enjoy the holidays if you’re constantly driving back and forth and mixing and mingling with people who aren’t important to you.”

Alison Lush (Professional Organizer)

Getting together with family or friends? Ask people to bring something to DO rather than something to UNWRAP. Animate a game, sing a song, tell a story, show a few photos, etc.

Some great ideas here.  What do you think?  Do you have some great tips that you are planning this year to help simplify your holidays? Please join the conversation and add them in the comments below.














Posted in Inspiration, Minimalism, Organizing, organizing over the holidays, simplify for the holidays | 6 Comments

What is underneath the clutter?

What is underneath the clutter?  What do you think your clutter is trying to tell you?  What are the messages in your clutter?  Do you ever wonder why you are keeping so many things?

Think about this statement for a minute.  What do you think?

How does our clutter stop us from living the life of our dreams?

.  We are creatures of habit and we want to be safe and comfortable.  We do not want to upset the status quo so maybe we accept certain things like a bad relationship or a low paying job just to avoid change because change is scary.  A messy house can feel like protection and can mean that I cannot be in a relationship or that my house is not the place for the family to come for a visit or dinner.

.  Dealing with our clutter, acquiring things, moving stuff around, playing with our stuff keeps us from feeling our uncomfortable feelings. This means that they do not get dealt with and we are not able to move on.  You likely feel like you are always busy but the reality is that you are really just going around in circles and not getting anywhere.

.  Living in constant chaos, procrastinating, not able to commit or finish projects, feeling overwhelmed and anxious keeps you stuck and feeling bad about yourself.  Your clutter is stressing you out and taking up your valuable time.

Clutter can be defined as anything that interferes with the enjoyment of your life or gets in the way of living your dreams.

Lets think about the benefits our clutter can give us:

  • the clutter is really a distraction that keeps us from pursuing our goals.
  • it can prevent you from moving on to a new relationship or it can keep difficult relationships out.
  • disorganized paper and business files can keep your business or new job stalled.  It could keep you from writing that book you have dreamt of writing.
  • owning a lot of books can offer you the promise that if I read this book, I will then have it all together and my life will be perfect.  They give me permission to not have to take any action or make a change.
  • having disorganized and overwhelming craft supplies can prevent you from actually taking that first step to do the scrapbooking or other project you have plans to do someday.

What do you think your clutter is telling you?

What goals or dreams are you holding back due to your clutter?

Please comment below:


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How Much Difficulty Do You Have with Letting Go of Stuff?

Key #3

Actually making decisions about letting go of items can be very stressful and anxiety producing.  Being able to trust your instincts about what you want and don’t want is very important, however, this takes practice.  Sometimes we will avoid even trying to discard anything because the anxiety is too much.  There can be a lot of worry about possibly making a mistake.   It can become so difficult to make a decision that it just feels easier not to do anything.

Do you ever find yourself looking at an item and thinking ” hmm…..what should I do with this”?  and then find yourself saying “oh well, I will just put this over here for now” or rather than make a decision just put it back where it was.  This indecision keeps you feeling safe and avoids any anxieties you may have that help you to face the fear that holds you back.  This keeps you stuck and contributes to the clutter and congestion in your home.

There can be a lot of fears around letting go.  Check out this post I did back in 2014.  I talk about letting go of the emotional clutter as well as the physical.  It still fits for me today.  A work in process.  I am currently working on letting go of what is not serving me.  Mostly, this has to do with not being so hard on myself, allowing myself to go with the flow and realizing that I don’t need to do everything or help everyone.

Letting Go

Here are some questions to help you to assess where you are at with your ability to let go:

  1.  To what extent do you have difficulty throwing things away?

2.  How distressing do you find the task of throwing things away?

3.  How strong is your urge to save something you know you may never use?

4.  How often do you avoid trying to discard possessions because it is too stressful or time consuming?

5.  How often do you decide to keep things you do not need and have little space for?

These 15 questions listed in the past three posts relate to how much difficulty you have with discarding, how much clutter is around and how much difficulty you have with letting go.  These are the three areas we measure in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and everyone makes progress.

What areas are most challenging for you and what emotional clutter are you currently working on letting go of?  Please answer in the comments below.


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How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Acquiring More Stuff?

Key #2

One of our first homework exercises we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and it is amazing what insights come out of this.  Shopping, finding things, getting things given to you from well meaning friends or family, mail and flyers coming in that we did not ask for.  It’s amazing how much stuff comes into our homes without our permission or without us really thinking too much about it.

The good news is that awareness of what we acquire and how much is usually an area that people who have challenges with clutter can get a handle on very quickly.   Having an awareness of how you feel when you are looking for and finding a treasure is key.  You may be on a high when you are on the hunt or when you have found something that you know you cannot live without.  You may be trying to soothe yourself because you are having a hard time, feeling sad or depressed and you just need to forget about that for this moment and get yourself a little something to lift your spirits.  Is there something else your could be doing that gives you that same reward?

Paying attention to your emotions and feelings are so important to help you to be able to make changes in this area. 

Are you able to think in that moment about whether you really want, need or love this item or are you on automatic pilot and just feel you can’t stop yourself?  Are you purchasing items that come home with you only to be left in the bag, tossed in the corner not to be found again for months or even years?  Are you actually able to find these things in order to give them to the intended recipient?

Think about how you feel, compared to when you acquired the item, to how you feel when you get home.  Your feelings may have changed.  You may be thinking “oh no, where will I put this” or “I am afraid to look at my balance in my bank account now”.  Check in with yourself often.

Some questions for self reflection:

  1. How distressed or uncomfortable would you feel if you could not acquire something you wanted?
  2. How strong is your urge to buy or acquire free things for which you have no immediate use?
  3. To what extent has your saving or compulsive buying resulted in financial difficulties for you?
  4. How often do you feel compelled to acquire something you see, e.g. when shopping or offered free things?
  5. How often do you actually buy (or acquire for free) things for which you have not immediate use or need?

Pay attention to what you acquire over a week and see what comes up for you. You may be quite surprised!!


Posted in acquiring items, chronic disorganization, compulsive acquiring, difficulty Discarding, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How much clutter do you have around your home?

Key #2

 Has your clutter become invisible?

Check out the 5 questions below

So, what happens when you look around at your surroundings? What do you see? Sometimes we need to have new eyes when we look at our space and become more aware how we are living on a day to day basis. I often do talks in the community and one of the things I do is a “Visualization” which helps people to imagine walking through their home starting with walking through the front door.  Check out this link.

Imagine Your Ideal Living Space

I believe that anyone who is able to visualize their home will go back to their space with a new fresh look and new eyes.  This can be a very eye opening experience.

You might find that some stuff you have around is really invisible. Believe me, I can relate to this as well. It could be boxes of things tucked away, perhaps things that you are reluctant to look at due to past memories, stuff you have to climb over every day, or perhaps a pile of mismatched objects that have no home and you really just cannot make a decision on what to do with them. I believe that these areas are “stuck energy” in your home.

How much of your home is filled with clutter? Let’s consider these questions?

  1.  How much of the living area in your home is cluttered with possessions?  Consider the amount of clutter in your kitchen, living room, dining room, hallway, bedroom, bathroom, or other rooms?
  2.  How much of your home is difficult to walk through because of the clutter?
  3. To what extent do you have so many things that your rooms are cluttered?
  4.  How much does clutter in your home interfere with your social, work or everyday functioning?  Think about the things you don’t do because of the clutter.
  5. To what extent does the clutter in your home prevent you from using parts of your home for their intended purpose?  For example, cooking, using furniture, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.

So, how did you do? Now I have a different question for you?

What if you didn’t have so many belongings around you? What would that be like? On a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being comfortable and 10 being uncomfortable how would you feel. This might be a key for you and will help you to understand part of why it is difficult to let go of items or to make informed decisions about what you are bringing into your space.

I work with vulnerable women, women who are homeless, couch surfing or who often live in very small spaces. Unfortunately, our space does kind of dictate to us that we can only have so many belongings in it.   The thing is if we are continuously bringing items into our space but not taking things out, eventually we are going to be in trouble. I believe we sometimes have to make some difficult decisions about our belongings and our space.   Personally, I have a very small bedroom with too big of furniture in it. Kind of sucks but basically it means I need to limit other items that end up landing in this room.

How did you do on these questions?  How uncomfortable or comfortable are you with clear space?

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Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization

What is the connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization?

It was once thought that OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, was the main issue with individuals who were living with “Hoarding Disorder” (which was deemed a Mental Health Illness in the DSM 1V 2013 as its own disorder)

OCD can be an issue and is very debilitating as it prevents its sufferers from being able to carry out the tasks of their daily lives. But actually a very low percentage of people who have OCD are struggling with chronic disorganization or hoarding disorder. It is more prevalent that those suffering with OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder also struggle with hoarding.  They have a really difficult time with letting go of possessions.  OCPD has to do with having a strong sense of control and being perfect or not doing it at all.

You can read more about OCPD here:

Vulnerability Factors:

Maybe one of your parents had a lot of clutter and/or challenges with their stuff.  Your parent may have been around during the Depression when items were limited and they saved what they could gather. Or maybe you remember going to Grandma’s house and her place was cluttered and disordered but it was so much fun to play and look at her stuff.  Another factor could be a parent who was a perfectionist and wanted everything shining clean and spotless.  An individual might feel like rebelling and just doing things their own way.

There is a lot of anxiety associated with dealing with clutter. It has to do with how much clutter is comfortable to live with, how much stuff I am bringing in on a day to day basis and the challenge of letting go of items that are not needed or necessary. The anxiety comes from the inability to trust our own instincts, wanting to avoid uncomfortable emotions or soothe them and difficulty making decisions about our stuff.

You may have heard that clutter is all about holding on to the past and worries about the future.  It is usually not about the present.  Being in the present can be painful and uncomfortable. We are looking for ways to soothe ourselves even if this is unconscious. Shopping, acquiring cool stuff, finding treasures, planning for the future, moving stuff around (churning) and avoiding discarding are all ways we are taking care of ourselves and paradoxically they are also ways that contribute to having too much stuff.

Mental Health Factors:

Having an episode of depression or major depressive disorder is very challenging when it comes to trying to manage your life, your belongings, doing laundry, appointments, money, poverty, getting food, relationships, physical health, mental health, legal isssues, and possibly addictions.  An individual may be facing more serious crisis situations such as problems from a landlord, the Fire Department or eviction and consequently homelessness. Self esteem can be a factor as well. I remember a woman who came to our group saying that she had a lot of garbage around her apartment and she said it was a reflection on how she felt about herself.

Most people who have struggles with clutter have had some kind of trauma happen to them. Now please note that not everyone who has trauma issues has clutter issues as there can be other resiliency factors here ie: family supports, good friends, positive people in your life, financial supports, etc.

However, most if not all have had some kind of loss in the past, losing a loved one, a partner, friend or parent and inheriting their belongings, losing a child through death or (maybe even to CAS, Children’s Aid Society), violence and assault, a serious physical health illness, mental health issues, addictions, relationship breakdowns, divorce, moving.  All of these traumas which can cause symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also lead to having a Hoarding Disorder.

I would love to hear from you.  Please add your thoughts or comments below…..


Posted in chronic disorganization, mental health | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Three Keys to Starting the De-Cluttering Process

Are you wondering how you can even start the de-cluttering process?  It can be so overwhelming that it is easy to just look around and throw your hands up and say to yourself “what is the use, I just don’t even know where to start so why bother”.  Can you relate to this?

So we are going to start at the beginning.  These next few posts are about assessing where you are at with the de-cluttering process.  I believe that it is really important to become aware of why you are struggling with these issues, what is really going on and developing some awareness and insight about how to make some positive changes.

The Good News…..


We are going to look at three areas in order to help you to get a handle on your life and to start to make some positive changes.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Clutter?  How comfortable or uncomfortable are you about the amount of stuff you are dealing with on a daily basis?  Maybe you are most comfortable when you are all snuggled up in your little nest with all your favourite things around or maybe you are more comfortable staying away from your home as you are feeling frustrated with the amount of clutter and chaos there.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have With Acquiring More Stuff?   This is one of our first homework exercises we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and it is amazing what insights come out of this.  Shopping, finding things, getting things given to you from friends, mail and flyers coming in that we weren’t even conscious of asking for, etc.  The reality is that the more that stuff is coming in and nothing is going out, the more we are going to run into problems.

How Much Difficulty Do You Have with Letting Go?  Actually making decisions about letting go of items can be very stressful and anxiety producing.  Being able to trust your instincts about what you want and don’t want is very important, however, this takes practice.  Sometimes we will avoid even trying to discard of anything because the anxiety is too much.  It is just easier not to do it.

So, these are the areas I will be focusing on in my next few blog posts.  Stay tuned for lots of great info and resources that will help you to make some positive changes in your de-cluttering process.



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My Best Tips for Organizing Success

I found this list of tips in my handouts and have expanded on each of them for you. Hope they help you with your organizing success.

  •  OHIO – Only Handle it Once! This can be a hard one for all of us.  The tendency is to just “put it here for now”, however, all that does is really avoid the decision that needs to be made.  It is best if you can decide what to do with the item whether it is to donate or to put it in its home and do it.  One of the sayings in the Clutter Clearers’ Peer Support Group is “what is in the box, stays in the box”.
  •  Decide on the function of the space.  If item does not fit with function out it goes (or get it to where it belongs) I love this one!  Think about what you want to do in your rooms.  So, in your kitchen, you want items that help you to cook meals, etc. not other things like mail, paperwork, etc.
  • Start with easy stuff.  Yes!!  This will help you strengthen those organizing/de-cluttering muscles.  Once you see that you are able to do this, things will get easier.
  • Only keep amount of stuff that fits in your space.  This is a tough one.  A lot of the women I work with live in very small apartments, sometimes just a room.  So, really your space does dictate to you about how much stuff you can fit into it.
  • Do not leave targeted area once you start sorting!  Right….its so easy to get distracted when we leave to put something where it belongs only to find something else that looks interesting…..oh my…you know where I am going with this.
  • Minimize distractions.  Turn off your phone, your tv, don’t answer the door, etc.  We live in such a busy world these days.  It can be so hard to stay focused on the task at hand.
  • Develop strategies to deal with automatic thoughts, distorted thinking.  It can be very helpful to pay attention to your thoughts, (write them down if you like), be in touch with your feelings and look at what actions you are taking.  A mindfulness practice can help you to have more awareness of what you are doing with your time, energy and space.
  • Make a plan not to acquire any other items.  This is always the first exercise/homework that we do in the Clearing Clutter Support Group and people always can make a change in this area.  You might decide that if you bring something new in, that you need to let something go.
  • Set time before next session to maintain previous target area.  Yes, how do you keep that area clear and prevent the same thing from happening again.  Have an awareness of this space, take a picture of it and do not allow anyone including yourself to add items to this area.
  • Do not end sorting/organizing session without putting away sorted items.  This can be tough especially when you are feeling tired after all of your hard work.  Makes sense though.
  • Practice grounding strategies before sorting session (relaxation, visualization) We practice a grounding/meditation after our break at the group every week and it helps to get everyone back together.  It is a great tool to help you to get focused.
  • Make activity enjoyable- put some good music on!  Love this idea!! Play a favourite CD while you work on one task.  When it is finished stop and stretch and then you may feel like continuing on with the task.
  • Reward yourself, do something enjoyable after each session.  This is hard work so it is important to pat yourself on the back.

Do you have any great tips for Organizing Success?  Please comment below.

Posted in decluttering, downsize, goal setting, hoarding, Inspiration, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments