Me, Myself and my Stuff

By Margaret Langston, Beautiful Corner

I am a voyeur at heart.  No, I don’t peek into people’s homes at night with binoculars.  However, being human, I will admit to being curious about what I see when working with a client, to clear their spaces and create order.

I think it’s important to remember that, for each of us, what we own is a reflection of our personal journey – where we’ve been, where we are and even where we’re going.  I’ve heard so many wonderful stories from clients about how they acquired treasured objects and why they’ve kept them.  I’ve also “kept confessional” for many people.  These confessors share painful and sometimes humiliating stories of unfulfilled dreams that haunt them in the form of extravagant purchases which then become white elephants, crowding their space and blocking their movement forward.  I’ve never learned more about a person in so short a time than when going through their bedroom closet.

To be the recipient of such intimate communication and the receiver of such a trust is probably the one thing that has kept me going as I persist in my relatively new organizing business.  Going through boxes of old correspondence, photos and other ephemera, I learn more about a client’s family history than probably even their closest friends are privy to.

And, interestingly enough, I think that my keen interest in what my client has to show me has been the key to helping them relate to their possessions in a fresh way and therefore, the key to change.  To know that I am open to listening to their stories – about themselves and their stuff – indicates my true interest.  My clients can relax, secure in the knowledge that I see them first as interesting and unique people, worthy in their own right, rather than as projects full of obstructions I intend to eradicate.

The most important teaching I’ve received was this: people don’t want you to tell them what to do – they want you to listen to them.  They already know what to do – they just need someone who is willing to create a loving space in which they can act in their own best interests.  I believe that this is true for all of us.

Have you ever gone into the home of a new or prospective client, and were met with chaos from the floor to the ceiling?  What went through your mind?  Where you so overwhelmed by the stuff that you couldn’t focus on the person standing in front of you?  People and their clutter (I’ve never liked this word, just can’t get used to it) are not only messy.  They are also colorful and interesting, like a 1950’s Expressionist painting.  I can look at a Jackson Pollock for hours, following the jumbled lines, trying to look deep into the crevices of the web of information before me.  How is that any different from my job?

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