Do you feel ashamed of your clutter?
Do you sometimes struggle to keep up with basic care tasks such as cleaning house, preparing meals, and doing laundry? You aren’t alone! Many people do, including those with ADHD, depression, and chronic illness.
To friends who are (only half-jokingly) worried about me seeing their homes and judging them I say: “I don’t care what your house looks like unless you are paying me to care!” This is meant for, and usually gets, a laugh. But seriously, if I’m visiting your home it’s to see you, not your clutter. To clients who have asked (and paid) for my help I say: “I don’t see your clutter as something to be judged. I was an engineer before I was an organizer, and I just see it as a challenge; a problem to be solved.” Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to see how systems can be established or improved.
One person’s treasures can seem like clutter to the next person, and everyone has their own level of comfort with stuff. The problem is not how much stuff you have, or what kinds of things you have, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether or not I like your things. The issue is this: How do you feel in your space? If you are uncomfortable, how would you rather feel? (If you can articulate it, and visualize it, you’re off to a good start!) Are you able to use the rooms as intended (i.e. kitchens for cooking, bedrooms for sleeping, bathrooms for bathing)? Are you overwhelmed and distracted by your stuff? Are you embarrassed by the way you keep house? Is it a healthy, safe environment? Is it hard enough sometimes just to care for yourself (and your family, if you have one), much less to declutter, and organize, and make things pretty?
What is your problem?
Sometimes your thoughts are the problem. (“I can’t do it. I never learned how. I am a big fat loser. I don’t deserve nice things.”) And sometimes it’s a mechanical issue. (The laundry bin has a lid, and clothes end up on top and on the ground instead of inside.) I can’t help you solve the problem if I can’t see it from your perspective. If we don’t work together from where you are in terms of your thoughts and physical abilities, and work towards meeting your goals and standards (not someone else’s, and not mine), we haven’t really solved the problem, have we?
As a non-judgmental problem-solver, I have written in the past about the differences (and overlap) between organized, clean, and tidy in How clean does your house really need to be? and I’ve offered a framework for thinking through basic home care issues in my blog series Six organizing systems everyone needs. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a little faith in yourself (Always Believe in Yourself and Do you think it will work? Why not try it?), and other times a therapist needs to be involved in the process.
But I’ve never been qualified to work with those who struggle the most. (Are You a Hoarder?)
Now, as a retired organizer who still wants to help where I can, allow me to introduce you to two experts I admire, KC Davis and Alison Lush.
KC Davis, LPC
KC Davis is a licensed therapist who became a TikTok sensation while she was home dealing with a toddler, a newborn, and postpartum depression during the Covid lockdown. (Her husband is supportive, but also works a lot.) She shares her wisdom with others who sometimes struggle to care for themselves, their homes, and their families. In fact, she calls it Struggle Care.
(Don’t worry, if you’re not on TikTok yet, she’s on multiple other social media platforms as well.)
As KC frequently says: Care tasks are morally neutral. Everyone is worthy of self-care.
This podcast episode serves as a good introduction to KC, as well as (it was to me) an introduction to the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. Ooh! I see another episode I want to listen to: Best of the Archives: How to Create an Exercise Habit Without Driving Yourself Nuts, with Kelly McGonigal. (I heard her speak at a NAPO conference once.)
Just because you struggle doesn’t make you bad or lazy. In fact, KC doesn’t believe in laziness. Who’s to say you’re not just prioritizing something else? She thinks all cases of laziness are just motivation issues (Why don’t you feel like doing it?) or task initiation issues (What’s in the way of doing it?). Like I say, they’re problems to be solved, or challenges to be met, not moral failings. And does it really even need to be done? Does it need to be done the way you always thought, or were told, it should be done? Maybe what you are doing works for you and doesn’t need to be fixed at all? Or maybe the way you do it just needs to be tweaked a little?
Here are some places where you can find KC Davis: Website (Struggle Care), TikTok (@domesticblisters), Book (How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing), 5 Things Tidying Method (3:49 min. video), Twitter (@KCDavisSays), Instagram (@strugglecare), Facebook (Struggle Care).
Alison Lush, CPO
Alison is (among other things) a former president of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), the premier resource for chronic disorganization (as mentioned in my blog post Are You a Hoarder?). She is also one of my favorite TikTok-ing organizing colleagues! Imagine my delight when I noticed Alison and KC interacting with one another on TikTok! (I forget which of them discovered the other first. It doesn’t matter. They are a great match.) Here’s an example of Alison duetting one of KC’s TikToks. And KC lists Alison as an organizing resource on her website.)
I love Alison’s warmth, humor, and personality. Her tips are compassionate and practical. I knew her pre-TikTok, and now I love her little bite-sized organizing tips, including the clarity of her explanations of why something is difficult and what you can consider doing about it. She often uses herself as an example. (Decluttering is an ongoing care task that organizers must perform, too, if they don’t want their spaces to fill up with things and become uncomfortable.)
Here are some places where you can find Alison Lush: Website (virtual services), TikTok (@alisonlush_enough), Twitter (@alisonmarielush), Courses (some free, some paid), Instagram (alisonlushpro.organizer), Facebook (Alison Lush certified professional organizer).
The bottom line:
If you struggle to take care of things, that doesn’t make you a bad person, or lazy. You are worthy of self-care, the kind of care that makes you feel healthy, safe, comfortable, and happy. And if you need a little support, or inspiration, with a touch of humor, follow Alison and KC.
Are you familiar with Alison Lush and/or KC Davis?
Do you agree that care tasks are, and should be considered, morally neutral?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Do know someone who struggles?
Please share this blog post with them!
Copyright 2022 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
Author of What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy
Please contact me for reprint permission. (Direct links to this page are welcome!)