Compassion and Empathy First

This past Monday I posted the link to my She Owns It article on how to help a loved one with their clutter. I want to continue with that just a touch today. A while back I saw this picture on Facebook and knew immediately that I had to incorporate it into a blog post:



Now, there's actually quite a lot going on in this picture. My clients are typically stuck and don't know what to do when they first reach out to me. The "nest" reminds me of the buildup of clutter in my clients' homes. I usually call this the "clutter hug." But I don't want to delve too far into that today. Instead, I want to just take a moment to focus on this simple act of compassion.

When our loved ones are surrounded in their own "clutter hug," as a family member/friend we want to dive in and force the issue and make it all go away really quickly. We have the best of intentions. We love this person and want them to have a better quality of life, a cleaner home, and more ease in their daily schedule. However, letting go of clutter can't be forced. Just as telling a depressed person to "perk up" or an anxious person to "chill out" doesn't work, neither does telling the excessively cluttered or hoarder to just "throw it away." As someone who cares, loves, and wants to facilitate change, your first line of help needs to always be patience, compassion, and empathy. These qualities will begin to create the safe space needed for your loved one to feel better and then begin the process of letting go.

I know how confusing and frustrating it is to be on the outside of the situation and wondering how/why someone can live like this. Extreme clutter, and especially hoarding, is very complex. So complex that psychologists still don't have it all worked out.  Hoarding didn't even start to be researched until 1993. But we're learning more and helping more every day.

Your first job as friend/family/loved one is to provide comfort, compassion and to just simply be there for your person. The rest of the work will happen after that.