My father always said that relationships are the hardest thing you will ever do. Think about that. Deep down, what gives you the most stress? Do you worry about your older parents’ safety? Fret about your children’s futures? Argue with your spouse about responsibilities at home? Chances are some of you are screaming, “Yes!”
Let’s look at that last example: arguing with your spouse. Does he leave his shoes in the middle of the floor? Does she have piles of untouched papers sitting on the desk in the kitchen? Are you on a first-name basis with your UPS delivery person because there are boxes of unneeded items arriving every day?
Clutter can be a direct contributor to a troubled sex life. Who knew? Over the last 13 years as a professional organizer, helping people clear the clutter in their homes, I’ve learned that the clutter they really want to clear is mental and relational. My clients want clear minds as well as clear homes. In some cases, they want to clear a (figurative) path to the bedroom.
Clutter is a physical barrier to intimacy. If you can’t even see the bed because things are piled up all over it, there’s no room for someone else to share it.
Clutter is a figurative barrier to intimacy. Why is stuff piled up all over the bed? The answer would be different for each individual or couple. In my experience, the underlying issues in the relationship can be what caused the clutter, and the clutter contributes to the underlying issues.
Clutter can be the physical manifestation of a lack of communication, and more clutter is actively brought in to further prevent that communication. Papers, books, and projects all over the kitchen or dining room table prevents sitting down and having a meal together, facing each other, discussing deep topics, planning the future, bonding, growing.
Expectations of one another’s roles in the relationship may not be met. Clutter piles up to insulate the partners from facing their own failure to meet those expectations, as well as shield them from the other’s reminders of that failure.
Clutter can reflect one’s own lack of self-esteem. The thought may be, “I’m not good/attractive/smart/successful/(fill in the blank) enough to have a relationship. I’ll just surround myself with stuff instead.” Such a belief about one’s self-worth can deter a relationship from beginning and sabotage it once it has begun.
Clutter contributes to eroding the respect of one’s partner. The cluttering partner may leave things all over the house, doesn’t put anything away, or ignores requests to help out around the house. The perception is that s/he doesn’t care – about him/herself, his/her things, the home, or his/her partner. The other partner feels disrespected, angry, resentful, and may give up. Those emotions don’t exactly foster a desire for intimacy.
Some people have relationships with things, rather than other people, despite the desperate desire to have a life partner. A cluttered home, or even the perception of one, contributes to CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Not allowing someone to enter one’s home is a metaphor for not allowing someone into one’s life.
Compulsive acquiring fills a void. Love? Disappointment? Soothing a past trauma? It can also reflect underlying mental health issues, such as depression, OCD, perfectionism, procrastination, and anxiety. When these challenges are not addressed, stuff can take over a whole house, focusing the brain on all of the To Dos and unfinished projects. Space and money are tied up in the things. Maintaining so much stuff takes a great deal of time and energy, so nothing is left at the end of the day to give to a partner. The things may reflect regret, self-recrimination, and guilt over unsuccessful good intentions. Stress ensues, tempers flare, estrangement can set in. The couple may say, “Let’s just cover it up with sheets so we don’t have to look at it.” However, the underlying stuff and the issues are still there.
You deserve to be happy. It is possible to change the situation. It takes making the decision to change; letting go of old beliefs; a commitment to doing the work; investing time and effort in the process of change; and possibly securing outside help. A trained multi-disciplinary team can be an effective support system. The team could include a therapist, life coach, nutrition counselor, and a professional organizer.
If you would like to contact Gayle about her services, please email her or call her office at 201-364-6833