Quite apart from the outsider who comes in and advises in a useful and compassionate way, there is another element to equation that is often overlooked: the difference between how you as an individual experience your environment. You could be totally realistic and see things exactly the way they are, or you see them how you think they are. This, of course, is an internal process entirely and has no connection with the outsider’s view at all. It’s all about how YOU perceive the stuff around you. Let’s pull a couple of loose ends from this complex situation.
First of all: seeing things ‘the way they are’ is not a simple matter to start with. How much of what you see around you is really ringing obvious bells? Most of your household is steeped in habit and regularity – as it should be really. However, we all end up having the same issue and start accepting whatever the situation is simply on the basis that ‘it has (always) been that way’.
That appears to be enough to make it okay, however upsetting the situation may be. None of us tend to question the status quo in our homes, and that is why we don’t always see things in a realistic light. Everything is clouded by our own minds and the only way to get over this is to step into your space consciously looking for what feels wrong. And then take action right there and then. This ability heavily relies on looking at the your things actively and realising if ‘how you think they are’ aligns with reality.
Here’s an example to clarify this line of thought. Gladys has been living in her little flat for 45 year and has never been drawn to redecorating in a big way. Lots of bits and bobs have come her way from relatives, friends and family who passed away. At first, she could tuck some of the stuff away, but gradually there was no longer enough space to do that and things started ending up on surfaces, hanging from doorframes, etc.
There is nothing out of the ordinary in that example: it’s a simple matter of accumulation over time. A little thing gets added and each time the thought process is the same: “it’s just one little thing on top of the rest, what difference does it make?” and then we forget about the whole thing. The trouble is that we do not have a similarly gradual intuitive process that takes things away! What we DO have is an innate ability to get used to whatever feels slightly odd, as long as it does not change.
This belief is baked into our being from the days early humans lived in the savannah: as long as it does not move it’s no threat and I can discard it. In contemporary terms this could be described as “That pile of magazines does not bother us too much until it starts to slip and slide and suddenly magazines are everywhere. Maybe I should do something about it.” From then on in, it’s a question of perseverance and practical ability to deal with the issue. And that is a very different subject, of course.
Coming back to the way we perceive things. Sometimes we need a certain level of upset or involuntary change to get this process going. Those slipping magazines may make it obvious that there is a need to sort certain things out. Once you start doing this, for a while there will be other things that you realise need doing, simply because there is a general sense of change within the space and you suddenly see the discrepancy between the way things really are and how you thought they were.
It’s important to make use of this shift in perception and tackle whatever suddenly comes to light in short order, because that alignment of perception and reality will only last as long as the sense of impending change is within you. Once it’s gone, you will become complacent again and everything will be back to the way it was. The only way to keep the momentum going for the foreseeable future is to learn to regularly step out of that habit consciously and take the necessary steps when they present themselves.
That may sound like a tough order, but it is entirely possible.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.