DOWNSIZING: How can I move with the best stuff for my next adventure? How do I make my clothes closet an oasis of calm and joy?


NOTE:  This section focuses on things that are NOT art.  If you want to do this on your own, Dr. Siegel says, “I’ve discovered that if people watch television shows about hoarding, they may find themselves letting go of lots of stuff they don’t need. My theory about this is that the primitive parts of our brains do not know it’s someone else’s stuff, and there is a primal instinct to make order and beauty.” Peter Walsh starred in two hoarding shows, and you can find free episodes on the web. Even watching the trailers can be inspiring. Some people like reading Karen Kingston’s book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (but no one likes the advice about intestines—so ignore that bit). Marie Kondo’s book about the magic of tidying is a little nutty (she’s very young and obsessive) but it can be helpful. Julia Morgenstern’s book about Organizing from the Inside Out can be helpful. Basically there are many books you can find at your local library which are helpful and inspiring.

How do I make my clothes closet an oasis of calm and joy?

Another comment:

Why are you storing art in your closet? And please can you store it archivally? Start here (Dr. Siegel is not compensated for this endorsement, and when you compare prices you’ll see why this link is here. Get the right size archival tissue and boxes.)

If you want to help someone downsize, here are some tips. If this helps, great. If not, ignore it:

Organizing other people, especially their clutter:

You must always be aware of your breath, and your well-being. If you need to go to the bathroom or drink some water, they probably do too, so taking a break in the process is always a good thing, as a mentor/teacher. Even if the person is your boss, you have to role-play the behavior for them to imitate.

The clutter is just a manifestation of some inner imbalance, and your attending to your own boundaries and needs helps restore / heal that balance …  at best. At worst: it keeps you in balance no matter what’s going on with them.

Before you start, ask about what the desired outcome is. You might have a lot of ideas about the catastrophe you see before you, but they’re irrelevant. What matters is what the other person wants. Write down the key terms for what they are seeking, and use those words (in your best kind mom voice) when there’s a pause (where it seems like it would be good to say those key terms) so the person understand that your goal is their goal…. They’re scared of feeling judged. They’re scared of throwing out something important.

People are fragile around this especially because they’re externalizing some interior problem–you’re actually dealing with someone who may feel threatened about this process.

It does not matter where you start. What matters always is starting. There is no best place, so “Where would you like to start?” is a good question.

Do less than you have the stamina for. If they have 10 minutes, work 9 and give a minute for talking about it afterward. If they have an hour, do 50 minutes and then use the last 10 to chat and summarize. Keep time. “How much time do you have for this?”

“I just want to acknowledge we have about 5 minutes left.” Like that.

Go really slow unless they indicate they want to speed up. Every piece of paper has to be approved by them to toss or keep. Paper hoarders get all panicky if you rush them. We’re talking “I’m the trustworthy mommy here and you can take those first few steps” slow. Ridiculous don’t yawn at them slow. Do the zen breathing, feel your butt in your chair and enjoy the experience of the blood moving through your body slow.

It can be helpful if the clutter is all horizontal (piled paper) to introduce the idea of vertical files–storing things vertically makes them easier to access and easier to see. Sometimes grownups have never learned how to file. And have a fresh box of file folders and a place to start that process.

What else do you need to know?

If you have questions, Contact Dr. Siegel here.