THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DISORDER

WHAT DO OUR CLOSETS REFLECT ON OURSELVES?

Psychologists say that the cabinets can be a window to the mental health of people, either because they are perfectly organized or because they reflect a complete disorder.

An article that I read recently in The Wall Street Journal published some interesting stories that I tell you next:

Jennifer James and her husband do not have a lot of clutter, but they find it hard to let go of their children's things. The nice guest shed behind your house in Oklahoma City is full of old toys, discarded clothes, works of art, school documents, two baby beds, a crib and a wooden horse.

"Every time I think about getting rid of it all, I feel like crying," says Mrs. James, a 46-year-old public relations consultant. She fears that her children, ages 6, 8 and 16, will grow up and believe that she does not love them enough if she does not keep everything. "Keeping all this, I believe that one day I will be able to tell my children, I loved your innocence! I loved you so much!"

Among the things we store are powerful emotions, whether they are stacks of newspapers read, small clothes, obsolete electronics or even empty margarine containers. Our deepest thoughts and feelings are reflected in everything we accumulate.

There is an increasing recognition among the professional organizers that we face every day with the disorder, about the need to understand why we keep what we keep, or why we inevitably accumulate things again. Our work goes far beyond making cabinets look beautiful. It consists of entering hearts and understanding feelings.

For some people who have large basements full of old appliances and no apparent use, this is not a problem. But many others say they are drowning in disorder and are anguished at the idea of getting rid of things.

In some cases, chronic disorganization can be a symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder or even dementia, all of which would imply difficulties with planning, focus and decision-making.

In its extreme form, hoarding is now a distinct psychiatric disorder, defined in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as "difficulty in discarding persistent possessions regardless of their value", such that can no longer be used.

The difficulty of getting rid of our things could go hand in hand with the anxiety of separation, compulsive shopping, perfectionism, procrastination or image problems. And the refusal to face these problems can create a vicious circle of evasion, anxiety and guilt. In most cases, however, psychologists say that the disorder can be due to what they call, cognitive errors, flawed errors that drive exaggerated behaviours that get out of hand.

Some example would be: "I might need it someday", "this could be valuable" or "this could serve me again if I lose (or gain) weight".

We all have these thoughts and it is perfectly normal. The trick is to recognize the irrational thought that makes you cling to that object and replace it with another that helps you, for example, someone else could use this, so I'm going to get rid of it.

However, the biggest source of disorder and the most difficult to discard is everything that has a sentimental meaning. It is natural to want to cling to objects that trigger memories, but some people confuse getting rid of the object by letting the person go.

There is no reason to get rid of our belongings simply for doing it. What we need to find out is, what is important for one and create an environment that supports that.

Robert McCollum, state tax auditor and husband of Mrs. Jenifer James, mentioned at the beginning of our story, said he kept a broken fairy wand of his daughter from when she was only months old.

"I do not want to lose my memories, and I do not need a professional organizer," he said." I have already organized everything in boxes. The only problem is if we ever move to a house that does not have 100 square meters of storage room or garage, "he added.

Sometimes people who cling to memories are images of themselves in different roles or in happier times. Our cabinets are windows to our inner being. Nostalgia is the feeling that often leads us to save those piles of newspapers, magazines, obsolete electronic equipment and decades of records of invoices and materials for crafts.

For people who are afraid of throwing things they might need in the future, it helps to think about the worst scenario: what would happen if the tutu you threw away you needed to make a Halloween costume? What would you do? You could find almost anything on eBay, for example.

Can we also be too clean, too organized and too quick to get rid of things? Everything is subjective. What matters is whether our habits distress us.

"Guilty of the charges, my family makes fun of me," says Dr. Baumgartner. "I have to control my desire to get rid of things. Often and literally I have nothing to wear "...

 

FACING THE DEMONS IN YOUR CLOSET

Professional organizers and therapists, we offer these tips to help eliminate clutter and prevent it from accumulating again:

Organize from start to finish:
If you organize one day the shirts, another day the dresses and the next the pants, by the time you are finished you will find yourself exactly where you started. You must start and finish the task the same day or the next day. Organize the work and make sure you have all the material for when you start: hangers, boxes, garments etc ...

Give things away:
Finding a second home for those salvageable things can alleviate the separation anxiety and also alleviate feelings of guilt for being a waste.

Take pictures:
Pictures of old party dresses, hats of our grandmother and shirts of our basketball team when we were eight, will evoke the same memories and take up much less space.

Remember the 80/20 rule:
Most of us use only 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. The rest reflects an image or role in a past life. Recognize them for what they are. If you want to move forward and free yourself from the past, start with your wardrobe!

Take inventory:
How many pairs of jeans, shoes, shirts, black dresses or other items do you have and how many do you need? You have to set limits!

Full attention on purchases:
Am I really going to use it or am I trying to fill an emotional gap? A closet full of clothes and shoes with the price tags still on is a tell-tale sign that I am buying without a real need. Surely you have more than enough!

Take this test:
If getting rid of things seems painful to you, hide them temporarily in an accessible place and check if the sensation is passed. It is very possible that you even forget that you kept them!

 

By Lorena Peláez
Personal Organizer - Palma de Mallorca

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