While enjoying his morning coffee recently, my husband was channel surfing on TV, moving through repetitive news reports, shopping channels and infomercials. He paused shortly on a hoarding program. I was half-listening but what I heard, during the snippet of the conversation between the professional consultant and homeowner, made my hair stand on end.
Here was the scene. The counselor and homeowner were sitting on the floor of what, I assumed, was the homeowner’s living room. They were surrounded by piles of children’s toys and a multitude of other belongings. They were discussing how much excess there was, and the homeowner agreed there was too much and she couldn’t remember if her kids had ever played with many of the toys. When the counselor told her she needed to get rid of most of the stuff, I could feel the panic rising in the homeowner. Obviously, the counselor noticed it too and asked her what would be the worst thing that would happen if she did get rid of most of it. The homeowner answered that her mom would be mad at her, and she welled up with tears and her guilt was palpable.
I expected the counselor to ask a couple more questions to delve deeper and address ways of handling the issue. I assumed that the mom gave her most of the stuff in question, as gifts, and she equated those gifts to being her mom’s love and approval. Instead, what I heard come out of the counselor’s mouth was, “Just lie to her about what you did with them”. WHAT?? At this point, I asked my husband to change the channel, before I started arguing with the TV screen.
I am taking a few deep breaths here, so I may speak from a centered heart.
I have never worked with a hoarder, nor do I have the proper training to do so. Real hoarding (not just clutter issues) has been diagnosed as a mental disorder, of which there are many levels to address to get to the deep root of the problem. Hoarding is not a simple fix, and I could not fathom how counseling a hoarder to lie to someone is beneficial to the healing process.
After living many decades, experiencing and learning from life’s situations, I can’t remember one instance where I felt better after lying to someone I cared about. It may have covered my butt at the time, but it sure didn’t make me feel like a better person for it. There is almost always a level of guilt that lingers – a guilt that stays in the background. You certainly cannot live in integrity and peace when you lie.
Guilt and feelings of obligation are the primary reasons why most of us hang on to family collectibles and gifts that we do not love or want. Our homes are intended to be our private sanctuaries. They should support us in feeling happy, safe and rejuvenated. Guilt creates a heavy energy around our living spaces and our hearts. You can’t feel happy and rejuvenated with that kind of energy hanging around you.
I always ask my clients to tell me about specific items in their surroundings – artwork, furniture, photographs, memorabilia, etc. The stories that come out are interesting and enlightening. When they put these explanations into words, feelings rise to the surface and give us the opportunity to deal with them. Most of my clients find it is easier to release what they feel obligated to keep once they understand that it is preventing them from moving forward. And most of these items are family related.
One of my clients had a formal portrait of her serious looking grandmother hanging in the formal dining room. The family never ate in the room and she mentioned that her grandmother was an unhappy and intimidating woman. Who would enjoy eating meals with that kind of energy staring down at you? She took it down and gave it to one of her brothers, who had a much happier memory of grandma. The energy shift in the room was immediately noticeable. My client made a couple of other changes, but credits the removal of that portrait to being the major factor in creating an enjoyable dining room for her family.
Another client of mine was having difficulty focusing on his business and felt frustrated and irritable most of the time. There were a lot of his dad’s memorabilia displayed in his home – a photo of a childhood fishing trip my client had taken with his dad, a few fishing and hunting knickknacks, and his dad’s reading chair. All of these were in a guest room directly across from his home office.
I learned that my client and his father had a very rocky relationship. In fact, my client still resented the fact that his dad had been very judgemental towards him all of his adult life. Although his dad passed several years before, those feelings were still lingering. I asked my client why he kept so many memories around if they constantly reminded him of their poor relationship. He told me that he received the items from his dad’s estate and didn’t know what else to do with them. I suggested that having those less than positive reminders right outside his office door might be the reason he was struggling with his business and attitude. I recommended he remove all of the items that were not happy reminders when he looked at them. He actually felt relieved that I gave him permission to take them out. One item remained, which was the childhood fishing photo. The rest was donated. The result: my client’s energy and positive outlook returned and his business quickly picked up.
Never underestimate the power of releasing from your life what makes you feel guilty!
Is there anything in your home that triggers a feeling of guilt, obligation, or even anger, when you look at it? Do you have any family hand-me-downs that you didn’t want but took because you felt obligated to say yes? Answering these questions is the beginning of clearing heavy energy that may be surrounding you in your own home. Start small and see how it feels. Be prepared to get some pushback from relatives, if they insist on you keeping something. My feeling is that if you sincerely won’t appreciate and honor the item, renew its energy by giving it to someone who will. Maybe another family member or friend may want it, or donate it so someone new will find it.