Therapists rub their professional shoulders against a plethora of other helpers and caregivers. Often in session I feel like a professional organizer as well as a therapist.
At Home in our Heads
“The house is a machine for living in,” quipped Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier a legendary 20th century architect famous for his contribution to urban design. Like all machines, homes can go out of adjustment, into disarray, neglect, clutter or hoarding. While most machines have dedicated mechanics who see to their repair and maintenance, homes do not.
Professional organizers step into this gap, and help the chronically disorganized and cluttered to recapture their space. In a similar way, therapists help clients sort through their internal clutter: neuroses, inaccurate or disempowering beliefs, addictions and compulsions, to name just a few. Having discovered and dealt with the mess, clients are freed to structure their thoughts and feelings into a ‘machine for being,’ that allows them to make wise decisions and have positive, nourishing life experiences.
Tools of the Trades
Professional organizers and therapists have similar toolsets when it comes to de-cluttering, whether physically or mentally. Focus is key. Organizers will sometimes select a specific area to attack and complete, before moving on. In therapy, much of the focus in early sessions is given over to defining what is and is not ‘in scope’, yielding a set of treatment goals.
Awareness is a touchstone for both organizers and therapists. If a drawer is cluttered, one of the best moves you can make is to dump it out on the counter where you can see the contents and begin sorting ‘keepers’ from trash. Therapy too can be a process of ’emptying the head’ of old and useless junk, and bringing harmful baggage into the light of day, where it can be examined and reassessed.
All the Right Moves
Any trade or profession includes a specific skillset. This is as true for organizers as it is for therapists and their clients. Once a house is de-cluttered, the behaviors that allowed for disorganization to grow in the first place need to be replaced with better habits. An organizer may tell you not to bring a new item into your house until you remove an old one, thus the house can become no more crowded than it was before. A therapist might ask you to edit your internal dialog of the words “must” and “should” and replace them with some version of “I would prefer that.” In isolation, each of these little strategies, skills and tricks seems insignificant. Yet, applied at the right time and place, and done with skill over a significant period of time, they can bring about massive changes in a person’s life.
I hate moving my home, but if I had to, and money were no object, I’d love to have the services of a professional organizer. I’d set it up so I’d walk out of my house one day, go on vacation for a week, and return to the new house with all my possessions neatly stacked away and not a cardboard box in sight. The promise of a zero-hassle move is something that a skilled organizer can deliver.
In my practice, I often work with clients who need to make a big move in their life. Maybe they need to get off drugs, get out of an abusive relationship, or re-establish their lives after going to prison for committing serious crimes. If only I could, I would send them on vacation, fix everything, and have them come back to a new and improved life. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, we all have to move ourselves, and yet, getting through transitional, maybe even critical moments in life need not be done alone. Having a trusted guide, whether therapist or personal organizer, can make gigantic moves faster, less upsetting, and more successful.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by