Positively Midlife Podcast

Unpacking Clutter: A Deep Dive into Emotional Wellbeing and Transformative Organizing with Star Hansen - Ep. 75

November 08, 2023 Tish & Ellen Season 2 Episode 75
Positively Midlife Podcast
Unpacking Clutter: A Deep Dive into Emotional Wellbeing and Transformative Organizing with Star Hansen - Ep. 75
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Ever feel like your clutter is more than just a mess? Well, join us as we chat with Star Hansen, author of 'Why the Fuck Am I Still Not Organized?' and explore the link between clutter and our emotional wellbeing. We're peeling back the curtain on our attachment to stuff, and Star shares how understanding this connection can help clear the chaos.

Star also brings to light unique challenges faced when decluttering in midlife and how to process grief through organizing memorabilia. We discuss how to empathize with a hoarder and explore Star's ground-breaking concept of 'clutter x revision'. This approach encourages us to reimagine the organizing process, emphasizing the importance of emotional health and understanding underlying feelings associated with clutter.

We wrap things up by shedding light on how to help someone with clutter issues and how the transformative power of skill development can help. We also dive deep into Star's ingenious concept of 'body doubling' and its benefits in the world of organizing. This enlightening episode is more than just about tidying up. It's about understanding the deeper meaning behind our clutter and finding ways to address it effectively. Get ready to challenge the way you think about clutter and start reclaiming your personal spaces.

http://starhansen.com/podcast/

https://starhansen.com/10in20/    Link to the free download

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Speaker 1:

Today we are going to be talking about organization. Organizing has become an obsession with Americans and there are so many great shows and books on the subject. And today we have special guest Star Hansen, and she's going to talk with us about her unique approach and her book. Why the Fuck Am I Still Not Organized? And I know I listened to her book on Audible and my co-host, ellen, had read the book and we just really like latched onto this. This really spoke to our hearts and in researching this, according to Joy Bird blog, 85% of people take time every single month to organize. It has become a $12 billion business. So Americans take organizing very seriously and you would think, with all that information and all the resources, why are we still not organized? You know I read this article in simplyproductivecom that says even with all the help that we have, still 27% of people say they feel disorganized. So today we have Star Hansen here to help us sort out the why and, more importantly, the way out. We will put links in our show notes to some of our favorite organizing products, like these beautiful clear plastic handbag, display, storage boxes and vacuum sealed bags, and we have some others of our favorites too, so we'll have those on here. But I do want to let everyone know that my co-host, ellen, will not be joining us today. She is on an international business trip up to Canada and cannot break away for the moment, but I have some of her thoughts that we had discussed in advance. But I want to welcome our guest Star Hansen to the podcast Star. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Speaker 2:

So good to be here with you today. I am just a simple girl from Tucson, arizona, so I started my business about 20 years ago and it was completely by accident. I knew I was a healer, I knew I wanted to do something that felt like it had a positive impact in the world, and at that time I just had friends who would come up to me and say, you're so organized, can you help me with this? And I was like, yeah, why not? But the organizing industry wasn't what it is today, and with the onset of Marie Kondo and all of that, it has just boomed into this huge industry. Like you said, it's $12 billion in growing. And we do have to wonder If we know. We know clutter is, quote unquote bad for us and it makes life harder, causes anxiety, and we have more solutions than we've ever had, and yet most people feel more overwhelmed, stressed out and disorganized than they ever have. And so that's been. My quest is to help people figure out what is the root cause of your clutter, because if bins and boxes and labels were going to do it, we would all be organized and that industry would be dying. And it is growing and thriving. So I am here to help you figure out the non-box version of how do you get organized and what is stopping you from getting organized.

Speaker 1:

So my first question to you, star, is were you just this naturally organized person even as a kid, or did you develop these skills over the years?

Speaker 2:

I think if you asked my mom she would say no, she would say I mean, I remember sharing a room with my sister as a kid and just heaps of stuff every where. And it's just. We live in a consumer driven society, so even people who are in poverty have more stuff than they can manage and so just having this plethora of stuff, I remember having to make sense of it. But what I do remember about being a kid was two things. I remember one when I would clean the bathroom, really wanting to make it messier before I was willing to clean it, like I would go I mean, my mom must have wanted to kill me I would go in there and put like lotion on the mirrors and lipstick on the counter and then I would clean it and it's like I wanted it to be more dirty before I was willing to clean it. So it's actually perfect, because the process of organizing things get worse before they get better. So it brings up all that joy. But one of the core memories I have is as a kid we lived on this very busy street and my sister and I, you know, we slept, slept in the bedroom that was facing the street and we would see lights go by, you know cops would pull people over because it was a busy thoroughfare, and I remember having a lot of fear at the time because there was this like you know person on the loose and they were looking for them. And so my sister and I took all of our toys and put them on her bed underneath the window, and then we slept together in my bed and the thought was we would use our clutter as a booby trap to alert us if somebody was was in the house and we could escape and we would hopefully trip them. And that was my first memory of using clutter to serve a bigger purpose. And when I started organizing, I started organizing just like anyone. I understood boxes and labels and bins and I understood having patients with people when they were in transition. But what I didn't expect was to discover that if someone has clutter specifically recurring clutter that shows up over and over again, that clutter is always being, it's always being used for some purpose. It is helping us in some way. So my sister and I were using it as a sense of security and safety. But there are countless ways that people use their clutter and that has been the foundation of my work with people. When you can really understand how you are using your clutter and then you get those needs met without the clutter, that's when the clutter goes away. That's when you can have a huge paradigm shift with your clutter in home and really your entire life.

Speaker 1:

I think you really nailed what I find so different about your approach is it's not about the bins and the labels. You know, yes, that that will definitely help, but it's really about this, this emotional attachment. And I have said for years because you know, I'm one of these people that is perpetually organizing and but I know where my emotional health is by how much clutter surrounds me, the more clutter. There's something I need to deal with, and I could see that it was the visual representation that my mind was cluttered, right. So tell us what you feel makes your books so different from other organizing professionals and other organizing books out there. You know why. You know what about exploring this, exploring the why we do this and why that's an important step in getting to be organized, and why we, why do we gather clutter to begin with and how, how do we sort it out?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So the world needs another self-help book like it needs a hole in the head, like you know. It's like we've all. We've all had a million. You know. Books cross our paths and I don't need to tell you what boxes and labels work best, because there's a YouTube video with it. There is a container store bin solution with it. There is someone who has done it before and guess what? That will continue to grow. It's much like productivity. We're going to just continue to generate these very creative solutions for things. My experience is, if people understand the root cause of their clutter, any solution will work. Any system, any bin, any strategy, any philosophy is going to work, and if you don't, none of them are going to work, which is why, when I work with people, they have not tried to get organized once or twice. They've been attempting this for decades and I want to just name. First of all, organizing is hygiene. It's home hygiene. You don't brush your teeth once and say, there you go. My teeth are super clean forever. And it's the same with our homes. You're going to have to maintain the stuff that you own, which makes a great case in paring down. And, yes, there is something emotional that keeps us from getting rid of things and experiencing a state of clutter, and I think when most people hear that, they perceive that they are wrong and bad. I've got something wrong with me. I am a chaotic mess inside or you know, I've got this big emotions. Let me just be the one to break that open and say if you have a occurring, clutter is doing something positive for you. It is making you feel empowered. It is giving you some sense of safety, security, boundaries, strength, communications. Our clutter can sometimes do for us things we can't do for ourselves. I have seen people use it as protection, as a way of expressing themselves, of creativity. It is so beautiful when you start to look at it, and we need to have that paradigm shift because as long as you think that there is something wrong with you and that clutter is proof that there's something wrong with you, you're going to dig your head so deep in the sand you will not be able to see the gifts that are hiding there in your clutter waiting for you.

Speaker 1:

Interesting. You know, ellen and I we talked extensively about kind of our different approaches and our different struggles with, you know, organization. And I realized my mother was super organized. I mean, the corners of the closets were perfectly done, her towels, everything was to perfection. It looked like out of a catalog, right, and I'm more clutter. And Ellen said she was much, very much the opposite. Her mom was the cluttered one and Ellen was the one always organizing. Do you find that to be something that's common, that we tend to be the opposites of our moms?

Speaker 2:

Sometimes yeah, in my family for sure, like my grandma, is the quintessential 1950s housewife. Everything looks per, even at she's 94 and she still maintains her own house. She will not let me bring someone into clean her house for her. She is 94 and still takes care of her own home and it looks flawless. It's beautiful and my mom grew up in that beautiful home that to her felt like a museum or a prison, like it's that was not the 50s and 60s were not the time of tell me how you feel and how do we live in this house. It was like you do what I say and don't use the house and take. These are your play clothes. It was very different. So in my mom's home I always say it's like a fairy wonderland. My parents are both artists. Like every room is a different color. If I bring a kid over, my mom is going to be like let's paint a mural on the wall. It is a home of joy and play, and she would hold on to three dressers in a room because I might need one one day. And so my mom's home is a space of generosity, inclusion, creativity. I'm like a mix of the two of them. I'm like I like things organized, but if they're not organized like if I'm prepping for a trip or something goes on I get curious about my clutter. If it pops up or I am peaceful about it, it's, I know it doesn't define me and so, yeah, I find that a lot of times we do. You know, sometimes we can be. I know people who are just like their parents with their clutter and that makes them feel very frustrated with the generational clutter, and some people who go the absolute opposite direction, because there's a lot of reasons because they weren't taught, because they are rebelling. There's so many reasons why we go the opposite way.

Speaker 1:

So to you, clutter isn't just simply too much stuff. There's extra meanings behind it, right? And is there a difference with clutter at midlife?

Speaker 2:

Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. At midlife we are just so done with superficial crap, we are just done with things that don't matter. So we're talking a little bit about this before the call and you know, if you look at from like 15 to like I don't know 40, we are so biologically driven. We are like must mate, must get a home, must acquire, must take care of everyone else, and something happens in our 40s, 50s, 60s where we start to shift and we don't have that biological drive anymore to like take care of everyone, hunkered down, and we get our freedom back. We start to reimagine our lives and who we are and who we want to be, because it's not like after you have kids, you just go back to who you were before you had kids, like you have changed, your relationships have changed, your life has changed. So this is one of the most special places and this is why I work primarily with women who are in midlife is because we are reimagining who we are. We are in a very creative time where we get to step out of the nurturing, caretaking sphere and into this very expressive, creative, generative phase of building a new life, and that is so exciting. So in some ways, decluttering becomes easier because we are letting go of old versions of us. In some ways it becomes harder because we're also processing the emotions that come from inherited objects from people that we love who've died, or painful losses. We've had traumas, and so it's very complicated and also gives us a lot more freedom because we're not needing to hold up the house for everybody else anymore.

Speaker 1:

You know, I love how, like you know, and it really kind of just occurred to me and I don't know why it's not occurred to me before but when you're pregnant, right towards right before you have a baby, they talk about nesting, nesting, nesting, nesting, and now we're talking about empty nesting. So it does. It just changes the game. You know, when I was younger and raising, you know a family and I had this big house. Everything was very organized and as I started to downsize, it was harder and harder for me to let go of sentimental things and my world started becoming more and more cluttered. How can we best prepare ourselves for these times of downsizing?

Speaker 2:

That's such a great question. I was teaching a workshop this year and somebody in the workshop is saying how they were trying to pare down and they were really struggling because what it felt like is that they didn't want to get rid of things because they wanted their kids to understand the life that they had lived, and they were feeling very attached because they were feeling not as powerful in their life. They weren't in their primary earning years or they weren't in this, like you know, flashy, interesting phase. And also, as women, we go through this invisibility phase too, where suddenly we used to turn heads and now we're like, hey, I'm here, no one can see me anymore, and so there's this feeling of but this is proof that I lived a good life. And so what we can really do is we can start to, instead of externally, try to demonstrate how important and valuable we are, instead turn within and say how can I feel the value of my life? Until this point? This, I mean it is. So it is such a disservice to me that at the time that we are most passed over societally we are. We have never been more powerful, intelligent, compassionate, loving, kind, strong, capable and so it's like how do you turn within and find that? And how do we source from within, source our own point of view about ourselves, instead of looking externally of like. But do you see that I'm valuable, do you? Because if you are really sourced from within, you don't need any of that stuff. You don't need stuff to remind you of how great your life is. Because you lived that life. That is a part of you. You now embody that just in the breath that you take every single day. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

And, I think, maybe coming to terms with that you don't have to hang on to those physical trinkets that clutter your life. Now here's a dilemma that I'm being faced with right now. So I have grown children, okay, and I don't want to hang on to their things anymore, right? So I'll give you a great example. I have a daughter, madeline, and her and her boyfriend just bought a home and she has a box, a large box of Madeline dolls, and these were mostly gifts from my late mother, and she said to me I don't want them and I can't bear to let them go. So how do we handle the kids stuff?

Speaker 2:

It is tricky because most kids go through kids and when I say kids I mean teens and early twenties they do go through this deep purge where I don't want that. Why are you holding on to that? And many times they come back from that deep purge and they say, oh, I wish I had my stuff, which is what I think parents know. So we hold on to it and also they may not. They weren't as maybe conscious of how important that was to them at the time. And it might be us holding on to memories or experiences. We're like, no, at three, you couldn't live without your binky, you can't get rid of your binky. And your 26 year old is like mom, I don't need a binky, it's old.

Speaker 1:

It's drunk through the mud Like it's, I'm good without it.

Speaker 2:

So I think for you know, when we're dealing with the kids stuff it's one, it's letting them make their decisions, like there's I love natural consequences. It is very painful to do Like these are your things and here's the thing, so I I'm all over the place. There's two types of memorabilia when it comes to kids. There's memorabilia that we give to them when they are adults, like we give it back to them and say this is yours, take it and do what you want with it. And then there's memorabilia we keep for ourselves, and so what often happens is we perceive oh, this is all Janie's stuff, so it all goes to Janie. No, it is okay to have a Janie box, that you have stuff that is sentimental to you, because if you kept maybe one of those dolls and gave her the rest, you might not care if she got rid of them, because that's her prerogative. Just these days they do not want to be bogged down with stuff. The world is totally different. If they can afford to buy a house, they don't want a lot of stuff in it. They don't want to have to leave things, they want the freedom. So it really is like create a box of memorabilia items for yourself so that you feel like you can go and have a visit with your child you know in that that history that you have together and give them the rest. And then you know we have to just work on detaching detaching from what we would do, because they are not us and they get to have their own life and if they make mistakes then they will figure it out and I promise no one will die without a Madeline doll, like they will be okay. But we have to process those flames of grief because it's not just the Madeline dolls, it's the fact that your baby's grown up and we have to hold space for that.

Speaker 1:

You know, and I think, especially when it comes to sons, you know they tend not to maybe be as sentimental as girls, but yeah, so I like the idea of kind of pairing down to that one box per child of you know, keep maybe one of something, give them the rest and let them have. Say so over it.

Speaker 2:

Either they want or they don't, and yeah, and recognizing that what you have is not a clutter problem. You have a grief problem, and when I say problem, I mean that we don't take time Like most people when they organize, they just want to get it done. We watch the TV shows and it's like boom, boom, boom. And that's not how organizing goes. Organizing is a slow, methodical process because it's healing, because a hundred times when you're organizing your garage you're going to have to stop and tell a story. You're going to have a big feeling pop up. You're going to have these big things happen, and the more that we push it aside or say I shouldn't be thinking about this or talking about this, the more that clutter is ingrained in your life, because what it requires to be released is to be processed and expressed. So to tell that story and to give yourself five minutes to just have a big cry that your babies are grown up is a very reasonable and healthy thing to do, and that five minutes of crying or 10 minutes or hour, whatever you need is actually going to save you 30 organizing hours, because you're not just going to keep shuffling the same stuff from room to room because of the unprocessed feelings that come up.

Speaker 1:

You know I had a couple months back had helped a friend's mother. She was needing to pack basically her whole life and put it into storage and it was a real she wasn't getting through it very well and I said, let me come in and do this with you. But I knew when I went that she was going to need to do that tell the stories and I just absolutely enjoyed that. I wanted to hear the stories and the more she shared her stories and the more I listened and really got to know her on a deeper level, the easier it was for her to let go of certain things. Yes that's exactly right, it was remarkable.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, if you look at the job of an organizer, 90% of our time is spent listening to your story. Maybe not 90, maybe like 40 or 60. But it's high. Because people need space to process, non-judgmental, loving space to process and I will also throw this out there for anyone who's listening, who doesn't have clutter but loves someone who has clutter and is listening in the hopes that this will give them the silver bullet to cure their loved ones clutter. What I will say, is the silver bullet to cure. Cure the clutter is to be genuinely interested in their experience. Don't ask them how much they got rid of. Ask them did you find something today that reminded you of a great memory? Did you find something you love today? What was something you experienced today when you were organizing? Get interested about their experience, not about how much they've gotten rid of or what they're paring down. Because you are, you know when we do that, we're shaming them and we don't want to shame them. We want to be really interested in our loved ones and their journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it was a. I felt privileged to have helped her because of what she shared, and so that was interesting. But it kind of leads to this other subject. So I know I've spent years collecting my own stuff. I have all this stuff for my kids and then when my parents passed, I inherited their stuff and I actually was also responsible for clearing out my grandmothers and I was really trapped by feeling like if I threw stuff out that I knew they treasured, I was throwing them away and that was really hard for me to process through. But it wasn't them, it was stuff. Yeah, what beautiful. So how do you help people get through those? Really, like you know, you're not getting your parents back. The kids, you're still going to interact with them, but the parents, when they're gone, they're gone, and I more and more, and I still need to do it some more. I've come down to just a handful of really important things and I started to let go of the rest.

Speaker 2:

One of the ways that you can address organizing a space when someone passes away is, instead of looking at what's there and making sense of it and trying to whittle down, because it does feel like you are cutting off pieces of them from your life, because you are truly grieving them, and that is actually what's happening You're continuing to sever the connection to them through the release of these items. But you also, most of us, don't have a home that we can, you know, absorb an entire second home into our home, right? Nor would our family members have wanted that. But what we can do is we kind of it's an idea and this sounds very crude in this context but shop their home, like, literally take a second and before you go into that space because the minute you're touching their objects, the minute you're in their home, we are emotion level 47, right, right. So take a second and script out, when you're in your own space, when you're calm and grounded and mindful, what are the 50 things, 20 things that would be the most valuable to you. And so taking the time to map this out and then go into the house and collect those things, grab them, box them, label them very similar to what I was telling you, with your kids, have a box for that loved one. When I lose people who are significant, they get their own memorabilia box and then when I want to spend time with them or grieve, I have everything of theirs in this one box, maybe two or three depending on who the person is to you, but they're not spread across my house, acting like little landmines causing deep grief in the middle of a random Tuesday. So you can do that. So that way you know, before you've even launched into the organizing, downsizing part, you have pulled out the most important things to you. Yeah, that if the rest of the house burned down, that you would have the most vital things to you. And knowing that kind of separating that out can make it a lot easier when you go in, because it's like, okay, I have the most important things. And if you set an amount space, like if you say, okay, I can, I can have two boxes of my mother's in my house, get two boxes. And then everything becomes about what are the what are going to, what's going to fit in those two boxes? And if you come across something that's really interesting, does it take the place of something else in those two boxes. Do you want to switch something out? Does it? Does it deserve a space in the boxes? And that will help, because when we go into a home, that's that we need to declutter and pare down. Everything feels important when you start touching the stuff. So, we want to have a little bit of a separation, knowing that you can relax, feeling like, okay, well, I have the most important stuff, the book that my mom touched last, not every book in her library. I have the glasses she was wearing, not the 12 pairs of readers that she never touched because they were at the back of the nightstand. So really taking time to mindfully collect things and building a bridge for you to connect with that loved one in in your own home.

Speaker 1:

I love that idea, and here's another thing that I felt really set your book apart from other books is when you talked about shame. What causes that and what are some tools for us managing shame and the overwhelming emotions of it and how it can derail our organization process.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. Shame is one of the most damaging things when it comes to getting organized. And it's this weird world where there is so much shame. People feel it's totally okay to shame you outright for clutter. Oh, your house is such a mess, ew, gross it's. How dare they? You would never walk up to someone who's overweight and say, oh gosh, put on some weight, like that would be. I mean, no, you'd get booed out of there. And yet people have no problem doing it in our spaces and a lot of times we have that same voice running in our head, that shaming voice. Now here's the interesting thing I love Brene Brown and she wrote this great book called Atlas of the Heart, where she unpacks the meaning of over 80 words and she talks about shame. You know it's so connected to perfectionism and feeling like we're supposed to be living this particular way, and then we're not in how we're failing. And she says that the antidote to shame is empathy and, specifically, in sharing the thing that you think is most shameful with another person. When you share it with someone and they don't run screaming for the hills when they look at you and say I still love you or oh, wow, that's really interesting you actually put that wall down of shame and you start to acknowledge that, oh my gosh, it's not as bad as I thought and that's why, like I started doing an online membership just for that reason, because I was like people need to know that it is okay to have clutter. You are allowed to be in transition. You are not this horrible person because you have clutter. In fact, your clutter is demonstration of what an amazing life you've lived, how abundant you are, how interesting you are. It's not proof that you're defective. It's just this beautiful gateway into your life. Just like you were saying with your friend, it's so special to get to know someone through their clutter and when you start to let people in, as scary as it can be, that can be such a game changer. But you really you do want to choose the right people. There's lots of people who are happy to shame, clutter, shame, and so you want to find people who, like yourself, are very loving and willing to look at the beauty in your clutter, not simply try to help you get rid of it, because that's not necessarily what we're going for.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no it's. And again, I think that was so touching about your book was this lack of judge like you were coming from. Let me judge you because I'm such a good organizer. Let me judge you. But it was this warm hug of it's going to be okay and if it's, and if you don't get organized, you're still okay. I loved that message.

Speaker 2:

That's how I feel it was so powerful.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

I feel like you all have heard enough that clutter is bad and you should get it together. Like I mean, the women I work with you are smart, strong badasses. You've never been more powerful. There's nothing wrong with you that you are disorganized. Like your disorganization and clutter to me is an invitation into expansion, like it is really the gateway to your genius. So I want people to like lower that defense mechanism and start to see the beauty that is in their clutter and the beauty that is in them.

Speaker 1:

I also liked how you were saying like to get started, because everyone always wants. Well, how do I get started? I love the idea of getting started with the nightstand drawer. Start there, build on the success. It's a drawer Like you can conquer a drawer. And so what made you kind of go to that idea? And because I think it does have such a punch and impact to start small and build on that. But talk about why the nightstand drawer is the place to start.

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, most of us were not taught how to get organized. We were not actually given the tools. Like, if you ask most people, no matter what age they are, they would say that they don't feel like they necessarily know how to organize. And so the first thing I do with people is I teach them how to organize and I have 10 steps that will get you and keep you organized. If you follow them and your listeners can download a free copy of these 10 steps at organizingiseasycom. And once you see this, it's like, oh okay, great, I totally know what I'm doing. Boom, boom, boom. But in our lovely world we think that on the weekend we need to go and organize the entire garage or the entire storage unit or entire bedroom, and that's just too much. And so when you're first learning a skill, you don't start by running a marathon, you start by walking, you start by doing little bicep curls, you start small. And so what I do is I teach people the 10 steps and then I just say now practice on a 20-minute project. Find something that will take you 20 minutes or less and practice it, whether it's your purse, your junk drawer, one corner of your counter, whatever it is. Start small and do that, complete it and then do another one and complete it, because what we're doing is we're strengthening a muscle and most people who are trying to get organized have decades of feeling like they failed going in, trying to organize their basement, having it look worse than when they started, having their spouse or partner shame them how oh my gosh, it looks so much worse and then feeling dejected and then going to drink or watch TV or check out, only to start again in three months of like I really got to get organized. So instead, let's just do small things, like let's do tiny lifting, like your nightstand and it's. You know, the nightstand is a fun. There's a fun drawer to talk about I had one of my someone came up to me and they said you really like talking about sexual things, don't you? Because I, you know, mentioned some gadgets in the nightstand. And I do that on purpose because, again, I'm trying to debunk shame. I'm trying to debunk anything being shameful that you might have. And the nightstand is the drawer, the space where you don't want me going, you don't want some stranger rolling around through your nightstand because that's very personal stuff. And yet you can look at that stuff for yourself and feel a sense of pride in grounding, knowing that you have achieved organization in a space that you don't really want to share with someone else. It's a very private, kind, you know, space to give ourselves back, to reclaim, essentially.

Speaker 1:

So I'm one of these habitual big organizing sessions. Couple times a year I'm going to purge. I tell this to Alan all that I'm going to purge, You're purging again. Yes, yes, I am so part. One of the things that I picked up in your book was about developing sustainable habits, and so my kitchen can get really out of control. So I thought what is one thing I can do? I immediately put the dishes in the dishwasher and I have been working on this for the last couple of weeks of making sure I'm putting them immediately in the dishwasher, and I'm not a hundred percent on it, but I am probably a good 95 percent, which has not been my mode and it has really made a difference. And I thought well, once this is just totally ingrained where I'm not even thinking about it anymore. I'm going to kind of, you know, go to the next step. What are some other sustainable habits that can create these more efficient routines that maybe you can suggest for us that have a big impact?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, two things come to mind. One is, you know well three things. One piggyback new habits onto existing habits. So if you want to start I don't know using probiotics in the morning, maybe put the bottle right by your toothbrush, because you know, every morning you're going to brush your teeth at some point and if they're right there by the toothbrush you're going to remember to take them. So you're piggybacking a habit. The second thing is make your routines very, very low bar. I always say plan a routine for the day that you are sick, running late, exhausted, just came back from travel. Do not do these intricate jump through 12 hoops, amazing perfection routines, especially to start. Yes, eventually you can work in that way, but for right now, do something very simple that you can absolutely like, access effortlessly. And those two things are, you know, very easy flow ins for you. Yeah, it's just, we want to. We want your habits and routines to just feel like they're effortlessly a part of your life, and you know. And then the third thing that I will say is you know best, if you are looking at a problem like you're saying, ok, the kitchen gets disorganized, ok, name the one problem and that, ok, dishes. Dishes are everywhere and the minute dishes are out, I start ignoring the counters and I start not sweeping the floor and I start doing this and I start doing that. So you know the problem. So name the problem and then list out like 10 solutions. I always say, list out a ton of solutions because you need some options Like, ok, great, I can load the dishes right away. I can ask my partner to load the dishes. I can, you know, put plants in the sink so I can't put them in the sink anymore, and put picture frames on the counter so I can't put them on the counter anymore. And then I have to put them in the dishwasher. Oh, if I keep the dishwasher open, that'll do it Like get weird, get wild, like play, like you don't have to be in the box with these things and sometimes doing one kind of wacky thing will lead to the best solution you never thought of. But what I have seen in 20 years of doing this with people is you always know best and there is a system that guaranteed has already been started in this cluttered area and all we need to do is say yes to it and complete it and continue evolving it. We oftentimes start a system and then we look around and we're like, well, this isn't how Marie Kondo does it. And then we put it right. It was like, oh, it's not how the ometta does it. And then we stop, whereas if you look and say something about, this is working for me, if I kept going and continue and finished it, what would it look like for this to be finished? Just keep playing, because you know better than anyone else what is going to work for you.

Speaker 1:

So what would you say to that person? I know, no, ellen is one of these people that you know. She's pretty organized, right, and when she would go home she felt compelled to help her family out and organize them when she was there and she drove them crazy because when she left, the family couldn't find anything. Yes, yes. And so how do you? What is the best way to help somebody, whether it's a family member or a friend, that is struggling with, you know, clutter or too much stuff? Do you wait for them to ask or do you offer? Like this is a tricky ground. Like I said, when I helped my friend's mom it was a I had to go through her house to take the dogs out and realize, oh my goodness, what has happened here, and I really just kind of forced myself on her. I was like, look, just an hour or two, and then when we did that, I'm going to come back for another hour another day. And we kept doing that until there was some progress being done. But I literally forced myself on her because she did have a deadline. It wasn't that she didn't, she had a deadline. But how do we help somebody that needs the help?

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, consent is important. It's very, very important. There was a study that was done that said that if someone with hoarding disorder had another person come over and organize for them that, I think in three or six months they would have recluttered the spaces that were cleared and expanded their clutter by 30 percent if someone else did it for them without their engagement or approval. So you are not making their life better, you're actually creating a retriggering for them and a traumatizing for them. That will lead to more clutter. And so we really want to make sure that the person wants our help. And again, it's kind of like that weight loss. You don't walk up to someone and say, oh hey, you put on a couple of pounds, like you don't know what's going on in their life. You have no idea they could be eating salads every day and still be gaining weight. You have no clue what's going on for them. And it's the same with the clutter. Someone called and asked this of me. They said I have a friend who's really struggling with clutter. How do I help him? Do I buy a session with you? Do I give him a book? And I'm like no, you get curious about his experience. Curiosity is always the first place to start hey, how are you feeling about your house right now? How are you feeling about your clutter? Like, I'm looking, I just listened to this podcast and this person was talking about this thing and it made me think about my own clutter. Like, if you're close to them and they're talking about their clutter, you could say, if they're saying, oh, I'm really stressed or I'm on this deadline, you can say how can I support you? I would be happy to come in and help you. Or I have a budget to support you in hiring someone, or I found this book for you. But really asking them, how can I support you? And if they're not asking you for help and if they're not saying, and if they're not in danger, right, like, that's the thing. If they're like in a harmful place for themselves, that's a different conversation. Like, hey, I'm concerned that you are going to trip or fall or that your plumbing isn't working. That's a different conversation. And you do want to say to the people that you love hey, I see some issues that I'm concerned about your health and safety. But if it's just standard clutter, you let them come to you. It's not our job to say, hey, I see that you have a problem. Let me fix this. Which is why, when we go and we organize for them, it is so violating. I never organize for people. If someone calls me and they say I want you to do this while I'm gone, I will turn them down every single time. And if you bait and switch me and you tell me that you're going to do it with me and you show up not being there, I promise you will never be more unhappy than if I organize your house without you, because you are now thinking through my lens and I have a, you know, a very strong visual memory. So out of sight, out of mind, is not an issue for me. I can, I will tell you where my first client, 20 years ago, put her passport. Literally to this day, I will remember everything. I am not the person. You want it filtered through my brain, right? You want it filtered through your brain. So even if you want to help the person get organized, you want to make sure that they're a part of the process. Where else they're going to be living in your house, and very rarely does that yield positive results for people. Oftentimes it causes strain and stress.

Speaker 1:

Now again, another big difference with your approach is your support groups. So explain to our listeners about these online groups that you organize, where they organize together virtually. I loved this idea. To me, it was just fascinating that people are virtually organizing together. So why does that work and how does it work?

Speaker 2:

There's a concept called body doubling, whereby if we are doing a you know a task with someone else, we tend to be more effective, more productive, we stay focused better and organizing is just like that. It's just. It's something that when we're doing it alone, it is very isolating. It's easy to go down rabbit holes, walk into another room. You forget what you went in there for. It's like, ah, sometimes if we come across something emotional, we're sitting alone trying to make sense of it or trying to share it with our kids or our partner who doesn't care about our emotional journey with this thing. And having a group that is a safe community where you can process that stuff is so helpful. And the first time I launched my first online class, I did that and I thought wait, but this is not what people need. What they need is a safe space to get together every single month, and so that's what we do every single month. We organize a different room and we have group organizing sessions that I call the organizing playground, and we get together and we organize together, and then we also do classes, so we can start to kind of have have these bigger conversations about why is the living room hard to maintain. What is it that's so frustrating about this space? Or why does shame take over? And let's all explore this, and just the normalizing of these topics that we perceive as being shameful is so healing, and it has been such a pleasure. I've launched these classes, these classes in 2019, and it has been such a delight to watch people have these amazing transformations, just like I mean, the first few months they might just be watching showing up to classes not doing much, and then they have this cascading victory of like an entire room gets organized in four days unexpectedly because a pipe burst, and now they have the skills and you know again, organizing is a skill set. We have to do it for the rest of our lives. As long as you have stuff, you'll need to be organized, and so my job is to kind of teach you the skills, give you the emotional support and then give you a space to practice over and over under my guidance, so that if you get stuck, I am there to help you figure out why you got stuck and get you rerouted, so you're on the right track and it's just. You know, it's one of those things where it's just. It's so much easier than having like someone in your home, because you're in your home and you can have that slow process for yourself and people need to do it on their own timetable, and that it's really beautiful. And what I noticed one of the fears that I had and clients had during the pandemic was oh, but star, it's so much easier when you're here, it's better when you're here, and that may be so and, yes, I can create great transformations in a few days, but I am watching people make transformations on their own and maintain them better than I ever saw them maintain when I was doing it for and with them, because they were figuring it out, they were solving it. It's taking them longer than if I was there with them, but the results have been longer standing because they are embodying and owning their journey and it's not this like annoying thing anymore, it's just part of doing life and that's been so beautiful.

Speaker 1:

Now your groups about how many people will be on a session.

Speaker 2:

We keep it pretty small. So under 20, like we, I don't like. You know it's like I want people to feel really safe. I want people to feel really secure. I want you to know that you're. You know it's because we get really personal. You know organizing is personal. We are in each other it's. I always say organizing is like an archaeological dig of your heart through your home and so it's like you know, we don't we don't want to be like demonstrating our deepest wounds to 5,000 people, but but yeah, so it's very intimate, really beautiful. I love our groups are so sweet. It's really a lovely, a lovely environment, I think that it's such a great support of.

Speaker 1:

again, that lack of shaming, that sense of community, the you know figuring it out for yourself, you know, you, you get guiding them with the tools but not doing them for them. I think that's quite powerful. Now, star, we have this thing where we ask our guests this question what is your superpower?

Speaker 2:

Oh easy, I have clutter x revision. I can walk into your house and know at the single glance what parts of your life are thriving and what parts of your life are in a husband a hot mess of shambles. So I, you know, not going to get invited over for dinner. I get it. I get it, but I have this, but I will say I only turn it on. I can turn it off, I can say, okay, we're just going to calm that down. But yes, I have clutter x. Revision.

Speaker 1:

I love that. I love that. But that I mean, like I said earlier in the episode, I know when a part of my life is out of sorts by my environment, I can. I can see the, you know, the physical representation of what's happening in my head, and and it's such a great process for me when I start pulling it together and then all of a sudden, very organically, my environment starts to you know, come in line to. But so, yeah, I like that. I can only imagine what you'd see here.

Speaker 2:

Probably a lot of beauty.

Speaker 1:

Okay, and so, before before I let you go, what would be one piece of advice that you would give our listeners? Midlife women that say you know what? I think this is the time to start looking at. What does clutter mean in my life? What? What is going on here? What would be the one piece of advice that you would give to them?

Speaker 2:

My one piece of advice is to do things differently. Most people, when we want to get organized, we just launch into that room and we just start going at it, and I think that organizing starts between the ears and starts in our mind and starts in our hearts. So one of the things that they could do is they could read the book right, and I was going to tell you, I want to offer your listeners a free copy, a free digital download of the book if they want. If they go to starhansoncom forward slash podcast and just imagine clutter, not meaning that there's something wrong with you. Imagine that, you know. The start of the organizing process is you having a shift in how you think of your clutter and how you think of yourself via the lens of your clutter, and really being willing to reimagine things, like I, you know, I was saying to someone today. Instead of the first step being to go in there and organize instead, why don't you just spend five minutes visualizing how that room will feel when you're done? Start to align with the different energy. Imagine what it would feel like to find a check for $5,000 in that room, or come across this beautiful artifact from your mom that you've been looking for and imagine if it was in there. Imagine the experience of decluttering being a positive one, a treasure hunt, instead of just being, you know, bowled over by the stuff and the chaos and the, you know, negativity of the past, because there might be some shameful, painful items in there, but I promise you there is also a landslide of beauty and love in there as well, and we do not want to miss the beauty for the couple of challenging things that might be hiding in there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thank you so much for being here and, like I said, your book has really touched me in a lot of ways. You know it was such a, for me, a unique approach of it wasn't just the mechanics, it was like let's unpack the emotion behind this, because there is a lot of emotion there, you know, I think for different people at different levels, but it was such a refreshing look that that lacked any type of finger pointing, any type of shaming. It didn't have any of that. It was embrace who you are. You know, do this if it benefits you that you know that kind of mentality and if anybody is thinking about you know I need to. I'm downsizing, I don't know what to do with the kids stuff. I've inherited all this stuff All and you feel like the walls are coming in on you. This is the book for you because you do need to unpack the emotions before you can unpack the boxes Right. Yes, I love it Very well said Well, thank you so much for being here. Again, we're going to have lots of links in our show notes. We're also going to put them on our website and thank you, thank you so so much.

Speaker 2:

And thank you.

Speaker 1:

Tish for all our listeners. I hope you have a great week and we'll have Ellen back next week.

Uncovering the Root Cause of Clutter
Decluttering and Embracing Change in Midlife
Organizing Memorabilia and Processing Grief
Empathy and Clutter
How to Help Someone With Clutter
Group Organizing and Skill Development Power
Organizing Clutter With Imagination and Power