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Putting your House in Order

Putting your House in Order or Confessions of a ‘Cluttered’ Counsellor


by Hazel Thompson

Simplicity and spaciousness stood out as values I wanted more of in my life, both in my mind and in my environment.
Every New Year I visit a friend for a few days and part of this time usually includes a ‘New Year Resolution’ type ritual to review the last year and consider what we might like to change/add/put in place for the upcoming year. Each year we use a different format and set aside a number of hours to allow time for depth of exploration and conversation, both contributing to the stimulation and development of the other’s thoughts and ideas.

Our process for this year was to consider the values that are important to us, how we enact these in our lives and any other values we might like to develop to enhance the quality of our lives further, personally, professionally, spiritually.

Simplicity and spaciousness stood out as values I wanted more of in my life, both in my mind and in my environment. As I considered how I might achieve this, I became aware of practical obstacles but also noted that for me, how closely linked a cluttered mind is to a cluttered living space.


I live in a 50sq meter studio and it needs de-cluttering. I live with excess ‘stuff’ that suddenly felt like a weight, a burden, holding me back, holding me down, much of this ‘stuff’ being a ‘memorial’ to my past.

Example: The trunk of letters from family, friends, many of whom I am no longer in touch with but each representing a precious memory…
Example: Boxes of photos from travel and my previous career, wonderful images, yet rarely viewed, gathering dust, taking up space.

Both of the above have been kept because of thinking (probably faulty) like ‘when I’m old and retired I may be bored and have nothing to do but live on memories that recall younger, greater, more adventurous times’. Or… if I get dementia…., my ‘stuff’ is evidence that I have lived, achieved, had excitement, made a mark, been cared for.

I have old Uni text books and assignments, endless handouts (one day these will be useful), Xmas or birthday cards (how could I throw out such lovely messages), ornaments or gifts that were given to me (what if that person visited and I’d thrown it out?), a clogged up email system. I never feel ‘up to date’ with myself because there is always a backlog of sorting ‘stuff’ to do. Yes I am busy but it’s more than that…. these belongings have become ‘proof’ of a past that provides some kind of re-assurance for the future, a sense of stability and security. These belongings have become symbols of my identity, my existence. Do I really need this re-assurance?

The consequence of holding onto ‘stuff’ from the past is that I don’t get the uncluttered, simple, spacious current life I know I want, both physically and mentally.

Spark Joy

Since this realisation and making the decision that I want more simplicity and spaciousness in my life, I have been reading Marie Kondo, the Japanese cleaning consultant, who suggests ‘a messy room equals a messy mind’ and that the act of cluttering ‘draws our attention away from the heart of an issue’. She relates that there are only two reasons for difficulties in letting things go…. an attachment to the past or a fear for the future, both of which I resonate with. She describes tidying as ‘the act of confronting yourself’. Do I want to live in a museum of past memories or an art gallery surrounded by objects that ‘spark joy’ (Marie’s criterion for keeping items. This does not mean all old ‘stuff’ is discarded, just that we are selective). Marie states that ‘life truly only begins after you have put your house in order’, that by changing our relationship with our possessions, that this has a flow-on effect to greater discernment with all of our relationships, making ‘not only our lifestyle, but our very lives, shine’.

I am going with Marie… already, through greater awareness, a decision and an action plan for honouring and letting go, trusting more in the now than creating precautions for the future, I feel the psychological weight lifting.



Kondo, M. (2011). The life-changing Magic of Tidying up – the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.
Kondo, M. (2016). Spark Joy – An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organising and Tidying up.

Article posted 12 January 2018

Hazel Thompson counselling for stress and hoarding auckland
Hazel Thompson is a professional counsellor with a private practice in Auckland
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