You and Your Dammed Clutter


The day I came up with my clutter retreat title, I loved it! It opened a new consideration of the build-up of clutter in our lives and, especially, a new way of understanding the dynamic of clutter release and the outflow of increased engagement with our life force.

"Dammed" clutter. Isn't that a great adjective for the backlog of things that pile up in our houses and in our minds? Two descriptions for the same stuff! From the beginning I saw an energy generating dam, not an earthen dam or a beaver dam. But TVA at its finest. Immediately I saw the things that were damming up, and almost as quickly, I saw the things that flow through when the dam is released.

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The first question I asked was, "How safe is the dam?" Will it let loose and flood everything? To this question, I realized that the first dynamic in addressing clutter is being supported safely. Without safety, addressing the things held back remains precarious. When I spent years not feeling very safe, people became the support for me and let me address the backlog of emotions, fears, and trauma that demanded to be addressed.

Next, with safety in place, I looked at the held-in clutter, both physical and mental, and gave memory to its presence, understanding piece by piece how my life got to its current place.

Finally, I realized that there was a spillway beneath the dam, and I control its opening and closing. With time, I learned to better control the movement from one side of the dam to the other side, creating an energy that was useful and could be shared.

Much clutter begins with a traumatic experience. We do not wake up one day wishing that we could clutter up our house. Usually it happens one delay or indecision after another, until we wonder if we'll ever be able to choose a way through, and then beyond, the dammed up clutter. You can. In a coordinated journey with a variety of people, breath (spirit/pneuma/ruach), and healing ways, the cluttering of mind and space can begin to clear.

Dr. Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, speaks of 3 stages in recovery. The first is safety, where a person becomes physically safe and emotionally grounded. The second is remembrance and mourning, allowing ourselves to engage with the particular dynamics that led to where we are today. Finally, reconnection allows us to become peaceful and reconciled with ourselves and reach out to others.

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Now I will share with you my graphic story of decluttering mind, body, spirit and space. The above picture is now colored in and you can see the dam held safe by people who cared for me across years, the spillway where I was guided safely through, and the power stations where I transfer energy from myself to others.

I want you to know three things:

  1. You are safely held.
  2. You control the spillway.
  3. Your clutter can bring pleasure.

If you do not find comfort or confirmation in any of these, I encourage a journey through your clutter in a combination of ways. To make a plan, you can "Talk it Through" with me. If you are in the Nashville, TN area, work with me in your clutter or attend the March 24, 2018 "Dammed Clutter Retreat". Wherever you are, find an anchor of safety and support and take a step forward.

You are not alone and no amount of clutter has stopped you yet!! There is no stopping now. Reach out.

All the best,


Importance of the Spillway

Clutter flows into our houses. With children in the house, things increase with each new activity or size. As we age, the house easily becomes cluttered with inheritances from family members. Some of us attract clutter like Pigpen attracts dust! Sometimes we have a strong reaction as the clutter reaches a dam and it all stacks, one thing on top of another, without release.

Emotions, sentiments, natural messiness, and thoughts sometimes become focused on things. Check out the illustration of dammed clutter and see where you find yourself.

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Did you look primarily at the things held behind the dam, or did you look at the things that have flowed through the dam? I hope you looked at both!

Dammed clutter is not about the dam that holds things back. It is about the flow and the spillway. Control of the spillway makes the difference. During the 2010 Nashville Flood, the opening and closing of dams played a crucial role. Watching the water overwhelm the city was traumatic.

Often, we become more concerned about what is held in and forget that we have a mechanism for letting things flow. I encourage you to consider the nature of your clutter that is held back and stuck. Then, consider how the spillway is controlled. You are ultimately the operator of the dam, but sometimes we lack training or skill to do it well.

If you feel dammed up without release, “Talk it Through” with me, and let’s find a direction for you to take that will allow movement through the dam that releases more acceptance and order.

For people in the Nashville Area, check out the Dammed Clutter Retreat on Saturday, March 24, 2018, from 9 am to 4 pm. (Been wanting to visit Nashville?) Please subscribe to this local events email list following to get the most details.

Wishing you smooth flow!





Is Paper Clutter Burying You?

The most time-consuming backlog to sort and organize is paper. When it becomes a problem, it is full of question marks and what-ifs.

The major problems boil down to:

·       Documents to retain

·       Time-frames for keeping documents

·       Security concerns

·       Paper vs electronic trust

·       Retrieving something valuable or needed

·       Fear of mistakes

·       Legacy

Let me describe how the problem grows, based on my own thoughts and those I hear from clients.

·       Junk mail

I think someone may piece together disjointed clues of my financial life and steal my money, or worse, my identity. Therefore, I need to shred everything or blot out anything personal including barcodes before I toss. (Tossing creates its own questions . . . recycle? Of course, but do I? What out-the-door system do I have for getting rid of paper. . . do I have to tear out the plastic address window? What about paper clips and staples?)

·       Promotions and marketing catalogs

Let’s keep our comparative options available. If I need a credit card, I’ll want to compare. The catalogs are important in case I need __________. I do not have a computer or internet, so it is essential that I not lose this information. . . . or . . . I do not want my information on the computer because I do not want people to have access to __________. (News flash: how do you think the marketing became targeted toward you in the first place?)

·       Documentation and receipts, usually for taxes

I am right to be afraid of being audited. It is better to be safe than sorry, so I will keep things, just in case. Everything must be filed by categories and I need to do this before January . . . February . . . March . . . April . . . Oh ****! Is it already April 15?

·       Personal papers and photos

This documents my journey, and it provides clues to the intricacies of my life. When someone writes my biography, or tells my great-grandchildren about me, this card, recipe, journal entry, _______, will be the link that makes everything fit together.

·       Information

This is valuable information and I may be able to share it with someone when they think to ask me if I know anything about _________, or if I can find it when they mention a topic, or if I need to prove something.

·       Odd pieces of paper or greeting cards

This is good and one day I may need to wrap a small package and this will be just perfect. Oh shoot, I meant to send this birthday card to ________ and it is still here. I will send it next year and just keep it out to remember.

For some of you, what I have described is normal and acceptable. However, for others, you are hoping for something different, and you are wanting to challenge your thinking and actions.


Spend three hours in paper therapy on Saturday, January 27, 2018. Bring your unedited stack or box of paper (please no more than one box) to my Paper Management Workshop and learn what to keep, why to keep it, and how to retrieve it. After this workshop you will have a basic intuitive filing system, including three types of files, a framework for challenging your unhelpful thoughts and questions, and a CPA’s guide to paper retention.

Included in the registration are the basic materials needed to sort, organize, file and retrieve your paper while at the workshop. I will also be giving away one Smead Life Documents Organizer Kit.

Register here. Limit: 6 participants. Couples are welcome to participate together under one registration if sorting the same papers.


Address Clutter Sooner Rather than Later

I would love to peek into your clutter and help you address it directly. If you want to send a picture or two, I’m glad to reply with a few suggestions or questions. 

What is clutter?

My rule of thumb is that something becomes clutter when it has not been touched or purposefully moved for a designated period of time. Different types of things have different time periods. For instance, if you have not moved junk mail in a few days, it is clutter. If you have not moved your holiday decorations this year, it becomes clutter. (Exception: a circumstance like illness or unusual activity interrupted the normal activity.)

When something occupies space but is not examined closely or used, it becomes clutter. Learn how to purposefully address things that are kept but not used is the way to a decluttered home, office, or car.

In our house, we have a fair amount of Christmas clutter to address. Over the next two weeks, Bud and I will take down the holiday decorations for another year. Everything that we put out is purposeful and chosen to use. However, there are items in the boxes that were not used this year and some of these items have become clutter and can be addressed as such. Instead of seeing how quickly we can put things away this year, we are first going to look through the boxes and decide what to do with things that were not used. Earlier in my career, it was important to have a Christmas Open House for the churches I served, welcoming people into the parsonage once a year. During that period, we decorated everywhere and used every serving dish available. However, that day is done. Because we have had the space, we have been able to keep everything. Now, however, we are beginning to downsize and choose carefully what we keep. Much has become clutter in the Christmas boxes and in the attic.

We have now begun these steps:

1.       Remove everything that is left in the storage boxes and decide if we will ever use it again. What about the Nutcrackers? How about the fabric sled that holds a loaf pan?

2.       Take pictures of every item for discard and upload them to Google Photos, sending a link to our now adult children. They will have first pick. Anything they want will be put in a box for them. Through this action, the items have been purposefully touched and moved. While we keep the box for them until they are in more permanent homes, it is no longer cluttering our attic. Put on the bottom boxes that will not be used next year.

3.       Give away anything that is not claimed within a set time frame (1 week is my choice).

4.       Return boxes to the attic.

The attic? That’s for another day! But we will know that the Christmas corner has been addressed already.

Declutteringly yours,


Company Readiness Progression

Sometimes I do something that needs little explanation. Today is such a day!

How open is your house to people from outside right now? Identify where you are in the following progression. If you want help to move from any level to the next, I’m available! I enjoy working with people from the nearly organized to the never organized and would love to help you get ready for the upcoming holiday season.


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